Interview (Written): Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman (“Draft Day”)

April 19th, 2014 by

An interesting interview, a journal of events with screenwriters Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman about the writing, sale and production of their movie Draft Day. An excerpt:

Mid-2011: “We partied like we won the Olympics.”

S: This part is going to kill a lot of screenwriters: Rajiv got approached by the Sundance Institute, which asked if he wanted to submit a script for their screenwriting lab. It was around the time we were thinking we would start writing this thing, but the deadline was two weeks away. That’s when having spent eight months talking about it really helped. I basically slept at Rajiv’s place in Brooklyn, and we worked non-stop for two weeks on a script. It’s not the draft you see onscreen, but it was halfway decent for two weeks of coffee and bourbon and no sleep and constant writing.

R: After we submitted it we sat there wondering, “Did we just hand in something that made no sense at all?” Then we made it to the semi-finals, which meant we had to have a phone interview. The call happened, and we thought it went well, so we went out and partied like we won the Olympics. Then we didn’t make the finals. But since we had assumed we were going to win, we had put this week in January, the week of the lab, into our calendars. So we said, well f–k that, let’s use this week we had set aside to whip the script into shape.

S: We hadn’t said anything about the project to our agents because it didn’t seem like something they would get that excited about — it required the NFL and was kind of a smaller movie.

R: We finally showed it to our manager, Josh, when we handed it to Sundance. He gave us a lot of notes that guided the re-write. But even then, being that it was our first time writing together, we were really thinking that maybe someone would just be impressed enough to give us another job.

S: Thankfully our reps really responded to it, and ran with it.

R: It was a slow burn, where people started hearing about it and then wanted to read it.

April-June 2012: “Everything he said held true. That probably screwed us up for every movie hereafter.”

S: As it happened, I was going out to L.A. to pitch another project. It was a reboot of Private Benjamin, so you know my career was going just swimmingly.

R: I came to L.A. for some meetings and to see a friend in a play.

S: So both of us happened to be in L.A., and I got off the flight and had a message saying that Ivan Reitman had read the script, could I meet with him that day? Neither of us even knew he had gotten it. We met him the next day at CAA, and he basically said, “I love this script, and wanna make this movie. We want you guys to be partners in this. You’ll be there every step of the way.” And everything he said to us held true. That probably screwed us up for every movie hereafter.

June 2012: “We did a rewrite that got kicked up to the Paramount studio heads.”

S: Before long. Ivan was able to get Paramount to consider the script.

R: It was June 18-19 that we were in the whole negotiation.

S: There was other interest in the project, which made that week very exciting — we tried to play out all these scenarios and determine the best way to get this thing made. That turned out to be sticking with Ivan. After Paramount bought the script, a great executive over there, David Beaubaire, gave us notes, and we did a rewrite that got kicked up to one of the studio heads. By this point, Ivan had gotten Kevin Costner attached to the project. Even so, one of the muckety-mucks at Paramount said no.

Fall 2012: “The difference with ours was that Ivan wanted to direct it.”

S: The acquisition gave Paramount a certain amount of time to decide what they wanted to do with the project. After passing on it, they could have tied it up for a year. Instead, they gave us a great gift — they put us in turnaround, which allowed us to take the movie wherever we wanted.

We always believed Ivan would find a place, but that it would take a while. His company, Montecito, had probably 10-20 movies in development. The difference with ours was that Ivan wanted to direct it. So we had that, but the company was juggling a lot, including Ghostbusters III. We wanted to shoot in the fall, and thought we lost our window.

December 2012: “We were the people who topped The Black List.”

S: Because we’re idiots, we had no idea the situation was bad. We had this blind faith in Ivan, and were optimistic it was gonna work out. I don’t think anyone was telling us bad news. Then The Black List came out, and we were at the top. That got the script going again — and was a huge bump for us as writers. We were the people that topped the list. I’m sure that had something to do with the script being more enticing to Lion’s Gate, which picked up the movie right after the new year.

For the rest of the interview, go here.

Interview: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman

April 13th, 2014 by

Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman wrote the script Draft Day which landed at the top of the 2012 Black List. Subsequently Lionsgate produced the movie starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary, and directed by Ivan Reitman.

Rajiv Joseph, Scott Rothman

In March, 2013, I interviewed Rajiv and Scott while they were in Cleveland during the film’s production, and I’m happy to share that wide-ranging conversation

Part 1: “It was totally on spec, we weren’t doing this for anybody. I think I might have mentioned it to one of my agents who was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, whatever.’”

Part 2: “The fun part and the challenge of it, that turns into the fun part, was finding the right character to put in that situation and how we see bonds…apart from the stress of the football stuff and the draft, what was going on in this character’s personal life that could really rev things up a few notches.”

Part 3: “You’re always looking to invent a ticking clocks to some degree, and that was one of the amazing things we knew as soon as the idea pop up that we had that, that we didn’t…that was completely organic to the story. There literally is a ticking clock.”

Part 4: “I’m a big believer in that, at the end of the day, you really write the stories you most want to tell. It’s a labor of love.

Part 5: “I think that plays are just much different than movies and there’s both more freedom in writing plays, but also a starker danger in writing something really boring.”

Part 6: “You need to put your ego aside, and know, if you have a sneaking suspicion that something sucks, it sucks, every time. Every single time.”

Rajiv is repped by Gersh and Kaplan / Perrone.

Scott is repped by CAA and Kaplan / Perrone.

Twitter: @scottmrothman, @RajivAJoseph, @DraftDayMovie.

Interview: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman (“Draft Day”) – Part 6

April 12th, 2014 by

Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman wrote the script Draft Day which landed at the top of the 2012 Black List. Subsequently Lionsgate produced the movie starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary, and directed by Ivan Reitman.

In March, 2013, I interviewed Rajiv and Scott while they were in Cleveland during the film’s production, and I’m happy to share that wide-ranging conversation this week as Draft Day opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 11.

Today in Part 6, Rajiv and Scott reflect on the ups and downs of writing, and provide some advice for aspiring writers:

Scott M:  What do you think about when you’re writing a scene? Do you have specific goals in mind?

Scott R:  Just to be entertaining, move the story along, surprise ourselves. Have something in there that makes it worth being shot.

Rajiv:  Yeah, that’s especially been a nice surprise for us as we’re watching some of these be shot. In the last few days, I see a scene and, “Oh, God, that’s a nothing scene! I can’t believe we’re that all these people are working to make this one…” We’ll watch it, and I’m like, “That’s not a nothing scene at all! It seems vitally important to the script.” I’m glad that we’re surprising ourselves, because we’re a little separate from the script at this point. To see these scenes come to life is really great, and it reminds you why every scene has to matter.

Scott R:  One of the big lessons I learned, when I wrote that script that got me into NYU. It wasn’t this great script, but it was definitely better than anything I had done prior. I had made a terrible movie with one of my really good friends in San Francisco a while ago. It was so much fun making a movie, but the script was terrible. I didn’t know it was terrible until we started shooting it and I saw it come to life. I knew I didn’t care enough about it, and no one else was going to care anything about it either, because of that. I think that was the first big jump my writing took, and I think why I was able to finally write something that was halfway decent, was like, “It needs to matter.”

It needs to matter to you. You’re not just doing this to entertain yourself, or to show that you can do it. It’s got to be much bigger than that. It needs a reason to exist and a reason for other people to rally behind it.

Scott M:  That’s interesting and well said. How about the scene description? Most script readers hate reading it because it’s longer than dialogue. What are you thinking about when you’re writing scene descriptions?

Rajiv:  That’s Scott’s forte, and he gets furious with me for going on, and on, and on. I have had to teach myself to be more terse with it. I think it goes along with the scene. He wants the experience of reading this to be like any other story. You don’t want someone to even be conscious that they’re reading stage directions, which is a challenge.

Scott M:  How about when you finish a first draft, and you’re faced with the rewriting process. I know you said you guys rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, but what are the bases on which you’re judging whether it’s good or bad, or not working, or working?

Rajiv:  Friends. [laughter]

Scott R:  I think time away from the script is very helpful, to look at it with fresh eyes. After a few weeks, to put it aside when you’re done. You need to put your ego aside, and know, if you have a sneaking suspicion that something sucks, it sucks, every time. Every single time. You just need to be confident enough that you can make it better, or cut it and come up else. Particularly as a comedy writer, it was painful when I’d write a joke that I loved and made me laugh. I knew it just had no place, it was only there to make me laugh. It was always painful to cut those kinds of things. But as I did it more and more, it got easier and easier. You should know, or have a sense of when you’re doing good, and when you’re doing bad. It’s that Hemingway bullshit detector thing.

Scott M:  Just a couple more questions. What is your actual writing process? When you’re together, do you tend to write every day, or sporadic bursts? Do you work separately and email each other things? Do you work together? How do you guys write?

Rajiv:  All of the above. We work together and separate. We don’t write every day. I know that I’m a binge writer, we’re fueled by deadlines. My favorite way of working with Scott is us in the same kind of basic area. We wrote much of Draft Day in my apartment, him in my living room, me in my kitchen. Shouting questions at each other, but mostly just writing our 15 pages and then swapping and going back over them. Usually, we worked towards a certain moment where we could get our pages done, and then we’d have a drink and eat a good meal. That’s a very rewarding writing experience.

Scott R:  At least in the early stages, as Rajiv alluded to earlier, it’s a lot of talking. It’s a lot of us going for walks and breaking story, and asking each other questions. That’s the fun part, just talking through some stuff. When it comes down to the actual writing, we like working together, but we can also work alone and email back and forth. I’m not sure how other writing teams do it, but I don’t think it’s essential to be in the same room, once you have broken the story and you know what you’re going to do. Like we said, we usually give each other…we have a beat sheet. I’ll take 1‑6, you’ll take 7‑13, or whatever. Then we email that back and forth, then have another conversation or two, then get back into the re‑writing. It’s not just one person taping and giving dictation.

Scott M:  OK, here’s a fun question. What’s your single best excuse not to write?

Scott R:  Mine’s my kids, that’s an easy one. Then second…everything else. [laughs] Food, coffee, museums, TV, ESPN.com, it is a constant, minute‑to‑minute battle between me and everything else my mind and body want to do. I find writing to be a huge struggle. It is not a fun process for me on a day‑to‑day basis. I think it’s Dorothy Parker, I love that quote, “I hate writing but I love having it written.” That is exactly how I feel about it.

Scott M:  How about you, Rajiv?

Rajiv:  I don’t hate writing as much as Scott, but I am as bad or I’m actually a much worse procrastinator, I think, than he is, because I just feel like unless there’s a white‑hot urgency to get something done, I just figure, why do it? My biggest procrastinations are just being social. They always say that a writer’s life is a solitary one, and so mine’s not. Yes, that’s the basic thing that Scott says, the world around you. But it’s important to write things that you’re passionate about. Having a writing partner certainly helps that, because when Scott’s writing his pages, I know I should be writing mine.

Scott M:  That great quote that the best thing about writing is having written, but apart from that, what do you love most about writing?

Scott R:  I still, and I hope I never lose this and I guess I will stop writing when I do, I still am constantly amazed at some of the things that come out of my head and on the page. Even though we’ve talked through our process, talking extensively about a thing and then writing an outline, which is the most boring document in the world to create and also to read, I am still constantly surprising myself on the page. That is everything. That makes me extremely happy and without that, I wouldn’t write. As much of a slog as it is to sit down and stare at the computer, I know that if I do it long enough that I’ll have one of those moments. If I could have that moment once a day, then it’s been a good day of writing.

Scott M:  Rajiv, do you have any thoughts on that? What you love most about writing?

Rajiv:  I get a real charge out of having written something. I like going back and reading stuff that I have written that makes me proud. I feel like being a creative person, in general, is a very good life, whether you’re making money for it or not. I think it’s part of the reason are human beings. That might sound cheesy, but that’s certainly is something I believe very deep down in my bones.

Scott R:  I also love not having to have a “real job,” which is something I’ve tried to avoid my entire life. I feel so blessed that I’ve found a way to make a life doing this thing that I love, and I love being a screenwriter. It seemed so impossible 15 years ago, when I started. I love being able to say that and have no reservations about saying that. I love being a screenwriter, I love other screenwriters, I love the craft of screenwriting. I feel very honored to be in this very small, select group of people who are able to do it for a living.

Scott M:  That certainly takes me into the last questions. What advice can you offer to aspiring screenwriters about learning the craft and breaking into Hollywood?

Scott R:  One of the things I see a lot is people saying, “I don’t love romantic comedies, but that’s what’s selling. I’m going to write a stupid romantic comedy, but then I’m going to be able to do the thing I love to do.” That’s not really how it works, that’s not the way I see it working. You have to care really deeply, and love what you’re writing, because that’s the only thing that’s going to connect with people. Even when I was writing my stupid fart comedies, I loved those things. I still love those things, and I wanted those to be the best fart comedies ever, ever, ever made. I hope that that’s what got them across the finish line for some people, that I said, even though they were stupid, they weren’t stupid to me and I cared as much writing “Frat Boy” as Steven Zaillian did writing Schindler’s List. I can say that with a straight face, as ridiculous as it sounds.

Rajiv:  Our first screenwriting teacher that we had was a guy named Charlie Purpura, who we both loved, literally. He passed away a few years ago. He always had this story that I loved. It was very comforting, whether it was true or not, but I think “Draft Day” at least proved that there’s some level of truth to it. Which is that you can’t think about what people are going to love, or what’s going to sell, you have to think about what would you consider a great screenplay? If you write a legitimately great screenplay, and you go down your basement and you bury it there in the cement, the next day there’s going to be 10 people digging it up. I think that the idea behind that is that you can’t predict what people are going to like, you can’t predict what’s going to sell. What you can do is pay attention to the stories that matter to you and go ahead and write them.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Part 5, here.

Rajiv is repped by Gersh and Kaplan / Perrone.

Scott is repped by CAA and Kaplan / Perrone.

Twitter: @scottmrothman, @RajivAJoseph, @DraftDayMovie.

Interview: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman (“Draft Day”) – Part 5

April 11th, 2014 by

Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman wrote the script Draft Day which landed at the top of the 2012 Black List. Subsequently Lionsgate produced the movie starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary, and directed by Ivan Reitman.

In March, 2013, I interviewed Rajiv and Scott while they were in Cleveland during the film’s production, and I’m happy to share that wide-ranging conversation this week as Draft Day opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 11.

Today in Part 5, Rajiv and Scott share their thoughts on some aspects of the screenwriting craft:

Scott M:  I’d like to ask some craft questions, if you don’t mind. Here’s the first one. How do you come up with story ideas?

Rajiv:  Like I said, with my friend, she said this thing that popped for me, and it popped for Scott. Scott and I sit around, we love breaking stories together. We love hearing a story in the news, or talking with somebody else, or just coming up with stuff. We love to sit around and just talk about stories, and how we would write them. The ones that continued to interest us after about 10 minutes of talking start to find their way into our notebooks.

Scott R:  Just on the most simplistic level, if we hear something, or you quickly have an idea, if it pops for both of us…If I have an idea and its 3:00 in the morning, I’m going to text Rajiv at 3:00 in the morning and see what he thinks. If it has legs, and it’s something that we continue to talk about as we’re going out and maybe sharing a few adult beverages with each other, then we know that it’s definitely something that is going to intrigue us and interest enough to actually sit down and write the story, which to me is the hardest part.

Scott M:  That leads into my next question. In terms of breaking the story, and prep writing, you think you spend a year with that with Draft Day. Is your process to end up with a very thorough outline?

Rajiv:  Yes.

Scott R:  It is. Draft Day was a little weird because we were all set to go on Draft Day, then Rajiv’s play hit, and Robin Williams got attached, and they went to Broadway. It turned out to be a great thing for us. We put Draft Day on hold for eight or nine months, while the Broadway community opened their arms wide for the hottest new playwright in town. We were able to break story and talk about it in a very informal way, to the point where we really knew this. By the time it got time to write, it came out very, very quickly. To answer your question, yeah, we both believe in a very thorough outline, of really cracking the story. I think that’s where you make your money. That’s where the thing either dies on the vine or becomes something special. If you can break it there…you’re going to have surprises when you go to write the draft, but to me if you don’t have the underlying structure of the thing, you’re just running around in circles.

Scott M:  Rajiv, following up on that, is that the same approach that you’re using when you’re writing plays?

Rajiv:  No, almost never. Sometimes I know where I’m going with a play, sometimes I don’t. I think that plays are just much different than movies and there’s both more freedom in writing plays, but also a starker danger in writing something really boring. [laughs] The great thing about working with Scott is that he’s a true blue screenwriter. I have a real hard time with screenplays without his writing.

Scott M:  Let’s talk about character development here. It’s interesting, Rajiv’s got the play writing background and Scott, you’re more of a screenwriter. I’d be curious to see how you go about developing your characters. In Draft Day, how did you populate that story universe for the characters? How did you develop them? Are there any specific tools that you used, or techniques?

Rajiv:  Again, for me it’s Scott. It’s a lot about the cross‑talking. It’s a lot of bullshitting with each other, and trying to make each other laugh, and trying to think of cool ideas and characters that mean something. With Draft Day, what we had a lot of was, “It would be cool if that one moment in the movie just happened,” or like, “One moment in the movie this guy said this,” or, “If the one moment in the movie…” We weren’t even planning out when, or where, or how, or why. You have to think of cool moments that if you left the movie, “How about that moment when this happened…?” That’s what you often do with movies. Some of them found their way into our script and some of them didn’t. It had to do with the pacing of it and all that. I always feel like the fundamental rule for me is that you have to write what you find really funny, and really interesting to yourself, and to your friends. If you’re not writing that stuff, chances are it’s just going to be boring.

Scott R:  I remember I read an interview with Steven Gaghan, the writer of Traffic and a bunch of other stuff. He was saying when he first started out, I can remember he was being mentored by a veteran screenwriter. I can’t remember who it was. Steven Gaghan kept saying, “I thought of this really cool idea, but there’s no way, it’s too crazy, and it’ll never make the movie. The guy taught him that’s exactly the thing, that everything else is bullshit. It’s only those things that you find cool and crazy that you need to figure out a way to make those moments the thing in your script. That’s the stuff that’s going to get through development and really connect with people. That really stuck with me, and I couldn’t agree more with Rajiv, that really is our process. “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and we both respect each others’ taste on what those cool moments would be.

Scott M:  How about dialogue? How do you go about finding your character’s voices?

Scott R:  I just write all the dialogue, and Rajiv punctuates it.

Rajiv:  I’m good on punctuation, and formatting.

[laughter]

Rajiv:  That’s something we go back and forth on. Generally, when we’re writing something, Scott will write pages one through 15, and I’ll write 16 through 30, then we’ll switch. The rule is we can change whatever we want, both in story and in dialogue. That generally works for us. Sometimes we get into mini fights about, “Why’d you take that line out? I liked that line!” I’ll tell Scott, “It was just bad.” [laughter]

Scott R:  The best way that works is that we keep going back and forth, constantly rewriting each other. To the point where I honestly, I’m sure other people say this all the time, but I honestly don’t know what parts of Draft Day I wrote and which parts Rajiv wrote. It really does, by the end of the process, become this one voice.

Scott M:  Here’s a question that comes up, theme. How would you define theme?

Rajiv:  I feel that every story has to have an idea that transcends the action and the characters. We had a number of things for Draft Day, that this is a story about blank. This is a story about instinct versus logic, this is a story about character versus talent, this is a story about fathers and sons. This is the kind of thing that helps me and Scott think about, “Why are we writing this to begin with?” We can both write funny, cute dialogue until we’re blue in the face and it’s not going to mean anything. Always, no matter how silly a movie might be, I think there has to be some deeper idea that’s its soul. I find myself thinking about that a lot, especially when I find I’m discouraged by a piece of writing.

Scott R:  I got to say, just as a counterpoint, theme is something that I’ve never thought about that much. I would have it in the back of my mind, or I’d develop a theme as I went. It was never a guiding principle that I had spent any time going back to. I never wanted to appear didactic, or I was screaming in the reader’s ear what the message was or what the point was. It’s something that I really learned from Rajiv, and writing with him. He takes theme very seriously, as he’s just pointed out. I’m sure I don’t obsess over it, to the point he does it naturally, but it’s definitely something now I’ve learned to pay more attention to. I do think my writing has gotten that much better because of it.

Tomorrow in Part 6, Rajiv and Scott reflect on the ups and downs of writing, and provide some advice for aspiring writers.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Rajiv is repped by Gersh and Kaplan / Perrone.

Scott is repped by CAA and Kaplan / Perrone.

Twitter: @scottmrothman, @RajivAJoseph, @DraftDayMovie.

Interview: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman (“Draft Day”) – Part 4

April 10th, 2014 by

Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman wrote the script Draft Day which landed at the top of the 2012 Black List. Subsequently Lionsgate produced the movie starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary, and directed by Ivan Reitman.

In March, 2013, I interviewed Rajiv and Scott while they were in Cleveland during the film’s production, and I’m happy to share that wide-ranging conversation this week as Draft Day opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 11.

Today in Part 4, Rajiv and Scott discuss plot twists and turns, not only in the movie Draft Day, but how it came to be produced by Lionsgate, and the surprise of learning their script topped the 2012 Black List:

Scott M:  We were talking about plot twists earlier and speaking of them, you had one in real life. The script for Draft Day was originally set up at Paramount, then they put it into turnaround. Then Lionsgate picked it up, right?

Scott R:  Yes.

Rajiv:  Yes.

Scott M:  It struck me that that little bit of business dealing, that’s almost like the protagonist of your story wheeling and dealing draft picks.

Scott R:  There’s been a lot of that. There’s been a lot of overlap between the script and real life, the wheeling’s and dealing’s and how these things get done. There’ve been a lot of phone calls, mainly by the producers, not by us, where they are handling multiple offers on multiple different things to that go into making a movie, from which teams are going to be represented, to which colleges. Once it left Paramount and was picked up by Lion’sgate, we had this added ticking clock of the draft actually coming. We needed to get all out ducks all in a row very quickly to be able to film at the draft. I just can’t say enough about what the producers of this movie did to make that happen is nothing short of miraculous.

Scott M:  Life imitating art.

Scott R:  Yeah, exactly.

Scott M:  Reading about where Paramount decided to put the script into turnaround, there was some speculation that they said, “Well, American football just doesn’t travel very well internationally.” I think I remember they said The Blind Side did well in the United States but didn’t do so well. Does that concern you at all? Bigger picture, how much should screenwriters be thinking about the international market, now that it’s basically getting 70 to 75 percent of box office, when we’ve conceiving original story ideas?

Scott R:  I’m really conflicted as to what advice to give. If we had thought about that, we never would have written Draft Day. We both instinctively knew not to tell our reps about it for exactly that reason. We just knew we had a head full of steam and loved this idea and, honestly, we obviously never thought it would get to where we are right now, sitting in Cleveland shooting this movie. We just loved the idea. I do think that translated into the script. That said, looking back, 20/20 hindsight, yeah, it did make things harder on everyone to be trying to sell a football movie. I’m sure there would have been a lot more open doors to us if we had written, I don’t know, something that travels better overseas, soccer movie?

Rajiv:  I don’t think writers can consider this. We never would have written this movie if we had considered that and that’s not easy to know. I’m a big believer in that, at the end of the day, you really write the stories you most want to tell. Like I said, it’s a labor of love. This could bomb overseas, and that’d be fine. We’ve already got it made. I know that was the biggest threat against it, and we needed a couple miracles to get us here, and I’m so glad we got them. But if this movie had never been made, I’d be just as proud of it.

Scott R:  Going back to The Hustler, I don’t give a shit about pool, that was just a good movie. I remember seeing Bend It Like Beckham. I don’t know anything about soccer. I just had heard that that was a good movie. I guess that’s my hope as it goes international, that we put together a good movie, and people will want to see good movies regardless of whatever the subject matter is. But I agree with Rajiv. I don’t think you can worry about that. The best thing we did is not worry about and write the thing we love. I just can’t help but think that you can feel that. If there’s anything that people are responding to, I think a lot of it is that, that we love and care deeply about what we were writing about.

Scott M:  The movie’s being produced, starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, and directed by Ivan Reitman. Where are you in terms of the shoot right now and what’s your involvement in that process?

Scott R:  We are coming up on day seven of a 38 day shoot. We are well aware that we are in rarified air here. Included in that is the fact that Ivan wants us here every day and has made us feel welcome to be on set, so we’re on set every day of this thing. Again, this being my first go‑around in a movie being produced, I can only suspect that that is not the case for everyone.

DRAFT DAY

Rajiv Joseph, Kevin Costner, Scott Rothman

Scott M:  Did you have that experience William Goldman did where he said, “The most exciting day of a screenwriter’s life is the first on a movie set, and the most boring day a screenwriter’s life is the second day on a movie set?”

Scott R:  We have not had one of those boring days yet. The first three days were shooting at the NFL draft as the NFL draft was happening. We shot on Friday at Cleveland Brown’s stadium with the real Cleveland Browns.

Rajiv:  Every day is better than the last. I have not had a boring day of this yet, and I honestly don’t anticipate it happening as such. I also don’t know if I get 100 more scripts made, if I’ll ever be as happy as I am right now because, this being my hometown and my home team and so much converging at once for me, I just don’t know how it gets better than this.

Scott R:  We have had separate careers going. To be able to do this with a friend is just something that adds a whole different level of joy to this whole process.

Scott M:  Speaking of joy, the script for Draft Day made the Black List in 2012. How did you find out and what has that meant to you?

Scott R:  [laughs] I actually think it’s a pretty funny story. I think we were pitching on something else that day. I can’t remember what time of year it was, but it was cold and it was the first year that the Black List was being announced on Twitter. We came out of this meeting and I’m sitting on a corner, freezing my ass off in New York City. I think Rajiv had to run to another meeting or I told you not to be around me or something. Do you remember? I’m just constantly refreshing Twitter, and they’ve mentioned like 60 other script and no mention of us. To me, the Black List was this huge deal. I had told Rajiv by a year before, if we could make the Black List, I will feel like we really would have accomplished something, because I was a fan of the Black List.

I’d always read the top 10 scripts on the Black List. I really deeply wanted to be on the Black List, and I thought we had a shot at making the Black List, and I hated myself for even thinking that because I didn’t want to lead myself up to being disappointed when we didn’t make it. I kept refreshing on Twitter and didn’t see our names and was like, “Fuck this…”

[laughter]

Scott R:  “…I’m going to lunch.” I got on the subway and I lost cell phone service, came back up to have lunch. My wife, who I guess was doing the same thing, I didn’t even know she knew what the Black List was, told me that not only had we made the Black List, that we had been chosen number one on the Black List.

Scott M:  Other than a personal satisfaction, do you notice a jolt in terms of meetings or anything making the Black List?

Scott R:  No question. I think we’re now the guys who not only were on the Black List, but topped the Black List. We got a lot of attention because of it, which we are so thankful to Franklin [Leonard] and the whole gang over there for. Yeah, we certainly got a jolt out of it. I think, no matter what, that’s something that happened and can never be taken away from us. I think our names will always be linked, in the very best sense, to the Black List. Every article ever written about us now, not to say there’s a million articles, but when they do mentions us, it’s Black List writers.

Rajiv:  It’s a huge honor. It’s an honor shared by the industry, so it obviously has an enormous affect on what happens afterwards.

Scott M:  I believe you two have another project that you’re working with Ivan Reitman, “Big in China,” a journalist and his family move from New Jersey to Beijing. Is there anything that you can share about what that project’s about?

Scott R:  We are still writing a draft of it for Paramount, and we’re very excited to be working again with Ivan on something.

Rajiv:  It’s like a rock and roll family comedy about a family abroad, a fish‑out‑of‑water family, living in China.

Scott R:  Based on a true story by Alan Paul. But that’s about all we can say.

Tomorrow in Part 5, Rajiv and Scott share their thoughts on some aspects of the screenwriting craft.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Rajiv is repped by Gersh and Kaplan / Perrone.

Scott is repped by CAA and Kaplan / Perrone.

Twitter: @scottmrothman, @RajivAJoseph, @DraftDayMovie.

Interview: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman (“Draft Day”) – Part 3

April 9th, 2014 by

Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman wrote the script Draft Day which landed at the top of the 2012 Black List. Subsequently Lionsgate produced the movie starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary, and directed by Ivan Reitman.

In March, 2013, I interviewed Rajiv and Scott while they were in Cleveland during the film’s production, and I’m happy to share that wide-ranging conversation this week as Draft Day opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 11.

Today in Part 3, Rajiv and Scott discuss the appeal of telling a compressed time frame story and a real-life parallel to the choice facing the Protagonist of Draft Day – what player to pick with the #1 selection in the NFL draft:

Scott M:  Now you mention how the minute you came up with this idea for Draft Day, you said, “Compressed timeframe, let’s do this story…” basically it takes place in one day. And because it all boils down to the first pick in the draft, there is a built-in ticking clock. Literally they’ve got to make a choice, a draft pick, and you even amp that up a bit because Sonny puts pressure on everybody to try and find out information on the star collegiate quarterback Bo Callahan, who’s a lock for the number one draft pick. What were your intentions there? Was that just strictly about creating a pressurized atmosphere or you thought it would be fun to write?

Scott R:  I think it was inherent in the idea. You’re always looking to invent a ticking clocks to some degree, and that was one of the amazing things we knew as soon as the idea pop up that we had that, that we didn’t…that was completely organic to the story. There literally is a ticking clock. That was half the work was done for us just in coming up with the idea.

Scott M:  You know what’s interesting too, because in some ways the script reads like an action film. You’ve got this driving pace to it because of all this pressure, and then you’ve got another set of narrative devices, split screen and film clips of pro’s in action which you intersperse, combined with a lot of short scenes, clipped dialogue, walk-and-talk scenes. How conscious of creating that type of pace were you?

Rajiv:   Like I said one of the first things we had was that it was going to be in one day and so that compresses the action to such a degree that we had to make sure that not only is every scene popping out but that it’s ramping up as the stakes go higher and larger with every scene. That was the mandate we set ourselves from the beginning. I don’t think we ever looked at it as an action movie per se, but it’s got the same feel as that quite naturally, because action movies are the movies that probably have the most ticking clocks.

Scott R:  The way I thought about how we wrote it, I’m not sure if Rajiv agrees or not. But we always knew what the big turns of the script were going to be, and there was so much stuff to get to those turns that it just naturally fell into place, that pacing. Like I knew where the midpoint was, the end of the second act was, and I knew ultimately what our ending was going to be, and that was a lot of stuff to pack into a day, or as it turns out, like 10 hours. I think trying to get to those big act breaks, we felt that sense. We felt the pressure of getting to the act breaks. A lot of things needed to happen in order to make the act breaks make sense and be organic and not feel completely contrived. We didn’t want to get into a situation where we’re just putting lots of turns in there just because we needed a turn.

We felt a lot of that pressure, like, “Oh my God, we only have 30 pages to get to this point. How’re we ever going to get there?” I think that really came through in the final product.

Scott M:  I want to drill down a little bit more into this idea of putting pressure on the protagonist because you not only have all those things, the compressed timeframe, the ticking clock, the civic pressure, but there’s a lot of stuff going on in Sonny’s personal life. You’ve got a relationship with his mother which is fairly contentious. He discovers that this woman Ali is pregnant with his child. He’s got this pressure on whether to pick this seemingly once in a lifetime quarterback with the number one draft pick or not. How did you know this is the right amount of subplots to put to work on this protagonist?

Scott R:  Good question. The short answer is we’re just geniuses, Scott…

[laughter]

Scott R:  …we just know these things. No, that’s not the answer at all. We spent a long time. We spent a year outlining this and figuring out beat by beat how this would work. It had to work out that…It had to be believable that things would happen at this place, at their office. We interviewed a real NFL GM and he gave us a lot of valuable information about what his moment to moment day was like on the day of the draft, as well as his day to day life outside of the draft, his relationships with players, his relationship with his scouts, his relationship with the staff.

Then, the fun part for me also was thinking about this as a guy who was dealing with the death of his father on the same day he’s dealing with the news of himself becoming a father. That’s a giant dramatic quandary that you don’t even need the NFL draft to add it to but luckily this was like our subplot.

It was a concern early on about keeping too much stuff, like let’s say, for example, Sonny could have been in financial straits as well, but that felt too much and unnecessary. But there was a lot of back and forth, and you just figure out and calibrate like, OK, how much can one guy take, and at what point is too much too much?

Scott M:  You mentioned that you spent like a year outlining this thing. One of the most impressive features of the story is there are a lot of interesting twists and turns. We all know where it’s heading, which is toward the actual draft pick. But there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing going on multiple fronts, and that third act is filled with surprises. How conscious were you in aiming for that and how much of that evolved organically in your process of working through the story?

Rajiv:  Like I said, to put the restriction of the one day on it, to me as a playwright, is something I think about a lot. In fact, it’s something that I struggle with, with screenwriting outside of draft day, I’m always thinking in terms of how do you compress the action as much as possible, and we knew we had this built‑in draft day contrivance that was like we know this is going to take place in less than 24 hours. Also, going back to what we said before, that this had to be a movie that appealed to people who didn’t even like football, and understood zero about what the NFL draft is about, that was a challenge. These challenges help you I think as a writer. The challenges that seem to be obstacles in your way end up being the things that help you write a better script. I think we were very openhearted about, “Let’s just make sure that any problem we’re having turns out to be a gift in reverse.”

Scott M:  There’s a dynamic at work in the story about the job of a general manager, the tension between rationality, using one’s brains to make a decision, and just pure luck.

Scott R:  Yeah, absolutely. As sports fans, Rajiv and I have always been fascinated by just which way the ball bounces, that one person’s career could be defined by one moment. It colors the way we look at a 15 year career, like Chris Webber calling timeout in college during the Michigan game defined the way everyone thought about Chris Webber. He went on to be arguably one of the 50 great players of all time, but when I think of Chris Webber, that’s all I think about and how his career could have been different if just that one little thing hadn’t happened. For me, one of the big inspirations was…I don’t know how big a football fan you are, but Ryan Leaf was this guy who went number two in a year that Peyton Manning was drafted.

Scott M:  The San Diego Chargers.

Scott R:  Yeah, that was one of the big things that was driving the way I thought about this story. Why didn’t Ryan Leaf happen the way everyone though he would happen? Then, on the other side, could there be a person who could have seen that he wasn’t going to happen? Because I figured you ask all 32 teams that drafted that year, they all would have taken Ryan Leaf where they took him. But I was fascinated by, what if there was a guy who could see what the flaw in Ryan Leaf was? Then, OK, if there was a guy like that, what did he see? I’m not sure anyone ever gave us a great answer to that question, and that’s something we really at least tried to explore in the script.

Rajiv:  Similarly, a lot of the idea of the movie is about character and identity. I’m a big believer that, especially for a national football league team, the teams that I like generally are the teams that are successful year in and year out. That lead us to talk about Ray Lewis who is definitely inspiration for Vontae Mack. Ray Lewis embodies the Ravens franchise in a way that transcends good playing, and he went 26th in the draft the year he was selected, and there were three linebackers taken before him. Who missed the boat on that one? Everyone. If someone had known it, what would they have done differently?

Scott R:  Probably my favorite movie of all time was The Hustler, the Paul Newman movie. There was big inspiration I think for both of us as we were writing. That movie’s ultimately about character and, particularly when we were first telling people about the script and people were first reading it or hearing about it, they all were trying to put us in the Moneyball category, which I could see. It’s such an honor. We both loved that movie and Sorkin is one of our favorite writers. But, to me, I always saw this as the exact opposite of Moneyball, that Moneyball is really about math and statistics and how you can use numbers to forecast what’s going to happen. To me, what we were trying to explore is, “How can you tell what a person’s going to do based on who that person is? Can you quantify a person’s character?”

Scott M:   I hope it’s still in the movie, but that little green piece of paper that Sonny writes something down on at the very beginning. Later on, we learn what he’s written, which speaks to his ultimate choice, why he makes the number one draft pick he does. It’s his insight into the character of both of those players, preferring someone he believes has a solid character, as to someone that he’s not quite sure. Isn’t that right?

Scott R:  Yes, absolutely.

Tomorrow in Part 4, Rajiv and Scott discuss plot twists and turns, not only in the movie Draft Day, but how it came to be produced by Lionsgate, and the surprise of learning their script topped the 2012 Black List.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Rajiv is repped by Gersh and Kaplan / Perrone.

Scott is repped by CAA and Kaplan / Perrone.

Twitter: @scottmrothman, @RajivAJoseph, @DraftDayMovie.

Interview: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman (“Draft Day”) – Part 2

April 8th, 2014 by

Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman wrote the script Draft Day which landed at the top of the 2012 Black List. Subsequently Lionsgate produced the movie starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary, and directed by Ivan Reitman.

In March, 2013, I interviewed Rajiv and Scott while they were in Cleveland during the film’s production, and I’m happy to share that wide-ranging conversation this week as Draft Day opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 11.

Today in Part 2, Rajiv and Scott talk about some of key narrative elements they focused on in writing Draft Day and why the location of the story shifted from Buffalo to Cleveland:

Scott M:  Let’s talk about your script Draft Day. It not only made the 2012 Black List, but received the most number of recommendations. Here’s a log line that accompanied it with the Black List:

“On the day of the NFL Draft, Bills General Manager Sonny Weaver has the opportunity to save football in Buffalo when he trades for the number one pick. He must quickly decide what he’s willing to sacrifice in pursuit of perfection as the lines between his personal and professional life become blurred.”

Rajiv:  One thing which I’m not sure you know. We’re in Cleveland now, and we changed it from the Bills to the Browns.

Scott M:  Ah, OK, great.

Scott R:  Yeah, which worked out great, but that was something that came about for budgetary reasons that we…it was just cheaper to film here. But we always…it’s a very easy transplanting of the two. Buffalo and Cleveland are, in a way, sister cities and sister franchises.

Rajiv:  For me, I’m from Cleveland, and so this is my favorite team, and so that’s been a huge shift by coincidence to be back in my hometown shooting a movie about my favorite football team.

Scott M:  Well, that’s a wonderful bit of synergy then.

Rajiv:  Yeah, the whole thing feels that way.

Scott M: Thinking about the concept of your movie, I was reminded of an anecdote I heard where years ago, executives from ESPN approached Pete Rozelle, the NFL commissioner, and said, “We’d like to broadcast the draft.” And he said, “Why would anyone want to do that?”

[laughter]

Scott R:  We just attended the draft for three days, which was amazing. We befriended this guy Frank Supovitz, who’s actually responsible for turning the lights back on at the Super Bowl this year, and he’s in charge of all the NFL events. He was like the nicest guy in the world, and he took me for this tour behind the scenes of Radio City. I asked him like…it was on the eve of the draft, and I asked him, “You must be excited. You’re hosting this party for three days.” He said, “The way we look at it is like it’s a business meeting. It’s just a televised business meeting,” which is in essence what it really is, so it’s amazing that it’s turned into this huge party.

Scott M:  Riffing off that in terms of what you all did, you’re taking essentially what is a business transaction and turning it into a movie. So my first question for you is what was it about that idea that led you both to think, “Hey, this could be a movie?”

Rajiv:  The cool story that we have to tell about that is that it all started when I was having dinner with this friend of mine that I taught with at NYU, and she’s this poet, and she had no interest at all in sports, and especially in football, but she said to me out of the blue that she enjoyed watching the NFL draft. I was like, “Why? Like I’m a huge football fan, and I’ve never watched the draft. Why would you as someone who doesn’t even like the sport be into it?” She’s like, “Well, I don’t know. There’s these interesting characters and a ticking clock and really high stakes,” and an alarm bell went off in my head, and I was like, “Jesus, that’s the basic tenets of drama.” I called up Scott, or next time I saw Scott I was like, “Hey, what do you think of this?” Then we started like…it was like instantaneous, within the next 20 minutes I would say, he and I were just talking about all the ways we could write this movie. The first thing that set us off was that it should all take place in one day, and there was a ticking clock on these things.

As football fans we just had an enormous amount of ideas that started ringing for us, and also characters that we would base these…or actual players that we based our characters on and it just instantly became this labor of love.

Scott M:  Isn’t that amazing to have that one moment of inspiration and then it the creative energy just takes off, right?

Rajiv:  Exactly.

Scott R:  Yeah, at first the football stuff went in the draft. We had that stuff really early. Like I saw the story almost immediately, or we did, just where the act breaks would be, and then with football lives we knew where the drama laid? The fun part and the challenge of it, that turns into the fun part, was finding the right character to put in that situation and how we see bonds…apart from the stress of the football stuff and the draft, what was going on in this character’s personal life that could really rev things up a few notches.

Scott M:  Yeah, you really put the pressure on your protagonist, Sonny. He’s the GM of the Cleveland Browns, the son of a beloved former coach of the team whose name is Sonny Weaver, Sr. So they share the same name which puts pressure on the son. What’s more, it turns out Sonny Jr., acting as general manager, had at some point actually fired the father. Add to that, the father has just recently died. What was your instinct here? To create a sort of ghost figure in the father, looming over Sonny Jr.? How did that evolve?

Rajiv: We always knew the protagonist was definitely going to be the general manager of a team, and part of that came from that idea that we feel that general managers are in a way like new sorts of sports heroes in this country in part because of fantasy football, which has become so widespread. But also in that same vein guys like me and Scott we know that we’re never going to be professional athletes, but we believe that we could do a better job than the GMs of any of our teams.

Scott R:  Incorrectly, we feel that.

Rajiv:  Incorrectly. I think a lot of guys say, “Well, these idiots, why did they make that trade? I could be doing a better job than them.” Like GMs have become a new like both hero and villain in sports. We started thinking about all the things that we could pile onto this guy to make this day fascinating, because the main goals that we set for ourselves in this movie is that we needed to make a story that would appeal to both football fans and non‑football fans.

Scott M:  One of my favorite parts of dialogue in the whole story setup is early on in Act One where Sonny goes to get gas in his car, and he sees this woman across the way, and she sorts of flirts with him, and then she says, “If you fuck this draft up, you fuck the team up, and then you fuck the city up. If you and Molina take this team to LA, me and my cousin, Donald, will torch your house to the ground. You hear me? Me and Donald will light your house on fire and burn it to the ground.” This story is not just about football. This is about civic spirit in an industrial city that has taken its lumps economically, and that raises the stakes.

Scott R:  Yeah. In a lot of ways I think we always knew it what would be good for the stakes to have this factor of the team leaving. It wasn’t just one man’s stakes, it was the stakes of a city. Then as we wrote and as we rewrote, it became a happy accident that Buffalo, and now Cleveland, became really a character in the movie, that we could use that at all times as a backdrop. Football teams mean a lot to a city and mean a lot to a fan base, and cities derive a lot of their own character and swagger, and they define themselves a lot by these franchises, especially these smaller market cities like Buffalo or Cleveland. Rajiv had lived through the Browns leaving Cleveland and knew how that decimates a fan base and all the terrible feelings that come with that. We knew we had that to work with. But, that became very important tracking the arc of the fans, and realizing that the decisions that Sonny was making didn’t just have that effect on him and the team, that it had this much, much larger effect on the city.

Scott M:  You have a wonderful little subplot on that stuff, where you’ve got some of the fans showing up in the parking lot to celebrate the team getting the number one draft pick. Then Sonny’s mom with the ashes of the father, going out onto the field. So these constant reminders to Sonny there is this civic issue going on adding more pressure on him.

Rajiv:  He’s from the town, too, so it’s not like just some guy, some GM came in from out town and is going to do this. He’s one of those people. He knows that it’s not just that he fails that the team leaves, and he can go back to his way of life. He’s from this area. His mom lives in Cleveland now, and he’s going to have to live with that. It’s very personal for him.

Here is a behind the scenes look at the movie Draft Day:

Tomorrow in Part 3, Rajiv and Scott discuss the appeal of telling a compressed time frame story and a real-life parallel to the choice facing the Protagonist of Draft Day.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Rajiv is repped by Gersh and Kaplan / Perrone.

Scott is repped by CAA and Kaplan / Perrone.

Twitter: @scottmrothman, @RajivAJoseph, @DraftDayMovie.

Interview: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman (“Draft Day”) – Part 1

April 7th, 2014 by

Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman wrote the script Draft Day which landed at the top of the 2012 Black List. Subsequently Lionsgate produced the movie starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner and Dennis Leary, and directed by Ivan Reitman.

In March, 2013, I interviewed Rajiv and Scott while they were in Cleveland during the film’s production, and I’m happy to share that wide-ranging conversation this week as Draft Day opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 11.

Today in Part 1, we learn about the duo’s background, how they met and the origins of the story for Draft Day:

Scott M:   Let’s start off with the beginning. Where did each of you grow up, and how did you find your way into writing a movie?

Scott R:   I grew up in Long Island, New York in a town called Smithtown, and always was a huge movie fan. I guess I first started screenwriting…right after college I moved out to San Francisco. I thought I wanted to be a copywriter in advertising. I quickly learned I really wasn’t very good at that, and that it was going to take a lot of hard work to get good at that. At the time I was also working at an advertising agency, and I saw how miserable all the other copywriters were. If I’ve made any smart decisions, this was one of them that I decided if I’m going to work hard to become a writer that if the end goal is copywriting, well, that didn’t look that great. I knew I was a long ways off from being able to write a good movie.

But I figured if I was going to work hard at anything, why not make the thing that I was striving for be the thing that I always wanted to do. I made this decision to leave advertising and took my first screenwriting class out in San Francisco.

Rajiv:  As for me, I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I went to a state school in Ohio called Miami University, and I was a Creative Writing major. I wanted to be a novelist growing up. When I got out of college seeking some world experience besides my suburban life, I joined the Peace Corps. I was in Senegal, Africa for about three and a half years. That period of my life really changed me as a person and really made into a writer. I was writing everything just in my journal, not really doing any form writing, just writing a lot just because of the extent of the experience.

When I came home, I moved to New York because I had some friends there. We were plodding along in the dotcom world for a while. After 9/11 when everyone got laid off from their jobs, I ended up deciding I wanted to be a screenwriter and went to NYU with Scott.

In my first year there, I switched from screenwriting to playwriting. Theater was something I knew nothing about. But it really appealed to me all of the sudden. I’m more of a playwright. This is the first real screenplay that I’ve written, and I’ve written it with Scott. But prior to this, all of my writing since grad school has been in the theater, and I’ve also done some work in TV. I wrote for “Nurse Jackie” on Showtime for the last two seasons.

Scott M:  How did you two intersect?

Rajiv:  We met in grad school at NYU. We’re exactly the same age. Unlike a lot of the younger people in our class, we were really desperate and feeling as if we were putting all of our chips on the table with this. Like knowing that when we got out of this we’d be turning 30, and we both decided to go all in. I think we got bonded over that.

Scott R:  Unlike a lot of the kids we were in school with, we had both tried to make a go of things in the real world and quickly realized that we both didn’t have very marketable skills for the real world. If the writing thing didn’t really pan out, we were pretty much screwed. [laughter]

Scott M:  That’s the key to being a screenwriter, having no marketable business skills.

Scott R:  Yeah, that’s exactly it, and a real sense of desperation.

Scott M:  Rajiv, this is the first screenplay you’ve written. You’ve been mostly doing plays. Scott, you took a class in San Francisco, but were on your way to NYU. Were you doing screenwriting there?

Scott R:  I took this screenwriting class in San Francisco, and was temping, and just doing odd jobs. Surprisingly, the first screenplay I wrote did not turn into Pulp Fiction or Citizen Kane. I realized that it was going to be a long road ahead. I just buckled down and really did go all in. I wrote maybe three screenplays, then that third, actually the one that finally clicked, and worked, got me into NYU.

Scott M:  Were you still at NYU when you hatched this idea for Draft Day, or did that come later?

Scott R:  It came much later. Rajiv and I were really good friends at NYU and remained so after NYU. He had gone on to let’s just say “great success,” in the playwriting field. I’m sure he’ll get to it, but Rajiv had a play on Broadway and really had a lot of success doing playwriting, and I went strictly the screenwriting route. I was able to sell a few things here and there, and get started that way. I sold my first script right before the writers’ strike, which was fantastic timing. We were always friends, and we always knew that we wanted to do something together. Just the timing didn’t really work out, or we didn’t really have the right thing. When Draft Day came about, we had started outlining another project. When we had the idea for Draft Day, we just knew that was the thing to move forward on. That was 2010, that we had the initial idea.

Rajiv:  Yeah, 2010. We had spent a year discussing it, and we started slowly outlining it. For us, we usually get together to watch football. Both of us love it, so the research and the discussions that went into writing this movie were, for us, a labor of love. It never felt like a job. It was totally on spec, we weren’t doing this for anybody. I think I might have mentioned it to one of my agents who was like, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

Scott R:  Same here, my agent said that…I think I said, “I’m doing this thing on the side,” they were like, “Great, let’s actually do something where you can make some money.”

Scott M:  Rajiv, before we jump into talking more specifically about Draft Day, I know you’ve written a number of plays, including one that was a Pulitzer finalist. Could you fill us in on your background as a playwright?

Rajiv:  After grad school, I just started plugging away. The one thing that appealed to me about playwriting, as opposed to screenwriting, was that, at least in New York, there’s a lot of opportunities to piece your way along, little fellowships here, a staged reading at this place. There seemed to be a lot of groups that were interested in developing playwrights. Whereas, I don’t think you see that with screenwriters. Either you hit a home run, or you go home, basically, with screenwriting. It seemed to me at least. You could bunt a little bit with playwriting, you could play small ball. I was just writing my little heart out, and also teaching at NYU.

I was teaching essay writing. I was able to patch together some luck and some hard work and get some plays produced. The one play got the Pulitzer Prize finalist, then that same play went on to Broadway and starred Robin Williams, which was amazing because he’s one of my heroes, and that led into my TV career.

Scott M:  And “Nurse Jackie”?

Rajiv:  Seasons three and four.

Scott M:  It seems to be something of a trend. Historically there have been a lot of playwrights who’ve come to Hollywood. But it seems like in the last five to ten years with the emergence of cable TV, that there are a lot more playwrights making the transition into cable TV writing.

Rajiv:  Absolutely, and I know I’m a little biased, but I think that’s easily connected to the fact that TV is really good these days, especially on cable. There’s a lot of character‑driven shows that have a real artistic bent. I think that a lot of producers and show runners find that they can find new voices, and interesting characters and stories, through playwrights. On the “Nurse Jackie” team that I wrote on, out of six writers, three of us were playwrights, and two of us had never done TV before.

Here is a trailer for Draft Day:

Tomorrow in Part 2, Rajiv and Scott talk about some of key narrative elements they focused on in writing Draft Day and why the location of the story shifted from Buffalo to Cleveland.

New York Daily News feature (April 6, 2014) on Rajiv Joseph here.

Rajiv is repped by Gersh and Kaplan / Perrone.

Scott is repped by CAA and Kaplan / Perrone.

Twitter: @scottmrothman, @RajivAJoseph, @DraftDayMovie.

Exclusive photo from behind the scenes: “Draft Day”

June 23rd, 2013 by

The #1 script on the 2012 Black List is “Draft Day,” written by Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman. It is currently shooting in Cleveland and what we have here is an exclusive behind the scenes photo courtesy of producer Ali Bell:

Draft Day

That is director Ivan Reitman studying the script on the set. Yes, that’s right, no three hole punch paper, rather an iPad. My how times change!

I had the privilege of interviewing Rajiv and Scott, and it was a terrific conversation. You can look forward to reading that closer to the release date of the movie. “Draft Day” is a fantastic script and promises to be an excellent movie starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. The IMDB site is here.

Good luck, Rajiv and Scott, on your movie!

10 Screenwriters to Watch (2012)

November 29th, 2012 by

For the last 14 years, Variety has put an annual spotlight on 10 screenwriters to watch. Here are this year’s writers:

Patrick Aison

Reid Carolin

Derek Connolly

Katie Dippold

Bill Dubuque

Rajiv Joseph & Scott Rothman

Kelly Marcel

Ted Melfi

Chris Terrio

Ken Scott

For the other annual Variety lists I’ve covered since GITS started:

2008

2009

2010

2011