You wouldn't immediately make a connection between the film industry's struggle to discover source material for Hollywood blockbusters and working journalists' increasingly narrow avenues for long-form writing. But those pressure points are paving the way for a pair of magazine writers to give both journalists and movie studios what they need. A platform for writers to do their work, with a focus on taking the best of the web to the sliver screen. It's called Epic Magazine.
Based on a true story
The writers, Joshuah Bearman and Joshua Davis, certainly have some experience under their belt in that regard. Warner Bros. recently bought the rights to John McAfee's Last Stand, Joshua Davis' crazy true story of how the man who founded an antivirus software company wound up in Central America surrounded by killers and prostitutes, and found himself running from the law. And in 2013, a movie based on Bearman's story "The Great Escape" won a Oscar for Best Picture. You might know it better as Argo. The New York Times reports that, combined, the pair have optioned the movie rights to 18 different stories.
But perhaps more interesting than Bearman and Davis is the business model they hope to provide. Currently, in order to run a successful business, most publications have to run advertising or hide stories behind a subscription fee. With both, you have to deliver constant, consistent value to keep readers coming back, and it can be risky to pay a reporter to go out to the Belize jungle and find John McAfee instead of typing loads of shorter articles into a computer, or perhaps even paying a robot someday. Theoretically, though, movie rights could be lucrative enough that a small number of successful stories could subsidize all the rest, turning journalism into a hit-driven business. However, Davis and Bearman told the Times that they won't automatically own the rights to their reporters' work, but rather assist as producers, so it's not quite clear how that would work in practice. Davis also calls the business model an experiment.
For now, Epic's stories will appear free of charge on the Medium blogging platform free of paywalls or ads. (Medium is both a partner and a backer of Epic Magazine, according to the Times.) You can read them for yourself right here.