Screenwriters' Lecture Series 2013: Susannah Grant
On 28 September, Grant (Erin Brockovich, Charlotte's Web) will deliver the third in the BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters' Lecture series in association with The JJ Charitable Trust. Find out more about all of the writers in this event programme.
Screenwriters. On Screenwriting. The BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture Series in association with The J J Charitable Trust 23–30 September 2013 When I’m sitting down and start typing, I don’t feel that I’m writing an invitation for collaboration. I don’t feel like I’m writing a blueprint or an instruction manual. And when it’s really working, I don’t feel like I’m writing a screenplay. I feel that I am transcribing a film that only I’m watching. It’s the whole film, all the images, the sounds, the music, but all only very dimly seen. So it’s Plato’s Cave over the DVD player. The script is just an attempt to capture a film that one person saw once. PE TE R S TRAU G H AN SCR E E N W RI TERS ’ L E C T U R E 2 012 This autumn, we celebrate the fourth year that BAFTA has hosted its Screenwritersâ€™ Lectures, in conjunction with the BFI and The JJ Charitable Trust. During that time, our lectures have become a firm fixture in the international calendar, boasting the very finest writers working in film today. Past speakers have included Charlie Kaufman, Sir David Hare, Simon Beaufoy, Abi Morgan and Sir Ronald Harwood CBE, among many other celebrated names. The line-up of guest lecturers for 2013 is no less impressive. This year, we will be hosting Richard Curtis CBE, Hossein Amini, Susannah Grant, Tony Gilroy and David S Goyer. Between them, these writers boast a remarkable list of film credits, including The Bourne Ultimatum, The Dark Knight trilogy, Drive, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Man Of Steel, Notting Hill and Pocahontas. As always, the emphasis for these lectures will be the genesis of narrative film in script. Our series is all about the authorial voices that craft those blank pages into light. We proudly celebrate the ghosts in the machine, invisible in every frame of the finished film: the screenwriters. Jeremy Brock Screenwriter and Founder of the Lecture Series 1 David S Goyer David Goyer is a polymath of a writer, moving freely between big budget films, hit television series, blockbuster games and popular comic books. But Goyer’s original ambition was to be a homicide detective; it was only a speech by writer-director Lawrence Kasdan at Michigan University that changed his mind, and led to him joining the prestigious USC School of Cinema. After an early start as a writer for hire, Goyer happened upon an open writing assignment, which became hit vampire action film, Blade (1998), based on the Marvel comic character. One film became a trilogy, and it was perhaps no surprise that director Christopher Nolan should approach Goyer to work on a reboot of a more familiar comic book hero, Batman. The project kick-started a creative partnership which yielded both international box office success and wide critical acclaim, with Batman Begins (2005) followed by The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). 2 Monday 23 September, BFI Southbank Often exploring the interior struggles of extraordinary characters who have to exist in the real world, Goyer skilfully crafts characters out of icons. As a writer of comic books himself, he clearly knows how to successfully transfer these larger-than-life figures to the big screen. His screenplay for Man Of Steel underpinned one of 2013’s biggest hits, a statement which is true of so much of Goyer’s work. Unusually, for a big Hollywood screenwriter, he’s also successfully turned his hand to writing for games with the popular Call Of Duty: Black Ops series. And his television work is just as distinctive, including Da Vinci’s Demons and FlashForward. GUILLERMO DEL TORO David is something of a pioneer. He has a unique connection with the zeitgeist of US pop culture. He’s capable of fusing a very sophisticated understanding of narrative and mythology with a completely visceral approach to action and dialogue. He creates characters that fuse pulp, comics, hard-boiled fiction and street culture and has an innate understanding of the cultural pulse of the here and now. The BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture Series Hossein Amini Iranian-British writer Hossein Amini is a master of truthful yet inspired adaptation. Though his first writing credit was the BAFTA-nominated single drama for director Peter Kosminsky, The Dying Of The Light (1992), his early work for film featured two critically acclaimed literary adaptations: Thomas Hardy’s Jude (1996), for Michael Winterbottom, and The Wings Of The Dove (1997), based on the Henry James novel, which also won him BAFTA and Oscar nominations for adapted screenplay. Since then, he has taken audiences to 19th century Sudan in The Four Feathers (2002), for acclaimed director Shekhar Kapur, and in 2008’s Killshot he ventured into crime fiction with an Elmore Leonard adaptation. The BAFTA-nominated neo-noir crime thriller Drive in 2011 was a stylish, subtle adaptation of James Sallis’ novel. To further underline his impressive range, Amini followed Drive in 2012 with a muscular re-imagining of a classic fairytale in Snow White And The Huntsman. in association with The JJ Charitable Trust Wednesday 25 September, BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly Whether turning his hand to an acclaimed novel, American crime fiction or a fairytale, an Amini adaptation is as distinctive as it is respectful, breathing fresh life into the interior worlds of the characters in his charge. On his approach to dialogue, Amini says: “I think cinematic storytelling is about the reaction to dialogue rather than dialogue itself… the subtext, as in when something’s said, the scene becomes more about the reaction on someone’s face. And I’ve always loved that style of writing.” [www.wordandfilm.com] NICHOLAS WINDING REFN My collaboration with Hossein Amini on Drive was an absolute wonderful experience for two reasons: one, it was like working with the Phantom of the Opera – he was living in the attic of my house in Los Angeles and would come downstairs for writing sessions. And two, he has an incredible gift for dialogue and character nuance, which made everything around me seem so easy. And that is what makes a great screenwriter. In my opinion, Hoss is the best at what he does. 3 Words of Wisdom JULIAN FELLOWES Gosford Park, The Young Victoria I think one always has to remember when you’re writing a script, if some of you are writers who haven’t yet been produced, when you’re writing a script it isn’t necessarily going to be that script that gets made, but what it may do is be an audition that opens the door. ABI MORGAN The Iron Lady, Shame I never know whether I am the builder or the architect. The role shifts all the time. But what I have come to conclude is that the script is the muse. For producer, director, actor, director of photography and designer, it is the point of inspiration that everyone must think of as their own. 4 If our Screenwriters’ Lecture Series has revealed anything it’s that there’s no set rulebook to screenwriting. Every writer has their own approach, as these thoughts from past lecturers reveal… PETER STRAUGHAN Sixty Six, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy I think the real function of those books, that say they can teach you how to write a screenplay, is to fool you into thinking you’ve learnt how to write a screenplay, so that you go away and start writing a screenplay and, therefore, actually begin to learn how to write a screenplay. SCOTT FRANK Minority Report, Out Of Sight It’s OK to write something for the money. It’s OK to write something just because you want to. The writing process is hard enough without the added burden of having to locate your movie ahead of time in some arbitrary historical context. The BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture Series BRIAN HELGELAND LA Confidential, Mystic River I found that if a script doesn’t get made fairly quickly, they don’t get made. I’ve never had an old script suddenly get picked up and made. Once a certain amount of time goes by, I try to forget about it and move on. You can’t be like Miss Havisham with her wedding cake, wandering around the house with it. You have to find a new cake. MOIRA BUFFINI Jane Eyre (2011), Tamara Drewe Know when to stop writing. That’s something I learnt on those unmade films. Sometimes you go on and on, trying to fix something and it might not even be your bit that’s broken. PAUL LAVERTY Looking For Eric, My Name Is Joe I always find the most difficult things in a screenplay are finding characters with the contradictions that will make that journey interesting. You have to have a great premise, and to keep on story and keep the narrative tight. in association with The JJ Charitable Trust CHARLIE KAUFMAN Adaptation, Being John Malkovich If you don’t risk failure you’re never going to do anything that’s different than what you’ve already done, or what somebody else has done. FRANK COTTRELL BOYCE 24 Hour Party People, Hilary And Jackie Lots of the rules about filmmaking and storytelling are really hardwired in you. You’ve been watching films since you were a kid. It may not be that you can tabulate those rules in a really crystal clear way, but you’ve taken those in with your mother’s milk. JOHN LOGAN The Aviator, Skyfall What I say to young writers is: read your Shakespeare. Read your Shelley. Read your Keats. Read your Byron. Love language. 5 Susannah Grant An impressively versatile screenwriter, perhaps best known for Erin Brockovich (2000), Susannah Grant is equally comfortable in delivering quality films for adults or for young audiences. She demonstrates a great skill in tackling serious issues with a winning combination of humour and a real understanding of people. Early work includes a feature debut with Disney’s Pocahontas (1995) and much-loved hit ’90s TV show, Party Of Five. Grant followed this with a clever re-imagining of the Cinderella story in Ever After (1998), starring Drew Barrymore. Her big screen work has created some highly memorable roles for women: 28 Days (2000) shows Sandra Bullock’s range as an actor; In Her Shoes (2005) is a funny, warm tale of two sisters’ troubled relationship, starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette; and Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts, is the inspiring true-life story of a single mother who rallies a community to take on a multi-billion dollar corporation. Erin Brockovich earned Grant both BAFTA and Oscar nominations. Other credits include 6 Saturday 28 September, BFI Southbank Charlotte’s Web (2006) and The Soloist (2009). Grant has more recently returned to television as creator of A Gifted Man, with executive producer Jonathan Demme. Of her writing process, Grant says: “I always have a road map. It is an outline that gets revised as I move along. I start with, ‘How does this movie start? What’s the first scene? What’s the scene after that?’ And I bite off a little piece at a time. It’s like climbing a mountain. You can’t look at the mountain top, you just have to look at the ridge you’re on.” [www.storylink.com] JONATHAN DEMME Susannah Grant is a lot like Ms Brockovich in her fierce determination to do battle with bullshit and wrongheadedness. She proves quite quickly to be an exquisitely open and flexible collaborator, a merciful queen of the medium and an auteur who knows where to draw the line between open, free collaboration and adherence to themes and narratives too personal to even think about diverting from. Working with her was a phenomenal experience. She brings out the best in you, and helps you find the deepest riches contained in her beautiful work. The BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters’ Lecture Series Tony Gilroy Tony Gilroy is one of the most sought after screenwriters in Hollywood. With a skill for delivering smart, contemporary thrillers, he is perhaps best known for his work on the hugely successful Bourne films and his award-winning Michael Clayton (2007). The New York native has been writing for the screen for more than 20 years. An early creative collaboration with director Taylor Hackford produced the dark family mystery Dolores Claiborne (1995), supernatural legal thriller The Devil’s Advocate (1997) and tense kidnap drama Proof Of Life (2000). He also helped deliver action juggernaut Armageddon (1998), a worldwide box office hit for producer Jerry Bruckheimer. As the writer of the Bourne films, across the series, he has shaped a hugely successful thriller franchise, which resounded with audiences around the world. His character-led corporate thriller Michael Clayton won him critical acclaim for its portrayal of a law firm embroiled in corruption, as well as both BAFTA and Oscar in association with The JJ Charitable Trust Sunday 29 September, BFI Southbank nominations. Latterly, he’s taken to directing his own scripts with The Bourne Legacy (2012) and Michael Clayton. Gilroy has worked across the full spectrum of Hollywood screenwriting. He says the films that inspire him must have “a singular voice. You get some really strong point-of-view all the way through. The more concentrated, consolidated and ballsy that is – those are our best films.” [collider.com] TAYLOR HACKFORD Tony Gilroy writes smart and clean. There’s no cutesy bullshit on the page – just incisive dialogue and minimal description, which propel you deep inside his characters and narrative. That doesn’t mean Tony’s got no ego… he has it in abundance. He doesn’t suffer fools, which makes him a tough date for some studio execs. However, they have to give him respect, because his terse, intelligent style cuts right to the quick of today’s cynical, narcissistic society. Tony’s words, spoken so dynamically by Al Pacino’s ‘Devil’ in the final scenes of The Devil’s Advocate, have become a modern mantra – I’ve heard them repeated verbatim by cinema students in several major universities around the world. 7 Richard Curtis CBE Few screenwriters, by name alone, can conjure up images of charm, comedy and romance quite so readily as Richard Curtis. Alongside long-time collaborator Working Title, he is responsible for some of the biggest British worldwide successes in cinema over the past 20 years, including Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999), his work on the much-loved Bridget Jones series (2001 and 2004) and Love Actually (2003). Early on in his career, Curtis cut his teeth on such iconic British television comedies as Blackadder, Not The Nine O’Clock News and Spitting Image, before landing a worldwide hit for his screenplay of Four Weddings And A Funeral, directed by Mike Newell. Always warm and funny, Curtis is considered a true master of the British romantic comedy, though he said of his debut: “When I wrote Four Weddings I didn’t know what a ‘rom-com’ was… I thought I was writing an idiosyncratic, autobiographical film about a group of friends, with a bit of love in it.” [www.cherwell.org] 8 Monday 30 September, BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly Curtis is also responsible for critically acclaimed television with a political conscience: The Girl In The Café (2005) with director David Yates, and Mary And Martha (2013), a drama set against the backdrop of the malaria crisis in Africa. Curtis was also instrumental in setting up the annual Red Nose Day. Having turned his hand to directing on Love Actually and then subsequently The Boat That Rocked (2009), 2013 will see the release of About Time, starring Rachel McAdams, his third film as director. He has been the recipient of an Oscar nomination and multiple BAFTA awards, including the Fellowship in 2007. HUGH GRANT He’s an enigma, rather like the character of Charles in Four Weddings. When I was sent that script, I never really fully understood the character because I thought no-one in England is both funny and nice, or acerbic and nice. But Richard carries off that strange balancing act. THANKS EVENT STAFF Hossein Amini Richard Curtis CBE Tony Gilroy David S Goyer Susannah Grant Series Founder and Programmer Jeremy Brock British Airways Lauren Bello Courtney Bowman Stuart Brown Tom Coope Georgina Cunningham Johnny Davies Guillermo del Toro Jonathan Demme Ryan Doherty Yaou Dou Mark Drake Lucy Guard Taylor Hackford Briony Hanson Pippa Harris Tim Hunter Andrew Overin Michelle Robertson Mark Salisbury Molly Seymour Nicholas Winding Refn With special thanks to Kindred PR Event Programmers Katie Campbell, Tricia Tuttle (BAFTA) Laura Adams (BFI) Event Coordinators Julia Carruthers, Evan Horan (BAFTA) David Mayes, John McKnight, Tim Smith (BFI) Brochure Design Adam Tuck Brochure Editor Toby Weidmann Photo Shoot Producer Janette Dalley David S Goyer and Susannah Grant portraits by Barry J Holmes. Tony Gilroy portraits by Craig Blankenhorn. Hossein Amini and Richard Curtis portraits by Rich Hardcastle. The Academy chooses Regency Satin, supporting excellence in print. Publication printed on Regency Satin 170g/mÂ˛ supplied by PaperlinX. www.paperlinx.com SCHEDULE AND BOOKINGS David S Goyer Da Vinci’s Demons, The Dark Knight trilogy, Man Of Steel Monday 23 September, 18:15 at BFI Southbank Hossein Amini Drive, Snow White And The Huntsman, The Wings Of The Dove Wednesday 25 September, 19:00 at BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly Susannah Grant Charlotte’s Web, Erin Brockovich, Pocahontas Saturday 28 September, 18:20 at BFI Southbank Tony Gilroy The Bourne series, The Devil’s Advocate, Michael Clayton Sunday 29 September, 18:45 at BFI Southbank Richard Curtis C BE Four Weddings And A Funeral, Love Actually, Notting Hill Monday 30 September, 19:00 at BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly HOW TO BOOK Tickets for David S Goyer, Susannah Grant and Tony Gilroy can be booked at the BFI Southbank Box Office on 020 7292 3232 or via www.bfi.org.uk/southbank Tickets for Hossein Amini and Richard Curtis can be booked via the BAFTA website at www.bafta.org/screenwriters Follow #SWL13 on Twitter and share your thoughts on screenwriting with @BAFTA, @BFI and @BAFTAGuru Each of these events is being filmed and will soon be available to view on www.bafta.org/guru