Friday, January 16, 2015

Interview with Benny Hung The IF List CEO and Co-Founder

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Benny Hung, co-founder of my latest favorite creative writing tool - The IF List. Read more to find out how you can use it in your writing life. ~ Dani Greer/Chief Red Pencil

So, Benny, tell me first what "The IF List" means.

The IF List stands for The Imagine Film List. The “IF” also refers to a hypothetical “what if” movie proposal and dream cast. My co-founder Noel Spangler had brilliantly come up with the name after we spent months brainstorming different possibilities.
Why did you decide to create this site? And how long has it been around?

Ever since co-founders Noel Spangler, Ian Spangler, and I first met over twenty years ago, we've been passionate about all kinds of stories. We’re huge movie fanatics, and have often discussed our original movie ideas and actor dream casts. So we've held the core concept of IF List close to heart for a long time. The idea for a website first took shape three years ago, after I read The Meaning of Night, a novel by Michael Cox. I was so enamored by the story that I wanted it to come to life on the big screen, and was convinced that actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keira Knightley, and Jude Law were the characters incarnate. This inspired our vision for a communal platform that enabled all readers to dream-cast actors, share their ideas, and vote for their favorite stories. We had full-time jobs at the time, but agreed to work after-hours. From our living room, we would stay up into the wee hours of the night, wire-framing, and designing the prototype site. After working like this for half a year, we met our first investors Denise Stabenau and Jo-Ann Sickinger, who enabled us to pursue our this venture full-time and helped make The IF List website a reality. Our website has now been in public beta for five months.

What is your movie industry background?

Ian worked previously as a production assistant with Dream Works and in post-production with the TV show The It Factor. Noel had researched for and edited various screenplays for the NYC based Benjamin Productions. They have also both worked on the live set of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. Denise’s career includes all aspects of film and television production, including editing and distribution for companies such as HBO, MTV, Janus Films, Nickelodeon, CBS and The Criterion Collection. In addition, our investors in Dubai have close ties to Hollywood.

Who uses the website besides actors?

Right now, many authors use The IF List to promote their books. Their fans are also very involved, dream-casting and sharing their proposals. Writers on Wattpad and other e-publishing platforms are using our site to publicize and visualize their stories as well.

As we continue to grow, we will develop more exciting features for producers, casting directors, and film industry professionals to gain more insight into the public preferences and statistics captured on our site. 

Once people make movie proposals, what happens to the suggestions?

The movie proposals will be visible for others to see, like, dislike, comment on, and share. As the proposals gain popularity and fan support, they move up the rankings on The IF List, where they are in better position to gain the attention of producers. We also try to inform the actors so they can further promote themselves for these roles. Many new models and actors are now gaining supporters and recognition on The IF List!

If someone is interested in an actor proposed for a role or a story, how does a movie executive contact them?

We do have an info section in each actor’s profile to place official website and social media links so that they can be contacted. They can email The IF List team at to include and update their contact information. In addition, we will soon implement a messaging platform.

Does this sort of contact happen often?

I am not aware of producers proactively contacting actors through our site, but authors have contacted actors based on fan input from The IF List! For instance, author Bonnie Burgess contacted actress Ryan Newman, after she became the IF List favorite to play The Mystic Series protagonist. Most recently, author Colleen Hoover contacted actor Nick Bateman, since he was unquestionably the fans’ first choice to play the male lead. Bateman is now officially cast in Hoover’s Ugly Love movie.

How do you see the IF List developing and growing over the next year?

Over the next few months, we are focused on releasing actor profiles and social networking features to further engage users in a fun and exciting way. We will fully integrate these features for desktop and mobile devices. We also aim to continue growing our database of stories and user-generated content so we can provide greater value and entertainment for our community. We will be preparing for and exhibiting at the exciting Book Expo America conference this May.

How can authors use the IF List site creatively?

The IF List provides a unique and innovative marketing tool for authors – it engages fans to explore the psyche of the author’s characters, and empowers them to be an active participant and author their own creative proposals. Fans love discussing dream casts with their favorite authors! The celebrity branding our site offers is very powerful, and is a great way to promote books and attract new readers.

What suggestions can you make to authors to make the best impression in their proposals.

The most successful and supported stories on The IF List were campaigned by authors on their Facebook fan pages and official websites, where they have the greatest social media reach. The fans feed off of the author’s excitement. Authors I have worked with have indicated that contests and giveaways are great incentives for fans to support, dream-cast, and write endorsements for their stories on The IF List. Since no social media post can reach every fan, periodically reminding their fans to vote for their story on The IF List has shown to be very effective.

What is the best way to share the IF List with others?

Throughout The IF List site, there are share buttons, so users can share their favorite content with friends, and post on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Users can also share direct links of their favorite IF List pages. Authors and actors can share The IF List link on their fan pages and official websites.

I notice you are doing a lot of work with the Dragonlance books at The If List. I'm a dragon lore fan (mostly Anne McCaffrey).

Yes, I grew up reading the Dragonlance series! It is actually the only fantasy novel I've read aside from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But Dragonlance is the very first story that had ever inspired me to dream-cast! Through the years, my dream cast for this series has changed, but as always, I find myself going back to it. That’s what I enjoy about this site – the ability to revisit my childhood and all my favorite, timeless stories. But perhaps what I cherish most is connecting with other fans – supporting and sharing visions for our beloved stories.

Readers, I'm working on the synopsis and character descriptions to add my novel to The IF List ~ why not add your book for movie casting? Be sure to connect with The IF List on Facebook and Twitter

Please leave us a question or comment! Which title of yours do you see as a TV series or movie?


  1. This is so fun. I think every writer has considered who would star in the film version of his book. I have dreamed and pondered and will definitely check it out.

  2. I can't wait to get my mystery novel up - talk about inspiration for writing the synopsis and great character descriptions. Need that to put my best foot forward!

  3. I'll Bookmark this post. And Tweet it too.

    1. Thanks, Steve. I really think your books would translate well to film!

  4. This sounds as if it would be a tremendous tool for actors - it certainly would strengthen their position to be able to say 'the public wants me' when they're at an audition.

    1. Exactly, Elspeth. I'm amazed at fan power after following the Longmire and Outlander interactions over the past months.

    2. What's nice about The IF List is that your readers and fans can help with the casting. Go look at the Outlander page over there for examples.

    3. Oops, that was meant for Carola.

  5. Unfortunately my dream actor for Daisy Dalrymple would be Diana Rigg as she was in the Avengers. A reader said: My suggestions for leads would be Emelia Fox as Daisy and Steven Mangan as Alec.

  6. Hubster keeps asking me when I'm going to sell the movie rights to my Blackthorne, Inc. series. I'll tell him he can promote it on IF for me. I watch so little television or movies, I wouldn't have a clue who would star in the film adaptations for my 30-something characters. But I can see Harrison Ford or Sean Connery as Horace Blackthorne.

    1. I've really had to buck up and make myself watch some films so I get familiar with the new talents out there. The IF List itself is helping me with that. If someone looks interesting, I first check to see if there is anything on YouTube or a movie trailer I can watch.

  7. Now I must check out this site! I have a mystery trilogy (once the third book is published!), and readers have told me it would make an awesome movie.

    1. Shon you should do it - and then get your tribe to start casting actors. It's so much fun.

  8. The stuff dreams are made of. What author doesn't wish to have a movie made from their book?


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