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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Zach Dean

An in-flight scare leads to a buzz script on the ground

March 24, 2010 |  3:36 pm

 Zach
EXCLUSIVE: The path that winds from a screenwriter’s mind to a finished film at the multiplex can begin in the most unlikely of places. For Zach Dean, it started on a seemingly doomed flight.

In September 2005, Dean, a high school teacher and struggling screenwriter, was sitting on JetBlue Flight 292 from Burbank to New York when news reports on the in-flight television system informed him and 138 other passengers that the plane’s landing gear had malfunctioned, possibly preventing it from landing.

For more than two hours, he sat on the plane contemplating his mortality as it circled Southern California, burning fuel in the hopes of making a dangerous touchdown a little less risky should the aircraft catch fire. By the time it finally landed — safely — at LAX, Dean had pledged to write a script about family.

The result of that high-altitude resolution is a screenplay called “Kin,” which Dean, 35, finished last year. Although the script’s narrative suggests “A Simple Plan” or “Bonnie & Clyde” more than a feel-good family film — it’s partly about a brother and sister who commit a robbery, kill a state trooper in rural Michigan and then are forced to go on the run — it touches on the themes of love and loyalty that raced through Dean’s mind as he watched his fate play out on the in-flight video system.

“The flight solidified what I think is important, and what’s important affects what you write,” Dean says. (During the flight, he also resolved to have a child with his wife; the couple now has a 2-year-old daughter.)

In a turn sure to provide inspiration to hundreds of unknown screenwriters, “Kin” has been steadily gaining momentum in Hollywood and is now attracting some top names.

Stefan Ruzowitzky, director of the 2007 foreign-language Oscar winner, “The Counterfeiters,” has agreed to direct the film, and he and Dean have spent the last several months developing the script. Meanwhile, 2929 Productions, the film financing and production entity run by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that has been behind movies including “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Two Lovers,” has chosen the script as its point of reentry into the filmmaking business after a notable hiatus.

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