Hollywood writers and Silicon Valley geeks are teaming up to create startups like Virtual Artists modelled on the original United Artists, in which artists own and operate the studio:
Some writers are now taking matters into their own hands, using their downtime to meet with venture backers, other writers and technologists.
"We should show the studios some gratitude for getting us together," said "Rain Man" coauthor Ron Bass, a member of the WGA's negotiating committee and an investor and director of Virtual Artists. "This is not just an Internet play, but the beginning of what the future is going to look like."
About 20 entertainment and software writers are investing an average of $10,000 for a chunk of Virtual Artists. Co-founded by Aaron Mendelsohn, a screenwriter who created "Air Bud," Virtual Artists plans to fund projects as varied as shorts and feature-length movies. Its other investors include star television writer Tom Fontana of "Homicide" and "Oz"; "Hotel Rwanda" co-writer and director Terry George; "Chicken Run" screenplay author Karey Kirkpatrick; and John Logan, writer of "Sweeney Todd" and "The Aviator." Susannah Grant, who wrote "Erin Brockovich," and Warren Leight, who runs the TV show "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," also have agreed to invest.