Posts Tagged ‘Audrey Wells’

Audrey Wells wrote the screenplay for The Hate U Give which hit theaters today. Unfortunately, Wells died last night after what The Wrap called “a long and private battle with cancer.”

She may be best known for writing and directing Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) which starred Diane Lane. But in her 20+ year career, she also wrote films that featured some of Hollywood’s biggest named actors; Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Susan Sarandon, Dwayne Johnson, Dennis Quaid, and Bruce Willis.

My favorite Wells film is The Kid (2000) in which Willis plays an image consultant who’s lost his way. It touches themes that can be found in Jerry Maguire and Rod Serling’s classic Twilight Zone episode Walking Distance.

“Martin Sloan, age thirty-six. Occupation: vice-president, ad agency, in charge of media. This is not just a Sunday drive for Martin Sloan. He perhaps doesn’t know it at the time, but it’s an exodus. Somewhere up the road he’s looking for sanity. And somewhere up the road, he’ll find something else.”
Rod Serling intro to Walking Distance

Martin Sloan, though successful in business,  has a sense of disillusionment of who he’d become.  The’s an echo of Sloan in the successful sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) who has a breakdown and asks himself, “Who had I become?”

The Willis character doesn’t have to rely on memory or nostalgia to be confronted with his personal life situation, he actually is confronted via movie magic by his younger self who tells him, “I grow up to be a loser.”

There are some tender scenes in The Kid, but before Willis goes through a transformation, Wells had to show how untender the Willis character could be.

Here’s a quote I posted back in 2010 that featured a quote by Wells on her screenwriting process.

“I always work backwards from theme. I know some people are driven by story first, or by character first, I’m driven by theme first. Every movie is about something. So once I know what that theme is about then I percolate on different ways to illustrate the theme. And every scene in the movie will be in service to supporting the theme…Under the Tuscan Sun was supposed to be about what happens between the day you wish you were dead and the day you’re glad you’re alive again. And everything I put in the movie was supposed to illustrate that journey and build towards that moment of being glad you’re alive again.”
Screenwriter Audrey Wells
Guest speaker at Anatomy of a Script

Earlier this week I posted part 2 and part 3  of a Q&A I did with screenwriter Clare Sera. On Sunday, a film she co-wrote (Smallfoot) was number one at the box office. But Clare pointed out that having a film come out and get press is great—but it’s just a blip. It’s not her life. She added, “it is my relationships that are my actual life, that is what my life is.”

It sounds like that was Audrey’s life as well. Her husband said in a statement I read via The Hollywood Reporter:

“Even during her fight, she never stopped living, working or traveling, and she never lost her joy, wonder and optimism. She was, simply, the most incredible wife and partner imaginable, and she knew always that she was loved by [our daughter] Tatiana, me and the friends who were her chosen family.”She said just recently, ‘We’re so lucky, honey. We got to live a love story. Who gets to do that?’” 
Brian Larky

Scott W. Smith


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“As a teacher what I do is I combine passion with the subjects I teach.”
Jaime Escalante (1930-2010)
Inspiration behind the movie Stand and Deliver

“I can’t think of a better way to spend a life than pursuing the imagination.”
Richard Walter
Writer & screenwriting professor

(Richard Walter Interview Part 1)

Today begins a several part series taken from an interview I did with Richard Walter, Chairman of the UCLA screenwriting program. Early in his screenwriting career he wrote the first draft of American Graffiti for George Lucas. He’s taught at UCLA since 1977, where his students have included David Koepp (Spiderman) Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun), and Alexander Payne (Sideways). He’s also the author of Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing.

SS: In the last 30 years there has been an explosion of screenwriting training in books, schools, CDs/DVDs, blogs, and seminars, yet you say that you’ve seen that many writers are merely writing scripts that are “shiny, superficial and soulless.” So what’s the problem that writers today are technically better, but that hasn’t translated into better scripts?

Richard Walter: “They’ve gotten intellectual. I think the downside to some of the books on screenwriting is they do tend to make people become self-conscious and intellectual—’Uh, let’s see is this the inciting incident? Or is it a plot point? On page 17 this is supposed to happen, and that’s supposed to happen.’ How can that do anything other than straight-jacket people?

I do believe in outlining, but at some point you have to let go of that outline and stay open to surprises and live with the uncertainty.

I’ve seen people who have shaped the script correctly, yet it just doesn’t move me. It just doesn’t reach audiences in the solar plexus. It’s too complete in the old spelling of the word C-O-M-P-L-E-T. It’s a little too well made.

One of my favorite movies ever, but certainly my favorite of those that came out of UCLA, was a real UCLA film school Mafia film called Stand and Deliver, the story of Jaime Escalante. He was a dedicated teacher and decided to teach calculus to these Latino kids who live in the barrio in East LA and go to Garfield High. And he succeeded in doing that.

The first thing a teacher has to have is high expectations. And indeed Escalante succeeded in teaching these kids calculus. And indeed they take the Educational Testing Services national test in calculus and they all pass it. Well, back in New Jersey where the ETS is located they get back these results and say, ‘This can’t be true. These Latino kids in East LA could not have passed this calculus exam, they must of cheated,’ and so they make them take the test again. This is the true story upon which the movie is based. So the kids take the test again and pass and demonstrate they indeed were capable of learning calculus.

Now I want you to imagine Tom Musca, who was the producer and co-writer of that movie, saying to me, ‘Now , Richie, imagine me pitching this picture to the town. The climax is these kids take a math test—twice.’ It sounds idiotic, it sounds very stupid. But it works so well. So I would say that the worst mistake that writers make is we outsmart ourselves, and that’s sometimes what happens with these (screenwriting) books, they make us a little too self-observing and that is the enemy of all creative expression. “

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Screenwriting Quote #16 (Richard Walter)

Scott W. Smith

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