Kay Cannon at GENRE SMASH!

Even though we hear nothing but great things from our podcast listeners, it’s been quite a while since we’ve been able to post one. But fear not! Here’s a new one! and it’s amazing!

And for those of you who haven’t read the title of this post, and are therefore wondering what’s amazing about it: It’s a recording of a GENRE SMASH earlier this year featuring Kay Cannon, the writer of PITCH PERFECT and PITCH PERFECT 2! Kay has also written for great shows like 30 ROCK and NEW GIRL, and has some great projects in development.

This was a wonderful interview – Kay is as hilarious as she is insightful. Listen for some truly great moments:

  • The basis of the burrito-throwing scene in the first PITCH PERFECT
  • The strange year she had writing PITCH PERFECT 2
  • How she got her first writing gig on 30 ROCK

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EMPIRE scripts. In the library. That is all.

We can’t post too much here – we agreed not to – but we got the first three episodes of EMPIRE, including the pilot and the next two episodes. We’re hoping to get more at some point, but for now, your wishes have been granted. Empire, baby!

(Please note: We’re closed tomorrow to celebrate Memorial Day weekend. But we’ll be open again on Tuesday, May 26.)

Click here to see our EMPIRE catalog listing. (Scroll past the BOARDWALK EMPIRE stuff.)
And click here to search our catalog.

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We’ll Miss You, MAD MEN.

The world is still reeling over the loss of MAD MEN, and still in shock over the reveal that a fictional character created the 1971 Coca-Cola “Hilltop” ad. (Kidding, of course.) Last night’s finale pleased many and disappointed a few, but whatever your opinion, there’s one fact that remains incontrovertible: We’ll always remember MAD MEN as a truly groundbreaking piece of television.

(And while we’re talking about it, here’s a shameless plug: Next week, we’ll have MAD MEN creator Matthew Weiner and a slew of the show’s writers at our INSIDE THE WRITERS ROOM WITH MAD MEN event.)

And while the show’s true strength was its layers upon layers of character depth – such that there may be no end to what can be revealed upon multiple viewings – what won many viewers over was its frank, unflinching depiction of the sexism of 1960s America.

Over at Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz argues that the show’s pilot, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” foreshadowed the finale. He’s put together a fairly exhaustive list of points to support his contention, like Don’s description of Pete’s fate should he continue to act like a hooligan in the office:

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Pete’s final fate doesn’t seem to match Don’s prognostication; reasonable people can agree or disagree as to how meaningful or empty Pete’s life wound up being. What’s certain is that that’s a brilliant bit of dialogue, and frames the world of MAD MEN very, very well. Sure, it seems like Don is defending Peggy, who Pete had crassly insulted in the prior scene. And certainly Don is kinder to Peggy, and alleviates the situation a bit by sympathizing with her. But just a few pages earlier, he said this:

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What may seem at first to be a direct refutation of Pete’s naked sexism is really more of a good excuse for Don to throw his weight around a bit. You might pump your fist in celebration, but keep watching the show, and you’ll find that Don isn’t exactly on the cutting edge of feminism.

But perhaps the pilot’s best exploration of the era’s misogyny is this squirm-inducing scene between Peggy and a doctor – whether he’s a GP or an OB-GYN is never really expressed – from whom she’s trying to obtain birth control pills.

This scene employs that lip-service feminism in a much more openly humorous way, with Dr. Emerson first expressing what might seem like a liberated opinion (“I’m not here to judge you”) and following it up with a pretty direct refutation of that opinion (“easy women don’t find husbands”).

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And he closes with a real winner:

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These pages are from an April 20, 2006 draft of the pilot. We’re sad to see MAD MEN go.

New Video: THE WRITER SPEAKS with Frank Pierson

Frank Pierson’s capacity for plumbing the emotional and motivational depths of society’s outsiders seems boundless. In his early days as a writer, he gave voice to Paladin, the iconoclastic gentleman gunfighter of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL. Later, he made a name for himself with COOL HAND LUKE, featuring Paul Newman as an outsider among outsiders. As his career progressed, he tackled that same isolation in many incarnations, from Bruce Willis’s Vietnam vet (IN COUNTRY) to Harrison Ford’s wrongfully accused officer of the court (PRESUMED INNOCENT) to Barbara Streisand’s feminist trailblazer (A STAR IS BORN), and, perhaps most famously, Al Pacino’s uniquely motivated bank robber in DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

(Of Pacino’s character – and really, could a movie like that ever get made today? – Pierson notes that, basically, “this was a guy who was always trying to do good things for people.”)

His ability to appreciate and express such remarkable characters may come from his family life. In our exclusive interview with Pierson, he describes an odd process his mother – herself a professional writer – employed to invoke her own muse: She’d remove all her clothing, go into an empty room, shut the door and turn off all the lights, and wait until her hand began to write. Watch the video, and note how he describes the process. He clearly recognizes its oddity, but at the same time it was a completely normal aspect of his upbringing. Plus, hey, it’s his mom.

He describes his whole life as a writer, including his battle with dyslexia (before it was recognized as a learning disability), his time as a TIME and LIFE writer (during which time he witnessed an atom bomb test in the Nevada desert), his beginnings on HAVE GUN, and his experiences as a writer operating in the late days of the Hollywood Blacklist (which he would research further when he directed TRUMAN in 1995).

Most recently, in the years before his death in 2012, Pierson worked on two critically-acclaimed TV shows: MAD MEN and THE GOOD WIFE.

The interview has a lot of wonderful moments, but my favorite was Pierson’s description of the fascination he feels working on a movie set:

“It’s pretend reality, but it also has the seed of truth, and there’s a little magic in it. And it’s something that we make up, Something we create ourselves. And it was absolutely so mesmerizing and fascinating.”

Check out the video – posted in two parts – below.

Tiny Moments: The DANCES WITH WOLVES Script

We were saddened last week to learn that Michael Blake, the writer of DANCES WITH WOLVES (both the screenplay and the original novel) died of cancer at the unacceptably young age of 69. I was even more saddened to learn what I didn’t know about Blake. From the linked article:

Blake had befriended Costner when he was a relatively unknown actor. He spent several years living out of his car and on friends’ couches while he wrote the novel. It went on to sell 3.5m copies after the success of the film, which Costner starred in, produced and directed. It won seven Academy Awards, including one for Blake for best adapted screenplay.

The guy lived in his car while he wrote a novel that eventually became an Oscar-winning movie. There’s beauty in that.

Similarly, there’s beauty in the small moments of Blake’s script, like this early one that always stuck with me, in which John Dunbar – Costner’s character – meets with a commanding officer to ask for a transfer to the frontier. A Union soldier in the Civil War, Dunbar has seen the war’s brutal effects on his fellow soldiers’ bodies, as well as his own. In his meeting with Major Farmbrough on page nine, he comes face to face with the horrors war can wreak on the mind.

By page two, we’ve seen the horrors of war in a time when field medics amputate legs as a matter of regularity. By page four, we’ve seen a demoralized Union line, shell-shocked into stillness by unrelenting Confederate fire. By page seven, Dunbar has attempted suicide and failed – but succeeded only in turning the tide of the battle in the Union’s favor. “In trying to produce my own death,” Dunbar says in voice-over, “I was elevated to the status of a living hero.”

In fewer than ten pages, Blake has not only given us a well-defined character and an action-packed opening scene. He’s made a strong argument that in war, every victory is Pyrrhic.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the picture of Major Farmbrough, an Army lifer whose service has clearly driven him off the deep end. He’s filthy. Suspicious. Weirdly anachronistic. And at the end of his conversation with Dunbar, he proudly pisses his pants, then kills himself.

If we’ve had any reason to be uncertain that Dunbar is making the right move in asking to be transferred as far away from as many people as possible, they’re gone by the end of the scene. We’re with Dunbar now, because the script has given us a million good reasons to be.

Check out the pages below, from an undated draft in our collection. Click each image to embiggen.

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May The Fourth: You Like Us Because We’re Scoundrels

In honor of today’s holiday – and you do know what that holiday is, don’t you? – we’ve got a treat for you guys: Swatches from Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan’s half-typed/half-handwritten first draft of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Kasdan himself donated this to our library – it’s not the original document, but the only extant copy of Kasdan’s own. Because it’s a first draft, a lot of the dialogue and description is different from the final shooting draft, and what we see in the movie.

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If anyone was at Jason Reitman’s live stage reading of EMPIRE a few months ago, you may have noticed the crowd – and Reitman himself – taking a moment to appreciate this “locomotive on stilts” line describing a wounded AT-AT:

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These next two images are contiguous, featuring Han and Leia’s first kiss. The dialogue that wound up being “You like me because I’m a scoundrel” in the final film was initially much bulkier, and Han’s character was even more aggressive:

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And because we’re celebrating all of STAR WARS, not just EMPIRE, here’s the unforgettable first appearance of the franchise’s most beloved character:

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What? Yousa can’t take a joke?

Don’t get comfortable: Pages from BLACK MIRROR

Science fiction and horror anthology shows used to be a much bigger deal in years past. The 50s and 60s were characterized by THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE OUTER LIMITS, the 70s by NIGHT GALLERY, then TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE and TALES FROM THE CRYPT in the 80s and 90s – as well as new versions of some of the older shows. But since then, we haven’t seen a whole lot – until recently.

Cue BLACK MIRROR, the new(ish) British series now available on Netflix. BLACK MIRROR is science fiction at its most basic, as it deals with technology and its impact on our culture and our personal lives. In some episodes, the technology is one that doesn’t exist but arguably could, like an app that recreates the recently dead by aggregating their social media posts and simulating their voices; in others, the tech is more fantastic, like brain implants that record sensory data for later review.

The show’s first episode, “The National Anthem,” is unique, though, in that it features barely any technology that isn’t currently extant – it deals almost exclusively with the impact of social media and mass media on privacy and celebrity. (There’s one part that takes some light poetic license with the capabilities of modern visual effects.) Like every MIRROR episode, “Anthem” deals very personally and intimately with its characters’ reactions to the tech in question, and offers viewers a palette of real and recognizable situations. And like all great science fiction, it uses speculation about the future to make statements about modern life.

“Anthem,” however, excels when it makes its audience deeply, deeply uncomfortable. The entire episode is infused with a sense of inevitable dread, and though its main character is the UK Prime Minister, its horror truly humanizes him. A victim of an assailant that takes advantage of the pervasiveness and immediacy of social media and our obsession with celebrity troubles, PM Michael Callow (and there’s a darkly comic irony to that name, considering his eventual loss of innocence) might be an obvious career politician, but the script’s refusal to look away from its own horror makes you truly feel for the guy. You can’t watch this episode without squirming at least a little bit.

A warning: These pages – from an undated production draft written by the show’s creator, Charlie Brooker – are pretty much the dictionary definition of Not Safe For Work. To set the scene, Callow is in a 10 Downing Street conference room with members of his staff and cabinet. They’re watching video of Princess Susannah, a member of the royal family, who has been kidnapped and is reading a statement at the urging of an offscreen voice.

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Yeah, that’s what she said. But the true horror of this episode is that even Callow – with all the power at his disposal – is unable to maintain control of the situation in the face of widespread access to advanced technology. He demands that the video be kept under wraps, but then learns that’s impossible:

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You can watch the episode to see how things go for the Prime Minister after that. Or you can come in and read it in our library; we have this and other BLACK MIRROR episodes on our shelves here.

But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS pages. Because, y’know, the date.

I’m not going to go into detail on this one. But we figured today would be a good day to share pages from PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, the 2008 comedy featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco at their Rogen-and-Franco-est. It’s just one in a long line of great comedies that wrings every ounce of wacky from its tobacky – a descendent of Cheech and Chong’s UP IN SMOKE and John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg’s HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE.

Here are three pages detailing the film’s first interaction between Franco’s Saul, a shiftless weed dealer, and Rogen’s Dale, his more ambitious (but still not what you’d call successful) friend and customer.

These pages are from a March 5, 2007 production meeting draft. Screenplay by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, story by Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg.

 

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Last week, we celebrated women in writing

Last week we held a gathering in the library to celebrate women in writing – from the early days, when writers like Anita Loos, Dorothy Parker and Frances Marion reigned, to modern times, when writers like Robin Swicord (MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, LITTLE WOMEN) and Winnie Holzman (WICKED, MY SO-CALLED LIFE), Veena Sud (THE KILLING), Michelle Ashford (MASTERS OF SEX) and Terri Edda Miller (CASTLE) actually joined the celebration.

We’re always proud to celebrate the milestones made by writers of all stripes. In today’s industry climate, women are underrepresented in just about every profession, so it’s vital that the conversation continue.

And we were thrilled that so many writers and industry professionals showed up to help us celebrate. Take a look:

Georgia Jeffries, associate professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and a member of the WGF board of directors, speaks to the crowd.

Georgia Jeffries, associate professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and a member of the WGF board of directors, speaks to the crowd.

Robert Nelson Jacobs, WGF Board President, also addressed the crowd...

Robert Nelson Jacobs, WGF Board President, also addressed the crowd…

 

...as did WGF Executive Director Katie Buckland.

…as did WGF Executive Director Katie Buckland.

The crowd in question. The library was packed from wall to wall!

The crowd in question. The library was packed from wall to wall!

Everyone came to celebrate women in writing.

Everyone came to celebrate women in writing.

Drinks were served by scotch ambassador Martin Daraz.

Drinks were served by scotch ambassador Martin Daraz.

We were also joined by Miranda Banks, assistant professor at Emerson College's department of media and visual arts. Miranda is author of the book THE WRITERS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN SCREENWRITERS AND THEIR GUILD, and performed much of her research for the book in the WGF Archive.

We were also joined by Miranda Banks, assistant professor at Emerson College’s department of media and visual arts. Miranda is author of the book THE WRITERS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN SCREENWRITERS AND THEIR GUILD, and performed much of her research for the book in the WGF Archive.

We also featured an exhibit of archival materials spotlighting women in writing - like Lillian Hellman's original application to the Screen Writers Guild.

We also featured an exhibit of archival materials spotlighting women in writing – like Lillian Hellman’s original application to the Screen Writers Guild.

...And this letter to Mary O'Connor from the office of Cecil B. de Mille.

…And this letter to Mary O’Connor from the office of Cecil B. de Mille.

 

The Linda Woolverton Collection

Over the past year, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time with Linda Woolverton. We interviewed her at the 2014 Newport Beach Film Fest, then again at the 2014 Austin Film Fest, and she’s helped us give writing instruction and opportunities to deserving kids through Ghetto Film School. Oh, and she recently donated a screenwriter’s ransom in great materials to our archive.

If her name doesn’t ring a bell, Linda has written and contributed to many of Disney’s most enduring modern classics, like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, MULAN, THE LION KING and more. She also wrote live-action Disney flicks like MALEFICENT and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (as well as its upcoming sequel).

The Linda Woolverton collection includes a wide array of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST materials, including handwritten notes from Jeffrey Katzenberg, a beat outline, character notes, and, presented here in part, an outline of the entire script.

Here are the final three pages of that outline, beginning with Beast’s efforts to woo Belle once he’s realized he’s in love with her, and including Belle’s release and the final battle between Beast and Gaston.

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To learn more about how you can view items the archive – and, remember, anyone can view these, not just WGA members – click here to contact our team.