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.

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 10 – Ben Is Back

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on December 10th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay BEN IS BACK.

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee PETER HEDGES.

Premise:  Ben Burns, in serious trouble, returns home to his family on Christmas Eve.

19-year-old Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly returns home to his family’s suburban home on Christmas Eve morning. Ben’s mother, Holly (Julia Roberts), is relieved and welcoming but wary of her son staying clean. Over a turbulent 24 hours, new truths are revealed, and a mother’s undying love for her son is tested as she does everything in her power to keep him safe. Ben Is Back also stars Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) and Kathryn Newton (Lady Bird).

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, December 6)

Peter Hedges is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, film director, and film producer. He is best known for adapting his novel What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) into a screenplay which became a critically-acclaimed film. In 2002, he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for About a Boy. In the same year, he wrote and directed Pieces of April, which was nominated for Best Screenplay at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Production companies included Black Bear Pictures, Color Force, and 30WEST. In July 2018, LD Entertainment, Roadside Attractions, and Lionsgate acquired distribution rights. The film had its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival where it was nominated for their Peoples’ Choice Award. A limited release is set for December 7, 2018.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a Want To See rating of 92%. The site’s critical consensus reads: “Refreshingly understated, Ben Is Back subverts family drama stereotypes – and provides a forum for terrific performances from Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts.”

Rated R. 103 minutes. 115 pages (draft dated 8/3/17). Drama.

A special guest moderator will provide in-depth script analysis and lead our discussion.

UPDATE: DMA provided in-depth analysis and led 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.

November 12 – DESTROYER

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on November 12th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay DESTROYER.

Destroyer follows the moral and existential odyssey of LAPD detective Erin Bell who, as a young cop, was placed undercover with a gang in the California desert with tragic results. When the leader of that gang re-emerges many years later, she must work her way back through the remaining members and into her own history with them to finally reckon with the demons that destroyed her past.

SCREENPLAY BY PHIL HAY & MATT MANFREDI, whose credits include Crazy/Beautiful, Aeon Flux, Clash of the Titans (2010), R.I.P.D., and Ride Along (1 & 2).

The film, directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight), stars Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies, Aquaman), Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya, Captain America/Avengers franchises), Bradley Whitford (Get Out), and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black).

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, November 8)

Jeff KitchenJEFF KITCHEN will provide in-depth script analysis and lead our discussion. Jeff Kitchen has been a screenwriting teacher and consultant for over twenty years. He has taught development for executives from all the major Hollywood studios and they have consistently said that Jeff teaches the most advanced development tools in the film industry. One of his students was recently nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars for the movie Hidden Figures. His book, Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting, is available at amazon.com. Visit Jeff’s website BuildYourScript.com.

Destroyer had its world premiere at the 2018 Telluride Film Festival on August 31 and was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival‘s Platform Programme, a juried competition that champions risk-taking, high artistic merit, and bold directorial visions.

The film is slated for a Christmas Day release in the U.S. by Annapurna.

Producers and Production Companies: Screenwriters Hay & Manfredi produced alongside Fred Berger (La La Land) for Automatik Entertainment and David Diliberto (No Country for Old Men).

Not yet rated. 123 minutes. 112 pages (draft dated 9/9/16). Action, Crime, Drama.

ALSO THIS MONTH

Using Digital & Social Media to Advance Your Projects and Your Career!

Monday, October 29, 2018

MASTER CLASS
with DIANA LESMEZ

Register by noon, Friday, October 26

(click here for details)

October 8 – What They Had

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on October 8th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay WHAT THEY HAD.

This intimate family drama centers on a family in crisis where a woman returns home at her brother’s urging to deal with her ailing mother and her father’s reluctance to let her go, while also grappling with her own past.

Feature debut of writer-director ELIZABETH CHOMKO. Elizabeth was born in Chicago. She is an alumni of the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters and Composers Labs, and an Academy Nicholl Fellowship winner for the screenplay of What They Had.

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, October 4)

What They Had stars two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), two-time Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Taissa Farmiga (The Nun, American Horror Story), and Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama).

Producers and Production Companies: Among the 22 credited producers are Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa for Bona Fide Productions (Little Miss Sunshine, Nebraska, The Only Living Boy in New York), writer/producer Bill Holderman (Book Club, A Walk in the Woods), Alex Saks for June Pictures (Thoroughbreds, The Florida Project), and Keith Kjarval for Unified Pictures (Dragged Across Concrete, Ride). Interlock Capital financed the film.

In May 2017, Bleecker Street acquired domestic distribution rights to the film. What They Had was initially scheduled for release on March 16, 2018, but was pushed back for a limited release on October 19, 2018.

Premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

International Premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. In competition for the festival’s People’s Choice Award!

Honored as a Truly Moving Picture by Heartland Film (according to IMDb).

100% Want-To-See rating on Rotten Tomatoes (as of September 7).

Rated R. 101 minutes. 110 pages (Draft 10/5/14). Drama.

Melody JacksonMELODY JACKSON will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Melody completed her Ph.D. in Mythological Studies in 2003 with her dissertation on “The Mythic Impact of Film.” She has been praised by Creative Screenwriting on multiple occasions for her exceptional knowledge of traditional three-act structure and character development. Known for approaching plot and structure through examination of character motivation and relationships, Melody offers consulting and marketing services to screenwriters through Smart Girls, which she founded in 1992. Since then she has helped over 2,500 writers improve their screenplays to get them to 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount, CAA, and countless medium-sized and smaller production companies. Visit SmartG.com or follow @smartgirlspr on Twitter.

September 10 – Life Itself

Meet on the lot at Fox Studios on September 10th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay LIFE ITSELF.

Logline: As a young New York couple goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child, the unexpected twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and through lifetimes.

Writer/Director: DAN FOGELMAN had never studied screenwriting when he wrote his first script, a Wonder Years-style spec about his bar mitzvah, which landed him a manager and agent and led to his first professional writing assignment — on Pixar’s Cars. After creating a string of short-lived sitcoms, including Galavant and The Neighbors, both on ABC, Fogelman took an unfinished feature spec script about sextuplets called 36 and turned it into his breakout NBC hit drama This Is Us, which is currently nominated for five primetime Emmy awards. The same day that series received its first Golden Globe nominations, the screenplay for Life Itself landed in a three-way tie for the second spot on the 2016 Black List, the industry’s survey of the best scripts not already in production (alongside The Post, which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar last year). Fogelman’s other feature writing credits include Fred Claus, Bolt, Tangled, Crazy Stupid Love, The Guilt Trip, Last Vegas, and Danny Collins, which starred Al Pacino and was Fogelman’s directorial debut.

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, September 6)

Life Itself stars Oscar Isaac (Star Wars 7-9), Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy), Annette Bening (American Beauty), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), Jean Smart (Legion), Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One), and international superstar Antonio Banderas (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!).

Producers and Production Companies: Executive producer Glen Basner’s FilmNation (Arrival, The Founder) purchased the spec script after it appeared on the 2016 Black List.  FilmNation’s co-president, Aaron Ryder (Hamlet 2, The Prestige), was one of the producers, alongside producing partners Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey for Temple Hill Entertainment (the Twilight saga, The Fault in Our Stars).

Release Date: Life Itself  is scheduled to have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before opening nationwide in theaters on September 21 (Amazon Studios).

Rated R. 117 minutes. 116 pages (March 4, 2016 draft). Drama, Romance.

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.