High school senior sells first screenplay

LOS ANGELES (AP) A number of decisions confront Jessica Kaplan as she prepares for her senior year in high school: which courses to take, what clothes to wear and what Hollywood stars to consider for her movie.

''Powers That Be,'' a movie script that Kaplan, 17, wrote in eight months during her junior year, has been bought by New Line Cinema for $150,000.

The contract is a nice beginning for the film fanatic who dreams of making her own movies. While top screenwriters such as Shane Black, William Goldman and Joe Eszterhas typically earn several million dollars for scripts, a six-figure sale is unheard of for someone as young and inexperienced as Kaplan.

The material for ''Powers That Be'' stemmed from Kaplan's observations of her classmates. The script is about white, affluent suburban teen-agers who, in their search for an identity, latch onto hip-hop culture and gangsta rap.

''It's mindless exploitation. These rich kids get attracted to it, then get in trouble and then turn their backs on it,'' she said. ''The whole hip-hop culture began from oppression. It's an established culture and an established reality.''

Despite her frustration, Kaplan said she's not out to change her peers.

''I think writers that take on the idea they will change things are taking a real heady position which probably hurts them in the end,'' she said.

Kaplan's script was discovered when she was working as an intern at a video production company. Owner Jack F. Murphy read the script, hooked Kaplan up with a writing coach, then hired an agent who pitched the reworked screenplay to several film companies, including New Line.

The New Line production company that will film Kaplan's screenplay is Single Cell Pictures, headed by R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe. Co-producer Sandy Stern said the company is pursuing the three actors Kaplan had in mind for the movie: Christian Slater, Ethan Hawke and Stephen Dorff.

Kaplan is now fine-tuning her script. New Line Cinema spokesman Steve Elzer expected the film to be on screens in a year or two.

The aspiring director said she will put her earnings from ''Powers That Be'' into directing and producing her own films. She plans to attend a local college part time so she can be free to write more screenplays.

''The more I focus on the deal and the money, the more my writing suffers,'' she said.

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