Initiated at Sundance, screenwriters' group 1.3.9 hopes to work directly with actors and directors on film projects. So how will the arrangement work' John Hazelton reports
Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Erik Jendresen (TV series Band Of Brothers) hatched the idea for 1.3.9, their recently launched writers' co-operative, after stints teaching at the Sundance Screenwriters' Lab.
A productive experience at the Lab, says Jendresen, showed that 'writers really understand how to talk to other writers and elicit positive change'. The Hollywood development system, by contrast, 'has become ossified. These days, trying to develop a project at a studio is next to impossible.'
1.3.9 is a group of 12 writers, including John Lee Hancock (The Rookie), John Ridley (Undercover Brother), Graham Yost (Speed) and Ron Nyswaner (The Painted Veil), as well as McQuarrie and Jendresen.
Actors or directors with an idea can approach the group (www.onethreenine.org), and one of the group members will volunteer to become the credited screenwriter once the group has voted to take on the project.
The resulting script is then developed solely among the group and, when finished, given back to the talent.
When the project is set up with a backer, the credited screenwriter is paid his or her usual fee and is given a guarantee the script will not be re-written without his or her approval, while the group itself takes a nominal producing fee (the credited screenwriter might also see a gross percentage, though that would be determined by individual negotiation).
Jendresen insists that 1.3.9's purpose is more creative than financial. The idea, he says, is to 'push the agenda of great American cinema and get some stuff written by people who are passionate about storytelling. We're less about elevating the status of writers or making more money.'
As such, he believes, the venture should be well received by the wider industry. 'In spite of Hollywood's practices, they always respond to quality,' he says.
'If you have a fantastic piece of story-telling in a screenplay form with an attached film-maker, that's what they want.'