'Fang' Is a Book Character. And Even He Has a Blog
A blown knee, an injured ankle and a couch. What started as a chance encounter between a movie producer and a children's book author—both nursing injuries while at a brunch hosted by a mutual friend—has turned into a cross-media franchise to promote the recently published children's book "The Black Belt Club." The happenstance meeting led the people behind the book down a path with other savvy publishing companies engaging in a new wave of audience-building, sales-enhancing efforts that utilize multiple media.
Michel Shane, co-president of Hand Picked Films Inc. in Los Angeles, had injured his knee while skiing. Dawn Barnes, karate-guru-turned-author, had injured her ankle. The pair ended up on the same couch during brunch and started talking about Barnes' new book series.
"The Black Belt Club," published by Scholastic Inc. in New York, is a cross between a comic book and children's literature. Illustrations are integrated with the story, which is about four children of diverse backgrounds who teleport to different worlds. It emphasizes teamwork, cultural awareness and the importance of ancient history. The book is illustrated by Bernard Chang, whose work was made famous by his contributions to Marvel Comics' "X-Men."
Shane—who along with his partner Anthony Romano produced Stephen Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can" and the film "I Robot" starring Will Smith—first gave the book, still in manuscript form, to his 11-year-old daughter, who said she loved it and would read it again. Later, Shane's seven-year-old daughter also asked to read the galley proof of the book instead of playing on the playground. "That for me just nailed it," Shane says. "This was our core market."
Now with the first two books in the series of 12 already on the market, Hand Picked Films is developing the whole cross-media franchise, including a feature film and TV series. Other mediums will include DVD titles, computer games and online animation. "Awareness is what it is all about," Shane says. "We believe that will give us great cross-pollination between all media. The book feeds the film, the film feeds the book, and so the cycle goes."