Screenwriter Roundtable: Fatih Akin, Darren Aronofsky, Emily V.

Screenwriter Roundtable: Fatih Akin, Darren Aronofsky, Emily V. Gordon, Anthony McCarten, Jordan Peele, and Aaron Sorkin

Part of The Hollywood Reporter’s annual sit-downs with Hollywood players.

An excerpt from a THR roundtable with screenwriters Fatih Akin (In the Fade), Darren Aronofsky (mother!), Emily V. Gordon (The Big Sick), Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour), Jordan Peele (Get Out), and Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game).

Fatih Akin, Emily V. Gordon, Anthony McCarten, Darren Aronofsky, Jordan Peele, Aaron Sorkin.

Name one screenplay that has particularly influenced you.

MCCARTEN Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet. It’s a notch above realistic, and it creates a new poetry in the vernacular.

SORKIN Network. Paddy Chayefsky filled that screenplay with great theatrical language, every bit as meaningful as any image in the movie.

ARONOFSKY The Social Network. I couldn’t put it down — the musicality of it, of the dialogue. It is real and it is grounded, but it’s on a different level.

GORDON I tend to be really appreciative of dialogue, and that’s why the screenplay of Moonlight struck me.

PEELE The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. Both [based on novels by] Ira Levin.

GORDON Good lord!

PEELE What they did within the thriller genre was this very delicate tightrope walk that honored the protagonist in a way that you rarely see in the genre these days. The protagonists are smart and they’re investigative, and there’s an effort to justify why the character doesn’t run screaming. That dance between showing something weird and then showing how easily it can be placed with reality was the technique I brought to Get Out.

Last question. One piece of advice that you would give a starting writer?

AKIN What is the line of [Samuel] Beckett? “Fail again. Fail better.”

SORKIN Advice? Intention and obstacle: Cling to that like a lifeboat. Somebody wants something, something’s standing in their way. Intention and obstacle. Once you have that, that’s the drive shaft of the car.

MCCARTEN Every new writer stands on the border of this undiscovered country called the arts. And you really question, “Do I have any talent?” My experience is: The writer I was when I began was only a fraction of what I feel capable of doing now. Don’t stand on that threshold saying, “I’m uncertain about my talent.” You can grow that part of yourself.

ARONOFSKY Tell only the story you can tell. If you’re trying to tell stories for the largest audience possible, the best way to get to them is by telling the story that really connects with you.

GORDON The best work comes when you are really grappling with something ethically or morally. If it can speak to something that you’re personally going through — not literally, but emotionally, that always makes a better piece of work.

PEELE I would say, we all deal with writer’s block. We all get in our own way. And my mantra was: Follow the fun. If I’m not having fun, I’m doing it wrong.

For the rest of the conversation, go here.

Screenwriter Roundtable: Fatih Akin, Darren Aronofsky, Emily V. was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Are You Afraid of the Dark Film Happening with IT Screenwriter

IT screenwriter will pen the upcoming film based on the Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark?

IT screenwriter will pen the upcoming film based on the Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Paramount Players (a new division at Paramount Pictures) is moving forward with a film based on the Nickelodeon series Are You Afraid of the Dark?, according to Variety. The script will be written by IT screenwriter Gary Dauberman. Matt Kaplan will produce the film.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a Canadian horror anthology series that ran on Nickelodeon from 1992-1996. The show was created by D.J. MacHale and Ned Kandel. Are You Afraid of the Dark? premiered on Canadian television’s YTV with “The Tale of the Twisted Claw” on Halloween 1990. The series aired in Canada until June 11, 2000. It premiered on Nickelodeon’s SNICK on August 15, 1992 and aired until April 20, 1996. Are You Afraid of the Dark? was revived as a series with new cast and crew in 1999 on SNICK and aired until 2000. Daniel DeSanto who played Tucker on the original series appeared in teh revival and Ross Hull who played Gary appeared on the series finale.

Both series featured a group of teenagers who called themselves “The Midnight Society.” The group would gather around a campfire at the beginning of each episode and one of the teens would say, “Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story [name of episode].” Then they’d toss “midnight dust” on the campfire. The audience would then see the story unfold. The stories were all scary, from abandoned houses to vampires to witches.

Dauberman was one of the three screenwriters on IT which was a huge hit this fall. A sequel is in the works. He also wrote Annabelle: Creation and is currently writing The Nun in The Conjuring universe.

Are you guys excited for the film based on Are You Afraid of the Dark? Let us know in the comments.

The post Are You Afraid of the Dark Film Happening with IT Screenwriter appeared first on

Reader question: How may I approach a favorite screenwriter (since I’ve got their personal email)?

Tread carefully, my friend. Tread carefully.

Question from Josh:

I’ve recently been able to get a hold of the personal email address of one of my favorite screenwriters. I have no intention of trying to sell him an idea or get him to read my script — I just want to buy the guy a beer or a cup of coffee and chat. How would you suggest I approach this?

It helps if you can attach a bottle of virtual scotch to your email, preferably this:

Lagavulin 12 yo 56.4% 2008 by la maison du whisky, art the bottle inside out.

Short of redefining the laws of physics by pulling that off, here is more reasonable advice:

  • Write something short. This is not the time to post an autobiography. Rather offer your name, explain why you’re emailing, tell them you’re a fan, state your request, say thanks, fade out, the end.
  • Write something non-threatening. I would imagine that for most stalkers, screenwriters don’t rate high enough to make it on their list of potential victims, but at least in the world of cinema, try telling screenwriters David Kahane and Joe Gillis they’re safe (20 bonus points for anyone who gets both of those references). I think the phrase you’ll want to insert is, “I just wanted to see if I could possibly ask you a few questions about the craft.” That way the writer knows you have put a limit on your own expectations. By the way, suggesting coffee or a beer in an introductory email could be taken as, if not threatening, at least too assertive. I’d hold off on that level of potential connection until you’ve swapped several emails.
  • Write something laudatory. Here’s what you have going for you: Unlike actors and directors, who gets heaps of press coverage and attention, screenwriters — by and large — live rather anonymous, and some would say, disrespected lives. So if you say something like “I wanted to let you know how much I admire your work,” that’s probably a “you had me at hello” moment right there.


If you do have a writer’s personal email address, that could be disquieting to them. Like seriously so. You will almost assuredly have to explain how you got that information. This could be problematic depending upon who you got the email from, so be aware you could be messing with other peoples’ friendships.

But on the whole, most screenwriters I know are interesting and interested people; that is they know a lot and are innately curious. Plus writing is a lonely gig. And bottom line, we’re always looking for an excuse — any excuse — not to work. So write something short, non-threatening, and laudatory, and see how that plays out.

GITS readers, have any of you reached out to industry professionals you didn’t know to ask a few questions? How did you approach contacting them? Any further / better advice for Josh?

Comment Archive

Reader question: How may I approach a favorite screenwriter (since I’ve got their personal email)? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Two Defining Dan Harmon Traits That Every Screenwriter Should Take to Heart

Dan Harmon’s process bears many lessons for aspiring screenwriters.

With a track record spanning dozens of TV shows and movies, Dan Harmon has established a unique and successful voice as someone for young writers to learn from and emulate. Best known for his work creating hit comedies like Community and Rick and Morty, Harmon has become a cultural force in the comedy community, able to understand and manipulate story structure while subverting expectations and building characters and comedic moments that speak to broad audiences. Harmon has been highly open about his process and methods, doing extensive Reddit AMA’s, and detailing the Story Circle he uses as the basis for many of his scripts. But beyond Harmon’s methodologies, the man has a great deal to offer in the way that he treats his writing process as well.

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No Film School

Why A Screenwriter Should Attend Film Festivals

Let’s suppose you are the type of screenwriter who sits in your sweat pants at home every night eating pizza. You know. The screenwriter who writes and writes blissfully unaware of the brimming humanity swirling at your doorstep. And let’s suppose you are a screenwriter who is actually very, very good.

Why then should you waste your valuable creative writing time by going to a film festival? Here’s why:

7 reasons a screenwriter should attend a film festival

1. To meet producers

If you want to sell a script, you don’t need an agent. You need a producer. It’s a producer that will get the money to get your script off the page and onto the screen. And guess what? Producers are very likely to attend the screening of their film at a festival. So hustle to a film festival. Find out which films screening are closest to the script you have written. See the film. Ask the festival team if the producer is at the screening. Start scratchin’ the dirt to see if you can rustle up a meeting – or in film festival lingo – ‘have you time for a drink?’ It’s all about building relationships. Anyone is far more likely to do a deal with someone they know than with a complete stranger.

The film industry is a people industry. It’s not what you know but whom


2. To meet other screenwriters

Yes we know you are shy – you are a screenwriter! Why not overcome the fear of networking and see if you can share a war story or three with any number of the screenwriters attending the festival you are attending. Networking can be fun too, ya know! Just avoid these networking faux pas.

3. Oh yes – to get known as a screenwriter who actually watches movies

In my long tenure here at Raindance I have met many hundreds of filmmakers – and many thousands of wannabees. It has constantly amazed me to meet screenwriters who don’t watch movies. To me it is the uttermost expression of ignorance not to watch movies.  Preferably a screenwriter should watch movies at a film festival on a big screen with other people who love movies. And see how successful the journey from script to screen has been, and why.

4. To pitch

In my many travels this year I’ve been to four continents. I’ve met zillions of producers large and small. Their common complaint is not about raising finance. Producers pretty much all agree that raising money is, simply put, a series of telephone calls.  The common complaint is about the dearth of quality commercially viable scripts. So many directors and producers I know attend festivals to see if they can find new material. So get ready for the impromptu pitch and make sure you know how to sum up your story into a few succinct and clear lines.

5. To keep the Queen happy

Did you know that a screenwriter can claim the costs of attending a film festival back as expenses? That’s right! even the Queen and Her Majesty’s revenue are rooting for you to go to a film festival. They want you to spend money getting and staying there. Becasue they know that your job is not only to further your career but also to accelerate the velocity of currency in circulation! And remember – attending a film festival is a lot cheaper than some of those expensive yoga retreats I keep hearing about. Need help getting set up for tax and all that stuff? Ping me an email and I will recommend the Raindance accountant. He will set you up fair and square so you can deduct festival expenses.

6. Learn

Festivals like Raindance have learning and discovery panels, masterclasses and discussions. Dah. Be there or be Leiscester Square my friend. Great learning sessions like Novels to Film, Live!Ammunition! Pitching Competition, feminine story models and much more of interest to screenwriters. PLUS you can get tooled up on the latest development on Virtual reality. Check out Raindance Film Festival Events.

7. To sell your writing

And oh yes – nearly forgot! The major film festivals like Berlin, Rotterdam and Cannes have sections where literary agents are trying to sell movie rights to their clients’ novels and short stories.

Fade Out

To hone your skills / grow into the screenwriter you’ve always been destined to be – check out our screenwriting training and Raindance Raw Talent – the tiny production outfit that produces a gem of a feature every 14 or 15 months.

The post Why A Screenwriter Should Attend Film Festivals appeared first on Raindance.


Student Screenwriter? Win a Spot at ScriptFest Los Angeles!

Deadline alert: 50 students will be chosen to attend the annual scriptwriting festival.

ScriptFest and The Great American PitchFest have partnered together for a new opportunity they’re calling the Student Filmmaker Initiative. The program will sponsor up to 50 high school and college student filmmakers from around the world to go to the upcoming 14th annual ScriptFest in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Hotel & Convention Center on June 23-25, 2017.

Nearly 2,000 writers travel from around the world each year to participate in the event. Selected applicants will win a bronze pass to the festival, valued at $ 300, which will allow them to receive training opportunities and the chance at networking.

Note: The application form is simple, but it must be received by TODAY, June 16th. For further details about the program or to apply, visit here. In addition to the conference, more than 120 top industry agents, managers, and production companies will hear pitches from new writers around the world at the Great American PitchFest, an event presented by ScriptFest.

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No Film School

‘The Creature From the Black Lagoon’ Gets a Water-Friendly Screenwriter

creature from the black lagoon remake

This summer’s new take on The Mummy doesn’t even open for a few more months, but Universal keeps on digging in their heels and doubling down on their new monsters universe. And while the studio waits with bated breath to see if there’s a blockbuster-sized audience for this new venture, they keep on hiring writers to shepherd new characters to the screen. And for their new take on The Creature From the Black Lagoon, a writer already very familiar with lead characters who are more able in water than on land has nabbed the job.

According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter Will Beall has been tasked with resurrecting the gill-man for the 21st century. Beall is no stranger to writing water-loving characters in cinematic universes – he recently wrote Aquaman for Warner Bros., which is just about to go before cameras under the direction of James Wan. Beall’s other credits include episodes of Castle, the new Training Day series, and Gangster Squad.

As with many of Universal’s other pending monsters projects (the line-up includes The Wolfman, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Van Helsing and more), there’s no rigid release date for the new Creature From the Black Lagoon. You get the impression that everyone is waiting to see what goes down with The Mummy before committing to anything beyond script pages.

Building a New Creature

I’m choosing to remain “glass half-full” when it comes to the new Universal monster movies (The Mummy looks pretty cool, even if it doesn’t look like a horror movie), so I’m ready to look on the brightest possible side of a new Creature From the Black Lagoon. Specifically, a new version, built to be part of a shared universe, could truly belong to the Universal monster family in a way that the previous version did not.

Released in 1954, the original The Creature From the Black Lagoon is the weird cousin of the “core” Universal monsters. Arriving long after the heyday of Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man (who collectively ruled the ’30s and the early ’40s), it is seen by many genre fans as the final “classic” Universal monster movies. Others have argued that it is just a monster movie produced by Universal, not a “proper” Universal monster film. This debate still rages today and it’s understandable – the gill-man doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with the wounded, gothic creatures of those early films. Well, not until 1956’s The Creature Walks Among Us, where the gill-man is elevated to something so much more complex. In one of the most underrated horror movies of all time, that horny fish-man became a desperate and tragic figure driven to suicide by the actions of man. It’s a great movie.

While I remain a fan of the original movie, a remake has the opportunity to start where that final film left off and create a central monster who is more layered, complex, and at-home with his complicated Universal brethren. With the right approach, Beall could build a Creature From the Black Lagoon movie that definitively establishes the gill-man as a permanent resident of the Universal monster family, not a tourist.

Of course, let’s see how The Mummy goes first.

The post ‘The Creature From the Black Lagoon’ Gets a Water-Friendly Screenwriter appeared first on /Film.


The Business of Screenwriting: The screenwriter as problem-solver

What do you see when you think about yourself as a screenwriter? A storyteller? A creative? A professional?

Perhaps as important is this question: How do people who work in Hollywood perceive writers?

The subject came to mind when I tracked an informative tweetstorm the other day from TV writer-producer Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul). In it, she tweeted this:

Writer as problem-solver. And that brought to mind a Business of Screenwriting post from June 2012 featuring the irascible, old school Hollywood producer Max Millimeter:

I was trying to make some subtle point about a script Max and I were arguing about when he wagged his finger one way and shook his head the other, body language I’ve come to know means he’s going to drop what he considers to be an essential truth in my lap.

“Kid, you just don’t get it. You think they think like you think, that you’re a writer. That’s not what they think. What a studio executive sees when they look at a screenwriter is this: problem-solver.

“See, each of them is responsible for a boatload of scripts. 10, 12, 14, whatever. Now a normal person would look at a script that a studio has dropped coins for and say, ‘Hey, look! It’s a movie!’ Beautiful thing, right? Not an exec. They look at that script and all they can see is one royally screwed-up story. And that’s not only a problem, it’s their problem.

“Which is where you come in. You walk in for a meeting, you schmooze a little. Hey, such and such movie really bombed this weekend, hate to be tiptoeing around that studio, eh? You hear about so-and-so, got busted for making out with a St. Bernard at that wedding reception, can you believe it? You know, lighten things up. Then you get to the story. And here nothing matters what you say… nothing… except one thing: Are you gonna solve their problem by fixing their script? They don’t give two Tinkerbells about your theories, your craft, your art, okay? That script you’re meeting about is a busted toilet filled with yesterday’s beef brisket and you, my fine young friend, are the plumber.”

Of course as Max Millimeter is prone to do, he oversimplifies the situation, but at a very basic level, he’s right. When you go up for an open writing assignment, that by definition means the script needing a rewrite has problems. Your job is to solve those problems.

This is why it is absolutely crucial for you to develop your critical analytical skills, to be able to read a script, identify the issues, then come up with possible solutions. How do you do that?

By reading scripts. Lots of scripts. Lots and lots of scripts. Not just reading them, but breaking them down. Scene by scene. Sequences. Subplots. Characters and their interrelationships. Analyze them.

You can read great scripts which is excellent training for how to craft a solid screenplay. But to hone your critical analytical abilities to identify problems, you should be reading problem scripts.

If you’re not currently part of a writer’s group, where you read each other’s pages and provide feedback, you should do that. Yes, reading scripts and providing feedback is a pain, takes up a lot of time, and sometimes you’ll probably hate it, but again, where else are you going to learn how to prep for an OWA meting unless you have put in the hours actually reading and analyzing problem scripts?

So when you think about yourself as a screenwriter and the images of artist, creative, and professional spring to mind, make sure you also include this: problem-solver. Then do what you can now to develop your critical analytical skills because if you want to have any chance of succeeding in the OWA market… well, let’s hear from Max Millimeter to drive home this point: “You gotta get your shit together.”

The Business of Screenwriting is a weekly series of GITS posts based upon my experiences as a complete Hollywood outsider who sold a spec script for a lot of money, parlayed that into a screenwriting career during which time I’ve made some good choices, some okay decisions, and some really stupid ones. Hopefully you’ll be the wiser for what you learn here.

Comment Archive

To read Gennifer’s tweetstorm, go here. While you’re at it, especially if you’re interested in writing TV, follow her. Definitely worth it.

The Business of Screenwriting: The screenwriter as problem-solver was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story - Medium

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