May 13 – Booksmart

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on May 13th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay BOOKSMART.

On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars decide they should have worked less and played more, so the best friends try to cram four years of fun into one night.

Booksmart had its world premiere March 10 at SXSW and currently holds a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating with 32 reviews! The Hollywood Reporter calls it “a hilarious, blazingly paced teen comedy” and IndieWire says it “excels at celebrating a friendship strong enough to guarantee that the party never really ends until the credits roll.”

The original draft of Booksmart by EMILY HALPERN & SARAH HASKINS landed on the Black List (the industry’s ranking of the best unproduced screenplays) in 2009.  Halpern’s first writing job was on the one-hour drama series The Unit in 2007. She switched to comedy when she teamed up with Haskins, whose earliest writing credit was on InfoMania, a weekly news satire on Current TV. Together they co-created the 2013 ABC sitcom Trophy Wife starring Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford.

Sarah Haskins, Emily Halpern

Before going into production, Booksmart was rewritten by the team of SUSANNA FOGEL & KATIE SILBERMAN. Fogel previously co-wrote and helmed last year’s action spy comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, while Silberman was a co-writer on this year’s hit rom-com Isn’t It Romantic starring Rebel Wilson.

We will be discussing the 2009 Black List draft by Halpern & Haskins, making this a great opportunity to analyze a script as it looked when Hollywood first discovered it, discuss what changes it might need to shape it into the critically-acclaimed festival hit it’s already become, then go see the finished movie in theaters when it’s released on May 24 to see how the development process improved it.

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, May 9)

The coming-of-age comedy stars Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing, Short Term 12) and Beanie Feldstien (Lady Bird), with Lisa Kudrow (Friends), SNL’s Jason Sudekis and Will Forte, Noah Galvin (The Real O’Neals), Billie Lourd (Scream Queens), Skyler Gisondo (Santa Clarita Diet), and Jessica Williams (The Daily Show), and marks the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde (House, Life Itself). From executive producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay for Gloria Sanchez Productions and producer Megan Ellison for Annapurna Pictures, distributed by United Artists.

WARNING: The following red-band trailer is NSFW.

Not Yet Rated. 105 minutes. 121pages. Comedy, Coming-of-Age.

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

April 8 – Long Shot

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on April 8th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay LONG SHOT.

When an unemployed, self-destructive journalist is hired as a speechwriter for his former babysitter and childhood crush, who’s now Secretary of State and running for President, sparks fly unexpectedly between the mismatched pair.

Long Shot is the first wide theatrically-released feature film credit for screenwriter DAN STERLING, whose first produced feature film, 2014’s The Interview, saw its wide release canceled at the last minute amid fears of an international crisis when North Korea threatened to retaliate against theaters showing the black comedy, leading the writer to tell Creative Screenwriting, “I couldn’t believe [Kim Jong-un,] the most infamous man in the world, knew about my script.” The First Amendment persevered and the film premiered on multiple streaming services a day before receiving a limited theatrical run. Prior to The Interview, Sterling wrote for such TV shows as The Office, Girls, and The Daily Show.

Sterling’s draft of Long Shot was rewritten by LIZ HANNAH, best known for her spec screenplay, The Post, which landed on the 2016 Black List and quickly went into production with Steven Spielberg at the helm and Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in the lead roles. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and Hannah was nominated for a Golden Globe for her 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, April 4)

(Note: We will be discussing the Dan Sterling draft of Long Shot, which was originally titled Flarsky.)

Long Shot stars Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Steve Jobs) and Academy Award winner Charlize Theron (Monster, Tully), along with an all-star cast including O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Andy Serkis (Black Panther, Lord of the Rings trilogy), Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood), and Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul). The film, which was directed by Jonathan Levine (Snatched, 50/50) and premiered on March 9, 2019, at South by Southwest, is currently scheduled for a May 3rd release from Lionsgate.

Not Yet Rated. 120 minutes. 118 pages. Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Politics.

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.

February 11 – GREEN BOOK

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on February 11th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay GREEN BOOK.

Winner of THREE Golden Globe awards, including BEST SCREENPLAY and BEST PICTURE (Musical or Comedy)!

A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

Based on the true story of future Sopranos actor Tony Lip and jazz musician Don Shirley, the screenplay for Green Book was penned by Lip’s son, NICK VALLELONGA, along with BRIAN CURRIE and the film’s director, PETER FARRELLY.

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, February 7)

Green Book stars two-time Academy Award nominee Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic) as Tony Lip and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) as Dr. Shirley. Last week Ali won a Golden Globe for his work in Green Book.

Among the film’s other 33 awards and 78 nominations (so far) are the Writers Guild of America’s nomination for Original Screenplay, four BAFTA nominations including Best Screenplay (Original), two SAG nominations, seven Critics Choice nominations including Best Original Screenplay, DGA and PGA nominations for Best Film, a Screenwriter of the Year award from the Hollywood Film Awards, and a tie (with Vice) for Best Screenplay from the Detroit Film Critics Society.

UPDATE: Nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Mortensen), Best Supporting Actor (Ali), and Best Original Screenplay!

About the writers: Vallelonga had appeared, with his father, in such films as The Godfather, The Pope of Greenwich Village, and GoodFellas before getting his first feature writing credit on 1993’s Deadfall, which he co-wrote with Christopher Coppola (Nicolas Cage’s brother). He followed that with four more films that he wrote and directed while keeping his father’s story close to his vest. When he finally shared the idea with Currie, a friend he’d worked with in a nightclub years earlier, Currie convinced Vallelonga to let him produce and co-write the script. Currie then pitched the idea to Farrelly, having previously played bit parts in several of the director’s comedies. Farrelly is known for writing and directing (usually with his brother Bobby) a string of hits including Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and Shallow Hal.

Green Book premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival where it won the audience award for best film. It opened in limited release in the US on November 16, before going wide one week later. As of this writing, it is still playing on over 500 screens and is #10 at the North American box office. If you have not yet seen the movie but plan to before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised.

Released by Universal Pictures.

Rated PG-13. 130 minutes. 115 pages. Comedy, Biography.

Beverly GrayBEVERLY GRAY will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. As story editor and development executive for Roger Corman’s Concorde-New Horizons Pictures, screenwriter Beverly Gray oversaw the making of 170 low-budget features. More recently, she has covered the entertainment industry for The Hollywood Reporter and currently teaches online screenwriting workshops for UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program. Beverly has also written books on filmmakers Corman and Ron Howard, and in 2017 she released Seduced by Mrs. Robinson for the 50th anniversary of The Graduate. Visit her popular Beverly in Movieland blog and follow @Bev_Movieland on Twitter.

August 13 – The Happytime Murders

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on August 13th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS.

Logline: When the puppet cast of an ’80s children’s TV show begins to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet takes on the case.

The Screenwriters: After acting in, writing, and directing a number of shorts, TODD BERGER achieved his first feature-length writing credit on the 2005 ABC Family TV movie Chasing Christmas. In a career that has skirted dark comedy and family-friendly fare, Burger has written and directed festival hits The Scenesters (2009), It’s a Disaster (2012), and this year’s Cover Versions, which premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, while also contributing to several shorts in the Kung Fu Panda and Smurfs franchises and adapting Where’s Waldo? into a live-action feature (still in development). His debut novel, Showdown City, was published in 2016. Berger shares story credit on The Happytime Murders with Dee Austin Robertson, who is also a director and cinematographer.

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

(registration deadline: Thursday, August 9)

Directed by Brian Henson (The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island), The Happytime Murders stars Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect and The Hunger Games franchises), Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live), Joel McHale (Community, The Joel McHale Show), and a raunchy cast of puppets! The trailer below is NSFW.

Producers and Production Companies: The film’s director, Brian Henson, produced the film for Henson Alternative (also known as “ha!”), the adult division of his late father’s production company, The Jim Henson Company. The film’s star, Melissa McCarthy, is also credited as a producer, along with her husband, Ben Falcone, for their company, On The Day Productions. Executive producers include Henson’s sister, Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company, and Teddy Schwarzman, Ben Stillman, and Michael Heimler of boutique media company Black Bear Pictures (The Imitation Game, Gold, Suburubicon).

Release Date: The Happytime Murders opens August 24 (STX Entertainment).

Rated R. 98 pages. Comedy.

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

July 9 – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on July 9th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME.

Logline: A grocery store checkout girl and her best friend find themselves in the middle of an international conspiracy when one of them discovers the boyfriend who just dumped her worked for the CIA.

The Screenwriters: In 2008, SUSANNA FOGEL starred in the web series Joni & Susanna with her sketch comedy partner Joni Lefkowitz. Three years later, they debuted their one-act play, Life Partners, at Unscreened, a Hollywood showcase of short plays by up-and-coming screenwriters. The 2014 big-screen adaptation of that play became Susanna’s feature film directorial debut while she also developed, with Lefkowitz, Chasing Life, a series about a 24-year-old journalist with leukemia, which was adapted from a telenovela and ran for two seasons on ABC Family. DAVID ISERSON, Fogel’s co-writer on Dumped, began his writing career at Saturday Night Live. He went on to write and produce episodes of New Girl, Mad Men, Mozart in the Jungle, and Mr. Robot, for which he shared an Primetime Emmy Award nomination. His 2014 debut novel Firecracker made Rolling Stone’s list of the 40 best YA novels. Dumped is Iserson’s first credit on a feature film.

(registration deadline: Thursday, July 5)

Starring Mila Kunis (That 70s Show, Black Swan, Bad Moms) and Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters), with Sam Heughan (Outlander), Hasan Minhaj (The Daily Show), Ivanna Sakhno (Pacific Rim Uprising), Justin Theroux (Mulholland Drive), and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files).

Producers and Production Companies: The Spy Who Dumped Me was produced by Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind, Kindergarten Cop) and Erica Huggins (The Dark Tower), and co-produced by Tina Anderson (Insurgent and post-production supervisor on 20 features including Argo and Quentin Tarantino’s last three films). Lionsgate won distribution rights in a bidding war.

Release Date: The Spy Who Dumped Me opens August 3 (Lionsgate).

Rated R. 116 minutes. 117 pages. Action Comedy.

NEIL LANDAU will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Currently the Assistant Dean of Dean’s Special Programs at UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television, Neil’s screenwriting credits include the cult hit comedy Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead starring Christina Applegate and the hit TV shows Melrose Place, Doogie Howser M.D., Twice in a Lifetime, and The Young & the Restless. In 2012, his work on the screenplay for the animated feature Tad, the Lost Explorer won him a Goya award (Spain’s Oscar). He has also written five screenwriting books, including The Screenwriter’s Roadmap and The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap. Visit neillandau.com for more, or follow him on Twitter (@neilland).

ALSO DON’T FORGET

CASE STUDY: THE GRADUATE

Monday, June 25, 2018

With BEVERLY GRAY
author of Seduced by Mrs. Robinson:
How The Graduate became the Touchstone of a Generation

Register by noon, Friday, June 22

(click here for details)

June 11 – Under the Silver Lake

(registration deadline: Friday, June 8)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on June 11th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay UNDER THE SILVER LAKE.

Logline: Mysterious clues lead a man on a strange journey to find the beautiful next door neighbor who disappeared the day after they hooked up.

The Writer/Director: Originally from Michigan, DAVID ROBERT MITCHELL graduated from Florida State University with an MFA in Production. His feature debut, The Myth of the American Sleepover, won a special jury prize at SXSW for Best Ensemble Cast and was an official Critic’s Week selection at Cannes, but it was his second film that catapulted Mitchell to indie film stardom. In It Follows, a murderous entity stalks its victim until he or she either dies or passes “it” to the next victim through sex. The nightmarish, low-budget horror film debuted at Cannes and grossed $23 million worldwide. The auteur cites Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window as his favorite film of all time.

Under the Silver Lake stars Academy Award nominee Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, The Amazing Spider-Man), with Riley Keough (Magic Mike, Mad Max: Fury Road), and Topher Grace (That 70s Show).

Producers and Production Companies: Among the 25 producers, associate producers, co-producers, and executive producers, and 11 production companies, credited on IMDb for Under the Silver Lake are Academy Award winner Adele Romanski (Moonlight) for PASTEL, former New Line and Dreamworks president Michael De Luca (Fifty Shades of Grey) for Michael De Luca Productions, Chris Bender (A History of Violence) for Good Fear Film + Management, and Rufus Parker (Wild Nights with Emily) for P2 Films.

Festivals and Release Date: Under the Silver Lake is scheduled to premiere tomorrow, May 15, 2018, at the Cannes Film Festival, with a wide U.S. release scheduled for June 22 (A24).

Rated R. 139 minutes. 149 pages. Mystery, Comedy.

LINDA COWGILL will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. After completing her MFA at UCLA’s School of Film and Television, Linda landed her first TV writing job on The Incredible Hulk and sold her first feature screenplay to Orion Pictures. She continued writing scripts for Paramount, Universal, MGM, Warner Bros., and for the acclaimed series Life Goes On, until deciding to focus on teaching screenwriting. She has since taught seminars and workshops at AFI, Kennedy Center, Boston Film Institute, Loyola Marymount, IFP Miami, and NALIP and now heads the Screenwriting Department at Los Angeles Film School. She has also published three books, The Art of Plotting, Secrets of Screenplay Structure, and Writing Short Films, and has many useful screenwriting articles on her website, Plots Inc.

ALSO THIS MONTH

CASE STUDY: THE GRADUATE

Monday, June 25, 2018

With BEVERLY GRAY
author of Seduced by Mrs. Robinson:
How The Graduate became the Touchstone of a Generation

Register by noon, Friday, June 22

(click here for details)

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.