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.

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

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Monday, October 29, 2018

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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.