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).

Advertisements

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)

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

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, October 6)

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).

May 8 – Snatched

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, May 5)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on May 8th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay SNATCHED.

Logline: After her boyfriend dumps her on the eve of their exotic vacation, an impetuous dreamer persuades her ultra-cautious mother to travel with her to paradise, where they are kidnapped and must work through their differences to save themselves.

Writers: KATIE DIPPOLD was a performer for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and in sketches on Late Night with Conan O’Brien before becoming a television writer for such shows as MADtv and Parks and Recreation. In 2012, Variety named her one of the “10 Screenwriters to Watch.” Her first produced feature screenplay was 2013’s The Heat starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. The action comedy grossed $159 million in the US. Dippold followed this up with the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, co-written with the film’s director, Paul Feig, who also directed The Heat. Inspired by Dippold’s own relationship with her mother, Snatched is her third feature writing credit. The film’s star, Amy Schumer, is said to have also worked on the script with her sister, Kim Caramele.

Academy Award winner Goldie Hawn stars in Snatched alongside Schumer, returning to the big screen after a fifteen year absence. Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50Warm Bodies), Snatched also features two-time Oscar nominee Joan Cusack (Shameless), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU), MADtv‘s Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad), Wanda Sykes (The Wanda Sykes Show), and Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat).

Producers and Production Companies: Paul Feig, the director of Dippold’s first two movies, and Jessie Henderson (The Heat, Spy) produced Snatched through Feigco Entertainment. Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures producers Peter Chernin (Planet of the Apes reboot film series) and Jenno Topping (Charlie’s Angels films) also produced through Chernin’s Fox-based Chernin Entertainment. Henderson was previously an exec at Chernin before moving to Feigco.

Release Date: May 12 (20th Century Fox)

Rated R. 91 minutes. 119 pages. Action, Comedy.

DianeDrake150DIANE DRAKE will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Prior to writing the hit movies Only You (starring Robert Downey Jr. and Marissa Tomei) and What Women Want (starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt), Diane served as Vice President of Creative Affairs for Sydney Pollack (Out of Africa, Tootsie), honing her story skills while analyzing hundreds of screenplays to find and develop material for the Oscar-winning producer-director. She has taught through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and currently offers online courses and workshops at www.dianedrake.com. Her first book, Get Your Story Straight, was released in 2016. Follow her on Twitter (@dianedrake) to find out more.