August 13 – The Happytime Murders

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on August 13th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS.

Logline: When the puppet cast of an ’80s children’s TV show begins to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet takes on the case.

The Screenwriters: After acting in, writing, and directing a number of shorts, TODD BERGER achieved his first feature-length writing credit on the 2005 ABC Family TV movie Chasing Christmas. In a career that has skirted dark comedy and family-friendly fare, Burger has written and directed festival hits The Scenesters (2009), It’s a Disaster (2012), and this year’s Cover Versions, which premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, while also contributing to several shorts in the Kung Fu Panda and Smurfs franchises and adapting Where’s Waldo? into a live-action feature (still in development). His debut novel, Showdown City, was published in 2016. Berger shares story credit on The Happytime Murders with Dee Austin Robertson, who is also a director and cinematographer.

Registration in advance is required to attend the discussion, and includes a copy of the script mailed to you in advance as well as sandwiches, snacks, and beverages at the meeting. Click the Register Now button for instructions.

(registration deadline: Thursday, August 9)

Directed by Brian Henson (The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island), The Happytime Murders stars Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect and The Hunger Games franchises), Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live), Joel McHale (Community, The Joel McHale Show), and a raunchy cast of puppets! The trailer below is NSFW.

Producers and Production Companies: The film’s director, Brian Henson, produced the film for Henson Alternative (also known as “ha!”), the adult division of his late father’s production company, The Jim Henson Company. The film’s star, Melissa McCarthy, is also credited as a producer, along with her husband, Ben Falcone, for their company, On The Day Productions. Executive producers include Henson’s sister, Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company, and Teddy Schwarzman, Ben Stillman, and Michael Heimler of boutique media company Black Bear Pictures (The Imitation Game, Gold, Suburubicon).

Release Date: The Happytime Murders opens August 24 (STX Entertainment).

Not yet rated. 98 pages. Comedy.

A very special guest moderator will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion.

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July 9 – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on July 9th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME.

Logline: A grocery store checkout girl and her best friend find themselves in the middle of an international conspiracy when one of them discovers the boyfriend who just dumped her worked for the CIA.

The Screenwriters: In 2008, SUSANNA FOGEL starred in the web series Joni & Susanna with her sketch comedy partner Joni Lefkowitz. Three years later, they debuted their one-act play, Life Partners, at Unscreened, a Hollywood showcase of short plays by up-and-coming screenwriters. The 2014 big-screen adaptation of that play became Susanna’s feature film directorial debut while she also developed, with Lefkowitz, Chasing Life, a series about a 24-year-old journalist with leukemia, which was adapted from a telenovela and ran for two seasons on ABC Family. DAVID ISERSON, Fogel’s co-writer on Dumped, began his writing career at Saturday Night Live. He went on to write and produce episodes of New Girl, Mad Men, Mozart in the Jungle, and Mr. Robot, for which he shared an Primetime Emmy Award nomination. His 2014 debut novel Firecracker made Rolling Stone’s list of the 40 best YA novels. Dumped is Iserson’s first credit on a feature film.

(registration deadline: Thursday, July 5)

Starring Mila Kunis (That 70s Show, Black Swan, Bad Moms) and Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters), with Sam Heughan (Outlander), Hasan Minhaj (The Daily Show), Ivanna Sakhno (Pacific Rim Uprising), Justin Theroux (Mulholland Drive), and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files).

Producers and Production Companies: The Spy Who Dumped Me was produced by Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind, Kindergarten Cop) and Erica Huggins (The Dark Tower), and co-produced by Tina Anderson (Insurgent and post-production supervisor on 20 features including Argo and Quentin Tarantino’s last three films). Lionsgate won distribution rights in a bidding war.

Release Date: The Spy Who Dumped Me opens August 3 (Lionsgate).

Not yet rated. 117 pages. Action Comedy.

NEIL LANDAU will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Currently the Assistant Dean of Dean’s Special Programs at UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television, Neil’s screenwriting credits include the cult hit comedy Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead starring Christina Applegate and the hit TV shows Melrose Place, Doogie Howser M.D., Twice in a Lifetime, and The Young & the Restless. In 2012, his work on the screenplay for the animated feature Tad, the Lost Explorer won him a Goya award (Spain’s Oscar). He has also written five screenwriting books, including The Screenwriter’s Roadmap and The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap. Visit neillandau.com for more, or follow him on Twitter (@neilland).

ALSO DON’T FORGET

CASE STUDY: THE GRADUATE

Monday, June 25, 2018

With BEVERLY GRAY
author of Seduced by Mrs. Robinson:
How The Graduate became the Touchstone of a Generation

Register by noon, Friday, June 22

(click here for details)

June 11 – Under the Silver Lake

(registration deadline: Friday, June 8)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on June 11th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay UNDER THE SILVER LAKE.

Logline: Mysterious clues lead a man on a strange journey to find the beautiful next door neighbor who disappeared the day after they hooked up.

The Writer/Director: Originally from Michigan, DAVID ROBERT MITCHELL graduated from Florida State University with an MFA in Production. His feature debut, The Myth of the American Sleepover, won a special jury prize at SXSW for Best Ensemble Cast and was an official Critic’s Week selection at Cannes, but it was his second film that catapulted Mitchell to indie film stardom. In It Follows, a murderous entity stalks its victim until he or she either dies or passes “it” to the next victim through sex. The nightmarish, low-budget horror film debuted at Cannes and grossed $23 million worldwide. The auteur cites Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window as his favorite film of all time.

Under the Silver Lake stars Academy Award nominee Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, The Amazing Spider-Man), with Riley Keough (Magic Mike, Mad Max: Fury Road), and Topher Grace (That 70s Show).

Producers and Production Companies: Among the 25 producers, associate producers, co-producers, and executive producers, and 11 production companies, credited on IMDb for Under the Silver Lake are Academy Award winner Adele Romanski (Moonlight) for PASTEL, former New Line and Dreamworks president Michael De Luca (Fifty Shades of Grey) for Michael De Luca Productions, Chris Bender (A History of Violence) for Good Fear Film + Management, and Rufus Parker (Wild Nights with Emily) for P2 Films.

Festivals and Release Date: Under the Silver Lake is scheduled to premiere tomorrow, May 15, 2018, at the Cannes Film Festival, with a wide U.S. release scheduled for June 22 (A24).

Rated R. 139 minutes. 149 pages. Mystery, Comedy.

LINDA COWGILL will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. After completing her MFA at UCLA’s School of Film and Television, Linda landed her first TV writing job on The Incredible Hulk and sold her first feature screenplay to Orion Pictures. She continued writing scripts for Paramount, Universal, MGM, Warner Bros., and for the acclaimed series Life Goes On, until deciding to focus on teaching screenwriting. She has since taught seminars and workshops at AFI, Kennedy Center, Boston Film Institute, Loyola Marymount, IFP Miami, and NALIP and now heads the Screenwriting Department at Los Angeles Film School. She has also published three books, The Art of Plotting, Secrets of Screenplay Structure, and Writing Short Films, and has many useful screenwriting articles on her website, Plots Inc.

ALSO THIS MONTH

CASE STUDY: THE GRADUATE

Monday, June 25, 2018

With BEVERLY GRAY
author of Seduced by Mrs. Robinson:
How The Graduate became the Touchstone of a Generation

Register by noon, Friday, June 22

(click here for details)

May 14 – Hereditary

(registration deadline: Friday, May 11)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on May 14th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay HEREDITARY.

Logline: Ancestral spirits haunt a family after the death of their secretive and private matriarch.

The Screenwriter: ARI ASTER received his MFA in Directing from the AFI Conservatory. His controversial 2011 incest-themed AFI short, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, went viral last year, spawning dozens of polarized “reaction” videos on YouTube. Hereditary, which The Hollywood Reporter called “two breathless hours of escalating terror that never slackens for a minute,” is his feature film debut as writer and director.

Academy Award nominee Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine) stars alongside Gabriel Bryne (The Usual Suspects), Alex Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band, My Friend Dahmer), Milly Shapiro (Broadway’s Matilda), and Ann Dowd (Compliance).

Producers and Production Companies: Hereditary was produced by Lars Knudsen (Beginners) and PalmStar Media CEO Kevin Frakes (Collateral Beauty) in association with Buddy Patrick (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), founder and president of Windy Hill Pictures.

Festivals and Release Date: Premiered in the Midnight section of this year’s Sundance Film Festival on January 21, followed by a command performance last month at South by Southwest on March 11. Opens wide June 8 (A24).

Rated R. 126 minutes. 118 pages. Horror.

pamelajayesmithPAMELA JAYE SMITH will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. A mythologist and award-winning producer/director with over thirty years experience in features, TV, music videos, and more, Pamela is the author of five books, including The Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains and Inner Drives: How to Write and Create Characters Using the Eight Classic Centers of Motivation. Her company, MYTHWORKS, offers consulting and coaching and, through her Pitch Proxy service, pitches writers’ projects at pitch festivals they cannot attend. Visit pamelajayesmith.com for more information.

April 9 – Tully

(registration deadline: Friday, April 6)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on April 9th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay TULLY.

Logline: Marlo, a mother of three, including a newborn, is gifted a night nanny by her brother. Hesitant to the extravagance at first, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny.

The Screenwriter: DIABLO CODY first gained popularity for her blog, “The Pussy Ranch,” about her year as a stripper, which led to a publishing deal for her memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper (adapted from the blog), and interest in a screenplay. Rather than adapt the same material a second time, Cody whipped up an original screenplay about a pregnant teen with a hamburger phone. The 2007 indie comedy Juno became a surprise hit earning $143 million domestically, Oscar nominations for Best Picture, director Jason Reitman, and lead actress Ellen Page, and an Academy Award for Cody for her very first screenplay. The success of Juno quickly led to Cody selling a series, The United States of Tara, to Showtime, where she served as executive producer for three seasons and wrote nine episodes. Back in features, Cody re-teamed with Reitman for Young Adult starring Charlize Theron, made her directorial debut with Paradise starring Julianne Hough, and most recently penned the 2015 Meryl Streep/Rick Springfield rock-and-roll drama Ricki and the Flash directed by the late Jonathan Demme.

Tully again reunites the Oscar-winning scribe with her Juno director, Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), as well as their Young Adult star, Academy Award winner Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road). Joining them are Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire, Blade Runner 2049) in the title role, Mark Duplass (Zero Dark Thirty), and Ron Livingston (Office Space, Boardwalk Empire).

Producers and Production Companies: Cody, Reitman, and Theron share producing credit with Cody’s manager and longtime producing partner Mason Novick (Juno, Jennifer’s Body, Ricki and the Flash) who first encouraged her to turn her blog into a book and screenplay, Helen Estabrook (Labor Day; Men, Women & Children) through Reitman’s Right of Way Productions, A.J. Dix and Beth Kono through Theron’s Denver and Delilah Productions (Atomic Blonde, Dark Places), and Vancouver-based BRON Studios co-founder Aaron L. Gilbert (Monster), who also co-financed along with Creative Wealth Media.

Release Date: Premiered at the Sudance Film Festival on January 23, 2018. Originally scheduled to be released theatrically on April 20th by Focus Features, but pushed to May 4th.

Rated R. 94 minutes. 91 pages. Drama.

Ruth AtkinsonRUTH ATKINSON will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Ruth is a Los Angeles-based script consultant and story editor with over 20 years of experience in the film/television business. She is a story analyst for the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Screenwriting and Directing Labs and story advisor for Film Independent’s Director’s Lab as well as their diversity program where she helps develop short film scripts which are produced and showcased at the Los Angeles Film Festival. She is also story advisor for the inaugural Global Media Makers, a cultural exchange with FIND, the US State Department, and 14 filmmakers from the Middle East. She has spoken at the Great American PitchFest, International Screenwriters’ Association, the Writers Store, On the Page podcast, and more. Ruth is available for script consulting. Visit her at ruthatkinson.com for more information and follow her on Twitter (@ruth_atkinson).

March 12 – Ready Player One

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, March 9)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on March 12th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay READY PLAYER ONE.

Logline: In an overpopulated dystopian future, Wade Watts escapes into the 1980s-pop-culture-influenced virtual reality world of OASIS where he searches for hidden “Easter eggs” that may win him inheritance of the game creator’s vast fortune.

The Writers: Sci-fi novelist and screenwriter ERNEST CLINE started out as a competitive slam poet, winning the Austin Poetry Slam in 1998 and 2001. After writing a fan-fiction screenplay based on Buckaroo Banzai, his first produced screenwriting credit came in 2009 from Fanboys, a spec script he wrote in 1998 about a group of Star Wars fans on a cross-country road trip hoping to get their dying friend an advance screening of the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One, described as the “Holy Grail of Pop Culture,” sold to Random House’s Crown Publishing in a bidding war in 2010 and was published in 2011. Cline wrote the first draft of the screenplay, with uncredited rewrites provided by ERIC EASON (A Better Life) and final, credited rewrites by ZAK PENN (Last Action Hero, The Avengers).

Directed by Steven Spielberg, whose sci-fi hits include E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds, Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the film stars Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life, X-Men: Apocalypse), Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline, Rogue One), T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek), and Mark Rylance (Brigde of Spies, Dunkirk).

Producers and Production Companies: The film rights sold at auction to Warner Bros. and De Line Pictures the same day the author’s publishing deal with Random House was finalized. Donald De Line, former head of production at Paramount Pictures, whose production credits include last year’s remake of Going in Style and 2011’s Green Lantern, produced Ready Player One under his banner, which he established in 1998, along with former Scott Rudin intern Dan Farah (the upcoming The Crow reboot) for Farah Films, Amblin Entertainment partner Kristie Macosko Krieger (Bridge of Spies, The Post), and director Steven Spielberg for his companies, Amblin and DreamWorks. Random House also shares a film production imprint credit, as do Brent Ratner’s RatPac-Dune Entertainment and Village Roadshow Pictures.

Release Date: Opens worldwide on March 29th (Warner Bros.).

Rated PG-13. 121 pages. Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure.

Wendell WellmanWENDELL WELLMAN will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Trained at the Actors Studio and the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Wendell has acted in feature films, television, and on stage. He has taught screenwriting at UCLA and wrote FIREFOX, SUDDEN IMPACT, and the final Dirty Harry script for Clint Eastwood. He recently completed adapting the novel The River Journey by Robert Nathan and is currently working on setting up his screenplay Top Hat. Wendell’s book, A Writer’s Roadmap, is available at Amazon.

February 12 – Molly’s Game

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, February 9)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on February 12th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay MOLLY’S GAME.

Logline: A former Olympic-class skier turned cocktail waitress starts an underground, high-stakes poker game in the basement of The Viper Room that grows into a multimillion-dollar business attracting elite Hollywood celebrities, Wall Street financiers, and the Russian mob, whom she must protect when she becomes the target of an FBI investigation.

The Writers: The film is based on the true story of MOLLY BLOOM, the 26-year-old woman behind the most exclusive high-stakes poker game in the world, and her 2014 memoir, Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker. Bloom handpicked her favorite screenwriter, AARON SORKIN, to adapt the book for the big screen. A former playwright, Sorkin began his screenwriting career in the 1990s, adapting his Broadway play A Few Good Men for the 1992 Rob Reiner film. He created The West Wing in 1999 and wrote or co-wrote all but three of the series’ first 90 episodes, taking home six of the show’s 26 Emmy awards. In 2011, Sorkin won his first Academy Award for his screenplay about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network, and earned a second nomination the following year for co-writing Moneyball. He won Golden Globe awards for The Social Network and his 2016 biopic of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Molly’s Game marks Sorkin’s directorial debut.

The film stars two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane) as Molly, with Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Kevin Costner (Hidden Figures), and Michael Cera (Juno).

Producers and Production Companies: With Sorkin already on board, Bloom sold her book’s film rights to The Mark Gordon Company, which had produced Sorkin’s previous film, Steve Jobs. Gordon’s other producing credits include Source Code, The Day After Tomorrow, and Saving Private Ryan, for which he shared a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Gordon brought the project to Sony Pictures Entertainment for distribution. Sony eventually sold their distribution rights to STX Entertainment, but former SPE chairperson Amy Pascal stayed on as producer through her new company, Pascal Pictures. The Mark Gordon Company’s Matt Jackson (Free State of Jones, Secret in Their Eyes) is also listed as a producer.

Festivals & Awards: Molly’s Game had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September and was selected as the closing film at AFI Fest in November. The film was nominated for two Golden Globe awards, including Best Screenplay, with twelve other groups also nominating Sorkin’s script, including the Broadcast Film Critics Association, Florida Film Critics Circle, North Carolina Film Critics Association, Online Film Critics Society, San Francisco Film Critics Circle, Washington DC Area Film Critics Association, and the WGA.

UPDATE: On January 23, Molly’s Game was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay!

Release Date: Opened in limited release on December 25 and wide on January 5 (STX Entertainment). If you plan to see the movie before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised.

Rated R. 140 minutes. 199 pages. Drama, Biopic.

JENNY FRANKFURT will provide in-depth script analysis and lead our discussion. Founder of the Finish Line Script Competition, Jenny is a script consultant and former literary manager who was the head of the literary department at Handprint Entertainment and later formed her own company, Highstreet Management, specializing in helping British, European, and Australian writers and directors break into the U.S. market. Jenny attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has also worked at the William Morris Agency in New York and ICM in L.A. with such clients as Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, Lasse Hallström, and many others. Now in its third year, the Finish Line Script Competition provides development notes for free re-submissions of rewrites.

UPDATE – FEBRUARY 12: Jenny Frankfurt is unable to be with us tonight. We look forward to rescheduling her for another meeting in the near future.

Colin CostelloCOLIN COSTELLO, who was last with us to discuss Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay Steve Jobs, will substitute for Jenny to lead our analysis and discussion of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay Molly’s Game. A former advertising creative director/copywriter, Colin is a produced, award-winning WGA writer. His credits include the 2013 family comedy The Stream (starring Rainn Wilson, Mario Lopez, and Kelly Rutherford) and the currently airing PBS Kids educational series Moochie Kalala Detectives Club. His second family feature, Traveling Without Moving, featuring Steve Guttenberg and Harry Lennix, just wrapped production in Chicago. Visit him at colincostello.com and follow him on Twitter (@colincostello10).


SPECIAL BONUS MEMBER WORKSHOP SESSION!

John Ware (8168 Productions) and Derrick Warfel (Winter Star Productions) are producing an indie budget, Sci-Fi feature film for one of the winners of the 168 Film Competition from last August who also won a pitch competition in late October.

In ECHOES (working title), a seismic doctoral candidate in Los Angeles investigates anomalies in tremor patterns and begins to uncover a major conspiracy of elite scientists who have found missing documents from Nikola Tesla’s research and are developing stealth weapons that leave no way to trace back but disturb mental thought patterns and even can induce earthquakes and hurricanes.

For regular, paid StoryBoard members only, this session, at no extra cost to members, will be held on Tuesday, January 16, 7:30 PM at Fox Studios. Refreshments included.

If you did not pick up the script at the January 8th meeting, contact Derrick with your full name, email, and postal mailing address and he will send you a script and put you on the Fox gate list. email WinterStarProductions@mindspring.com or call 818-360-1107 no later than Friday, January 11th.