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Fox claims first movie rights to 'Epic' longform experiment

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Epic Magazine screenshot The Mercenary by Joshua Davis
Epic Magazine screenshot The Mercenary by Joshua Davis

When journalists Joshuah Bearman and Joshua Davis launched Epic Magazine a week ago, they did so with the hope of creating a new business model for journalism. The goal of Epic is to fund long-form, in-depth articles that are published online for free by selling the film rights to those stories to movie studios. The approach, Davis said last week, is experimental. On Monday, a bit of evidence arrived that could eventually turn Davis and Bearman's experiment into a success — according to Deadline Hollywood, 20th Century Fox and Epic have reached a first-look deal.

First-look agreements don't guarantee that any stories Epic publishes will actually be turned into feature films. But, the pact gives 20th Century Fox the first chance to decide whether or not it wants to purchase the movie rights for any Epic articles. In addition, the deal gives Fox first-look rights on anything Bearman and Davis write for any publication, Early validation and it allows Fox to pitch Epic on ideas it's come across that might make for a good article. There's plenty of upside in the agreement for Epic too. It gives the new site a relationship with a studio, and there's also a pre-set fee Epic writers will be paid if 20th Century Fox options their story for a film. "Being journalists who’ve done this before, we set up a system where the deals are very favorable to journalists," Bearman told Deadline. "We used our own clout within the system to make sure that the option fee is very high, and all of it goes to the writer. We do not take a cut of it."

But, Bearman and Davis will serve as producers on each Epic sourced movie, and they'll certainly get paid for that work. While the pre-set fee is important for Epic in the long term, the deal also includes an injection of funding for the site. Neither 20th Century Fox nor Epic offered a dollar figure for the two-year deal, but the duo tells Deadline that the money from the deal will go toward funding stories for the new site.

Journalists / movie producers

While Epic is an unproven property, Bearman and Davis have a track record with Hollywood. The pair has optioned the movie rights for a combined 18 magazine articles they've written. Most notably, Bearman wrote a Wired magazine story that served as the basis for Argo, which won the Oscar for Best Picture this year. Warner Bros., which distributed Argo, recently bought the rights to John McAfee's Last Stand — a series of Wired stories Davis wrote detailing how the founder of the McAfee software company ended up in Central America dodging law enforcement and fearing for his life, while also surrounding himself with weapons, drugs, and prostitutes.