Five for Pride: Moonlight

Happy Pride Month! To celebrate, the WGF Library highlights five screenplays of some of our favorite films featuring LGBTQ protagonists. This list isn’t by any means a ranking; frankly, there are so many wonderful films to choose from, which is a really great thing to say at this day in age. We recommend reading and watching beautiful, groundbreaking stories told over the past 25 years: Brokeback Mountain, Boys Don’t Cry, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, A Single Man, to name a few. You can read these screenplays all this month or any month—check our Library catalog. But first, we’ll start with a recent award winner.

1. Moonlight – Screenplay by Barry Jenkins, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney

The 2017 Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay undoubtedly left a mark with the quiet vulnerability of its protagonist, a young black man named Chiron. There is much to unpack in Moonlight, but I viewed it as a coming-of-age drama that happens to be set in a world in which the neighborhood drug dealer serves as a boy’s de facto father figure and the burdens of high school include regularly dodging both bullies and a mother’s drug-addled entreaties.

Amid such circumstances, Moonlight includes moments universal of coming-of-age stories. We see a teenage Chiron’s first sexual experience on the beach with his best friend Kevin. On screen, it was a beautifully intimate moment in which the audience feels as present and attentive as the characters. On page, each beat is measured as a chill evening hang on the beach turns into an emotionally raw glimpse into this quiet teenager’s psyche.

As Chiron and Kevin engage in a push-and-pull dance of sorts before culminating in a kiss and then some, we, too, lean closer to the page waiting with baited breath for the painfully awkward repercussions of putting oneself out there. But it never arrives. The moment is treated gently and lovingly by Jenkins both on screen and on the page.

 

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: LA Confidential

This week’s highlighted script strong-arms us to the gritty back-alleys of 1950s Los Angeles and the caroming good cop/bad cop carousel that is Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson’s 1997 neo-noir crime yarn LA Confidential. Taut and trussed with tension, this is a screenplay that ably walks the walk and talks the talk. With stiletto sharp dialogue and convincing characters that transcend the genre it sometimes lampoons, LA Confidential is a script that smacks you across the face like a literary blackjack.

The screenwriters craft a complex web of double and triple-crosses and keeps the story propelled with plenty of who-dunnit momentum. The dexterity and comprehensive understanding of the conventions of film noir and police procedurals are one of the many reasons the script scooped up an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. It takes long established noir tropes of dusky dames and fast-talking police palaver and delivers something that’s both familiar and all too unique.

To read LA Confidential is to soak up a masterclass in how to write incisive and considered character development. The players are repugnant, but you’re still compelled to care about them. They’re incorrigibly captivating despite their lack of scruples. We’ve got two detectives, Edmund Exley and Bud White. Two diametrically opposed flatfoots in terms of their modus operandi and approach to solving crimes. Exley is an over-calculating pedant hopelessly devoted to following procedures at all costs. While White is a hair-trigger pugilist always ready to wring out a confession from a perp with his wayward fists.

And as the plot thickens these two flawed but charismatic characters contrive to collaborate and take on the characteristics of the other. They prop one another up and compensate each other’s shortcomings developing into this crime-solving force that accentuates the strengths of both detectives while also ameliorating their respective vulnerabilities. It’s a superb example of knitting together nuanced character arcs that intertwine and serve the overall story. The percolating chemistry that swirls between these two obverse foils as they untangle the sinister conspiracy afoot is the impetus of their eventual cracking of the case. It goes beyond mere banter and all-around Dragnet-like ballyhoo. By script’s end, you’ll find it really challenges the motifs of any garden variety buddy-cop movie.

So swig two fingers of gin and gumshoe on over to the library. You’ll need that liquid courage for this hard-boiled hurly-burly of a read.

Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.

And other newly uncovered rubies in our coffers include:

  • Drama-mystery series 13 Reasons Why created by Brian Yorkey adapted from the best-selling novel by Jay Asher.
  • BET’s R&B infused The New Edition Story penned by Abdul Williams.
  • The madcap musical melee that is Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
  • Fox’s murky crime-drama Gotham developed by Bruno Heller.

So pad on over and have a chinwag. We at the library are always eager and able to bend your ears about the latest and greatest offerings in our collection.

Comb the catalog here.

WGF Staff’s Favorite Moments of 2016

Whether we were hosting stellar panels and fundraising events or unearthing unexpected gems from the Archive, 2016 was a busy and eventful year at the Writers Guild Foundation. We welcomed a slew of fantastic writers, directors, actors and executives from across genres, mediums and backgrounds. And we stocked our Library and Archive with new scripts and collections to inspire patrons. Here are our favorite WGF moments from 2016. 

Libbie Anderson, Volunteer and Programs Coordinator

Her pick: Meeting Norman Lear, November 2016

In her words: “Norman spoke to a group from our Veteran’s Writing Project in November. Having the opportunity to hear him recount his life and unparalleled career was truly unforgettable.”

Javier Barrios, Acquisitions Manager

His pick: Matthew Sand’s talk for National University in the Library 

In his words: “Basically during the last 15 years, as the pool of writers being hired for studio projects narrowed from 1500 to about 300 writers, he was able to stay within that shrinking group because he met deadlines no matter what and was a likeable, not crazy, guy at meetings.”

 

Chris Kartje, Director of Programs

His pick: All of our Events

In his words: “All of our events give us a glimpse into what it means to be working and writing in the film industry. But more importantly, they show us that we can do it too and that we are only one step away from achieving our dreams. And I met Oprah and Greg Kinnear!”

 

Mary McGuire, Director of Development

Her pick: The All-In-For-Vets Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament, October 2016

In her words: “We doubled our fundraising goal and had a great time doing it.”

Enid Portuguez, Director of Communications

Her pick: Our events with the writers and stars of JANE THE VIRGIN and INSECURE, May and November 2016

In her words: “Meeting the writers and actors of two of my favorite shows was definitely a highlight. So much so that I couldn’t help but take some shameless selfies.” 

 

Hilary Swett, Archivist

Her pick: Helping an academic from Oregon research rare scripts from the Al Capp Show from 1952

In her words: “[These scripts] do not exist anywhere else that I know of. He was so excited and was showing me what he discovered. It made me excited and I was so happy to complete the circle from donor to archivist to researcher.”

WGF Staff’s Favorite TV Shows of 2016

We obsess daily about television at the Writers Guild Foundation. Frankly, there is not enough time in a day to get to everything we want to watch, but boy, do we try. Here are the shows that left a mark in our office in 2016. 

Libbie Anderson, Volunteer and Programs Coordinator

Her pick: BETTER THINGS (Created by Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K.)

In her words: “Pamela Adlon is a national treasure.  It frightens me how much I love and relate to this show.”

P.S. We have scripts from the entire first season of BETTER THINGS in the Library! 

Javier Barrios, Acquisitions Manager

His pick: STRANGER THINGS (Created by Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer)

In his words: “It felt as magical as the best 80’s movies did back then.”

P.S. We have the scripts from the entire first season of STRANGER THINGS in the Library!

Chris Kartje, Director of Programs

His pick: WESTWORLD (Adapted by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy)

In his words: “As soon as I think that I know, I find out that I’m lost again.”

Mary McGuire, Director of Development

Her pick: THE NIGHT MANAGER (Adapted by David Farr)

In her words: “Amazing cinematography and Hugh Laurie, Hugh Laurie, Hugh Laurie.”

P.S. We have scripts from every episode of THE NIGHT MANAGER in the Library! 

Enid Portuguez, Director of Communications

Her pick: INSECURE (Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore)

In her words: “I loved watching a show based in LA with characters that talk like my friends and one that showcases the perspective of single women of color. Also, the music on the show is on point.” 

P.S. We have scripts from the entire first season of INSECURE in the Library! 

Hilary Swett, Archivist

Her pick: ATLANTA (Created by Donald Glover)

In her words: “Like nothing else on TV. It’s smart, weird and wonderful. A balance of subtle and ridiculous in the right amounts. It doesn’t follow a formula but feels real and familiar anyway.”

P.S. We have scripts from the entire first season of ATLANTA in the Library! 

 

WGF Staff’s Favorite Films of 2016

It’s finally the end of a particularly brutal year. From a laundry list of greats who’ve passed in 2016 to the tumultuous state of the country and world, there are definitely enough reasons to refill that Xanax prescription (or if you’re in California, take advantage of new laws).

But one bright spot in the year (and hopefully upcoming years) was the slew of great art and writing that inhabited our screens. The Writers Guild Foundation staff celebrates all film, TV and digital contributions, so we didn’t want to judge on what was the “best.” Instead, we’ll give you our favorites. First up, our favorite films of 2016. 

Libbie Anderson, Volunteer and Programs Coordinator

Her pick: CERTAIN WOMEN (Screenplay by Kelly Reichardt)

In her words: “The quiet intensity of a Kelly Reichardt film is truly something to behold.  And I just don’t think you can find a dreamier cast this year than Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart.”

Javier Barrios, Acquisitions Manager

His pick: ZOOTOPIA (Screenplay by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston)

In his words: “Lightning in a bottle in how it perfectly captured the racial issues occurring in the country in 2016.”

P.S. The screenplay for ZOOTOPIA is available to read in the Library! 

Chris Kartje, Director of Programs

His pick: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (Screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy)

In his words: “With shades of SEVEN SAMURAI and the John Sayles written BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS with a dash of THE LAST STARFIGHTER, ROGUE ONE is a lived-in world where a band of rebels and rogues still hold on to hope in spite of overwhelming odds, inspiring us to hold on tight to our hope and dreams.”    

Mary McGuire, Director of Development

Her pick: LA LA LAND (Written by Damien Chazelle)

In her words: “Despite not being a fan of most musicals, I loved the homage to LA, the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and a very well written script by Damian Chazelle that would have stood alone without the music.”

Enid Portuguez, Director of Communications

Her pick: OTHER PEOPLE (Written by Chris Kelly)

In her words: “I laughed, I cried, and I was so taken by Molly Shannon’s performance. She has always been such a great comedic actress, but to see her so raw and tender broke my heart. The film finely balanced comedy with tragedy in a way that felt so real.” 

 

Hilary Swett, Archivist

Her pick: ARRIVAL (Screenplay by Eric Heisserer)

In her words: “The story was thoughtful and engaging and the performances were solid. I was quite happy to see some good sci-fi that is about understanding aliens and not making war with them. My favorite aspect was the visual storytelling. The way that the film depicts an alien language that is so different from ours – non-linear, conceptual – prompted me to think about language and communication in a new way.”

P.S. The screenplay for ARRIVAL is available to read in the Library! 

Why Star Wars is Better Than The Empire Strikes Back

Over the years, I have had numerous discussions on a certain topic: Which is the better film, the original Star Wars or its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back? Surprisingly, more than a handful of people favor Empire as the superior film.

They are wrong.

The reasons why Star Wars is superior to Empire are varied, but ultimately, in my opinion, its superiority can be boiled down to one writing element: character development. Star Wars is pure, clean, and even classic storytelling, and its origin element naturally means that we will be introduced to characters that we have never met before. Star Wars gave us Luke Skywalker, young and wide-eyed, with a relatable dream of leaving home to embark on adventure. And how much more of a character arc can you possibly have in one story than seeing a simple farm boy transform into a confident and skilled warrior who ends up saving an entire galaxy? Other characters, such as Han, Leia, and Darth Vader, are also well developed with goals very fitting and tailored to suit them.

The Empire Strikes Back, on the other hand, is an enhancement of that “original” story and characters. In Empire, we merely need to concentrate on story, with only slight character development, except for Darth Vader, whose transformation spans the entire original trilogy. And while it is true that Empire has an amazing storyline, we are so busy watching the constant action in the film that we really don’t get to know much more about any of the principal characters than we did from the original Star Wars.

Had Star Wars not done well enough at the box office to justify a sequel, it would still have been one of the greatest stand-alone stories of all time. You can’t really say that about Empire because ultimately it is not a complete story. However, Empire is easily one of the best sequels ever to any American film, even Aliens—a personal favorite—and it will always be recognized as such. Not a bad consolation prize.

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WGF Staff’s List of Favorite Holiday Movies and TV Episodes

‘Tis the season to watch your favorite holiday movies and TV episodes, whether you want to or not. The Writers Guild Foundation staff has singled out one of their holiday favorites, whose script you can also read in our Library. Most are classics, but you’ll also find an unexpected pick or two. Happy Holidays!

30 ROCK, “Ludachristmas” – Pick from Arun Baheti, Operations Manager

THE APARTMENT – Pick from Francesca Baird, Rosenthal Fellow

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ELF – Pick from Javier Barrios, Library Acquisitions Manager

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DIE HARD – Pick from Chris Kartje, Programs Director

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THE FAMILY STONE – Pick from Mary McGuire, Development Director

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SCROOGED – Pick from Enid Portuguez, Communications Director

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IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – Pick from Kimberly Ray, Development Consultant

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION – Pick from Hilary Swett, Archivist

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Letter from Bill Lawrence: How to be smug at parties

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Dear Much-Younger-Than-Me-Writer-Types,

My name is Bill Lawrence, and I was asked to write you on behalf of the Writers Guild Foundation no later than September 5th. So of course I’m writing this quickly on the morning of September 21st. Let’s all try to keep the tradition of procrastinating (then lying about it) alive for future generations of writers.

The Writers Guild Foundation is committed to preserving the work of film and TV writers of the past, while nurturing the voices of the next generation. I got involved because I was looking for a way to give back to the career I love. I also wanted a charitable organization so noble I could be unbearably smug about it at cocktail parties. This is that organization.

The Shavelson-Webb Library, THE ONLY LIBRARY IN THE WORLD FOCUSED ONLY ON WRITING FOR THE SCREEN, provides a wealth of scripts, recordings and archival treasures for young writers. The library also provides a place for young writers to form a community and build relationships. In order to keep providing these benefits, it needs need ANY help you can give.

For military vets, it’s a challenge to return to the civilian workforce, much less pursue a dream. Our Veterans Writing Project gives vets a chance to learn about the craft – and business – of writing. We’ve had success landing alumni jobs on staffs, in the industry, but we have to turn away a staggering number of applicants. We need ANY help you can give.

The Foundation also connects experienced writers who want to mentor young writing minds with wonderful literacy and writing organizations all over Los Angeles. But this takes staff time and could benefit from ANY help you can give.

We’re asking for your support and generosity. Any donations (fully tax deductible) will help. Please send a check today or donate online.

Thanks for reading this. Rest assured, as I go back to my office to drink the blood of young writers and continue stealing their souls – I am grateful for your time and hope you get involved.

Sincerely,

Bill Lawrence
Board Member, Writers Guild Foundation

 

CLICK ME TO DONATE TO THE WRITERS GUILD FOUNDATION

Summer Fridays: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

For our last Summer Fridays staff and board movie pick, we give you the 1984 cult science fiction-satire THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION, chosen by our Operations Manager Arun Baheti. What about the film, which starred Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Ellen Barkin, reminds Arun of summer?

“THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI remains a favorite for all seasons, but seems to fit summer best.  This combo of DR. STRANGELOVE, HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and GHOSTBUSTERS has it all: Humor, social commentary, quotable lines a plenty, and Rastafarian space alien criminals, all combined with the single coolest hero ever,” Arun writes. “I don’t just like Buckaroo, I want to be Buckaroo.  (And I’m sure my mother would like me to have his resume physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, rock star.)”

Here’s a scene featuring one of the most memorable lines from the film: “No matter where you go, there you are.”

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More Summer Fridays Staff/Board Picks:

Aliens
Do the Right Thing
Roman Holiday
Men in Black
Dazed and Confused
Meatballs
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

 

Summer Fridays: Aliens

We’re down to our second to last Summer Fridays pick, and this one comes from Javier Barrios, our Acquisitions Manager. He chose ALIENS, the 1986 sequel to James Cameron’s classic science fiction thriller ALIEN.

“I was blown away by Cameron’s talent,” writes Javier. “As far as sequels go, it rivals EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.”

Check out one of Javier’s favorite scenes below. “This is a good scene because the fact that the guns they set up quickly run out of ammo gives the audience an extra level of suspense and anticipation,” he explains. You can also read the ALIENS script in our Library.

More Summer Fridays Staff/Board Picks:

Do the Right Thing
Roman Holiday
Men in Black
Dazed and Confused
Meatballs
Vicky Cristina Barcelona