Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After spending 17 years at CAA and the last three at ICM, David Styne is leaving the agency business to focus on a new career as a screenwriter. This comes after he made a sale on the first (and only) script he has ever written. Scott Steindorff’s Stone Village bought Carnival!, a comedy that Styne wrote, based on a trip to Rio that he took four years ago with his high school buddies from Los Angeles. The trip was a seminal experience for Styne and when he described it to ex-client Oliver Stone, the director told him there was a movie in it. Styne never had time to write it. When the trip’s Brazilian guide, Marco Cavalcante, was killed, Styne became determined to follow through and dedicate the movie to him.

Styne, who majored in English at UCLA and is the grandson of legendary songwriter Jule Styne, wrote the script on a legal pad last December. He  put it in proper form after his wife bought him the computer program Final Draft for Christmas. He put a fake name on it–A. Tuttenroux–and after trying to get a Brazilian actor client on Steindorff’s series pilot Rio, the agent mentioned that he had a young client who wrote a script in that locale. The more Styne talked about his own affection for the place based on the trip he took there, Steindorff and his Stone Village colleague Dylan Russell became convinced that Styne wasn’t telling him everything.

Said Steindorff: “After we made the deal, I said, ‘Okay, stop bullshitting me, you wrote this, didn’t you? He fessed up. It’s a well-written broad comedy about three lifelong friends who head to Rio to get their mojo back, and it shows so many positive things that happen in Rio that embody the way I view the place. I just finished shooting The Lincoln Lawyer in downtown Los Angeles, and trust me, Rio is much safer.” Stone Village will put together the equity financing as it did with the series Rio, and the plan is to start production March 1 during Carnival. Steindorff invited Styne to produce the picture with him. Next, Styne had to tell ICM.  He showed the script with the pseudonym to ICM motion picture literary department head Nicole Clemens and asked her to read it. When she sparked to it and suggested Styne sign the writer, he told her it was him, and that he’d already made a deal with Steindorff. Styne then traded his status as ICM agent to become an ICM client and the agency papered the deal

“David gave me his script with a pseudonym and asked me for my opinion,” Clemens told me. “I said we should definitely sign the writer, and I was so happy to find out that he was already at ICM.”