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Arts & Entertainment

Epic aims to help magazine writers turn articles into films

Ben Affleck stars in the film
Ben Affleck stars in the film "Argo."
Warner Bros. Pictures

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Some real-life stories seem stranger than fiction, and many times those stories make excellent movies.

The film "Argo," for example, looked at the plan to rescue six Americans trapped in Iran by pretending they were a film crew. "Argo" won a Best Picture Oscar, and it was based in large part on a magazine piece written by Joshuah Bearman.

After having a number of pieces optioned by Hollywood for possible film projects, Bearman and fellow magazine writer Josh Davis started Epic, a new project that helps other magazine writers get their work up on the big screen. Between the two of them, Bearman and Davis have optioned 18 of their pieces for film. 

"We wanted to create a publishing venue for the narrative stories that we tell...there's only so many slots for those types of stories," said Bearman. "Now we sort of see how to navigate both worlds and we wanted to basically provide a way for us to do that with more stories and for other writers to do the same."

Davis says the point of their new venture is to help writers not only find new outlets for their stories, but also to help writers finance narrative non-fiction pieces, which can be time consuming and often expensive to produce. 

"Film is just another distribution platform, is how we view it…We write these stories and we can publish them in national magazines, online and they can be adapted into films," said Davis. "All of that is revenue that can finance the process of doing this thing, which is to some extent, under pressure. Long-form narrative nonfiction hasn't faired well in the past 10 years."

Bearman and Davis are not alone in recognizing an opportunity. Publishing giant Conde Nast has a division devoted to adapting print content into film and television. Typically, in the past, magazine writers retained the rights to their stories, but now Conde Nast hopes to get a piece of the action. 

"To some extent, this monolithic huge institution is thinking entrepreneurially, which is good," said Bearman. "But I think for an individual writer who is going to face the pressure of, I wrote this great story that actually could be some income for me, to have to split it they may be a little less happy."

But it's not all bad. The chances of a magazine piece being turned into a film, or even just optioned, is incredibly small. Having a division of a publishing company focused on shepherding these projects may make it easier for writers to strike deals.  

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