September 9 – Ad Astra

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on September 9th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay AD ASTRA.

LOGLINE: An astronaut goes into space in search of his lost father, whose experiments threaten the solar system.

Ad Astra (Latin for “To the Stars”) was directed and co-written by JAMES GRAY, whose first film, at age 25, 1994’s Little Odessa, won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. His next four films, including The Yards and We Own The Night (both starring Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix), and The Immigrant (starring Marion Cotillard), all played in competition for the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, while his most recent release, 2017’s The Lost City of Z, starring Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson, was nominated for the prestigious USC Scripter award. Gray co-wrote Ad Astra with ETHAN GROSS, best known for his work as writer and executive story editor on 22 episodes of the FOX sci-fi series Fringe.

Registration in advance is required to attend the discussion, and includes a copy of the script sent 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 5)

Compare the script to the finished film when it opens wide on September 20, a week and a half after our discussion! The film, which Gray describes as a mash-up of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now, stars Brad Pitt (Fight Club, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, Men in Black), Ruth Negga (Loving, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Liv Tyler (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games franchise).

Rated PG-13. 124 minutes. 108 pages. Sci-Fi, Drama Adventure.

BARNEY MILES LICHTENSTEIN will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Barney has worked as a professional story analyst for such companies as Amblin, Imagine, and New Line Cinema. He also assists in training new analysts for the Sundance Institute and is the recipient of the UCLA Extension Outstanding Instructor Award in Screenwriting.

August 12 – Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on August 12th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE.

LOGLINE: An agoraphobic architect and mother goes missing prior to a family trip to Antarctica.

ABOUT THE WRITERS:

The film is based on the bestselling 2012 young adult novel of the same name by MARIA SEMPLE. Bernadette is the author’s second novel, followed by Today Will Be Different, which Semple has adapted for an upcoming HBO series set to star Julia Roberts. Semple’s other TV writing credits include Beverly Hills, 90210, for which she received an Emmy nomination, Mad About You, Suddenly Susan, Ellen, Saturday Night Live, and Arrested Development, for which she received a WGA award nomination. Her father was screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Batman, Three Days of the Condor).

The screenplay for Where’d You Go, Bernadette was written by SCOTT NEUSTADTER & MICHAEL H. WEBER. After the success of their breakthrough original screenplay (500) Days of Summer, the duo became the go-to writing team for YA adaptations with The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars, and Paper Towns. The team received their first Academy Award nomination in 2017 for their screenplay The Disaster Artist, about the making of “the greatest bad movie ever made,” The Room.

Registration in advance is required to attend the discussion, and includes a copy of the script sent 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 8)

We will be discussing the July 2013 draft by Neustadter & Weber. The script was later rewritten by Holly Gent & Vince Palmo Jr. along with the film’s director, RICHARD LINKLATER. With five Oscar nominations, indie superstar director Linklater is best known for Slackers, Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Boyhood, and the Before… trilogy. Separately, Gent and Palmo have numerous credits in a variety of crew positions, many of them on films by Richard Linklater. Their other writing credits are on 2008’s Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron, and an upcoming untitled John Brinkley biopic starring Robert Downey Jr., both also directed by Linklater.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette stars two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, The Aviator), Judy Greer (The Descendants, Arrested Development), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, The Martian), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Man of Steel), Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars), and Billy Crudup (Big Fish, Almost Famous). The film is scheduled to be released nationwide by Annapurna Pictures and United Artists Releasing on August 16, the Friday after our meeting.

BEWARE: Trailer may contain spoilers.

Optional Exercise for Advanced Members: Read the novel first. Think about how you would adapt it for the screen. What would keep? What you drop? What would you change? Then read the script to compare your choices with the ones Neustadter & Weber made. Be prepared to discuss your findings at the meeting! And don’t forget to check out the finished film when it opens on August 16 to see what changes Linklater, Gent, and Palmo incorporated.

Rated PG-13. 130 minutes. 138 pages (2nd Draft, July 2013). Comedy.

STEVE KAPLAN will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. The industry’s most sought-after expert on comedy, Steve has taught at UCLA, NYU, Yale, and other top universities, and created the HBO Workspace and the HBO New Writers Program. As co-founder and Artistic Director of Manhattan Punch Line Theatre he developed writers such as Peter Tolan (Analyze This), David Crane (Friends), Tracy Poust (Ugly Betty), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), and Mark O’Donnel (Hairspray). Steve teaches a number of different workshops all over the globe, including The Comedy Intensive, a 2-day workshop that covers the fundamental principles of comedy. Look for his books The Hidden Tools of Comedy and The Comic Hero’s Journey, learn more about Steve and his workshops at kaplancomedy.com, and follow him on Twitter at @skcomedy where you can tweet quick comedy questions at him with the #AskKaplan hashtag.

March 11 – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on March 11th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

The true story of a bitter, washed-up biographer who falls into a life of crime forging letters from dead literary celebrities to pay the rent.

Nominated for 3 Academy Awards including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay!

Can You Ever Forgive Me? stars Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) and Richard E. Grant (Game of ThronesStar Wars: Episode IX), both nominated for Golden Globes, BAFTA, and SAG awards in addition to their Oscar nods. (Update: Richard E. Grant won the Independent Spirit Award!)

The screenplay, by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, based on the book by Lee Israel, has been nominated for dozens of industry awards, including the WGA, USC Scripter, BAFTA, Independent Spirit Award, and, of course, the Academy Award.

UPDATE: On February 17th, Can You Ever Forgive Me? won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Adapted Screenplay. On February 23rd, Can You Ever Forgive Me? won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay.

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

(registration deadline: Thursday, March 7)

DEVELOPMENT: After interviewing Katharine Hepburn for Esquire in 1967, LEE ISRAEL published full-length biographies on Tallulah Bankhead, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Estée Lauder. Unable to sell her publishers on a Fanny Brice biography, she began forging letters from the likes of Noël Coward and Dorothy Parker to sell to unsuspecting collectors, which she wrote about in her 2008 memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger. (Israel passed away in 2014.)

In 2011, producer Bob Balaban hired Tony Award winning playwright JEFF WHITTY (Avenue Q) to adapt Israel’s memoir after reading his play The Hiding Place, which had characters with voices similar to Israel’s. Whitty wrote four drafts of the screenplay before filmmaker NICOLE HOLOFCENER (Enough Said) was attached to direct. Holofcener cast Julianne Moore in the lead and rewrote the script as a two-hander with greater emphasis on the relationship between Israel and her partner in crime, con man Jack Hock.

Six days before production was to start, Moore dropped out due to creative differences with Holofcener. Rather than start over again later with a new star, Holofcener handed the reins to her Sundance lab protege, Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl), wishing her luck and recommending McCarthy for the vacated lead.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? premiered last September at the Telluride Film Festival, followed by a showing at the Toronto International Film Festival later that month. Fox Searchlight released the $10 million picture on October 19, 2018, and it is currently still in theaters. So far it has received 39 awards and 70 nominations including WGA, SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globes, and Film Independent Spirit Awards, and has a 98% Fresh score from 255 critics as compiled by Rotten Tomatoes. If you have not yet seen the movie but plan to before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised.

Rated R. 107 minutes. 133 pages (final shooting script, March 13, 2017). Drama, Crime, Biography.

DMA will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. A veteran entertainment industry showrunner, executive and consultant, DMA (Donna Michelle Anderson) guides traditional and digital networks through branding, launching and scaling their content and companies. Over the past 20 years, she has helmed top-rated programming for CBS, Bravo, BET, A&E, TLC and more, created groundbreaking, patented production software, and championed diversity throughout the industry, including founding the Hollywood Diversity Network. She is a graduate, with distinction, of Stanford University and is an active member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Producers Guild of America and American Mensa.

January 14 – BlacKkKlansman

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on January 14th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay BLACKkKLANSMAN.

Director Spike Lee‘s drama was produced by the team behind Get Out and offers another provocative exploration of American race relations. In the midst of the 1970s civil rights movement, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first black detective on the Colorado Springs Police Department. He sets out to prove his worth by infiltrating the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and convinces his Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) to go undercover as a white supremacist.

11/1/16 draft written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz (their first feature screenwriting credit), based on the non-fiction book Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth, with eight sets of revisions by Kevin Willmott (CSA: The Confederate States of America) & Spike Lee.

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, January 10)

BlacKkKlansman was nominated for 4 Golden Globe awards (Best Motion Picture, Drama; Best Actor, Drama, John David Washington; Best Supporting Actor, Adam Driver; Best Director, Spike Lee), and has another 7 wins and 11 nominations listed on IMDb, including placement in American Film Institutes top ten Movies of the Year. (1/11/19 UPDATE: Nominated for Writers Guild of America award for Best Adapted Screenplay, with 119 more nominations, 24 of those for the screenplay, and winner of 24 awards so far!)

The film premiered on May 14, 2018 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or and won the Grand Prix.

BlacKkKlansman opened in wide release in the U.S. on August 10, 2018, in the top 5, earning $10 million in its opening weekend against a $15 million budget. The film went on to earn a total of $48 million at the North American box office and $88 million worldwide.

“If The Birth of a Nation was history written with lightning, BlacKkKlansman is a roll of thunder we’ve been waiting for ever since.”  –  David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie exploit its total mismatches so voraciously and purposely.”  – Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice

Released by Focus Features.

Rated R. 135 minutes. 124 pages (draft dated 7/17/17). Historical Drama, Biography, Crime.

Brian HerskowitzBRIAN HERSKOWITZ will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Brian was previously with us in August 2017 for The Only Living Boy In New York and in June 2016 for Our Kind Of Traitor. He 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.

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.

September 11 – Rebel in the Rye

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, September 8)

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.