Reps for the 33 mine workers rescued in October are putting the finishing touches on a unique pitch to sell rights to the dramatic saga that captured global attention. The miners have hired a team of lawyers who are finalizing a corporation that will collectively own book and movie rights to each miner’s story, positioning the group to potentially sell the whole package to a single media company for a lump sum.
Lawyers for the miners are preparing for a trip to Los Angeles in the next few weeks, where they will begin meeting with agents to help shop the package.
The miners, who were trapped underground for 69 days and rescued in front of worldwide news cameras, made a pact that they would not reveal what transpired during their time in the mine. While there was some fraying as they were approached with cash offers in the aftermath of the rescue, Chile-based attorney Guillermo Carey says the 33 men have agreed to keep the key details of their ordeal secret until a buyer is found.
“All the life story rights are vested in this company and we have not yet granted anyone the official rights to the story,” Carey says.
Carey and U.S. attorneys at the Arent Fox law firm are polishing a pitch in the hopes of exploiting the rights across a broad swath of media. The miners might secure a book deal first, hoping to attract a well-known author to the project, and then option the book to a Hollywood studio for a film version. But Carey says they also would be receptive to selling the corporation outright to a media company that could then decide how to use the story in various venues and formats.
“We’ll probably be talking to different interests,” Carey says. “We’ll have a word with one or two agents and see what they’re suggesting, and try to handle this in a most professional manner.”
Carey discusses plans for the miners in an upcoming interview on KCRW’s “The Business,”hosted by Hollywood Reporter editor-at-large Kim Masters.
Under the terms of their agreement with each other, the miners are free to make public appearances–as they have been doing–and to be paid to give talks, Carey says. But they are not to discuss what happened inside the mine, nor can they enter into side deals to exploit their personal stories.
“Their ties are so strong that I see them very committed to their secrecy pact,” Carey says, adding that “one of them wrote a diary and all of those rights in the diary are vested in this corporation.”
A six or possibly seven-figure book deal for the miners should be a slam dunk, say literary experts, as would be a made-for-TV movie. But one producer contacted by THR says a feature film might be a dicier proposition. “I’d need to see the details,” this producer says. “It’s a great story of perseverance and hope, but I don’t know if it’s a movie yet.” Another producer says it would be critical to attract a high-level author for the book, which could then lure an auteur director like Paul Greengrass or Danny Boyle to the material.
In addition, keeping 33 people together to agree on a version of the story could be tricky. But Carey says the miners have organized themselves into an “executive committee” that will make decisions on behalf of the group.
“We interact with the executive committee, and when we get all the different proposals they will hear them and they’ll have a say and probably have a vote,” Carey says.
Carey is a partner in Carey y Cia, a Santiago-based law firm that specializes in intellectual property. His firm was approached by Remberto Valdes, an attorney in Concepcion, Chile, who was acquainted with one of the miners. Carey’s firm brought in Arent Fox attorneysRicardo Fischer in Washington and Bela Lugosi in Los Angeles to help craft the strategy. The lawyers have had informal contact with a handful of showbiz agents but are looking to start more formal talks.
According to Carey, unnamed investors have contributed money to a fund to help the miners as they laid plans to sell the rights to their story. Some of these investors acted out of hope of making a profit and some out of a desire to help the miners, Carey says.
There are other miner-related projects in development, including The 33 of San Jose, a Spanish film that was rushed into the American Film Market in the aftermath of the rescue. But Carey says he believes his clients’ pitch is much more compelling.
“Of course there are many people doing documentaries and there are some projects and movies going around relating to the event, but they will not be official movies and will not have rights to such things as the secret pact that the miners (reached) inside the mine,” Carey says.