The WGF Blog:

Dispatches from the far reaches of the WGF.

Drew Goddard on how to make yourself useful in a writers room

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We’ve had some fantastic events featuring phenomenal writers, but last night’s Writers on Writing with Drew Goddard, moderated by John August, felt truly special. Perhaps it was the easy rapport between the two writers, who we found out had first met during the 2007-2008 writer’s strike. Or it was that the night struck the gentle balance of humor and heartbreak which Goddard revealed to be a touchstone of his writing style. But really, it was both those elements, plus the sage writerly advice that our audience has come to expect from such established names.

August started the night by leading Goddard through his early years in Los Alamos, New Mexico and his pop culture influences. We found out that he was a voracious reader of everything from Douglas Adams and Stephen King to Sweet Valley High (“I would read whatever I could get my hands on,” Goddard said), and that his first film memories were of watching THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and BLADE RUNNER with his father.

Convinced he wanted to become a writer, Goddard moved to Los Angeles and took on a production assistant job on David E. Kelley’s show SNOOPS.

“This business was so foreign to me. I was so naive, but I was so excited,” Goddard mused. “I didn’t know anyone…I would stay and ask every writer, ‘What do you need?’ And that was the most important part because all of them needed to know how to print, and I was good with computers. That is the secret to my career: Just know how to print.”

Eventually, Goddard’s helpfulness, work ethic and affable nature drew the attention of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER showrunner Marti Noxon, who read one of his specs and hired him for the show. Goddard continued his career writing on Joss Whedon’s other show ANGEL as well as J.J. Abrams’s LOST and ALIAS. He later would go on to collaborate with both Whedon and Abrams in his transition to writing the feature films THE CABIN IN THE WOODS and CLOVERFIELD. WORLD WAR Z was next, followed by the Netflix series DAREDEVIL and his current credit THE MARTIAN, which has grossed close to $400 million since its October 2 release.

While he was clearly drawn to stories tackling themes of isolation and potential doom, Goddard’s writing style is marked by the ability to deftly inject humor, heart and optimism amid the zombies, monsters and the sheer loneliness of being trapped on a planet millions of miles from Earth. According to Goddard, his gut–and the need to protect what he loved about THE MARTIAN author Andy Weir’s story–informed most of his approach to adapting the e-book into film.

“Joss [Whedon] would always say, Nothing matters other than the emotional truth. Plot doesn’t matter,” said Goddard. “When I look at THE MARTIAN, this is a movie about optimism and loneliness and people constantly looking out for another without worrying about themselves. I put that on the board and said everything needs to be about this. If it’s not, it can go.”

Stay tuned for the full recording of the event. Check out more awesome writers at our upcoming events!

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