The Writer Speaks: David Swift

Sure, maybe some of you saw TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION this weekend (and statistically, the numbers bear that out). Or maybe you’re saving your movie-going dollars for a screening of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES later in July. Because there’s nothing better in the middle of summer than hanging out in an air-conditioned movie theater to see the latest developments in visual effects.

But imagine it’s 53 years ago this week, and you want to see a special effects spectacular. What would you see?


That’s the one – written and directed by David Swift – where child star Hayley Mills played identical twins, using a series of in-camera techniques to make it look as though there were two Hayleys in one scene. The movie was remade in 1998 with a pre-DIU Linsay Lohan and a variety of more advanced approaches.

But in the original, Swift and his team didn’t have things like digital compositing and motion-control cameras to get the job done. Here’s Swift telling the story of his career as part of our series, THE WRITER SPEAKS, chronicling the lives of prominent film and television writers whose work permeated the 20th and 21st Centuries.


The long-awaited Writers Guild Foundation podcasts continue – this week, we present our incredible chat with mega-prolific television writer Jane Espenson!

Jane has a huge and impressive list of credits, starting with DINOSAURS (which she discusses in the podcast, including its hilarious-yet-kinda-gloomy final episode) and arriving most recently at HUSBANDS, the web series she co-created with actor and writer Brad Bell (but don’t let her hear you call it a web series). She’s perhaps best celebrated for her work on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, for which she wrote classic episodes like “Pangs” and “Earshot.”

Jane talks about coming up in the TV industry, why she prefers the medium to movies (and why she’s not really a “movie person”), and beautifully answers one question from a frustrated audience member who tells the story of missing out on a writing room position because the staff, according to a producer, “already has its woman.” Jane’s response is at once encouraging and pragmatic.

Just click play on the media player – then subscribe below! Or go back and listen to our first podcast with Marti Noxon!


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New Video: ANATOMY OF A SCRIPT with Jenji Kohan

I know all you guys are watching ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK because you won’t stop talking about it on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Megatweet and Tinderpoke and whatever the heck other social media whatsits you Silicon Valley types keep inventing to make me feel old. And many of you seemingly managed to have watched the entire second season only 73 minutes after it was released on Netflix, in clear violation of something in that Stephen Hawking book I have on my bookshelf to make visitors think I’m smart.

And because you all love OITNB so much, you’re sure to love this hilarious and insightful interview with its creator, Jenji Kohan, back when she was making WEEDS. It’s part of our old ANATOMY OF A SCRIPT series, in which Winnie Holzman and Robin Schiff interviewed  the writers and creators that helped continue to inspire their own work.

The video is in two parts: The main interview and the audience Q&A. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Introducing the Writers Guild Foundation Podcasts

Today’s a pretty magical day. It’s the day our events become easier to experience than ever. It’s the day we introduce the WRITERS GUILD FOUNDATION PODCAST. It’s the day you can start listening to our events on your phone! Your iPod or non-Apple music player! Your tablet! Or right here on your desktop in this very blog post!


Click the play button on the media player above to listen to our recent GENRE SMASH! evening with the amazing Marti Noxon, who wrote (and ran) unforgettable shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and PRIVATE PRACTICE. She’s also the seasoned feature writer behind the FRIGHT NIGHT remake, the upcoming TOMB RAIDER reboot and the (also upcoming) film adaptation of the Jeannette Walls memoir THE GLASS CASTLE. It’s a great chat; Marti is a goldmine of insight into the writing process, the unique hurdles faced by women in the industry, and the value of pop culture in the public sphere (during her time at BTVS, Willow came out as gay, becoming one of a relative few LGBT characters on television at the time).

You can also subscribe to our podcast, so you’ll never have to worry about missing an episode:
Click here to subscribe to our podcast via RSS.
Click here to subscribe to our podcast via iTunes.

We’ll be releasing new episodes every two weeks, including one-on-one chats with writers, panel discussions from our day-long craft symposia, and more great stuff we’ve got in the works.

For many moons now, folks who love what we do have been asking us: Is there any way to watch your events online? Are you going to stream this event for people who don’t live in Los Angeles? Are you recording this event?

Over the years, our approach to recording and distributing our events has varied. As recently as the late 1990s, we were recording our events on VHS tapes.


Tapes for events in 1999 and 1989. Lego barista included for scale.

You used to be able to come to our library and watch any event you missed. We still have the tapes, but, uh… we don’t have a VCR to play them on anymore. So you can watch them if you want, but you’ll have to bring your own VCR. We’ll loan you some headphones.

After VCRs, we moved to DVDs, which we sold at events and here on the website (and still do, actually – but more on this soon). As most of the folks reading this may already know, we’re a nonprofit (HINT HINT, YOU GUYS) and so any little source of income is welcome. And this was definitely a “little” source of income; DVD sales made us a few thousand bucks in a good year. Not bad, but there were production costs to consider, as well as the annoyance of having to lug a bunch of copies around to sell at our events.

So we switched to online streaming via Ustream. Click the link and check out our channel, and you’ll see just how skilled we are at using the latest technology to produce masterful videos with crystal-clear image and concert-quality sound. You’ll also see that we’re pretty good at sarcasm.

Long story short: Maintaining a live stream of an event is a fairly cumbersome process when you don’t have a staff dedicated to it – or even a staff member dedicated to it. Streaming was a huge pain, and in the end it wasn’t making us a heck of a lot of money. So we started uploading all those Ustream videos – which, despite their poor video quality, were chock full of great information – to our YouTube channel, where people could access them for free.* We figured: Better to make them available to thousands of people around the world for free than to make a pittance selling them to a couple dozen people a year. People don’t like paying for stuff on the Internet, as it turns out. Who’da thought?

And now, today, we introduce our podcasts. They’re audio-only, but don’t worry – we’ll still record video of many of our big events like our BREAKING BAD panel or our WALKING DEAD panel and post them here. We record nearly everything we do, so if you miss an event, don’t worry – you’ll eventually have a chance to hear it on the podcast.

* Please note – because we have a small staff and a lot to do, uploading these can take a while.


New Video: Writing and Acting THE WALKING DEAD

A few months ago we brought the writers and actors behind THE WALKING DEAD to the Writers Guild Theater, along with Nerdist extraordinaire Chris Hardwick as host. I wish everyone reading this could have been there with us, because it was an amazing night.

And so here it is: Hardwick interviews showrunner Scott Gimple; Robert Kirkman, who created the original comic and wrote several episodes of the show; and Lauren Cohan and Steven Yeun, who play Maggie and Glenn on the show.

I won’t bore you with a lot of chatter. But watch for the Ray Romano impressions. They’re not exactly dead-on. But they’re hilarious.

The Writer Speaks: D.C. Fontana

Sometimes you live long. Sometimes you prosper. And sometimes you wind up doing both.

Dorothy C. Fontana had been pitching and selling television episodes for years before joining STAR TREK – as creator Gene Roddenberry’s secretary. She’d written episodes of THE TALL MAN and BEN CASEY – and was one of a relative few – heck not just a relative few, an actual few – women writing television at the time.

Soon, she began pitching outlines and episodes to Roddenberry. The rest is history (well, 23rd Century history, anyway). Fontana not only wrote classic episodes like “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” – the first time travel episode – she also helped determine the future of the franchise, bringing on well-known science fiction writers like Harlan Ellison and Richard Matheson, and eventually helping develop characters and concepts for STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.

“We chose in the early months of STAR TREK to go with strong science fiction names,” she told WRITTEN BY, the magazine of the WGA-West. “We felt that would attract people to this show. Uh, it’s science fiction. We’re not fooling around here… We were not making kiddie stuff. This was hard science fiction. Nobody else was really doing the kind of science fiction we were.”

In this video, Fontana tells the story of her life as a writer, as part of our ongoing oral history series, THE WRITER SPEAKS.

Oral History: Our Garry Marshall Interview, and an explanation

Over the years, the Writers Guild Foundation has conducted dozens of interviews documenting the oral histories of screen and television writers. We did it in an effort to preserve their stories before they passed on, and to document the conditions and experiences that crafted the experiences of the creators of the 20th Century’s most memorable popular culture.

It was a great idea with near-perfect execution, with one flaw: Once we recorded these histories, we burned them to DVDs and put them on a shelf in the back room of our library. And we never really publicized the fact that we had them.

Lately, we’ve been trying to change that. Slowly, we’ve been moving all of the content that we own to YouTube – including streamed events that were previously kept behind a paywall. It’s all on our YouTube channel, including our look inside the writers room of NEW GIRL, our oral history of Sherwood Schwartz (part 1, part 2), and more.

We’ll be adding more content in the coming months, as well as podcasts of our recent events, like our evening with Billy Ray, our GENRE SMASH! interview with Ash Miller and Zack Stentz, and some of our upcoming events as well.

In the meantime, here’s our most recent addition: Our interview with TV maestro Garry Marshall. I haven’t watched this video yet, but it’s got a special place in my heart – I grew up watching HAPPY DAYS, LAVERNE & SHIRLEY and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW in syndication every day after school, and along with a handful of other shows (mostly comedies from the late 70s, including GOOD TIMES, WHAT’S HAPPENING! and THREE’S COMPANY), formed the basis of my passion for good screen storytelling.

So without further ado, here’s Garry.

Our exclusive interview with the writers of KILL YOUR DARLINGS

Recently we had the opportunity to chat with John Krokidas and Austin Bunn, the writers of the upcoming KILL YOUR DARLINGS, about the inception of the Beat movement at Columbia University in the mid-1940s.

Allen Ginsberg – he of Howl And Other Poems – arrived at Columbia in 1944, where he met William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Lucien Carr. Carr became a lynchpin in the creation of the beat movement, but later bowed out after he was placed on trial for the murder of David Kammerer – a charge he successfully reduced to manslaughter after mounting an “honor slaying” defense, which argued that Carr was the victim of homosexual predation.

Ginsberg dedicated Howl to Carr, but Carr successfully lobbied to have the dedication removed.  The poem itself still makes reference to him, however.

The killing is also chronicled in the book And the Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by Burroughs and Kerouac, written in 1945 but not published until 2008 – well after Bunn and Krokidas had finished the bulk of their screenplay.

Krokidas directed the film, which stars Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan as Carr, and Michael C. Hall as Kammerer. In this interview, Bunn and Krokidas chat with us about taking years to write the script, what drove them to finish, and the challenge of writing about some of the 20th Century’s most important writers.

Part 1:

Part 2: