“You’re young, you haven’t done anything, and no one wants to work with you,” our first agent said to us after we graduated film school. He was absolutely right. We were trying to write what we thought were mainstream Hollywood comedies but to our shock, it was hard to get the second screenplay we’d ever written to the biggest comedy stars on the planet. That’s when we decided to write something smaller for two local New York comedians who we thought were hilarious and, more importantly, we thought we could get. Six months later, we had a screenplay about two […]
“Fuck you.” With those opening words of Savages, author Don Winslow delivered a kick to the teeth of the literary world. The jarring and unorthodox novel — about a trio of beach bum lovers-turned-drug kingpins and with a writing style that ranges from poetry to screenplay — became a New York Times Bestseller and a shot in the arm to Winslow’s already successful career. The author had penned more than ten novels prior to Savages, including the Neal Carey series, while moonlighting as a private investigator during grad school and the meticulous DEA/drug cartel fueled intrigue of The Power of the Dog, […]
Telling the origin story of the creature that terrified us in Alien over three decades ago, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is one of this summer’s most hotly anticipated films. But somewhat surprisingly, the origins of the screenplay came as much from a screenwriter’s general meeting as the story material developed for that original movie. At a meeting in the offices of Scott’s production company, Scott Free, screenwriter Jon Spaihts was asked to riff on the possibilities of a film that would revisit the Alien universe. What resulted is Prometheus, with a script credited to Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Below I ask […]
If you’ve come anywhere near the blog or print magazine recently, you’ll know that Filmmaker — myself, and much of our staff — are in love with Joachim Trier’s feature, Oslo, August 31st, which opened this weekend from Strand Releasing. I sat down with Trier last month for a short chat, posted below. We talk about the movie’s inspirations, the Louis Malle film based on the same book, adaptation, and then Trier gives some very solid and inspiring advice to young directors. Also, read my interview with Trier from the Winter, 2012 issue.
The Sundance Institute announced today the roster for its June Directors and Screenwriters Lab. The complete press release follows. Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute today announced the 13 projects selected for its annual June Directors and Screenwriters Labs, taking place at the Sundance Resort in Utah from May 28 through June 28. Under the leadership of Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Institute’s Feature Film Program, and the artistic direction of Gyula Gazdag, the projects selected for this year’s program include emerging filmmakers and projects from the United States, Italy, Romania, Australia, Algeria, France, Chile and the UK. Directors […]
About 18 months ago I blogged about the new Amazon Studios venture, in which screenwriters submit their projects to the internet commerce giant for crowdsourced development and possible production. There was a lot of initial interest in Amazon Studios when it was announced, but I, like many other observers, found the terms shockingly poor for writers. I asked, why would you give “a company with a $74 billion market cap an 18-month free option on your original project?” Especially when, according to Amazon Studio’s original terms, there were scenarios in which that original work could have been exploited with you […]
Becoming a good writer is not just about writing well — it’s about rewriting well. I know plenty of promising writers who positively fail at that essential skill. They are unable to move beyond their first drafts, to process feedback, and to shape their own raw material into production-worthy scripts. This summer a resource for the self-aware among this set is being offered by Columbia University. Columbia’s Film School chair Ira Deutchman recently announced the Screenplay Revision Workshop, which is open to all. From Ira’s blog at Tribeca: In all my years in the film business and my travels around […]
In this episode of Brad Listi’s Other People Podcast, novelist Rex Pickett discusses the origins of his book Sideways, the basis for Alexander Payne’s hit movie. Pickett has written a sequel to Sideways called Vertical, and in the podcast he talks about why he’s self-published it. There’s a lot here about a writer’s take on the movie business, how success doesn’t protect you from rejection, and, uh, Pickett also has a few things to say about producer Michael London.
I have come across many folks who have allowed the completion of a perfect script to derail their entire production. I have also sat through (I’m including my own films here) more films that I can remember in which the filmmakers hoped improv will create something magical. In microbudget the latter is a necessity, in large indie films, it’s risky, and in Hollywood, no one but a select few can pull it off. I recently started a conversation with an Austin filmmaker in the very thick of making her second feature film, What’s the Use (pictured below), and this battle […]
Sometimes people ask me how I went from living in Los Angeles, writing a studio film like 40 Days & 40 Nights, to living in Minneapolis, directing an independent comedy like nobody. It’s a fair question but it seems there’s a subtext here, too. Many people think independent film is a step down from the studio system. And I’m sure it is — for some people. But let’s go back. 40 Days & 40 Nights is about a guy who gives up sex for lent and then meets the perfect girl. The short version of how it was made goes […]