Perrin Chiles is an Emmy® award-winner producer and writer with a background in private equity, finance, and entrepreneurship who currently serves as the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer & Founding Partner of Adaptive Studios Inc.
Prior to founding Adaptive, Chiles founded In Effect Films to produce socially-conscious documentary films such as the Academy Award® Short-Listed and Emmy® Award-winning “AUTISM: THE MUSICAL” and the award-winning surfing documentary film “SPLINTERS.”
In Today’s “5 Questions” Chiles discusses what makes a script Adaptive studio’s material, the benefit of turning scripts into novels before adapting them for Film, and the biggest trend that has impacted Adaptive’s strategy…
Videoink: Adaptive is in the habit of taking projects that have been abandoned by studios and revamping them. What key characteristics do you look for in a script when sifting through stacks of neglected work?
Perrin Chiles: Adaptive works with narrative material at any level, so long as the property is Hollywood-vetted — meaning that some smart, creative executive at some point in time thought the story was good enough to put serious studio dollars behind developing it for film or tv. We look for the same attributes any other studio does when developing great projects at the script-level: compelling characters, plot, setting and voice; however, unlike other studio peers, we only really need one ingredient (like an interesting character or premise) to begin reimagining the type of story we’d like to tell. Because we’re platform agnostic, we are not limited to one particular genre — so far we’ve created content for Young Adult, Horror/Thriller, Comedy, Drama, Action/Adventure and Non-scripted fare as well.
Your Studio has a unique process when it comes to revamping material. The studio takes old screenplays and adapts them into novels which, after hitting shelves through an exclusive partnership with Barnes & Noble, are then adapted for film and television. What are the benefits/cons of this process? If it’s for promotion or to test the waters with an audience, why not just promote through short form video?
That’s a great question. We actually are doing both and are just beginning to scale up to match demand. On the publishing side, the benefits of our business model are that we’re not starting development with a completely blank canvas. By publishing a new work first, we are able to understand each story’s fanbase and early readers/adopters help us to see the possibilities of bringing the story back to life for film, television or digital. Also, Barnes & Noble has been an incredible partner for us and is a huge selling point to authors and screenwriters we work with — knowing that their published work will be in 650 retail stores nationwide. The cons of any process involving abandoned IP is simply the amount of work it takes to clean up chain of title issues, work within Guild rules and in some cases, re-engage talent to help revive dead projects where all hope had been lost. Usually there is a very good reason projects are abandoned — for us, we see revamping dead IP as a twisted challenge of sorts. On the digital side, thanks in part to our crowd-sourcing engine within Project Greenlight, we have a very robust short-form video arm which we began in earnest last year. We firmly believe short-form video, in particular premium, episodic and serialized shows, are the way of the future. As a generation that grew up on YouTube and prefers watching content on their mobile phone gets older, there is a huge need for studios like ours to create content Millennial audiences want to consume. Story-driven versus influencer-driven content has been working for us so far. Last year, we sold all of our short-form content to distributors, including PINEAPPLE from up-and-coming filmmaker Arkasha Stevenson. The series premiered at Sundance and Tribeca before living on through blackpills’ mobile-first platform. This year, we have over fifty projects in development or production and cannot produce shows fast enough. It’s a very exciting time, not only for this new format, but also to see a new crop of young filmmakers create compelling, snack-able and stackable stories for a mobile-first generation.
Earlier this year, Netflix debuted Adaptive’s YA feature film COIN HEIST, which marked the first successful conversion from script to novel to feature film for the studio. How did the success of the book translate to a premium platform like Netflix and do you think any of these adaptations can travel cross platforms — premium or free (ie. Facebook vs Netflix)
Because we’re able to put books, graphic novels, comic books and digital series out into the marketplace first, we know what stories are resonating with audiences and why. In the case of COIN HEIST, the book definitely had an audience — Booktubers were raving about the story and fans were creating their own art for us — it was really cool to see, especially as a nascent publisher with no track record. From this early positive reception for the novel, we turned to Emily Hagins to write and direct the feature while casting a mix of Hollywood talent and social media talent in the principal roles — it was exactly the type of project Netflix was looking for at that time. Generally speaking, we certainly believe our material can travel across platforms and be adapted into a variety of formats, especially short-form video and sub-$10M features and shows. As a studio, we are very excited to see brands like Facebook, Snapchat and Apple getting into the content game — and we’re certainly open to telling the right story at the right price for each platform.
Adaptive has produced and sold over a dozen digital short form video series and is currently developing over 50 new series with emerging filmmakers. What are the 3 biggest mistakes short-form content producers make when selling their projects?
Another great question. Overall, the biggest mistakes I see emerging filmmakers make is when they are laser focused on the short term versus having perspective by playing the long game — this can manifest in a few ways: 1) $$: Financially-speaking, the short-form video market is still in its infancy (from a commercial perspective) — I think the number one mistake short-form content producers make is thinking they’re going to get rich off selling their content initially. Adaptive loves working with creators that understand the long-game (and are rewarded for fighting in the trenches with us each step of the way) — It’s very rare that a studio like ours is willing to take the creative and financial risks necessary to shine a spotlight on a new generation of great storytellers, but we do and we love partnering with like-minded creators who want to be in business with us for decades vs a single project. 2) Relationships Matter: Whether it’s within Hollywood, Silicon Valley/Beach/Alley, the industry is fairly small and burning bridges will never get you where you want to go. 3) Don’t Short Cut Your Development as an Artist: While there is a lot I truly love and respect about the traditional studio system, there is still a lot of sizzle without the steak. Most emerging talent creating short-form video are hoping to make the jump to TV and Feature Films, and Adaptive helps filmmakers bridge that gap. That said, the artistry involved in premium, short-form formats is very much analogous to music videos of the 1980’s and 1990’s where young filmmakers like David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Mary Lambert, Michele Gondry and many others used the art form as a way to express themselves creatively and launch their Hollywood careers. None of these great filmmakers made one video and then moved on. Instead they used the opportunity and budgets provided by the music labels to push the boundaries of what was expected in a 3 minute music video. My advice to young filmmakers is to marinate versus microwave the type of career you want to work into by seizing the real opportunities that are present while keeping an eye towards becoming the next Steven Spielberg or Ava DuVernay.
The industry has shifted significantly since you launched the business, what’s the biggest trend that has impacted your model?
Mobile-first viewing. It’s real, it’s the future. Adapt or die.