Columbia heads to camp with rookie counselor

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A week ago, newbie scribe Jason Sullivan had to be driven to pitch meetings because his car couldn't go more than 45 mph. Now, thanks to Columbia picking up his untitled comedy project, he is ready to go shopping for a new ride.

Sullivan, who studied screenwriting at Loyola Marymount, has been writing spec after spec since graduation while holding down several jobs at once. At one point, he held five jobs, including apartment manager, script reader and a freelance writer for a company that hired holders of masters degrees to write spam e-mails that would get through filters. One fortuitous job was as an assistant to "X-Men Origins: Magneto" writer Sheldon Turner.

Producer Jennifer Klein was over at Turner's one day and recounting a dinner she had with her husband, who complained how he missed out on a seminal moment in childhood by not attending summer camp.

Sullivan was there too. As an obsessive fan of summer camp movies like "Meatballs," he saw movie potential and days later came up with a treatment and structure. The project revolves around three friends in their 30s who realize their lives are incomplete because they never went to camp, so they rent out a camp and invite other adults to join them.

Turner and Klein, who have several projects around town, came up with a plan to take Sullivan's pitch to market, though one complication was the unreliability of Sullivan's car.

"If you go over 45 miles per hour, it dies," Sullivan said. "If you make a sharp left turn, it peters out. And at stop signs, it needs to be revved all the time or it dies. People think I'm ready to race them in my '97 Saturn."

Sullivan ended up having to be ferried to some of the pitch meetings, which were a blur of bottled water and small talk to the nervous newbie.

Columbia bought the project in a six-figure deal. Sullivan said he still can't believe he is being paid to write.

"It feels fantastic, but I'm afraid it's part of an elaborate scam, that I'm being grifted," he says. "I grew up obsessed with summer camp movies, and the fact that one day I might be able to go see one that I wrote blows my mind."

As to what he will do with his paycheck, he joked, "I'm going to pimp my car."

Sony's Doug Belgrad and Jonathan Kadin are overseeing the project.
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