John Wells' Writers' Co-Op draws together a stable of veteran writers to generate scripts and share in a project's upside.
Unveiled three months ago, John Wells' Writers' Co-Op has been in the works for several years.
For Wells (writer of ER and producer of movies including White Oleander and Doom) and screenwriters Tom Schulman (Dead Poets Society) and Nick Kazan (Reversal Of Fortune), the impetus for the venture, Kazan explains, was the realisation that 'writers in television have more control and make more money. And the reason is they take less upfront but they take more risk.'
Yet it was only when the rest of the industry 'realised they're spending so much money on development and nothing is coming from it', Kazan adds, that the idea became feasible.
Set up with a first- look deal at Warner Bros, the Co-Op will generate scripts from a stable of writers that - besides Wells, Kazan and Schulman - includes Ron Bass (Rain Man), Callie Khouri (Thelma And Louise), Ed Solomon (Men In Black), Phil Alden Robinson (Field Of Dreams), Robin Swicord (Memoirs Of A Geisha) and Michael Tolkin (The Player).
A writer working with the Co-Op will provide a first draft and up to two sets of revisions for a fraction of their usual fee, but have a guarantee the script will not be re-written without their approval.
If and when the project goes into production, the writer will receive their full standard fee plus production bonus and the guarantee of a producer's credit. They are also guaranteed 2.5% of the first-dollar gross earned by the film.
The Co-Op also receives a percentage of first-dollar gross (0.5%-2.5%, depending on how many scripts are delivered) and produces the project.
Several of those involved in the Co-Op, including Bass, Kazan and Robinson, were also involved in a high profile but short-lived 1999 Sony deal that promised a group of writers a share of movies' profits.
But the Co-Op has more of a creative element to it, Kazan argues, and recognises that 'a singular vision tends to produce good work'.