Wednesday 28 March 2007

Screenwriters Co-Op

Last week Variety published an article about the creation of a Writers Co-Op, a production venture to be housed at John Wells Prods.

Co-Op is designed to give gross participation to screenwriters, along with a voice in how their scripts are turned into films. It will be staked under a first-look deal by Warner Bros., where Wells is based.

Over the next four years, the Writers Co-Op will generate at least 18 scripts from writers who will risk their usually high upfront salaries for the reward of receiving first-dollar gross, the right to participate as producers and a guarantee they will not be rewritten without their consultation and approval. The scribes will also have a say in the decisionmaking process from development all the way to post-production.
The writers will forgo a great deal of their upfront fees on first drafts to ensure their films move through the sticky development process, and in exchange receive a full payment and production bonuses when the film is made.

19 writers have signed up: Ron Bass (Rain Man), Henry Bean (Internal Affairs), David Benioff (Troy), Scott Frank (Out of Sight), Robert Nelson Jacobs (Chocolat), Kazan (Reversal of Fortune), Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise), Richard LaGravanese (The Fisher King), Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams), Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost), Stephen Schiff (The Deep End of the Ocean), Schulman (Dead Poets Society), Ed Solomon (Men in Black), Dana Stevens (For Love of the Game), Robin Swicord (Memoirs of a Geisha), Michael Tolkin (The Player), Rafael Yglesias (Fearless), and the writing team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (City Slickers).

It will be fascinating to monitor how this venture proceeds.


Audrey said...

Howdy just checking is this goig through. I was thinking we must ask Dave to email the board members about sendig comments in to get this really live as a discussion and comment site. People I have met have raved about the new site so lets get them chatting

Maura McHugh said...

Hey Audrey, I'm glad you're hearing good things about the site. I think the Screenwriters Co-Op is a really interesting initiative. I'll be watching how it progresses.

I'd love to see more people commenting on these pieces. I hope they know they are free to hop in and add their thoughts to them.

Trish G said...

I wonder how the Co-Op plans to get around the usual clauses in option agreements and other contracts, where a producer gets total creative control for all eternity in this universe and any parallel universes?

It'd be interesting to see the contracts they plan to use! Are they exchanging their writers' fee for a percentage at the end? Is it a slippery slope back to the $1 Option?

Will keep a watching brief on this - it could either be a fantastic way for writers to retain creative control and share in the movies' profits, or yet another way of reducing writers' bargaining power. After all, if a producer can get a well-known screenwriter's script for 'free', but has to pay for everyone elses, which one do you think (s)he'd choose?

That being said, it's worth a shot, so if anyone's interested in trying it out in Ireland, let me know!