Interview: Adam Kolbrenner (Madhouse Entertainment) — Part 4

January 24th, 2013 by

This week, we are fortunate to have as our guest manager-producer Adam Kolbrenner from Madhouse Entertainment, an L.A.-based production and literary management company that works with screenwriters and writer/directors in the areas of film, television and new media.

I will be posting the whole interview over the course of the week. Today in Part 4, Adam reveals some insider details on two big movie deals with which Madhouse Entertainment was involved.

If we could, I’d like to briefly go through your experience surrounding the circumstances of three spec script sales in which you were involved: What were some memorable details of the sale of Aaron Guzikowski’s spec script “Prisoners”?

This answer should be in a book somewhere.  7 years.

Guzikowski was an aspiring screenwriter living in a small apartment in Brooklyn, NY.  In 2006 he sent me a query letter in the mail (with an actual stamp and everything).  He was asking if I wanted to read a script of his that was a small contained horror film.  Horror is not really in my blood (so to speak) but I had him send it to me because there was a unique idea to it.  The script and story were flawed but it was clear to me on page 1 of his script, he knew how to write.

From there, we spent about 6 months coming up with new ideas for movies that he can write and we can develop from the ground up together.  Thanksgiving 2006 he came up with the concept for PRISONERS.  We worked through countless treatments and outlines, to drafts and rewrites, and he worked with Madhouse on PRISONERS until February 2009.  Over 2 years.  We had never even met in person.  We were giving him notes while he was in a supply closet of his temporary job in Brooklyn.  People would literally be walking in and he’d be handing out paper and pens.  But AARON GUZIKOWSKI never once wavered in the work that was required.  He knew that notes aren’t always perfect but use the good ones, and think about the bad ones.  He never fucking quit.

I gave the script to all the agencies in one weekend in February 2009.  Initially, the agents all passed on the project because they felt it was going to be “too hard” to get made.  But one agent named Adam Levine responded well to it.  Adam at the time was at Endeavor, he has since become one of the founders of VERVE Agency where Guzikowski was one of the initial clients for the start up agency in 2010.

Endeavor began to build a package around PRISONERS as the script was sent out around Hollywood.  The feedback was unlike anything I’d ever seen.  The project had Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale set to star (before production of their film ‘The Fighter’) and had Bryan Singer (XMen) set to direct.  Ultimately, that package proved to be too expensive for the marketplace based on the type of story told in PRISONERS.  At this point ALCON ENTERTAINMENT (‘Blind Side’, ‘Insomnia’, and upcoming ‘Beautiful Creatures’) asked to purchase the screenplay free and clear of any package.

From there, the project navigated through a process that included having Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star (in the role Wahlberg was interested in playing) that was not able to get off the ground based on timing for Dicaprio.

I am pleased to say that as of January 14th, 2013 the cameras will roll in Atlanta, Georgia for PRISONERS.  Our director is Denis Villeneuve (Oscar nominated for his brilliant film ‘Incendies’).  Our extraordinary cast includes:  Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello, and Paul Dano.  Madhouse Entertainment is producing (Adam Kolbrenner, Producer and Robyn Meisinger, Executive Producer) along with Kira Davis.  The film will be released by Warner Bros and Alcon on September 20th, 2013.  Just shy of 7 years since the idea surfaced in AARON GUZIKOWSKI’s brain.  During this time, GUZIKOWSKI additionally wrote the Mark Wahlberg hit “CONTRABAND” that was released in January 2012 and the upcoming Legendary release “SEVENTH SON” that stars Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore.  He’s become one of the most in demand screenwriters working in Hollywood.

What were some of the noteworthy items associated with the sale of David Guggenheim’s spec script “SAFE HOUSE”?

DAVID GUGGENHEIM was working as an editor in NYC at US Weekly Magazine.  He had spent several years getting his material out to the community from his home in New York.  We started working together on SAFE HOUSE at the early script stage.  We worked on it and took it to the marketplace with his agent David Boxerbaum.  Our plan was to be sure that everyone in town read the material because we were so proud to show it off.  The response was overwhelming.  Producers, buyers, studios, all wanted this script.  It was built for two major movie star roles.  This was February 2010.  We were in production in January 2011 for Universal Studios.  We were released worldwide February 2012 starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds and became a major hit for Universal as it went on to gross over $200,000,000 worldwide boxoffice.  GUGGENHEIM is hard at work on the sequel to be shot in 2013.

As you look at those 2 deals, are there any big ticket lessons or takeaways you can discern there? Any universal truths each script project share?

Incredible characters.  Original story with unique twists.  Well told.

Tomorrow in Part 5, Adam discusses some of the issues facing working screenwriters nowadays and shares inside information on one of the more notable deals in the last several years.

Please stop by comments to thank Adam for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have as he has agreed to answer them.

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2 thoughts on “Interview: Adam Kolbrenner (Madhouse Entertainment) — Part 4

  1. dw says:

    Thanks a lot to Adam and Scott for this series. You mentioned three spec script sales, Scott, but only got into “Prisoners” and “Safe House”. Is the third for tomorrow?

  2. Dear Adam,

    That was a very interesting interview. Thank you.

    Scott has suggested that we ask our follow-up questions here. I appreciate your taking the time to consider them.

    I’m an American writer who lives in Moscow, Russia. Communication with Scott, Tom, and SMC is done through their SMC website, email, and through Skype.

    How do you work with writers who don’t happen to live in Hollywood?

    How often per year do you require your writers to come to Hollywood in person for meetings? For approximately how long at a time?

    When you present a script for sale, is the “international component” something that is important to the buyers now?

    With the sharp increase in BRICS box office revenues (eg. SKYFALL opened in Moscow a full 10 days before the USA opening. I believe the film was profitable before it hit the USA), do you look for scripts/writers who create scripts where the characters are truly from that culture, and that international audiences will connect with? (That’s an issue with China right now, and they’re starting to talk about it here in Russia).

    In the interview you discussed several Action and Action-Thriller projects. Do you and your team also work with writers producing Comedies?

    Thank you, Adam.

    (And I’m sure that many other GITS readers have these same outside-of-California questions!).

    John Agerholm
    Moscow, Russia

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