November 8 – King Richard

Meet ONLINE from 7:00-10:00 PM Pacific Time on November 8th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay KING RICHARD.

LOGLINE: Richard Williams, an undeterred father instrumental in raising two of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time, changes the sport of tennis forever.

THE SCREENWRITER: King Richard is the first produced script by ZACH BAYLIN, who previously had art department credits on Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Jack Goes Boating. Baylin’s spec biopic about the father of tennis pros Venus and Serena Williams came in second on the 2018 Black List and, with Will Smith attached to star and produce, was picked up by Warner Bros. after a bidding war. Baylin, who had won a spot on the Black List the year before with a script called Come as You Are, about a woman who moderates X-rated content on a social media platform and goes on a violent mission to take down the creators, was recently hired to pen the screenplay for the third film in the Rocky spinoff franchise, Creed, expected to be released in November 2022.

(registration deadline: Friday, November 5)

Registration in advance is required to attend the discussion, and includes a copy of the script sent to you in advance.

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Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men), King Richard stars Will Smith (Independence Day, Bad Boys, Men in Black), Tony Goldwyn (Ghost, Scandal), Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Marvel’s The Punisher), Dylan McDermott (The Practice), Aunjanue Ellis (When They See Us), and, as the Williams sisters, Saniyya Sidney (American Horror Story: Roanoke, Fences) and Demi Singleton (Godfather of Harlem).

The movie, which features the original song “Be Alive” by Beyoncé, premiered last month at the Telluride Film Festival and opens in theaters and on HBO Max on November 19. It won the audience award at the Heartland International Film Festival in Indiana and currently holds a 93% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Entertainment Weekly called King Richard “a surprisingly nuanced portrait of a flawed and deeply complicated man and the kind of classic-uplift sports movie that used to fill multiplexes once upon a time.”

Rated PG-13. 122 pages. 138 minutes. Drama. Sports Biopic.

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.

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.

January 12 – WHIPLASH

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Monday, January 5)

WhiplashMeet on the 20th Century Fox studio lot for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay WHIPLASH

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Writer/Director: Damien Chazelle (The Last Exorcism Part II)

Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser

Budget: $3.3 million (estimated)

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Screenplay was included on the 2012 Black List of the best unproduced screenplays.

Premiered at Sundance Film Festival January 16, 2014, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. Has played at over 40 prestigious film festivals including Cannes, New York, and Toronto. Nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards.

Release (US): October 10, 2014 (limited)

Rated R. 106 minutes. 111 pages. Drama, Music

BSchiffmanhead150Story analyst BARBARA SCHIFFMAN will lead the discussion. For over 35 years, Barbara has read scripts for Miramax, Dreamworks, Mandalay, HBO, CAA, UTA, and more. The writing guide NOW WRITE! Screenwriting Exercises by Today’s Best Screenwriters and Teachers includes her chapter “Key Things to Know About Your Script Before You Write.” More recently, she evaluated candidates for NBCUniversal’s Emerging Writers Fellowship program. Barbara currently writes personal development e-courses for DailyOM.com and offers script coaching and “first look” feedback for screenwriters, as well as book coaching and editing for authors and self-publishers. Get info on Barbara’s services at her website, www.bschiffman.net.