Recently we sat down with Adam Moore, Associate Chair of Screenwriting, and Adam Finer, Chair of Industry Outreach & Professional Development, both based at the New York Film Academy’s Burbank campus, to talk about building franchises and “story worlds”—and how writers build careers. Adam Finer is a former literary manager and film producer who spent over a decade as a marketing executive at Universal Studios. Adam Moore is a writer/producer who has co-developed film and television projects for Dark Horse Entertainment, Spyglass Entertainment, Red Wagon Entertainment, Relativity Media, and Silver Pictures, as well as video game projects for Ubisoft, Digital Embryo, and IBM / Walt Disney World EPCOT Center. As the key architects of NYFA’s groundbreaking transmedia course of study, they have a unique vantage point and area of expertise that writers in the field of entertainment can benefit from.
NYFA: So, Adam—and Adam Number Two—I’d like to start by asking what got you both started in this business?
ADAM MOORE: I’ve been a storyteller since I could hold a crayon. The entertainment industry always appealed to me because of the depth and audience reach of the various mediums that make up the industry.
ADAM FINER: I’ve been creating stories and building story worlds with my friends since I was a kid. You just don’t realize that’s what you’re doing; you’re just being a kid. I somehow got my hands on movie scripts when I was in my early teens and I loved visualizing what the movie would become when finished, and I still love that. My career officially began when I went to Universal Pictures one day with a friend who was picking up a paycheck. That day someone had quit and I talked myself into an 11-year journey at the studio.
NYFA: When you look back at your career, what are you most surprised about in terms of how this industry works?
ADAM FINER: I’m not sure if this surprises me, but I’m always impressed by the passion needed to see projects through. Without story and passionate storytellers in all areas of the business this would be a very boring industry.
ADAM MOORE: Not so much surprised as I am disappointed by the way most writers are treated. Unless you’re in that lucky top 1% of writers in the industry, you have to be willing to do a lot of work for free. It wasn’t always that way. Even 20 years ago it was much different.
NYFA: Have you discovered any out-of-the box actions that writers have taken over the years that actually work at getting them noticed?
ADAM MOORE: Writers who create their own content—I’m thinking things like web series, comic books—seem to have a bit more success getting noticed as opposed to those who write spec script after spec script and hope one pops.
ADAM FINER: I spent the second part of my career as a Literary Manager and I have seen writers try to take all kinds of shortcuts—what you might call “out-of-the box thinking”—but what always caught my eye was great writing and powerful storytelling. Now, one of the benefits of Transmedia storytelling is that great writers have other mediums to tell their stories in and engage and grow audiences.
NYFA: Creating a fresh concept for a movie franchise seems like a big task. What do you think the keys are to knowing if you have an idea that’s expandable enough to broaden into a franchise?
ADAM FINER: My first thought is: not all concepts or franchises need to start as movies. Television, video games, comic books, novels, web series, toys and even theme park rides have launched franchises. I’d ask what medium best serves your characters and the world they live in. Then build your story in that world and connect with an audience that wants to see your story worlds.
ADAM MOORE: At the New York Film Academy, we break transmedia franchises down into component pieces to see which have the most promise to leap across the media sphere. Does our franchise have a hero? A home base? An iconic vehicle? Friends and allies? Enemies? Iconic gadgets? A unique world? If you can check off most of the items on that list, then you’re in good shape.
NYFA: Adam Moore, I noticed that you have experience developing video games. With the monster success of titles like Grand Theft Auto and Halo, there seems to be a growing number of college-bound teens interested in designing video games—and many of them wrongly imagining that the job is nothing more than sitting on the couch and playing games all day. What insights would you offer someone who wants to get into that field, regardless of their age?
ADAM MOORE: Be prepared to work hard, and for very long hours at times. The most important things anyone who wants to work in games can learn are the fundamentals of game design.
ADAM FINER: I know this question is for Adam but I’d also chime in that Game Development and design takes a great deal of effort, hard work and time. Creating narratives that connect with audiences is really important. It doesn’t matter if a game is very simple or extremely complex in terms of graphics if a player is engaged in the world.
NYFA: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 18-year-old selves?
ADAM FINER: It’s the same advice I still give myself everyday: keep learning, keep taking creative leaps, keep engaging in new ideas and keep sharing those ideas with others.
ADAM MOORE: When I was 18, there was no such thing as a Game Design Degree, so I can’t give myself that advice. But I would tell myself that making games can be a career, and if you love your Xbox or Nintendo, and find yourself drawn to video game worlds and narrative strategies, then follow your heart and go find a way to learn about and work in the game industry. It’s a fast-growing field and there are jobs to be had.