December 10 – Ben Is Back

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on December 10th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay BEN IS BACK.

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee PETER HEDGES (About a Boy).

Premise:  Ben Burns, in serious trouble, returns home to his family on Christmas Eve.

19-year-old Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly returns home to his family’s suburban home on Christmas Eve morning. Ben’s mother, Holly (Julia Roberts), is relieved and welcoming but wary of her son staying clean. Over a turbulent 24 hours, new truths are revealed, and a mother’s undying love for her son is tested as she does everything in her power to keep him safe. Ben Is Back also stars Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) and Kathryn Newton (Lady Bird).

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, December 6)

In July 2018, LD Entertainment, Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate acquired distribution rights to the film, and set the film for a limited December 7, 2018, release. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2018.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a Want To See rating of 92%. The site’s critical consensus reads: “Refreshingly understated, Ben Is Back subverts family drama stereotypes – and provides a forum for terrific performances from Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts.”

Rated R. 103 minutes. 115 pages (draft dated 8/3/17). Drama.

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

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November 12 – DESTROYER

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on November 12th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay DESTROYER.

Destroyer follows the moral and existential odyssey of LAPD detective Erin Bell who, as a young cop, was placed undercover with a gang in the California desert with tragic results. When the leader of that gang re-emerges many years later, she must work her way back through the remaining members and into her own history with them to finally reckon with the demons that destroyed her past.

SCREENPLAY BY PHIL HAY & MATT MANFREDI, whose credits include Crazy/Beautiful, Aeon Flux, Clash of the Titans (2010), R.I.P.D., and Ride Along (1 & 2).

The film, directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight), stars Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies, Aquaman), Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya, Captain America/Avengers franchises), Bradley Whitford (Get Out), and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black).

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, November 8)

Jeff KitchenJEFF KITCHEN will provide in-depth scrip analysis and lead our discussion. Jeff Kitchen has been a screenwriting teacher and consultant for over twenty years. He has taught development for executives from all the major Hollywood studios and they have consistently said that Jeff teaches the most advanced development tools in the film industry. One of his students was recently nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars for the movie Hidden Figures. His book, Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting, is available at amazon.com. Visit Jeff’s website BuildYourScript.com.

Destroyer had its world premiere at the 2018 Telluride Film Festival on August 31 and was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival‘s Platform Programme, a juried competition that champions risk-taking, high artistic merit, and bold directorial visions.

The film is slated for a Christmas Day release in the U.S. by Annapurna.

Producers and Production Companies: Screenwriters Hay & Manfredi produced alongside Fred Berger (La La Land) for Automatik Entertainment and David Diliberto (No Country for Old Men).

Not yet rated. 123 minutes. 112 pages (draft dated 9/9/16). Action, Crime, Drama.

ALSO THIS MONTH

Using Digital & Social Media to Advance Your Projects and Your Career!

Monday, October 29, 2018

MASTER CLASS
with DIANA LESMEZ

Register by noon, Friday, October 26

(click here for details)

October 8 – What They Had

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on October 8th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay WHAT THEY HAD.

This intimate family drama centers on a family in crisis where a woman returns home at her brother’s urging to deal with her ailing mother and her father’s reluctance to let her go, while also grappling with her own past.

Feature debut of writer-director ELIZABETH CHOMKO. Elizabeth was born in Chicago. She is an alumni of the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters and Composers Labs, and an Academy Nicholl Fellowship winner for the screenplay of What They Had.

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, October 4)

What They Had stars two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), two-time Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Taissa Farmiga (The Nun, American Horror Story), and Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama).

Producers and Production Companies: Among the 22 credited producers are Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa for Bona Fide Productions (Little Miss Sunshine, Nebraska, The Only Living Boy in New York), writer/producer Bill Holderman (Book Club, A Walk in the Woods), Alex Saks for June Pictures (Thoroughbreds, The Florida Project), and Keith Kjarval for Unified Pictures (Dragged Across Concrete, Ride). Interlock Capital financed the film.

In May 2017, Bleecker Street acquired domestic distribution rights to the film. What They Had was initially scheduled for release on March 16, 2018, but was pushed back for a limited release on October 19, 2018.

Premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

International Premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. In competition for the festival’s People’s Choice Award!

Honored as a Truly Moving Picture by Heartland Film (according to IMDb).

100% Want-To-See rating on Rotten Tomatoes (as of September 7).

Rated R. 101 minutes. 110 pages (Draft 10/5/14). Drama.

Melody JacksonMELODY JACKSON will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Melody completed her Ph.D. in Mythological Studies in 2003 with her dissertation on “The Mythic Impact of Film.” She has been praised by Creative Screenwriting on multiple occasions for her exceptional knowledge of traditional three-act structure and character development. Known for approaching plot and structure through examination of character motivation and relationships, Melody offers consulting and marketing services to screenwriters through Smart Girls, which she founded in 1992. Since then she has helped over 2,500 writers improve their screenplays to get them to 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, CAA, and countless medium-sized and smaller production companies. Visit SmartG.com or follow @smartgirlspr on Twitter.

September 10 – Life Itself

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on September 10th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay LIFE ITSELF.

Logline: As a young New York couple goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child, the unexpected twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and through lifetimes.

Writer/Director: DAN FOGELMAN had never studied screenwriting when he wrote his first script, a Wonder Years-style spec about his bar mitzvah, which landed him a manager and agent and led to his first professional writing assignment — on Pixar’s Cars. After creating a string of short-lived sitcoms, including Galavant and The Neighbors, both on ABC, Fogelman took an unfinished feature spec script about sextuplets called 36 and turned it into his breakout NBC hit drama This Is Us, which is currently nominated for five primetime Emmy awards. The same day that series received its first Golden Globe nominations, the screenplay for Life Itself landed in a three-way tie for the second spot on the 2016 Black List, the industry’s survey of the best scripts not already in production (alongside The Post, which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar last year). Fogelman’s other feature writing credits include Fred Claus, Bolt, Tangled, Crazy Stupid Love, The Guilt Trip, Last Vegas, and Danny Collins, which starred Al Pacino and was Fogelman’s directorial debut.

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, September 6)

Life Itself stars Oscar Isaac (Star Wars 7-9), Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy), Annette Bening (American Beauty), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Jean Smart (Legion), Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One), and international superstar Antonio Banderas (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!).

Producers and Production Companies: Executive producer Glen Basner’s FilmNation (Arrival, The Founder) purchased the spec script after it appeared on the 2016 Black List.  FilmNation’s co-president, Aaron Ryder (Hamlet 2, The Prestige), was one of the producers, alongside producing partners Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey for Temple Hill Entertainment (the Twilight saga, The Fault in Our Stars).

Release Date: Life Itself  is scheduled to have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before opening nationwide in theaters on September 21 (Amazon Studios).

Rated R. 117 minutes. 116 pages (March 4, 2016 draft). Drama, Romance.

Wendell WellmanWENDELL WELLMAN will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. A teacher, screenwriter, actor, playwright, and author of A Writer’s Roadmap, Wendell has taught screenwriting at UCLA and has been a frequent guest moderator at StoryBoardDG.com’s Screenplay Development Group. As an actor, Wendell studied under Lee Strasberg and Peggy Feury at the Strasberg Institute and has appeared in episodic television, theater, and motion pictures, including prominent roles in the films The Klansman starring Lee Marvin and Richard Burton, Sudden Impact, Sommersby, and Street of Dreams. As a writer, he teamed up with Alex Lasker to adapt the novel Firefox for director Clint Eastwood. He also did additional work for Eastwood on the screenplay for Sudden Impact and wrote a final Dirty Harry project. Wendell also worked with the West End Theatre Group as co-founder and artistic director while continuing to alternate between acting and writing assignments. He is currently writing original feature scripts as well as a screenplay adaptation of The River Journey by acclaimed novelist Robert Nathan.

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).

Rated R. 98 pages. Comedy.

Diana LesmezDIANA LESMEZ will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Currently an independent writer, producer, and director for her company, The StoryMaker Entertainment, Diana’s screenwriting credits include The Journey Ahead, which wrapped principal photography last month (July, 2018) with Michael Madsen in the lead, and the award-winning short rom-com In Between the Gutter and the Stars. Her vast background in the entertainment industry includes developing film projects for Atlantic Streamline (Igby Goes Down) and Patriot Pictures (Air Force One) and she has taught at the New York Film Academy and the Los Angeles Film School. Diana also offers pitching, producing, distribution, and marketing consulting services through her Bumptious Media Consulting banner. Follow her on Twitter (@DianaLesmez).

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).

Rated R. 116 minutes. 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)