Black List Interview: Britta Lundin

May 29th, 2016 by

Kate Hagen, director of community at @theblcklst, recently interviewed Britta Lundin. Last autumn, I worked with Britta at the Athena Film Festival / Black List Screenwriter Lab in New York City and am happy to see how her career has blossomed as she has landed an agent and got staffed on The CW series “Riverdale”.

How do you find ideas and how do you choose which ones to work on?

Ohmygod so many ideas folders. I have an ideas folder in my email for writing emails to myself, an evernote for clipping online articles, a folder on my desktop for images and screenshots, and a physical folder for magazine and newspaper clippings. I usually have a list of things to write that’s six scripts deep, so while I’m waiting for notes back on the second draft of a feature, I’m diving into the outline for my next pilot, while organizing my thoughts on the idea after that. There are always too many ideas and not enough time to write them all.

Upon a lot of reflection about what types of stories make it into my ideas folder, there are some common threads. I love stories about smart, driven people going up against obstacles that are bigger than them. I also love the “girl does something only boys are supposed to do” genre, and stories that feature a lot of women and/or LGBT characters are interesting to me. Knowing what I’m interested in helps me weed out the kinds of stories that would make a good script for someone, but probably aren’t right for me personally.

Since using The Black List, how has your career been impacted?

I put my script SHIP IT on The Black List, and after it received high ratings, I was accepted into the Athena Film Festival Mini-Lab for three days of intensive workshops and discussion with my peers and screenwriting mentors. It was a hugely rewarding weekend that leveled up my writing in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. I highly recommend writers apply to these workshops through The Black List.

Oh, also since using The Black List, I got an agent and got staffed on a TV show.

Another Black List screenwriter lab success story and I’m glad to have shared a small part of Britta’s creative journey with her.

For the rest of the interview, go here.

Twitter: @brittashipsit, @thathagengrrl.

Interview: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012 Black List)

May 27th, 2016 by

One of the best ways to learn the craft is read what professional screenwriters have to say about it. To that end for the next few weeks, I will be featuring interviews I have conducted with Black List screenwriters.

Today: Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have written scripts that have made the Black List a remarkable 5 times, broke in with the hit indie film (500) Days of Summer, and have become go-to guys for adapting novels having written screenplays for The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars, and writing high profile projects Where‘d You Go, Bernadette, Rules of Civility, among several others.

Michael H. Weber (left), Scott Neustadter (right)

Here are links to the six installments of my March 2013 interview with Michael and Scott:

Part 1: “The false assumption I was under – that I think a lot of aspiring writers are under – is that most scripts in Hollywood are extremely good. Nothing like a few years reading unsolicited material to debunk that idea.”

Part 2: “When the guy doesn’t tell the girl how he feels, it’s because he’s scared. It’s a tool Scott and I have all the time, that probably more than any other tool in our toolbox, is we take a step back, and we ask the question, ‘What would really happen?’”

Part 3: “Again it goes back to the first time Scott and I met and liking the same movies. It wasn’t just great romantic comedies but I loved the work of John Hughes and they’re the movies I grew up on. They felt real to me.”

Part 4: “Happy endings aren’t real. Even the happiest ending is only happy because the story stopped there. But hopeful endings are a beautiful thing. That’s what I always aspire to.”

Part 5: “I would say – despite always having a proper outline before starting to write – I almost always find snags along the way that require us to step back and re-think things. Definitely don’t expect the writing to be surprise-free just because you think you have the road map perfected before you start.”

Part 6: “Just write every day, and then write some more. I try to even be competitive about it. What I mean is, I know that when I’m not writing, someone else is.”

Interview: The Fault in Our Stars.

Scott and Michael are repped by CAA and Kaplan/Perrone.

You may follow Scott and Michael on Twitter: Scott (@iamthepuma), Michael (@thisisweber).

AMA with Black List founder Franklin Leonard

May 25th, 2016 by

Recently it occurred to me we hadn’t had a Q&A with Black List founder Franklin Leonard in quite some time and with all the changes in the movie and TV business, as well as a host of new Black List initiatives including the Black List Table Reads podcast, Black List Happy Hour networking events in 12 cities in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., Black List Live! staged readings of Black List scripts, as well as numerous screenwriting workshops and fellowships available to writers worldwide, it’s a perfect time to check in on all things Black List.

So if you’ve ever had a question about the Black List, what it does, where it’s going, and how it’s impacting the screenwriting universe, here is your opportunity to get a response directly from Franklin Leonard himself.

For background, here is Franklin speaking at an Alliance for Artisan Enterprise event in November 2015 in which he provides an overview of how the Black List began and has evolved over the last decade.

If you have a question or comment for Franklin, please click Reply and head to comments and post it there.

Let me add I have gotten to know Franklin over the last five years of the blog’s partnership with the Black List. He is not only one of the smartest, most fascinating people I’ve met, he’s also just an all around great person who truly cares about screenwriters, screenwriting, and storytelling in Hollywood and beyond. When people talk about the need for ‘disruptors’ in the entertainment business, we are lucky to have Franklin taking the lead in that regard. And here is your chance to interface with him with your questions.

Interview: Kelly Marcel (2011 Black List)

May 24th, 2016 by

One of the best ways to learn the craft is read what professional screenwriters have to say about it. To that end for the next few weeks, I will be featuring interviews I have conducted with Black List screenwriters.

Today: Kelly Marcel wrote the 2011 Black List screenplay Saving Mr. Banks which was produced starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, and Paul Giamatti and the 2015 movie Fifty Shades of Grey, and has many high profile projects in development including an untitled Elvis Presley project and the Disney movie Cruella.

Here are links to the six installments of my December 2013 interview with Kelly:

Part 1: “Working in that video store was my education. Nothing is going to teach you structure like watching endless movies and TV shows. Seeing what’s good and why it’s good. Seeing what doesn’t work and figuring out why it doesn’t.”

Part 2: “I loved the idea that this sweet film, this huge part of all of our childhoods, was born out of terrible tragedy. I was taken with the idea of redemption and the effect that our parents can have on us all the way into adulthood.”

Part 3: “I loved it, I wanted to write it, and that was that. It was only afterwards that I thought: ‘Oh fuckitty shitballs! This ain’t EVER getting made.'”

Part 4: “It cannot be said enough that no matter how good anyone thinks a script is, if you don’t have the right director -­- a person who will love it and own it as much as you have up to this point -­- then you are completely screwed.”

Part 5: “I wrote everything I wanted to say, it ran to 17 pages or more and then I cut it down and then I threw it all away and then I started again.”

Part 6: “I’m personally a big fan of knowing what your theme is before starting. I think they can arise as you tell the story, but writing within and for a theme seems to me to help the process along.”

Kelly is repped by WME.

Twitter: @MissMarcel.

Interview: Justin Kremer (2012, 2013 Black List)

May 19th, 2016 by

One of the best ways to learn the craft is read what professional screenwriters have to say about it. To that end for the next few weeks, I will be featuring interviews I have conducted with Black List screenwriters.

Today: Justin Kremer has written scripts which have made the Black List twice, McCarthy (2012) and Bury the Lead (2013).

Kremer Clipped

Here are links to the six installments of my six March 2013 interview with Justin.

Part 1: “I wrote my first script when I was 16 on Microsoft Word with no formatting, no margins. It was 80 pages and a disaster.”

Part 2: “It’s something that’s at the forefront of your mind because you want the audience to feel like they’re on one continuous journey as opposed to a disjointed narrative that’s all over the place.”

Part 3: “The first draft took about three months, and that was just spewing it all out on the page and seeing what I had.”

Part 4: “I’m glad that all of the representation stuff has been settled because I can finally get back to doing what I love – just getting in there writing.”

Part 5: “I’m more character driven, but to be able to pitch your idea in a really concise and concrete way is something that is unbelievably important.”

Part 6: “As long as you’re writing something that is representative of your voice and your experience, I think you can’t go wrong.”

Justin is repped by CAA and Madhouse Entertainment.

Interview: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman (2012 Black List)

May 17th, 2016 by

One of the best ways to learn the craft is read what professional screenwriters have to say about it. To that end for the next few weeks, I will be featuring interviews I have conducted with Black List screenwriters.

Today: 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

Here are links to the six installments of my March 2013 interview:

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: Brad Ingelsby (2008, 2012 Black List)

May 16th, 2016 by

One of the best ways to learn the craft is read what professional screenwriters have to say about it. To that end for the next few weeks, I will be featuring interviews I have conducted with Black List screenwriters.

Today: Brad Ingelsby is a busy writer with several projects in various states of development including the 2012 Black List script Hold on to Me. Another Black List script — Run All Night —  was produced and released in 2015. Plus Brad sold a high-profile pitch “Merry Men” to DreamWorks.

Ingelsby Trimmed

Here are links to the six installments of my March 2013 interview with Brad:

Part 1: “You need people like that in your life, I think. People who say ‘yes’. People who to tell you to jump. Luckily I’ve had a few over the years.”

Part 2: “That’s what you really want in a central character, I think. When you review the character’s arc at the end of the movie it feels like he’s traveled a long distance to get there.”

Part 3: “With “Run All Night” I knew where it started, I knew where it ended, and I knew I wanted it to take place essentially over a 24‑hour period of time. What’s nice about that constraint is knowing you can’t go outside that time frame.”

Part 4: “That’s just the way it goes with characters. They have to be unpredictable. And you have to be open to them pushing back, to them telling you that the direction you thought they would go isn’t really the direction they want to go.”

Part 5: “What does this character want and more importantly why do they want it? Those are the things that I tend to look at as I’m writing my dialogue. If I’m not hitting one of those at the moment — moving a story forward or revealing character — then I’ll try to get rid of it.”

Part 6: “If you’re passionate about the material and the story, and you believe in yourself then it can absolutely happen to you. I’m the perfect example of someone who got extremely lucky, so I always tell aspiring writers, ‘If you work hard enough and believe in the story, then there’s a place for you.’”

Brad is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Current Black List Screenwriter Opportunities: May 2016

May 15th, 2016 by

From the good folks at the Black List, a compilation of this month’s screenwriting competitions:
160515 Black List Initiatives
One thing I like about the Black List is they create opportunities for writers in specific areas. For example, this month there are initiatives for writers who have projects which are satire, science oriented, and horror. That narrows the playing field and allows writers to really zero in on a script with a distinct focus.

For the Black List website, go here.

Interview: Jason Mark Hellerman (2013 Black List)

May 13th, 2016 by

One of the best ways to learn the craft is read what professional screenwriters have to say about it. To that end for the next few weeks, I will be featuring interviews I have conducted with Black List screenwriters.

Today: Jason Mark Hellerman wrote the script “Shovel Buddies” which made the 2013 Black List, was produced, and had its world premiere a month ago at the South By Southwest Festival. It has a compelling plot: “Over 24 hours, four teenage friends try to complete the “Shovel List” (a will/bucket list) left for them by their best friend before he died of Leukemia”.

I loved the script and reached out to Jason for an interview. We ended up talking for 90 minutes, an excellent conversation covering a lot of territory. I think aspiring screenwriters will find Jason’s insights particularly relevant as we got into quite a bit of depth about his process of being outside the business to inside it.

Here are links to the nine installments of my August 2014 interview with Jason:

Part 1: “We would rent VHS tapes and when my mom would leave, it would be man movies, like Terminator and Three Days of the Condor. My dad would say, ‘Look, your mom’s not interested in these, but I am and I want to pass this on to you, so here you go.’”

Part 2: “At Scott Free, what was great was I was interning there, learning about coverage, learning a ton about features and I became really close with the president at the time who was Michael Costigan. He was leaving to open his own production company and he was backlogged with work. I said, ‘Look. I can help you move some boxes, if you want.’”

Part 3: “Looking back, it shocks me that it worked. I just took every sort of frustration I was feeling and put it into that script.”

Part 4: “For me, the character of Lump is every feeling I’ve ever had and every feeling my brother’s ever had, about being left out, about me getting invited to someone’s birthday party in seventh grade and him being like, ‘I’m friends with that guy. Why am I not invited?’”

Part 5: “I wrote “Shovel Buddies” sixty times. You probably read draft sixty, I just finished my 65th to turn into the director. It really has come a long way, a lot of errors and as many trials as anyone was willing to let me have.”

Part 6: “This is my letter to the fallen comrades, the people who I thought deserved it more than me and didn’t get there, not because they fucked up, but because the world took them away.”

Part 7: “For the longest time ‘Shovel Buddies’ was a PDF on the Internet that I wasn’t sure anybody was reading. For a longer time before that, it was a PDF on my laptop that nobody had read.”

Part 8: “The most important thing is to have a story that everyone connects to, whether it’s dark or whether it’s commercial. As long as you get people talking about it.”

Part 9: “You have to make every scene really hard on the characters in it. It can’t ever be easy.”

Jason is repped by CAA and Management 360.

Twitter: @JasonHellerman.

Interview: Eric Heisserer (2012, 2014 Black List)

May 12th, 2016 by

One of the best ways to learn the craft is read what professional screenwriters have to say about it. To that end for the next few weeks, I will be featuring interviews I have conducted with Black List screenwriters.

Today: Eric Heisserer has written two scripts which have made the Black List: Story of Your Life (2012), currently in post-production, and “Bird Box” (2014). He wrote and directed the movie Hours, and wrote the movie Lights Out which is scheduled for release this July.

Heisserer final

Here are links to the six installments of my April 2013 interview with Eric:

Part 1: “I’m a bit of an autodidact, so I picked up Final Draft software and a couple of screenplays that I purchased through bookstores. I had an idea of what a script was supposed to look like, and I started writing.”

Part 2: “I’ve been keen to work new muscles as a screenwriter, and every year, I at least attempt to write a screenplay in a genre that I haven’t done before.”

Part 3: “What appealed to me is that it’s a polarizing issue. Therefore I feel like it’s something that is worthy of exploration.”

Part 4: “That’s my new mantra, my new mission is that whatever I write, I’m writing something that, in reading, the director knows exactly what kind of movie it is.”

Part 5: “When I’m writing a scene, and if I’m blocked, it’s typically because there’s nothing in the scene I’m excited about.”

Part 6: “Write as much as you can. Write any and all of those things…screenplays, short stories, novels. The more you understand the language in the world, the better.”

Eric is repped by UTA and Art/Work Entertainment.

Twitter: @HIGHzurrer.