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Tess Vigeland: Three hundred grand for a screenplay? That's enough to set dollar signs rolling across the eyes of half of LA. But what if the movie you write makes, say, $50 million? Wanna piece of that action?
The industry bible Variety reports that one major studio is rethinking the way it pays screenwriters — at least some of them. Oh that this might spare all of us from Rush Hour 4. Here's Marketplace's Lisa Napoli.
Lisa Napoli: A dozen of Hollywood's hottest writers have snagged a deal with 20th Century Fox. It's unusual, because it'll allow these writers to give their input as producers.
And it'll also give them a slice of the profits, known in the business as "gross points." That's the kind of deal usually offered only to A-list actors and hot-shot directors.
UCLA screenwriting professor Richard Walter says it's high time writers got a break.
Richard Walter: It's miraculous, it's just miraculous — very positive, I think, for writers. So as soon as you have a gross participation in something, you are a partner in that enterprise.
Now you'd think if you'd written cash-cows like Shrek or Little Miss Sunshine, studios would be falling all over themselves to offer you the best deal possible.
Hollywood watcher Nikki Finke says the sad truth is that in Tinseltown, writers are at the bottom of the food chain.
Nikki Finke: They're treated worse than the guards in the security shacks.
Finke says the studios make fewer films each year so they're not buying as many screenplays, anyway. Because of that, she doubts what this screenwriting cabal has negotiated will yield many new movies or much cash.
Finke says if these writers really want to take control of their fortunes, they should go directly to the net.
Finke: Frankly, right now, you would be better served if you cut your screenplay down to 15 minutes, you shot it with friends in a basement and you put it on YouTube.
After all, that's where Hollywood's trolling for the latest talent these days.
In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.