WoT Pilot: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
Did you hear about the stealthy “pilot” for a tv series based on the much-acclaimed Wheel of Time series? Probably, as blogs on several geek and nerd/science and entertainment sites have spent time on the subject.
Aside from the general surprise at a rather low-budget production for such a big property (airing without fanfare, in the middle of the night, as paid programming), is there much else to talk about?
Well, there were two added twists: the nature of the production & broadcast are believed to have been a gambit to retain rights to the property by Red Eagle Entertainment, while author Robert Jordan’s wife appears to have commented that she was not aware of any such official project.
This is all made very interesting by two additional twists: in 2008 it was reported that Universal Pictures paid a large amount of money for the film and television rights to the property, with Red Eagle handling the potential production, and the rights were set to revert back to the original owners as of this Wednesday (02/11/2015). This latter sort of clause has a history, notably with several contracts Marvel Comics engaged in before their eventual success in the film industry, allowing the owner of a work to regain property it has licensed to other parties if those parties don’t do anything with it.
Who Is Red Eagle?
A few of the articles I linked to give much more information, but here is a summary.
Red Eagle, the company that optioned the film rights for the first novel back in the early 2000s (I have seen the year 2000 mentioned several times, but cannot find confirmation of that particular year), has been the source of numerous disappointments when it comes to the Wheel of Time property. There were short-lived comic book series, promises of videogames followed by mishandled crowdfunding initiatives or missed opportunities, and even Jordan himself wrote scathingly of the company before he died.
But Can They Even Do That?
Maybe. And it seems more likely than a few people are making it out to be, unless the people in charge of Red Eagle are far more foolish than they seem (yes, even given the above).
Until we find out more about the relationship of any production agreements or licenses between Universal Pictures and Red Eagle, it’s impossible to say whether this gambit to get in under the wire had any chance of success; if the rights and responsibilities ultimately rest with Universal, or if Red Eagle produced the footage without the rights, then it served no purpose but to get them in trouble.
Based on this interview from 2008, however, the company’s representative seems confident that it is Red Eagle Entertainment that acquired the rights:
“Red Eagle Entertainment optioned the WHEEL OF TIME property through a subsidiary about five years ago. Simply put, an option is the right to acquire something at a later time and at terms and conditions that have been agreed upon in advance. In our case, the option gave us the ability to purchase rights to develop, produce and distribute films and television programming based upon the WHEEL OF TIME, and also to license the themes and characters of the story for various applications such as video games and consumer products. We exercised our option and purchased these WHEEL OF TIME rights in February of 2008.”
While in 2010 another representative referred to the company’s arrangement with Universal Pictures in a way that indicate they had a partnership, rather than Red Eagle producing the film for the studio:
“With respect to the movie, we’ve been working on this project for a very long time. Recently, we had the good fortune to set up our film with Universal Pictures.”
Still, even if they do have the rights, it is not clear whether the airing of the pilot would satisfy the terms of the contract and allow them to move forward with additional projects after this week.
We’ll just have to wait and see as more information comes to light.