Script Analysis: “Lincoln” – Part 1: Scene By Scene Breakdown

April 27th, 2015 by

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Major Plot Points
Wednesday: Sequences
Thursday: Psychological Journey
Friday: Takeaways

Today: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown. Here is my take on this exercise from a previous series of posts — How To Read A Screenplay:

After a first pass, it’s time to crack open the script for a deeper analysis and you can do that by creating a scene-by-scene breakdown. It is precisely what it sounds like: A list of all the scenes in the script accompanied by a brief description of the events that transpire.

For purposes of this exercise, I have a slightly different take on scene. Here I am looking not just for individual scenes per se, but a scene or set of scenes that comprise one event or a continuous piece of action. Admittedly this is subjective and there is no right or wrong, the point is simply to break down the script into a series of parts which you then can use dig into the script’s structure and themes.

The value of this exercise:

* We pare down the story to its most constituent parts: Scenes.

* By doing this, we consciously explore the structure of the narrative.

* A scene-by-scene breakdown creates a foundation for even deeper analysis of the story.

This week: Lincoln. You may download the script — free and legal — here: Lincoln.

Screenplay by Tony Kushner, book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

IMDb plot summary: As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

Lincoln

Scene by Scene Breakdown

By Paul Graunke

GoIntoTheStory.com

P1 Open with a scene of muddy and blood hand-to-hand fighting between Black Union soldiers and White Confederate soldiers.

P1-6 Lincoln talks to 2 Black soldiers about the battle and the upcoming siege of the harbor at Wilmington, NC. The Black soldiers point out the lack of equal pay and opportunity in the military. Two White soldiers interject themselves; one recites Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – until called to ranks. A Black soldier finishes reciting the Address.

P6-9 Lincoln tells his wife Mary another ominous dream. Mary insists a recent “carriage accident” was an attempted assassination on him. Lincoln declares his goal of getting an amendment to abolish slavery passed before his second inauguration. Mary thinks he’s wasting his time and squandering his political capital. The amendment bill is certain fail.

P10-11 Lincoln enters his office to find his son, Tad, who has fallen asleep on the floor while studying glass negatives of photographs of the war—and of Black children, near Todd’s age, being sold as slaves. While packing him off to bed, Tad whispers that he misses his brother Willie who died three years ago.

P11-14 After a very brief speech at a flag raising ceremony, Lincoln argues strategy with his Secretary of State, William Seward. Seward, too, fears the amendment will fail. He advises Lincoln to wait until after his second inauguration, until after the war is won. But Lincoln doesn’t want to. The question of obtaining votes by discrete political patronage is raised. Lincoln disavows resorting to blatantly “buying votes.”

P14-19 An interview with a petitioner shows Lincoln’s political dilemma: some favor the amendment in the short run as a military tactic to foreshorten the war – but they also fear the long term economic and social consequences of Blacks being free and equal.

P20-22 A meeting with Preston Blair, a prominent Republican, further underscores the political dilemma. Blair reminds Lincoln that most Republicans aren’t abolitionists. He agrees to throw his support behind the 13th amendment only if Lincoln allows him to pass through Union lines to discuss peace terms with Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, in Richmond.

P23-28 Lincoln’s reviews the war with his cabinet. The stakes for the battle for the port of Wilmington, NC are established: capturing the seaport will hasten the fall of the Confederacy. The discussion turns the political battle for the 13th Amendment. Lincoln explains why it is legally necessary. In spite of all the objections raised, Lincoln insists on getting the amendment passed and on his desk to sign by February 1st, 1865.

P29-30 In spite of protestations from the floor manager for the anti-slavery amendment bill, Lincoln insists he bring the amendment bill to the floor for debate in the House of Representatives and call for a vote by the end of January.

P30-31 The House leadership, including Thaddeus Stevens, leader of the radical Republicans, debates Lincoln’s tactics and motives.

P31-33 Seward instructs political operatives to offer patronage jobs to induce Democratic Congressmen to vote for the amendment. Lincoln’s name is not to be mentioned. The operatives point out that outright bribes would be more effective, but Seward rejects the idea.

P35-37 On January 9, 1865, the political battle is joined: debate in the House begins. The political operatives analyze prospects from the gallery while on the floor opposition leader, Fernando Wood, argues against the amendment. Thaddeus Steven ridicules Wood’s argument that giving Blacks the right to vote and intermarry violates natural law.

P37-40 Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert, arrives from Harvard and is warmly greeted by his mother, Mary. But a gap opens up between them: she expects him to return to Harvard in a few days, but he expresses reservations. He backs off from an open confrontation with her about enlisting.

P40-41 Preston Blair reports to Lincoln that Jefferson Davis agrees to send 3 commissioners. He urges Lincoln to negotiate peace terms.

P42-46 A series of short scenes where the political operatives offer lame duck Democrats patronage jobs with mixed results.

P47 Seward reports to Lincoln that the number of unsecured votes has been reduced from 20 to 13. But he has heard about Preston Blair’s mission to Richmond.

P48 The 3 Confederate peace commissioners cross into Union territory under a military escort of Black soldiers — much to their disdain and distress.

P48-50 Seward advises Lincoln that he must not meet the commissioners, that when word gets out of such a meeting, the amendment is doomed. Lincoln tells him to get the 13 votes before they arrive.

P50 The commissioners arrive at US Army Headquarters.

P50-52 As Lincoln dresses for a reception, Robert presses his case for being allowed to enlist in the war.

P53-54 Lincoln consoles his wife over the death of their son Willie, whose loss 3 years earlier she still mourns.

P54-58 In spite of her sorrow, Mary Lincoln rises to the occasion, radiates charm, at the reception. She also deploys her wit and her Kentucky accent to charm and mock some politicians, including Thaddeus Stevens, who, in times past, criticized her spending and suspected her of Southern sympathies.

P58-59 In a tête-à-tête, Lincoln urges Thaddeus Stevens to throttle his temper in order to facilitate passage of the amendment.

P60 An argument Lincoln has with Robert about enlisting is interrupted by a message that the shelling of Wilmington harbor has begun.

P61-63 In the telegraph office, Secretary of War Stanton impatiently waits for news about Wilmington. He stomps out in order not to hear Lincoln tell another of folksy story as he patiently waits. The news arrives that Wilmington has fallen–

P64-66 — but with many causalities. Aware that the Republicans are ‘buying’ votes while they wait for the national mood to turn against Lincoln and the amendment, Fernando Wood, the leader of the opposition, is encouraged to bait Thaddeus Stevens, incite him to say something that will undermine support for the amendment among moderates. Meanwhile, debate rages on the floor of the House.

P67-68 A key lame duck representative vacillates in voting for the amendment, so the political operative assigned to him makes an offer he (finally) cannot refuse.

P68-69 Rumors about the peace delegation from Richmond complicate the political operatives’ effort to win remaining votes. And risk their losing those already obtained.

P69-71 Ulysses S. Grant keeps the peace commissioners cooling their heels, rejecting their terms.

P71-72 Lincoln and Seward ponder the horns of the dilemma they are trapped between: they can have certain peace within a week, or pass the 13th Amendment – maybe – within ten days. But they can’t have both.

P72-76 After pondering the human toll of the war as he pardons yet another soldier, Lincoln gives a telegraph operator a message to tell Grant to convey the peace commissioners to Washington. But after reflecting on the principle of equality, Lincoln reconsiders, amends the message to have them conveyed only as far as Hampton Roads.

P77-81 Try as they might, the amendment’s opponents cannot get Thaddeus Stevens to rise to their rhetorical bait.

P81-82 Lincoln visits an army hospital with Robert. Despite the human suffering he sees, the butchered body parts, Robert insists he will enlist. The argument builds to a climax: Lincoln slaps Robert’s face when he accuses his father of acting out of fear of Mary, more than fear of him being killed.

P84-86 The showdown with Mary after Lincoln gives Robert his consent to enlist. Even though he will be posted far from the front line, she is distraught. This precipitates the climax of the conflict, the disunity, in their relationship focused around the death of Willie.

P87 Lincoln’s public and private conflicts are joined when Mary Lincoln makes the passage of the 13th amendment personal: “Since you are sending my son into the war, woe unto you if you fail to pass the amendment… You will answer to me.”

P87-88 Lincoln has a frank discussion with Elizabeth Keckley, a Black woman, dressmaker and confidant to Mary Lincoln, about the stakes and consequences of the war and the amendment.

P88-91 At last, Lincoln gets personally involved as the battle for votes comes down to the finish line.

P89-93 Per Lincoln’s suggestion, a Democrat approaches Thaddeus Stevens to cut a political deal in exchange for his vote.

P94-99 Lincoln brings the full force of his office and personality to bear on securing the remaining votes.

P99-102 The day of reckoning: the vote on the anti-slavery amendment. But it is delayed when a leading opponent reveals that the peace commissioners are on their way to Washington.

P102-104 Lincoln sends a note assuring the House that there are no peace commissioners in Washington.

P105-113 Voting begins… and after stringing out the voting for all the historical and histrionic drama its worth… the amendment passes by two votes.

P113-114 The winners celebrate. Thaddeus Steven asks for the official bill which he takes home…

P114-115 …and reads to his Black mistress.

P116-118 Lincoln meets with the peace commissioners in Hampton Roads. They bargain for the rebel states being re-admitted to the Union ASAP so they can vote against the 13th Amendment. Lincoln does the math for them: they won’t be able to muster enough states to defeat the amendment.

P118-119 Lincoln visits the ruins of Petersburg, Virginia and confers with General Grant on post-war issues.

P120-121 Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox. The war is over.

P121-122 On a buggy ride through spring time Washington, the Lincolns look forward to happier times.

P122-123 Lincoln goes out for the evening to Ford’s Theater.

P123-124 At another theater, Tad Lincoln screams in horror when it is announced that the President has been shot.

P124-125 He belongs to the ages.

P125-126 The movie closes with a flashback: Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Address.

Writing Exercise: I encourage you to read the script, but short of that, if you’ve seen the movie, go through this scene-by-scene breakdown. What stands out to you about it from a structural standpoint?

If you’d like a PDF of the Lincoln script scene-by-scene breakdown, go here.

Major kudos to Paul Graunke for doing this week’s breakdown.

Tomorrow: We zero in on the major plot points in Lincoln.

This series started here and we have 26 volunteers to do scene-by-scene breakdowns of contemporary movie scripts. The scripts we have already analyzed are in italics.

American Hustle: Jon Raymond
Argo: Nora Barry
Barney’s Version: John M
Belle: DaniM
Beginners: Ali
Boyhood: Jacob Jensen
Enough Said: Ali
Flight: 14Shari
Frankenwenie: Will King
Frozen: Christina Sekeris
Gone Girl: NateKohler1
Gravity: Matt Duriez
Hanna: John Arends
Lincoln: Paul Graunke
Looper: erikledrew
Moonrise Kingdom: Daniel Bigler
Mud: Alejandro
Paranorman: OhScotty
Prisoners: Melinda Mahaffey Icden
Short Term 12: Carolina Groppa
The Artist: Traci Nell Peterson
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Rob Hoskins
The Social Network: Nick Dykal
The Way Way Back: Ricky
Wadjda: iamdaniel
Whiplash: Steven Broughton

If you’d like to participate and do a scene-by-scene breakdown yourself, please indicate which script in comments or email me. We are using scripts available on our site here.

For new volunteers and those who have already volunteered, but not sent me a breakdown yet, please do so as soon as possible. Thanks!

Circling back to where we started, reading scripts is hugely important. Analyzing them even more so. If you want to work in Hollywood as a writer, you need to develop your critical analytical skills. This is one way to do that.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in comments about this week’s script: Lincoln.

Movie Trailer: “The Visit”

April 27th, 2015 by

Written by M. Night Shyamalan

A single mother finds that things in her family’s life go very wrong after her two young children visit their grandparents.

IMDb

Release Date: 11 September 2015 (USA)

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 27

April 27th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April.

Today’s story: The “Flying Squadron” of Catherine de Medici’s Sex Spies.

This story emerged from research I was doing on – of all things – artichokes. While going down the long tail of the Internet, I stumbled across this item about Catherine de Medici:

Catherine scandalized French society with her addiction to artichokes, which had the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. She also encouraged her entourage to eat artichokes, particularly the L’ escadron volant (the flying squadron), a bevy of beautiful girls who were coached as “spies of the couch”, bedding down with the influential nobles. The L’ escadron volant traveled everywhere with Catherine, a sort of whorehouse on wheels. By the end Catherine’s reign, artichokes had become one of the most popular French vegetables.

That struck me as interesting, so I switched from artichokes to this “flying squadron”. I found this

Until recently, the rule of Catherine de Medici (1519-89), Queen Mother and regent of France, has been depicted as dependent on her inherently `Italian’ and ‘female’ skills of manipulation and deception, culminating in the legend of the ‘wicked Italian queen’. Xenophobic stereotypes of corruption and sexual deviance were extended to describe her domineer-ing exploitation of her ladies-in-waiting, known colloquially by later historians as her escadron volant (flying squadron). She allegedly ordered these women to seduce and spy on influential noblemen, and their collective reputation has been used to discredit Catherine’s abilities as both a negotiator and a leader. For example, a 1584 satirical verse described her entourage with the lines, “Catin, you are fortunate/To have a stable of whores “? The metaphor of Catherine’s entourage as a stable (haras translates directly as ‘stud farm’) of women from whom she could choose the most suitable to seduce unsuspecting men was developed and exagger-ated until by the late twentieth century a literary scholar could describe the court thus:

Perhaps we need to recognize just how hypnotic this team of sexual Machiavels seemed to contemporaries. They were supposedly quite without prudery or inhibitions: after crises like the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre they distracted Catherine by dancing before her naked, and to celebrate the royal victory at La Charite, they served a sumptuous meal naked but for a wisp of material around their hips, while the king himself reports that the ‘Mattresses d’h8tel’ for the dinner, the irresistible madame de Sauves and the duchesse de Retz, wore nothing at all.

—-

The flying squadron is not a myth. The queen did not disdain the collaboration of the ladies of her household in order to accelerate or complete political negotiations.

Myth or not, my imagination went to a female version of The Three Musketeers. Or a Medieval “Charlie’s Angels” with Catherine de Medici playing the part of Charlie.

In an era of all sorts of political intrigue, we are talking about a bevy of women who, while certainly willing to use their physical charms to disarm targets and opponents, are skilled in the Art of War as well as the Art of Love. Fencing. Gunpowder. Knives. Poisons. Indeed, Catherine could have assembled a phalanx of international instructors to teach the members of her Flying Squadron fighting skills from around the world.

Pick a plot with geopolitical implications. Set the women into motion. A sexy action adventure yarn with plenty of fisticuffs, espionage, and explosions along with a healthy dose of action-humor.

There you go: My twenty seventh story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

On Writing

April 27th, 2015 by

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”

— Jane Yolen

Daily Dialogue — April 27, 2015

April 27th, 2015 by

Korben Dallas: You in charge?
Fog: (nervously) Yeah.
Korben Dallas: How many of them are there?
Fog: I..I dunno.

Korben trades places with Fog and peaks around the corner.

Korben Dallas: Seven on the left, five on the right.

Korben shoots across the lineup of Mangalores, then ducks back around the wall.

Korben Dallas: Three on the right, two on the left. We need to find the leader. Mangalores won’t fight without the leader.
Aknot: One more shot, and we start killing hostages!
Korben Dallas: That’s the leader.
Aknot: Send someone to negotiate.
Fog: Uh, I, I, I…I’ve never negotiated.
Korben Dallas: Do you mind if I try?
Fog: No, no, sure, sure. Sorry. [shouting] We’re sending somebody in to negotiate!

Corben walks into the room and shoots Aknot between the eyes.

Korben Dallas: Anybody else want to negotiate?
Fog: Wh-wh-wh-where did he learn to negotiate like that?
President Lindberg: I wonder.

The Fifth Element (1997), screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, story by Luc Besson

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Stammer. Today’s suggestion by Will King.

Trivia: Luc Besson wrote the original screenplay when he was in high school.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Will King: “The use of nervous stammer in this scene establishes the relative strengths between Dallas and Fog. Both are in the same situation, both stressed from battle, but Korben remains confident in speech while Fog stammers under duress.”

May: Classic 50s Movie Month (Update)

April 26th, 2015 by

In December 2013, we had a series called Classic 80s Movies Month in which I invited readers to select noteworthy movies from the decade of the eighties and provide a condensed overview of it. That resulted in this: A list of links to movies you should know about. Then in May 2014, we did the same thing for 90s movies. Here is a link to that archive.

Those series went so well, I thought why not do this for more decades? Over time, we will aggregate a decade by decade resource I can point people to who know they need to watch movies, but might not have an idea which ones.

So last September, we did the 70s. You can check out those archived posts here. In January, we did the 60s which you can check out here.

Let’s make May 50s Movies Month.

I’m looking for 21 volunteers to write guest posts to go live Monday through Friday in May, each entry featuring a 50s movie you think screenwriters should know about and hopefully at some point watch. If more people volunteer, then we can expand the series into 31 posts.

Here is a template you can use for your guest post:

Movie Title

Year

Writers (screenwriters and any authors whose books were used as the basis for adaptation)

Lead Actors (Just the main ones)

Director

IMDb Plot Summary (You can find that directly under the Your Rating box. If you don’t feel the summary does the story justice, feel free to write up a logline of your own.)

Why I Think This Is A Classic 70s Movie (Feel free to write as much as you’d like up to a half-page or so.)

My Favorite Moment In The Movie

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie (IMDB has a Quotes section for almost every movie, so you can find key dialogue in your movie’s site.)

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie

Please use this exact template to help me in the editing process.

If you need to look at some examples of previous posts, go here, here, here, or here and click on any link.

If you can find a YouTube clip from the film or its trailer, please include that URL.

When you are done with your guest post, you may simply copy and paste the content into an email to me or create a Word document and attach it to an email.

I will run the posts in the order I receive them.

If you are interested in doing a guest post, please indicate in Comments or send me an email with the movie you would like to cover.

Here is an updated list of 10 fine folks who have already volunteered [those italicized have already sent me their posts]:

A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Kiss Me Deadly – jhenderson
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – uncgym44
Seven Samurai, The – PaulG
Some Like It Hot – Will King

Looking for more volunteers. Click REPLY, see you in comments, and thanks!

Interview: Aaron Guzikowski

April 26th, 2015 by

One of the best movies of 2013 was Prisoners, written by Aaron Guzikowski, directed by Denis Villeneuve, and starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to have an hour-long conversation with Aaron about his background as a writer, his work on Prisoners, his involvement in the new Sundance Channel TV series “The Red Road” and his thoughts on the craft of screenwriting.

Here are links to the six installments of the entire interview:

Part 1: “I sent a query letter to three management companies in LA that I randomly pulled out of the Hollywood Creative Directory and one of those responded. The guy is Adam Kolbrenner who is my manager today.”

Part 2: “I wrote a lot of drafts. The basic story always kind of remained the same, but I think it was just trying to find the best way to maximize all the elements and figure out who and what to focus on and when.”

Part 3: “I’m not a practicing Catholic, but I often make connections to Catholic iconography or Bible stories, and things like that. It’s an attractive thing to layer into certain types of stories.”

Part 4: “I think any pressure that actually causes people to change and behave in ways that are totally different than how they would normally. It’s always interesting inside of a movie like this or any movie.”

Part 5: “I like movies where certain things, even though you can infer what’s going to happen, are left slightly ambiguous. The movie ends and you’re still thinking about what happens next is always something I’ve enjoyed in movies.”

Part 6: “I think it’s all just finding ways to trick your mind into not knowing that you’re rewriting, that you’re not working on the same material endlessly.”

Aaron is repped by Verve and Madhouse Entertainment.

Screenwriting News (April 20-April 26, 2015)

April 26th, 2015 by

Ben August adapting action thriller novel “The Swimmer” for Kamala Films, Thunder Road Pictures and Film House Germany.

Alev Aydin adapting short film “Controller” for Fox.

Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow sell comedy pitch “White Boy Problems” to MGM and New Line.

Will Beall writing Robin Hood project for Warner Bros.

Michael Green writing “Wolverine” for Fox.

Eric Heisserer adapting comic book “Harbinger” for Sony.

Niall Leonard adapting “Fifty Shades Darker” for Universal.

Damon Lindelof renews overall deal with Warner Bros. TV.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller writing treatment for animated “Spider-Man” for Sony.

Katie Lovejoy adapting YA novel “The Selection” for Warner Bros.

Justin Marks sets up sci-fi thriller series “Counterpart” at Starz.

Richard D’Ovidio sells action spec script “Eye in the Sky” to Millennium.

Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve writing “Captain Marvel” for Disney.

Thomas Schnauz writing “Beanstalk” for Disney.

Andrew Weiss writing White Boy Rick project for Protozoa Pictures.

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 26

April 26th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April.

Today’s story: Family gives homeless, dying dog the best days of his life.

Butch the Boston terrier had a rough life, but for one week, he knew what it was like to be loved.

After being abandoned by his owners in Pinson, Alabama, Butch spent two years on the street, eating garbage and barely surviving through the harsh winter. Alicia Buzbee and her daughter, Kansas Humphrey, found Butch before Thanksgiving, and rushed him to the vet, who shared the bad news: Butch had a swollen heart, limited lung capacity, and a leaky trachea. For his sake, a humane euthanasia was the right thing to do.

Buzbee and Humphrey agreed, but not before asking to delay the euthanasia so Butch could experience joy in his final days. The pair took him to the fire station and to meet Santa, and a big party filled with presents was held in his honor at a local park.

He ate cheeseburgers and pumpkin pie, and snuggled against Humphrey at night.

—-

After Thanksgiving, though, Butch took a turn for the worse, and on Saturday, with his new family by his side, he died. Buzbee made sure she looked into his eyes as he went, and told him how much she loved him. “I want him to hear those words and see those faces of the people who love him,” she said.

Out of curiosity, I Googled “dying dog movies” and there are a lot. For example, here is a list called The 25 Most Traumatic Dog Deaths in Movies. Having written a movie in which a police dog gets shot in the line of duty and almost dies, I’ve gone down this path before.

It’s emotional stuff.

So what if we did something like the last act of Terms of Endearment, only instead of Debra Winger, the dying patient is this fellah:

That’s Butch from the story cited above. A community rallies around the dog who transforms them in the process before passing away. Not a dry eye in the house.

There you go: My twenty sixth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

Interview (Written): David Goyer

April 26th, 2015 by

The Script Lab interview with David S. Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins, Man of Steel):

JB: David, I have heard pieces of how you got into screenwriting, but would you mind giving me the full A-Z? What initially drew you into this medium of storytelling?

DSG: I was always interested in writing.  I wrote tons of short stories when I was in grade school and junior high.  And I was a voracious reader.  In junior high, I won a national writing award.  Having said that, writing didn’t seem like a viable career path growing up in Michigan.  I planned, instead, on becoming a homicide detective.  I was going to go to Michigan State and get a degree in criminal justice.  Some teachers of mine intervened and told me about the screenwriting program at USC.  USC seemed like a longshot as well, but I was accepted to their undergraduate screenwriting program.  That said, I managed to get kicked out of beginning screenwriting my first year!  (I clashed with my teacher.)  Eventually, after appealing to the dean, I was reinstated.  I managed to secure an agent while still attending USC.  I wrote A LOT.  I graduated with 4 scripts under my belt, whereas a lot of my classmates had only turned out one.  I ended up selling my first screenplay about 6 months after I graduated.  A thriller called Dusted, which was reconceived into a Jean-Claude Van Damme project.  That film was made in ’89.  Not high art, but it was successful and I was able to stay on the film during production.  It wasn’t until I wrote the script for Blade, though, that my career really started taking off.

JB: Do you think you gravitate towards a specific genre? Or do you enjoy writing all genres of screenwriting/movies?

DSG: I tend to gravitate towards darker, edgier drama.  I enjoy writing other genres, but even with the best of intentions, I suppose I have gotten pigeon-holed, to a certain extent.  One of the reasons I leapt at the chance to do a show about Da Vinci was because it was a period piece (which I had never done before) and because it involved a certain amount of witty repartee.  I’m told I can be funny (despite my reputation for darkness).  But I suppose you’d have to ask my associates about that.

For the rest of the interview, go here.