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The book: "To Air Is Human: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist" by Dan Crane The buyer: DreamWorks

December 13, 2007|Josh Getlin | Times Staff Writer

DreamWorks options Dan Crane's "To Air Is Human: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist."

Crane is represented by Amy Schiffman at the Gersh Agency for film rights and by Matt McGowan at the Frances Goldin Literary Agency; Adam Goodman and Ashley Brucks are representing DreamWorks; Barry Josephson ("Enchanted") is producing, along with Anna Barber and the Magical Elves; Danica Radovanov is executive producer. The book, which came out last year, is published by Riverhead Books.

For Dan Crane, the talk of film deals was getting tiresome. He had drifted into air guitar in his 30s, a refugee from office hell who put on a striped, post-punk costume, dubbed himself "Bjorn Turoque" (figure it out) and joined a community of windmilling wannabes. Then he wrote a hilarious book about his experiences, and screenwriters began descending on him. "This is a great movie!" they'd tell him, after he competed in Los Angeles contests. "Jack Black or Will Ferrell could play the lead!" Crane smiled and grew weary of pitch-meisters who never delivered.

The deal

The players

The back story

But Hollywood was quite serious, as it turned out. It's just that Crane's book wasn't enough to cement a deal. Producers didn't push for an option until they saw "Air Guitar Nation," a zany documentary that coincidentally included Crane's debut performances. DreamWorks bought the film rights to his book, the film and the US Air Guitar Championships as a package.

"Sometimes it's hard to get people rallied around a book, no matter how good it is," said Radovanov, who became a major sponsor of the deal, along with Barber, who produced the documentary. "People in Hollywood go for book rights, but usually they're for books where everyone knows the publisher will give it a big marketing push, or it's already a big bestseller. They won't take risks anymore just because a book like this is fantastic."

Crane, a writer and producer, has retired from the air guitar circuit but continues to emcee major contests. "On one level all of this is absurd, but there's a real human struggle to express oneself in Dan's book," said McGowan, his literary agent. "And there's something compelling about fighting for championships and getting famous when you have no talent. Especially with the entertainment industry being what it is today."

josh.getlin@latimes.com

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