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).