Posts Tagged ‘Melisa Wallack’

“Without people who believe in you as a writer, or in your screenplay, or in the film itself, it would have been impossible.”
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club)

In the post Screenwriter Melisa Wallack I mentioned how she co-wrote Dallas Buyers Club with Craig Borten. Wallack waited for more than 10 years so see the film get made, but Borten actually had a vision of this film for more than 20 years. Dallas Buyer Club producer Robbie Brenner read one of Borten’s early drafts before Wallack came on board to co-write the script.

Brenner  told Alexandra Cheney at Variety of her journey with the script. (A script that Brad Pitt was once attached to.):

“It’s such an amazing story but throughout the time it took we wanted to kill ourselves. And the frustration, the peaks and valleys and not getting the movie made and then getting the script back, I feel like this is just the most amazing completion. The whole thing came full circle. We spiritually and emotionally made this movie and all of the wrongs, all of the frustrations have been righted. This is what you dream of.”
Robbie Brenner
Oscars: Emotional End To Long Road For ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

Borten had a personal connection to Ron Woodroof’s story. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I had gone through some similar experiences with my father having lymphoma, in terms of the doctors, and dealing with the medical establishment, the protocol, the coldness. My father was thinking of seeking out alternative treatments in Mexico – so Ron’s experiences spoke to my heart.”

Borten is originally from Philadelphia and studied international relations at Syracuse University. He’s credited as one of the writers of The 33 that will be released later this year.

“I’ve sold some other screenplays, and I sold some other pitches, and adapted some stuff over the years. But I’ve never got anything to the finish line. [Until the Dallas Buyers Club was produced.] People ask, if you knew it would be 20 years, would you still have done it? And that’s been a tough question to answer. But sitting here today, I can tell you it was worth it.”
Craig Borten
Interview with Steven Rea, The Philadephia Inquirer 

Related Post: Jailbait, rejection & Screenwriter Mark Boal’s Start (“You have to be willing to get your teeth kicked in continually before you achieve even a modicum of success.—Oscar winning screenwriter Mark Boal)

Scott W. Smith

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As I looked over the names of the 2014 Oscar nominees one named jumped out at me that I knew I had not pulled any quotes from in the six years of doing this blog. In fact, the name was totally off my radar. Melisa Wallack is now on a lot more radars than she was a few days ago. She’s now Oscar-nominated screenwriter Melisa Wallack.

She’s nominated along with Craig Borton for writing Dallas Buyers Club. I decided to dig around on the Internet and see what I could find out about Wallack. And surprise, surprise her hometown is the Minneapolis area. (One of the inspirations of this blog was this unknown writer in Minneapolis who pounded out a spec script on her way to becoming Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody.)

Wallack moved to LA in ’95 as a businesswoman and by ’05  was named by Variety as one of the top 10 screenwriters to watch. But her Midwest upbringing paved the way for her to write a story about a about an electricians and hustler with AIDS who fights the system for himself and others to get the medication they need.

“I grew up in an idyllic town outside Minneapolis with my parents and five siblings. We had dinner together almost every night … My father would listen to us recount what we had learned at school that day. One of my most vivid memories of this nightly ritual was my father’s insistence that we tell him how we knew something was true. Who said it? Where did we read it? How did we know it was, in fact, true? It wasn’t until many years later that I understood what my father was doing.

“…For me, Ron’s [Ron Woodroof played by Matthew McConaughey] story transcends AIDS. It applies to every one of us in every aspect of our lives. It speaks to the danger of becoming passive participants who follow written protocols and so-called experts’ opinions instead of our own instincts. It reminds me of my nightly conversations with my father and his insistence that we distinguish opinion from fact. It reminds me that it is important to be an active member of society and, in the words of Ron Woodroof, that ‘everyone should ask questions.'”
Melisa Wallack
LA Times, Spirit of Champions drove the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ script

BTW—That 2005 Variety article about Wallack mentions the Dallas Buyers Club script was what made her a screenwriter to watch. It also said that was her first script and that she began writing in 1999. I’m not sure when she and Borton completed the script but it appears that Dallas Buyers Club took at least 10 years to get produced. Add to that Borton interviewed Ron Woodroof for three days back in 1992 (a month before Woodroof died) and wrote a couple version of the script before he met Wallack,  meaning in total it took over two decades for that story find its way to earning 6 Oscar-nominations including Best Picture.

P.S. Wallack was born in Wayzata, MN which is not far from the Minneapolis suburb of Crystal, MN where Diablo Cody wrote her Juno script. Back in ’08 I visited the Starbucks where Cody wrote much of the script. See the post Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy).

Related Post:

The Oscars Minnesota-Style
The Coen Brothers on Raising Money (Joel & Ethan Coen are also from Minneapolis)
Screenwriting Postcard from Minneapolis
Screenwriting Quote #3 (Charlie Kaufman) Many don’t connect the Oscar-winning screenwriter with Minneapolis, but that’s where he was living before he moved to LA .

Scott W. Smith

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