January 8 – The Shape of Water

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Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on January 8th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THE SHAPE OF WATER.

Logline: A mute woman takes a janitorial job at a secret government laboratory where she becomes emotionally attached to a mysterious amphibious humanoid creature being held there in captivity.

The Writers: The story for The Shape of Water was conceived by GUILLERMO DEL TORO over a 2011 breakfast with novelist Daniel Kraus while discussing his wish to see the monster in 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon hook up with that film’s female lead. When Universal rejected his pitch of a remake with that ending, he and VANESSA TAYLOR wrote this original script instead. Mexican filmmaker del Toro is best known for 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which won three Academy Awards and was nominated for another three, including Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film. Some of his other films include Mimic, Pacific Rim, and both Hellboy movies. He has also produced or executive produced animated favorites The Book of Life, Rise of the Guardians, and Kung Fu Panda 3 as well as the low budget horror hit Mama. Taylor’s work was previously discussed at StoryBoard with her original screenplay for Hope Springs, which starred Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Her other work includes the adaptation of Divergent, seasons 2 and 3 of Game of Thrones, and Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin.

Directed by del Toro, The Shape of Water stars Academy Award nominees Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help), Golden Globe nominee Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man), and featuring Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery) as the creature.

Producers and Production Companies: Del Torro produced the film under his Double Dare You label with J. Miles Dale. Dale and del Toro previously teamed up on Mama and the FX series The Strain. Dale’s previous credits include Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and recent remakes of Endless Love, Carrie, and The Thing. Novelist Daniel Kraus, who helped del Toro brainstorm the initial story idea over breakfast, has an associate producer credit. Kraus and del Toro also co-wrote the novel Trollhunters. Liz Sayre, executive vice president of physical production at Fox Searchlight, has an executive producer credit on the film.

Festivals & Awards: The Shape of Water premiered at the Venice International Film Festival where it won the prestigious Golden Lion and three other awards. It has also played at festivals in Toronto, Telluride, Rio de Janeiro, London, Vienna, Chicago, Tokyo, Napa Valley, and Key West, and was named one of American Film Institute’s top ten films of the year. This morning the film received seven Golden Globe nominations, the most of any film this year, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Previously the film had already racked up 14 nominations from the Critics Choice Awards and 10 from the Satellite Awards, also including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay from both organizations. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has also given the film three awards and the Palm Springs International Film Festival will give it their Vanguard Award on January 2, with more accolades to come on the road to the Oscars.

Release Date: Opened on December 1 in New York and December 8 in Los Angeles (Fox Searchlight). If you plan to see the movie before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised.

Rated R. 123 minutes. 116 pages. Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Romance.

BILL LUNDY will provide in-depth script analysis and lead our discussion. A graduate of USC Film School, Bill has written two highly-rated original films for SyFy, Silent Warnings and Alien Siege, sold stories to Star Trek: Voyager, and optioned several sci-fi, fantasy, and horror projects. From 1997 to 2004 he served as Chairman of the non-profit Scriptwriters Network. A top script consultant and teacher known as “The Log Line Doctor,” he’s done seminars for Screenwriting Expo, Sherwood Oaks College, Newport Beach Film Festival, Scriptwriters Showcase, Flash Forward, and The Writers Store and contributed to such books as Q&A: The Working Screenwriter by Jim Vines, and Now Write! Screenwriting, and his essays and liner notes can be found on award-winning DVD special editions for such films as The Matrix, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and Minority Report. Follow Bill on Twitter at @blundysf.

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December 11 – I, Tonya

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, December 8)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on December 11th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay I, TONYA.

Logline: Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises in the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

Screenwriter: According to the screenplay’s title page, the script is “based on irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly.” Hollywood go-to rom-com scribe STEVEN ROGERS (Hope Floats, Kate & Leopold) sought out Harding to pen her story in a spec script after viewing an ESPN documentary about the infamous Olympic scandal. He tracked her down to a small town outside Bend, Oregon, and set to work interviewing her and her estranged ex-husband for the dark comedy biopic that would reinvent his screenwriting career. Rogers’s other credits include the dramas Stepmom and P.S. I Love You and the ensemble Christmas comedy Love the Coopers.

Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad) stars as the disgraced ice skater alongside Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as Gillooly and Allison Janney (The West Wing) as Harding’s mother. Directed by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), the film also features Julianne Nicholson (Eyewitness, Law & Order True Crime), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire, Mr. Robot), and Caitlin Carver (Paper Towns) as Nancy Kerrigan.

Producers and Production Companies: Screenwriter Steven Rogers (not to be confused with Captain America’s alter ego) and lead actress Margot Robbie have producer credits alongside Bryan Unkeless (The Hunger Games and Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchises) for his Clubhouse Pictures banner and first-time producer Tom Ackerly who is married to Robbie. Ackerly and Robbie’s production company is LuckyChap Entertainment. Michael Sledd (Sleeping with Other People, The Founder, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) co-produced. Executive producers Len Blavatnik and Aviv Giladi financed the picture through AI-Film (Hacksaw Ridge, Lee Daniels’ The Butler). Upstart distributors Neon (Ingrid Goes West) and 30WEST (Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken) won U.S. theatrical distribution rights for an estimated $5 million after the filmmakers turned down bigger offers from CBS Films, Miramax, and Netflix.

Film Festivals: The film premiered on September 8th at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it finished in second place for the audience award (behind the film whose script we discussed last month). It has also screened at festivals in Austin, Hawaii, Napa Valley, Philadelphia, and is scheduled to show at the AFI Fest on November 15th and Key West the following day. So far, the film has won a Hollywood Film Award for supporting actress Allison Janney, while Neon is expected to make a strong play for the film during Oscar season.

UPDATE (11/30/17): Additional early award season accolades I, Tonya has received since this was blog post was initially published include three Independent Spirit Award nominations (Best Female Lead – Margo Robbie, Best Supporting Female – Allison Janney, Best Editing), two Gotham Awards nominations (Best Feature and Best Actress – Robbie), a Spotlight Award for Janney at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and three Satellite Awards nominations (for Robbie, Janney, and Best Film). The film was also accepted to the Dubai International Film Festival.

Release Date: Opens December 8 (Neon/30WEST). If you plan to see the movie before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised. Click here for information on how to see the movie opening weekend followed by a Q&A with director Craig Gillespie, writer Steven Rogers, producer/star Margot Robbie, and co-star Allison Janney.

Rated R. 119 minutes. 106 pages. Dark Comedy, Sports Biopic.

Roadmap Writers founder and CEO JOE TUCCIO will provide in-depth script analysis and lead our discussion. Joey, who calls himself a connector and mentor, initially moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting but decided he preferred working with writers, despite not being a writer himself. He created Roadmap Writers to equip aspiring screenwriters with the tools and training to take their projects to the next level. To date his company has helped 29 writers get signed to companies like Gersh, Gotham Group, and Circle of Confusion and get projects picked up or optioned by Untitled, First Point, and The Hawk Koch Company.

UPDATE (12/10/17): Talent and literary manager CHRIS DECKARD will lead our script analysis and in-depth discussion. Prior to co-founding the management/production company Fictional Entity in late 2016, Chris Deckard spent over seven years working with and representing talent at major agencies such as ICM Partners and WME. He has worked closely with traditional and new media buyers to find and develop content for domestic and international audiences. In addition to helping cast and package numerous features and series, he has evaluated thousands of scripts for actors and directors. Chris enjoys helping creators achieve the full potential of their ideas through character and story. Chris graduated from Cornell University and earned his J.D. from Notre Dame Law School.

November 13 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, November 10)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on November 13th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI.

Logline: In this darkly comic drama, a mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

Screenwriter: British filmmaker MARTIN McDONAGH began his career as a playwright, winning the Drama Desk Award for The Beauty Queen of Leenane in 1998, three Laurence Olivier awards, and four Tony Award nominations. His first film, a short called Six Shooter, won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short in 2004. He followed that up with 2008’s highly acclaimed In Bruges, which won the BAFTA award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for an Oscar in the same category and a Golden Globe for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy). In 2012 the writer-producer-director released Seven Psychopaths starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Christopher Walken.

Three Billboards stars Frances McDormand (Fargo, Blood Simple), Woody Harrelson (Cheers, True Crime, The People vs. Larry Flynt), Sam Rockwell (Moon, Matchstick Men), John Hawkes (Deadwood, Winter’s Bone), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones, The Station Agent), Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch, RoboCop), Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men First Class, Get Out), and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea).

Producers and Production Companies: Writer-director McDonagh produced alongside Pete Czernin and Graham Broadbent of UK production company Blueprint Pictures (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Blueprint’s development executive Ben Knight co-produced.

Film Festivals: Three Billboards premiered in competition at the Venice International Film Festival on September 4th where it won the Golden Osello for Best Screenplay. It also won the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award, an award some consider to be the “starting gun” of the Oscar race. The film has played at, or is scheduled to be screened at, major festivals in Zurich, Hamburg, Hamptons, San Diego, Mill Valley, London, Chicago, Twin Cities, Philadelphia, and Austin.

Release Date: Opens in limited release on November 10 (Fox Searchlight). If you plan to see the movie before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised.

Rated R. 115 minutes. 103 pages. Dark Comedy.

Jeff KitchenJEFF KITCHEN will provide in-depth scrip analysis and lead our discussion. Jeff is a sought-after script doctor and working writer who has taught screenwriting professionally since 1989. He is the author of Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting, and has trained development executives from all the major studios who have consistently said that he teaches “the most advanced development tools in the film industry.” Creative Screenwriting listed him as one of the top five screenwriting teachers working today. Visit his website DevelopmentHeaven.com.

October 9 – Suburbicon

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

Logline: Violence, murder, and mayhem come to the quintessential peaceful suburban town.

Screenwriters: JOEL and ETHAN COEN wrote the first draft of Suburbicon in 1986, shortly after the release of their first film, Blood Simple. The Coen Brothers went on to release a string of cult classics, including Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo (for which they won their first Academy Award, for Best Original Screenplay), The Big Lebowski, and No Country For Old Men, which earned the brothers three more Oscars. The scribes returned to Suburbicon for another draft in 2006, twenty years after they’d written their first draft. GEORGE CLOONEY, who has starred in four Coen Bros. movies (O Brother Where Art Thou, Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading, and last year’s Hail, Caesar!), recently asked the team if he could direct the still-back-burnered Suburbicon. Clooney and his writing partner GRANT HESLOV, who share two Oscar nominations for their screenplays for Good Night, and Good Luck and The Ides of March, are said to have brought a fresh angle to the long-gestating project. (We will be reading the Coens’ 2007 draft.)

Suburbicon stars Matt Damon (Bourne franchise, Ocean’s trilogy, The Martian), Julianne Moore (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Big Lebowski), and Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis).

Producers and Production Companies: Credited producers include writers Clooney and Heslov for their Smokehouse Pictures banner, along with Teddy Schwarzman for Black Bear Pictures (Gold, The Imitation Game), and co-producer David Webb (previously an associate or co-producer and 1st AD for Ben Affleck’s Live by Night and Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter and Clooney’s 1st AD on Good Night, and Good Luck, among many other AD credits).  Joel Silver, of Silver Pictures and Dark Castle Entertainment, is among the film’s executive producers. His 100+ producing credits include the Matrix trilogy, the first two Die Hard movies, and Xanadu.

Release Date: October 27 (Paramount). The film premiered September 2 at the Venice International Film Festival and is also on the lineup for this month’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Rated R. 104 minutes. 113 pages. Dark Comedy, Crime, Thriller, Mystery.

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 has placed her as a finalist in the Walt Disney Fellowship Program, Broad Humor Film Festival, and Slamdance Screenwriting Competition. 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).

September 11 – Rebel in the Rye

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Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on September 11th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay REBEL IN THE RYE.

Logline: The true story of how J.D. Salinger came to write The Catcher in the Rye.

Screenwriter: Known for his roles as Jonathan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doyle on Gilmore Girls, DANNY STRONG launched his screenwriting career with a pair of HBO movies about the 2000 and 2008 elections. Recount earned Strong a WGA award and an Emmy nomination, while Game Change won him his second WGA trophy, two Emmys, and a Peabody. For the big screen he wrote the script for Lee Daniels’ The Butler and had a hand in adapting the third and fourth Hunger Games movies from the novel Mockingjay. Strong is also co-creator, executive producer, and writer for the hit series Empire. Rebel in the Rye, which marks Strong’s feature film directorial debut, was adapted from the non-fiction book J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawensky, which Strong is said to have optioned with his own money.

Rebel in the Rye stars Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, X-Men franchise) as the struggling author, Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy, Why Him?) as love interest Oona O’Neill, Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) as mentor Whit Burnett, and Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story, The People v. O.J. Simpson) as Salinger’s agent.

Producers and Production Companies: Writer/director Danny Strong also serves as a producer on Rebel in the Rye along with Academy Award winner Bruce Cohen (American Beauty, Silver Linings Playbook), Jason Shuman (Middle Men, Little Black Book) and the team of Molly Smith and identical twin brothers Thad and Trent Luckinbill under their Black Label Media banner (La La Land, Sicario, Demolition). Rebel is the first production credited in IMDb to West Madison Entertainment, a production company recently founded by executive producer Christina Papagjika, an associate producer on Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

Release Date: September 15 (IFC Films). The film premiered this January at the Sundance Film Festival.

Rated PG-13. 106 minutes. 97 pages. Drama, Biopic.

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.

August 14 – The Only Living Boy in New York

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, August 11)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on August 14th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK.

Logline: Adrift in New York City, a recent college graduate’s life is upended by his father’s mistress.

Screenwriter: After a twelve-year struggle to get noticed in Hollywood, screenwriter ALLAN LOEB finally broke through in 2005 when two of his spec scripts landed in the top four of the industry’s inaugural Black List, leading to sales of six projects in a single year. The first to make it to the cinema was 2007’s Things We Lost in the Fire starring Halle Berry. Subsequent writing credits include 21 (the fictionalized true story of a card-counting ring from MIT), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Switch (starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman), The Dilemma (directed by Ron Howard), and the musical Rock of Ages. Earlier this year Loeb shared a writing credit on the sci-fi romantic drama The Space Between Us, and just two months before that his original screenplay Collateral Beauty hit the screen with Will Smith in the lead. Along with Things We Lost…, The Only Living Boy in New York was Loeb’s other script on the 2005 Black List.

Named after the 1970 Simon & Garfunkel song, The Only Living Boy in New York is Loeb’s “version of my favorite movie, The Graduate, with kind of a Manhattan love-letter to New York flourish to it,” according to a 2012 interview with the scribe. Directed by Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man), the film stars Callum Turner (Queen and Country), Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor), Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Kiersey Clemons (Justice League), and Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Big Lebowski).

Producers and Production Companies: Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture for Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, produced The Only Living Boy… through their Bona Fide Productions. Previously, the pair had produced Payne’s Election, Loeb’s The Switch, and the Oscar winning Little Miss Sunshine. They have a first-look deal with Amazon Studios (Manchester by the Sea), who financed the picture. John Fogel also produced. This is his first credit.

Release Date: August 11 (Roadside Attractions)

Rated R. 88 minutes. 105 pages. Drama.

Brian HerskowitzBRIAN HERSKOWITZ will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Brian currently holds the title of lead faculty in screenwriting for the prestigious Boston University in Los Angeles – Writer In Hollywood Program, has taught online for UCLA Extension, and spent five years as the sitcom instructor for Writer’s Bootcamp. He has written for such TV shows as Blossom, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Acapulco Heat, Dream On, Renegade, and Murder, She Wrote. and in 2014 released he released the book Process to Product: From Concept to Script: A Practical Guide for the Screenwriter. His feature screenwriting credits include the horror/thriller Darkroom and the family comedy Tio Papi. Also a talented actor, producer, and director, Brian made the award-winning short film Odessa or Bust starring Jason Alexander, Red Buttons, and Jason Schwartzman, and the domestic abuse documentary 1736: Somewhere To Turn. Find out more about Brian and his projects at brianherskowitz.com.

July 10 – Dunkirk

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, July 7)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on July 10th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay DUNKIRK.

Logline: WWII Allied forces mount a mission to rescue 400,000 soldiers surrounded by the enemy after the Battle of Dunkirk.

Screenwriter: Writer-director CHRISTOPHER NOLAN gained acclaim for his second feature, Memento (2000), a noir thriller told in converging timelines as a man with short-term memory loss attempts to hunt down his wife’s killer. His Dark Knight trilogy has grossed more than $2.4 billion worldwide and his screenplays for Memento and Inception have both been nominated for Academy Awards. Dunkirk is his first film since 2014’s Interstellar, and his first film based on true events.

The film, which will be told from three perspectives (air, land, and sea) and will contain as little dialogue as possible, stars Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Kenneth Branagh (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow in the Dark Knight trilogy), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), and Harry Styles of One Direction in his acting debut.

Producers and Production Companies: As with all his films since Batman Begins, Nolan produced Dunkirk with his wife, Emma Thomas, through their London-based production company Syncopy, which also produced Man of Steel, on which Nolan shares a story credit.

Release Date: July 21 (Warner Bros.)

Rated PG-13. 107 minutes. 130 pages. Historical Drama, War, Action.

DANIEL P. CALVISI will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Dan is a story analyst, speaker, screenwriter, and the author of Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay, Story Maps: TV Drama, Story Maps: 12 Great Screenplays, and Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He is a former Story Analyst for major studios like 20th Century Fox, Miramax, and New Line Cinema. He coaches writers, teaches webinars on writing for film and television with The Writers Store, and speaks at writing conferences and book signings. He lives in Los Angeles and holds a degree in Film and Television from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. To learn more about Story Maps and how you can work with Dan, visit ActFourScreenplays.com.