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).

Not yet rated. 98 pages. Comedy.

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

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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).

Not yet rated. 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)

May 14 – Hereditary

(registration deadline: Friday, May 11)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on May 14th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay HEREDITARY.

Logline: Ancestral spirits haunt a family after the death of their secretive and private matriarch.

The Screenwriter: ARI ASTER received his MFA in Directing from the AFI Conservatory. His controversial 2011 incest-themed AFI short, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, went viral last year, spawning dozens of polarized “reaction” videos on YouTube. Hereditary, which The Hollywood Reporter called “two breathless hours of escalating terror that never slackens for a minute,” is his feature film debut as writer and director.

Academy Award nominee Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine) stars alongside Gabriel Bryne (The Usual Suspects), Alex Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band, My Friend Dahmer), Milly Shapiro (Broadway’s Matilda), and Ann Dowd (Compliance).

Producers and Production Companies: Hereditary was produced by Lars Knudsen (Beginners) and PalmStar Media CEO Kevin Frakes (Collateral Beauty) in association with Buddy Patrick (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), founder and president of Windy Hill Pictures.

Festivals and Release Date: Premiered in the Midnight section of this year’s Sundance Film Festival on January 21, followed by a command performance last month at South by Southwest on March 11. Opens wide June 8 (A24).

Rated R. 126 minutes. 118 pages. Horror.

pamelajayesmithPAMELA JAYE SMITH will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. A mythologist and award-winning producer/director with over thirty years experience in features, TV, music videos, and more, Pamela is the author of five books, including The Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains and Inner Drives: How to Write and Create Characters Using the Eight Classic Centers of Motivation. Her company, MYTHWORKS, offers consulting and coaching and, through her Pitch Proxy service, pitches writers’ projects at pitch festivals they cannot attend. Visit pamelajayesmith.com for more information.

April 9 – Tully

(registration deadline: Friday, April 6)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on April 9th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay TULLY.

Logline: Marlo, a mother of three, including a newborn, is gifted a night nanny by her brother. Hesitant to the extravagance at first, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny.

The Screenwriter: DIABLO CODY first gained popularity for her blog, “The Pussy Ranch,” about her year as a stripper, which led to a publishing deal for her memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper (adapted from the blog), and interest in a screenplay. Rather than adapt the same material a second time, Cody whipped up an original screenplay about a pregnant teen with a hamburger phone. The 2007 indie comedy Juno became a surprise hit earning $143 million domestically, Oscar nominations for Best Picture, director Jason Reitman, and lead actress Ellen Page, and an Academy Award for Cody for her very first screenplay. The success of Juno quickly led to Cody selling a series, The United States of Tara, to Showtime, where she served as executive producer for three seasons and wrote nine episodes. Back in features, Cody re-teamed with Reitman for Young Adult starring Charlize Theron, made her directorial debut with Paradise starring Julianne Hough, and most recently penned the 2015 Meryl Streep/Rick Springfield rock-and-roll drama Ricki and the Flash directed by the late Jonathan Demme.

Tully again reunites the Oscar-winning scribe with her Juno director, Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), as well as their Young Adult star, Academy Award winner Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road). Joining them are Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire, Blade Runner 2049) in the title role, Mark Duplass (Zero Dark Thirty), and Ron Livingston (Office Space, Boardwalk Empire).

Producers and Production Companies: Cody, Reitman, and Theron share producing credit with Cody’s manager and longtime producing partner Mason Novick (Juno, Jennifer’s Body, Ricki and the Flash) who first encouraged her to turn her blog into a book and screenplay, Helen Estabrook (Labor Day; Men, Women & Children) through Reitman’s Right of Way Productions, A.J. Dix and Beth Kono through Theron’s Denver and Delilah Productions (Atomic Blonde, Dark Places), and Vancouver-based BRON Studios co-founder Aaron L. Gilbert (Monster), who also co-financed along with Creative Wealth Media.

Release Date: Premiered at the Sudance Film Festival on January 23, 2018. Originally scheduled to be released theatrically on April 20th by Focus Features, but pushed to May 4th.

Rated R. 94 minutes. 91 pages. Drama.

Ruth AtkinsonRUTH ATKINSON will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Ruth is a Los Angeles-based script consultant and story editor with over 20 years of experience in the film/television business. She is a story analyst for the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Screenwriting and Directing Labs and story advisor for Film Independent’s Director’s Lab as well as their diversity program where she helps develop short film scripts which are produced and showcased at the Los Angeles Film Festival. She is also story advisor for the inaugural Global Media Makers, a cultural exchange with FIND, the US State Department, and 14 filmmakers from the Middle East. She has spoken at the Great American PitchFest, International Screenwriters’ Association, the Writers Store, On the Page podcast, and more. Ruth is available for script consulting. Visit her at ruthatkinson.com for more information and follow her on Twitter (@ruth_atkinson).

January 8 – The Shape of Water

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, January 5)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on January 8th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay THE SHAPE OF WATER.

Logline: A mute woman takes a janitorial job at a secret government laboratory where she becomes emotionally attached to a mysterious amphibious humanoid creature being held there in captivity.

The Writers: The story for The Shape of Water was conceived by GUILLERMO DEL TORO over a 2011 breakfast with novelist Daniel Kraus while discussing his wish to see the monster in 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon hook up with that film’s female lead. When Universal rejected his pitch of a remake with that ending, he and VANESSA TAYLOR wrote this original script instead. Mexican filmmaker del Toro is best known for 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which won three Academy Awards and was nominated for another three, including Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film. Some of his other films include Mimic, Pacific Rim, and both Hellboy movies. He has also produced or executive produced animated favorites The Book of Life, Rise of the Guardians, and Kung Fu Panda 3 as well as the low budget horror hit Mama. Taylor’s work was previously discussed at StoryBoard with her original screenplay for Hope Springs, which starred Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Her other work includes the adaptation of Divergent, seasons 2 and 3 of Game of Thrones, and Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin.

Directed by del Toro, The Shape of Water stars Academy Award nominees Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help), Golden Globe nominee Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man), and featuring Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery) as the creature.

Producers and Production Companies: Del Torro produced the film under his Double Dare You label with J. Miles Dale. Dale and del Toro previously teamed up on Mama and the FX series The Strain. Dale’s previous credits include Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and recent remakes of Endless Love, Carrie, and The Thing. Novelist Daniel Kraus, who helped del Toro brainstorm the initial story idea over breakfast, has an associate producer credit. Kraus and del Toro also co-wrote the novel Trollhunters. Liz Sayre, executive vice president of physical production at Fox Searchlight, has an executive producer credit on the film.

Festivals & Awards: The Shape of Water premiered at the Venice International Film Festival where it won the prestigious Golden Lion and three other awards. It has also played at festivals in Toronto, Telluride, Rio de Janeiro, London, Vienna, Chicago, Tokyo, Napa Valley, and Key West, and was named one of American Film Institute’s top ten films of the year. This morning the film received seven Golden Globe nominations, the most of any film this year, including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Previously the film had already racked up 14 nominations from the Critics Choice Awards and 10 from the Satellite Awards, also including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay from both organizations. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has also given the film three awards and the Palm Springs International Film Festival will give it their Vanguard Award on January 2, with more accolades to come on the road to the Oscars.

Release Date: Opened on December 1 in New York and December 8 in Los Angeles (Fox Searchlight). If you plan to see the movie before our meeting, reading the script before watching the film is advised.

Rated R. 123 minutes. 116 pages. Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Romance.

BILL LUNDY will provide in-depth script analysis and lead our discussion. A graduate of USC Film School, Bill has written two highly-rated original films for SyFy, Silent Warnings and Alien Siege, sold stories to Star Trek: Voyager, and optioned several sci-fi, fantasy, and horror projects. From 1997 to 2004 he served as Chairman of the non-profit Scriptwriters Network. A top script consultant and teacher known as “The Log Line Doctor,” he’s done seminars for Screenwriting Expo, Sherwood Oaks College, Newport Beach Film Festival, Scriptwriters Showcase, Flash Forward, and The Writers Store and contributed to such books as Q&A: The Working Screenwriter by Jim Vines, and Now Write! Screenwriting, and his essays and liner notes can be found on award-winning DVD special editions for such films as The Matrix, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and Minority Report. Follow Bill on Twitter at @blundysf.

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.