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Posts Tagged ‘The Dialogue’

Two days ago I saw Jason Reitman’s film Up in the Air for a second time.  That’s just a well crafted film and obviously I’m not the only one who thinks so. On top of being named best screenplay by the National Board of Review & it picked up Best Screenplay from the Los Angles Film Critics Association Award and also Best Screenplay, Adapted from the Austin Film Critics Award as well as several other nominations including the Golden Globes.

An Academy Award nomination appears a sure thing, with many calling it a front-runner to win for best adapted script.

I’ve already  mentioned director/co-writer Jason Reitman in the post Up in the Air Over Iowa, but I thought I find out a little more about the co-writer of the script,  Sheldon Turner.

Turner went to NYU but in an interesting twist was not a film major, but graduated with a law degree. Then he had a passion to write screenplays.

“I never took a (screenwriting) course, what I did was read every screenplay I could get my hands on. And I tell people go find the crappy screenplays because they are abundant man. And that was what my inspiration was to a degree. So I wrote 12 screenplays before I gave one to anybody. Literally I was writing a like script a month–editing was not a huge priority at that point, and I just put them on the shelf. And then the 12th one–actually the 13th one I finally felt like I hit it. I felt good enough about it to give it out to people and that was, of course, the one I went out and sold. But I knew I had to get that training.”
Sheldon Turner
The Dialogue interview with Mike de Luca

Up in the Air is only his third produced screenplay credit with the first two being The Longest Yard and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. But he’s a hot ticket now with at least ten films in development. But don’t forget the 12 screenplays he wrote in order to become a writer in demand.

Scott W. Smith

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In 2006 the first person in more than 50 years to win back to back Oscar Awards in screenwriting was Paul Haggis. He then followed his award-winning scripts Million Dollar Baby and Crash with another Academy Award nomination in 2007 for his screenplay Letters from Iwo Jima.

Haggis had a background in theater and construction before moving to Los Angeles in his early twenties from London, Ontario—which makes him almost a Midwesterner as London is less than an hour from the Michigan state line. Soon after arriving in L.A. he landed his first TV credit on Love Boat in 1985 which lead to more opportunities in television, some more memorable than others; Heathcliff, One Day at a Time, Who’s the Boss, L.A. Law, Different Strokes, The Facts of Life, thirtysomething, Walker, Texas Ranger, EZ Streets, Due South, Michael Hayes. Family Law.

He worked on hundreds of TV episodes which is a staggering amount of writing which he credits for teaching him how to write, paid the bills rather well, but also created in him a to write the kind of scripts that feed his soul. That process took a few years.  By the time he won his first Oscar he was in his early 50s with three decades of writing credits behind him.

According to Haggis the impetus for writing Crash was being car jacked in 1991 followed by wondering ten years later who were these young guys who stuck a gun in his face. Where did they come from? He explored that creatively.

“I like asking myself  difficult questions—I don’t think writers should write about answers, I think they should write about questions.”
Paul Haggis
The Dialogue

Below is a ten minute version of the interview from The Dialogue.

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I Hate Valentine’s Day!

That’s a movie now in post-production and was written by the female screenwriter who actually wrote the most successful romantic comedy in box office history. Any guesses on the title of that movie?

Here’s a hint, the screenwriter was born in Canada.  Another hint? The writer’s name is Nia Vardalos and she starred in the film. 

According to Box Office Mojo, My Big Fat Greek Wedding pulled in $241,238,208. Not bad since it only cost $5 million to make. One thing that wasn’t fat was the script as the movie came in at only 95 minutes. And I should add that it was Nia Vardalos’ first script and she received an Academy Award nomination.

She wanted to write it as a one act play but a friend told her to write it as a script first so she could register her story. So she wrote the script first then she wrote the story as a one-person play and began performing it in Canada and in the US. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson loved the play and thought it would make a good movie and the rest is history.  

Now that the actress is now also a writer/director I figured I could find a quote from her for those of you who love screenwriting. 

“I think the lesson in everything that happened to me, for people, is don’t listen to the odds, not to listen to the naysayers, to listen to the odds of you getting hit by lighting and getting kidnapped by terrorist are greater than your screenplay being done–if you have a story to tell just write it.”
                                                                                Nia Vardalos 

And while Vardalos was born in Canada and found fortune and fame in LA, I should add that she honed her comedic chops here in the Midwest at Second City in Chicago. She worked in the ticket office for two years until she got a break one night by getting on stage when a performer was sick.

If you recall, the My Big Fat Greek Wedding is set Chicago (though it was filmed in Toronto). Years ago while on a production in Chicago I made a point to eat in Greektown. (If you’ve ever had a gyros, that’s where the tradition reportedly started in America.) It’s a great area to visit to get a different slice of America beyond the suburbs and strip malls.  

I didn’t realize this until I wrote this post that there are similarities with Nia Vardalos and Diablo Cody. First time writers that found box office success, comedy writers, Chicago connection, recognition from the Academy Awards, films focused on families dealing with issues.  (Didn’t I just write about Orson Welles and his Chicago-area connection? There’s something going on over there.)

By the way, I pulled the Vardalos quote from an interview she did that is part of a video series called The Dialogue, Learning from the Masters that looks great. Here is a sample found on You Tube.

 

Related post: Screenwriting da Chicago Way  (Which for the record is the #4 most read post on Screenwriting from Iowa.)

Scott W. Smith

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