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DreamWorks pacts with Steve Zaillian

Studio inks first-look, two-year producing deal

Continuing a trend that vests screenwriters with greater power, DreamWorks Studios has inked a first-look, two-year producing deal with Steve Zaillian and his Film Rites shingle.

Zaillian and Steven Spielberg have partnered before. Zaillian’s script for “Schindler’s List” won the Oscar for adapted screenplay. He also penned “Amistad.”

“Two of my greatest filmmaking experiences involved close collaborations with Steve Zaillian,” Spielberg said.

Garrett Basch will head development for Film Rites, a writer-driven company that produces original films from established and emerging talent.

Pact, announced by DreamWorks co-prexies of production Holly Bario and Mark Sourian, is one of only three first-look producing deals at the studio. Other two are with scribes Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, and DreamWorks alum Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.

Like Zaillian, Kurtzman and Orci are screenwriters who have moved into the role of producers, much like showrunners in television. Two weeks ago, Fox inked a producing deal with scribe Robert Kinberg. Other scribes with producing deals are Akiva Goldsman at Warners and J.J. Abrams at Paramount.

Hungry for fresh material, studios say these deals give them direct access to original ideas. For their part, scribes say being a producer allows them to farm out ideas they might not want to write.

Everyone at DreamWorks looks forward to working with Steve and producing great films together,” DreamWorks co-chair/CEO Stacey Snider said.

“It’s been too long,” since he’s worked with Spielberg, Zaillian said. “To be back alongside him and his knowledge and passion and high regard for good storytelling is very exciting to me.”

Among his current projects, Zaillian is writing and exec producing Sony’s English-language remake of Swedish thriller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Previous credits include “Mission: Impossible,” “American Gangster” and “Awakenings.” He wrote and directed “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and “All the King’s Men.”

Film Rites’ slate includes Summit thriller “The Cold Light of Day,” which shoots this summer in Spain, specialty pic “Welcome to the Rileys” and Mike Nichols’ “Deep Water” at Fox 2000.

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