August 9 – Free Guy

Free Guy (2021)Meet ONLINE from 7:00-10:00 PM Pacific Time on August 9th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the comedy screenplay FREE GUY.

LOGLINE: A bank teller discovers that he’s actually an NPC (non-player character) inside a brutal, open world video game.

SCREENWRITERS: The first draft of Free Guy was a spec script by MATT LIEBERMAN that appeared on the 2016 Black List, an annual survey of the industry’s best unproduced screenplays. Lieberman’s screenwriting career began in the Disney Feature Writer’s Program, where he worked on various scripts based on IP like Monopoly and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride that are still in development. His first spec sale, 12/24, a found-footage feature about two kids trying to catch Santa Claus on video, eventually became Netflix’s hit comedy The Christmas Chronicles. Lieberman also received story and writing credits on computer animated reboots of The Addams Family (2019) and Scooby Doo (Scoob!, 2020), and has several other projects in development, including reboots of The Jetsons and Rin Tin Tin, as well as the original screenplays Meet the Machines and Meebo and Me. Before going into production, Free Guy was re-written by ZAK PENN, whose other high-concept output includes Last Action HeroThe Incredible HulkThe Avengers, and Ready Player One[We will be reading and discussing Lieberman’s draft only.]

(registration deadline: Friday, August 6)

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 Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum), Free Guy stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool), Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), rapper Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project), Joe Keery (Stranger Things), and Academy Award winner Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit). The comedy will be released theatrically by Disney’s 20th Century Studios on Friday, August 13.

Rated PG-13. 115 minutes. 109 pages (Lieberman’s undated Black List draft). Sci-Fi Action Comedy.

STEVE KAPLAN will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion of the sci-fi action comedy Free Guy. 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, and follow him on Twitter at @skcomedy where you can tweet quick comedy questions at him with the #AskKaplan hashtag.

March 12 – Ready Player One

RegisterNow(registration deadline: Friday, March 9)

Meet on the Fox Studios backlot on March 12th for an in-depth analysis and discussion of the screenplay READY PLAYER ONE.

Logline: In an overpopulated dystopian future, Wade Watts escapes into the 1980s-pop-culture-influenced virtual reality world of OASIS where he searches for hidden “Easter eggs” that may win him inheritance of the game creator’s vast fortune.

The Writers: Sci-fi novelist and screenwriter ERNEST CLINE started out as a competitive slam poet, winning the Austin Poetry Slam in 1998 and 2001. After writing a fan-fiction screenplay based on Buckaroo Banzai, his first produced screenwriting credit came in 2009 from Fanboys, a spec script he wrote in 1998 about a group of Star Wars fans on a cross-country road trip hoping to get their dying friend an advance screening of the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One, described as the “Holy Grail of Pop Culture,” sold to Random House’s Crown Publishing in a bidding war in 2010 and was published in 2011. Cline wrote the first draft of the screenplay, with uncredited rewrites provided by ERIC EASON (A Better Life) and final, credited rewrites by ZAK PENN (Last Action Hero, The Avengers).

Directed by Steven Spielberg, whose sci-fi hits include E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds, Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the film stars Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life, X-Men: Apocalypse), Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline, Rogue One), T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek), and Mark Rylance (Brigde of Spies, Dunkirk).

Producers and Production Companies: The film rights sold at auction to Warner Bros. and De Line Pictures the same day the author’s publishing deal with Random House was finalized. Donald De Line, former head of production at Paramount Pictures, whose production credits include last year’s remake of Going in Style and 2011’s Green Lantern, produced Ready Player One under his banner, which he established in 1998, along with former Scott Rudin intern Dan Farah (the upcoming The Crow reboot) for Farah Films, Amblin Entertainment partner Kristie Macosko Krieger (Bridge of Spies, The Post), and director Steven Spielberg for his companies, Amblin and DreamWorks. Random House also shares a film production imprint credit, as do Brent Ratner’s RatPac-Dune Entertainment and Village Roadshow Pictures.

Release Date: Opens worldwide on March 29th (Warner Bros.).

Rated PG-13. 121 pages. Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure.

Wendell WellmanWENDELL WELLMAN will provide in-depth analysis and lead our discussion. Trained at the Actors Studio and the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Wendell has acted in feature films, television, and on stage. He has taught screenwriting at UCLA and wrote FIREFOX, SUDDEN IMPACT, and the final Dirty Harry script for Clint Eastwood. He recently completed adapting the novel The River Journey by Robert Nathan and is currently working on setting up his screenplay Top Hat. Wendell’s book, A Writer’s Roadmap, is available at Amazon.