The write stuff

2 pix may earn scribes record $8.5 mil

Who says write men can’t jump?

In potentially the highest-paying scripter deal ever, Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson, two writers who’ve yet to have a screenplay produced, have restructured their payday for “Steinbeck’s Point of View” with an additional blind-script commitment that will earn them an unprecedented $8.5 million if both pics are produced.

Steve Reuther’s Bel Air Entertainment structured the contract with the intent to put “Steinbeck’s Point of View” on a fast track at Warner Bros., where Bel Air is set up.

A number of directors and stars, including Tom Cruise, have shown interest in the project, but no deals are in place.

Producers will now include Reuther, Mark Johnson of Mark Johnson Prods., Camp and Thompson.

The massive deal came about in a serpentine fashion. Warner and Bel Air actually bought the “Steinbeck” spec two months ago for $750,000 against $1.5 million. But Camp, 27, was attached to direct and Thompson, 29, to produce if the pic was made within 15 months.

Bel Air and Warner Bros. sniffed major star interest in the project and were looking to greenlight it as soon as possible with an A-list helmer, so they asked Camp to step aside from the directing chores.

“It became very clear that this could be a very big movie and probably was not right for him to do as a first movie,” said Johnson, who originally developed the script with Camp and Thompson.

The deal was renegotiated to provide Camp and Thompson with $2 million against $4 million with a potential extra bonus of $1 million. The blind-script commitment called for an additional $1 million against $3.5 million with Camp directing in a pay-and-play deal and Thompson producing. The agreement essentially turns the second project into a put picture.

If both pics are ultimately made, Camp and Thompson would earn $8.5 million, which would be the largest payday for any feature scribe for a single deal. Even if neither is ultimately made, the scripters walk away with more than $3 million. (Ron Bass had an overall deal at Sony worth about $8 million, but that covered a half-dozen scripts. And Shane Black earned $4 million for “Long Kiss Goodnight” at New Line.)

“They have become major writers with major fees, and they have entered that stratosphere that every writer aspires to,” Reuther said of the “Steinbeck” duo.

Camp and Thompson were understandably delirious at the pricetag on their handiwork.

“It’s like winning the lottery,” Thompson said. “We’re getting a lot of attention around town and that’s exciting.”

Camp insisted he was fine with delaying his helming debut until the second smaller pic because he was also a producer on “Steinbeck’s.”

“As a producer, I felt it was absolutely the best thing to do for the picture,” he said. “The script was starting to attract major talent.”

“Steinbeck’s” has been described as a “Field of Dreams”-style romance. Story is about a San Francisco man sick with cancer who returns to the homestead that once belonged to his grandfather. The trip turns into a spiritual awakening where he learns to redirect his life.

Bel Air exec VP of production Alex Schwartz set up the project with her company after Johnson and the scripting duo brought it to her.

Camp and Thompson have sold several small studio comedy specs, but none has been produced. They have “Dragonfly” in development at United Artists with Johnson attached to produce.

The new deal was brokered for the scribes by agent Emile Gladstone of Broder, Kurland, Webb & Uffner Agency and attorney Karl Austen of Armstrong & Hirsch.

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