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.

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.

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.

March 13 – Hidden Figures

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, March 10)

Hidden Figures (UK poster)Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on March 13th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay HIDDEN FIGURES.

Logline: The untold true story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program.

Based on the 2016 bestseller Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by debut author Margot Lee Shetterly, the script was adapted by ALLISON SCHROEDER and rewritten by the film’s director, THEODORE MELFI, focusing on balancing the home lives of the three protagonists with their careers at NASA. Schroeder, a former production assistant on Smallville who had interned at NASA as a teenager, previously wrote Mean Girls 2. Hidden Figures is her first feature writing credit. Melfi previously wrote and directed St. Vincent and wrote the upcoming remake of 1979’s Going in Style, scheduled to be released in April.

The 1961-set historical drama stars Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Grammy Award nominated singer Janelle Monáe (Moonlight), Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), and Glen Powell (Scream Queens) as John Glenn, and features the music of Pharrell Williams, who is also one of the film’s producers.

Awards and Nominations: Hidden Figures is nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Spencer), and Best Adapted Screenplay. The ensemble cast recently won the top honor at the Screen Actors Guild awards, and the screenplay is also nominated for BAFTA, WGA, and USC Scripter awards.

Producers and Production Companies: Academy Award winning producer Donna Gigliotti (Shakespeare in Love) acquired the book’s film rights for Levantine Films (Beasts of No Nation, The Fundamentals of Caring), where she is the president. Gigliotti has had two other Best Picture nominations (Silver Linings Playbook and The Reader) since beginning her career as an assistant to Martin Scorsese on Raging Bull. Gigliotti produced Hidden Figures with former News Corp. COO Peter Chernin and his Chernin Entertainment production company (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Heat, St. Vincent).

Release: Fox 2000 gave the film a limited Christmas Day release for awards qualification. Having grossed over $130 million since its wide release on January 6, Hidden Figures is currently the highest grossing of the nine films nominated for Best Picture and of all ten films nominated in the two screenplay categories. If you have not seen it yet and plan to go to the movie before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised.

Rated PG. 127 minutes. 121 pages. Historical Drama, Biopic.

BSchiffmanhead150Script consultant and book adaptation coach BARBARA SCHIFFMAN will lead the discussion. For over 35 years, Barbara read scripts for Miramax, Dreamworks, Mandalay, HBO, CAA, UTA, and more. The writing guide NOW WRITE! Screenwriting Exercises by Today’s Best Screenwriters and Teachers includes her chapter “Key Things to Know About Your Script Before You Write.” She has also evaluated candidates for NBCUniversal’s Emerging Writers Fellowship programs and in 2016 presented seminars on Adapting Books and True Stories to Film/TV at the 26th annual Flathead Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Barbara currently offers script coaching and “first look” feedback for screenwriters, as well as book coaching and editing for authors and self-publishers. Get info on Barbara’s services at her website, barbaraschiffman.com.

July 11 – The Founder

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, July 8)

The FounderMeet on the Fox Studios backlot for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THE FOUNDER.

Logline: An over-the-hill milkshake machine salesman discovers a revolutionary fast food restaurant and builds it into the most successful franchise in history

Screenwriter: The Founder was written by ROBERT SIEGEL and appeared on the 2014 Black List. A former senior editor of the online news satire publication, The Onion, Siegel’s first screenwriting credit came from The Onion Movie in 2008. His other credits include The Wrestler, for director Darren Aronofsky, which was nominated for two Academy Awards, and the low-budget Sundance hit, The Fan, starring Patton Oswalt, which Siegel also directed. He is currently directing Cruise, a 1980s-set romance between an Italian-American from the wrong side of the tracks and a Jewish girl from Long Island, which he also wrote.

The Founder, directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side), stars Michael Keaton (Birdman, Batman) as McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, Laura Dern (Wild, Jurassic Park) as Kroc’s wife, and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and John Carroll Lynch (Fargo, The Drew Carey Show) as the McDonald brothers.

Producers and Production Companies: Don Handfield and two-time Oscar nominated actor Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) produced The Founder for their company, The Combine (Kill the Messenger) along with Aaron Ryder of FilmNation (Mud, Room, Nebraska, The King’s Speech).

Release Date: August 5 (The Weinstein Company).

Rated PG-13. 115 minutes. 113 pages. Drama, Biopic.

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).

November 9 – TRUMBO

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, November 6)

Trumbo 2015 movie posterMeet on the Fox Studios backlot for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay TRUMBO.

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) stars as Dalton Trumbo, whose screenwriting career came to a crushing halt when he was blacklisted from Hollywood by the House Committee on Un-American Activites in the 1940s for his political beliefs.

Veteran TV writer/producer JOHN McNAMARA (Aquarius, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) penned the screenplay from the 1977 Bruce Alexander Cook biography Dalton Trumbo, written with Trumbo’s full cooperation. The script is Mcnamara’s first feature credit.

Directed by four-time Emmy Award winner Jay Roach (Recount, Game Change), Trumbo also stars Diane Lane (Unfaithful) as Cleo Fincher Trumbo, Helen Mirren (The Queen) as Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, Louis C.K. (Louie), Elle Fanning (Maleficent), John Goodman (Roseanne), Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire, Steve Jobs), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost), and David James Elliott (JAG) as John Wayne.

Producers: Michael London for Groundswell Productions (Sideways, Milk, The House of Sand and Fog), Shivani Rawat for ShivHans Pictures (Danny Collins), Monica Levinson (Brüno), and Janice Williams (Love the Coopers).

Premiere: Toronto International Film Festival (September 12, 2015).

Release date: November 6 (Bleeker Street). If you plan to go to the movie before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised.

Rated R. 124 minutes. 117 pages. Drama, Biopic.

Max TimmMAX TIMM, Director of Community Outreach with International Screenwriters’ Association will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. After six years as Director of Development at Writers Boot Camp, Max helps bring writers and industry professionals closer with a program for submitting ISA writers’ projects around town, helping them find representation and get their material read. So far in 2015 he has helped five writers receive options. Max is also a development consultant, screenwriting instructor, and author. His first novel, The WishKeeper, won the Los Angeles Book Festival YA category. As a part-time instructor, Max teaches film and television history to high school students at the UCLA Summer Discovery program. Visit him at maxtimm.com and follow him on Twitter (@iMaxTimm).

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