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Jen Goldson

By | Exclusive Interviews

Writer Jen Goldson placed as a finalist in the 2015 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition with her screenplay Everything’s Going to be Okay. At the Script Pipeline writer/industry event in Los Angeles that summer, she was introduced to producers Jay Silverman and Bethany Cerrona of Silverman Productions. Her pitch to them for another script, a romantic comedy, stuck. It was optioned right away and produced a little over a year later. Off the Menu was released on February 6th, 2018, starring Santino Fontana (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Frozen) and Dania Ramirez (Once Upon a Time, Devious Maids). Jen continues to write for both film and TV, with several projects in development.

Your screenplay Everything’s Going to be Okay (aka egbok) was selected as a finalist in the 2015 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition. At our industry event that year, you met Jay Silverman and Bethany Cerrona. A couple years later: your first produced film. And a charming one at that. Fill us in on that journey, from initial interest to production.

First of all, thank you for calling Off The Menu “charming”—my first review!

I should add that I met three pivotal contacts at Pipeline’s event: Jay Silverman and Bethany Cerrona plus Jeff Faehnle at Nasser Entertainment. Both of these companies optioned a script of mine with the clear understanding that they were greenlit to go into production. And it happened! Jay directed Off The Menu and Nasser Entertainment produced a thriller I co-wrote with my husband, Robert Foulkes, called Snatched (starring Dina Meyer and Corin Nemec). So I can’t say enough how Pipeline rejuvenated my writing career and am extremely appreciative.

So to answer your question, for Off The Menu, I worked closely with Jay and his team, and did about three or four drafts. The last draft was a pretty solid one and got the stars attached—and then things with the script were further condensed for budget. I felt good that the script drew the caliber of stars such as Santino Fontana, who was just coming off the first season of the fantastic Crazy Ex Girlfriend, and Dania Ramirez, who was great in Devious Maids and now in Once Upon A Time. And not to mention, Maria Conchita Alonso (if you haven’t seen Vampire’s Kiss, it’s a classic), and rising young star Makenzie Moss (who played little Lisa in Steve Jobs).

Writers often wonder what their role is once the final version of the script is locked in, and it typically varies depending on the film. What was the extent of your involvement during the shoot? Were you on location? Were there on-the-spot script edits to make?

Yeah, every movie is different, and on this one, I did a set visit and everyone was really lovely. They even had my name on a director’s chair, they were very sweet and thoughtful. And they also invited me for the music composing session which was really an education for me—they had a live orchestra for the score, and the film’s composer, Dave Holden, is such a talented guy. But for most of production, I really wasn’t that involved. Perhaps things will change as more feature writers come in with a TV background (where writers are often required to be on set). I do find that in the long-run, if the writer is available and willing, it would behoove production to have him/her on set. But hey, I’m hardly impartial.

I always think it has to be such a surreal experience to finally see what you wrote on-screen with real people. . . . At the premiere of the film, what was on your mind? When did it all start to feel “real” to you?

Santino and his lovely wife, Jessica Heshberg (who’s a talented Broadway singer and actress, and also appears in Menu), wrote and performed this really fun, Doris Day type of opening number for Menu and that’s when it became really real. I kept on playing it over and over again. It’s really perfect.

Tell us about the other films you have in development, including your contest-winning script Everything’s Going to be Okay.

So Everything’s Going to Be Okay is currently set up at EMA (Envision Media Arts) with Andy Tennant set to direct. The producers are hopeful that it will go this year! So that’s been a real rewarding outcome on that front. And then I have this LA-based indie film called Rent Control that Theresa Bennet is attached to direct. That script is a personal favorite of mine. My manager, Sukee Chew, has been instrumental in packaging and pushing these projects forward. She was always my first choice to work with and is amazing. And then I’m almost done with a biopic about a famous painting that’s set in Swinging London—that script is killing me. For research materials, I’ve been working with 40 plus books, 200 articles, documentaries, youtube clips. . . I am so sick of these people! (just kidding).

You’ve written a mix of genres, including a TV pilot. Do you think the range is important? Has it made you more “marketable,” in a sense?

Pretty much from the beginning of my writing career I was labeled as a “character comedy writer.” And you know what: I pretty much stayed true to this. Everything I write has some form of humor, even the biopic I’ve been working on, though it’s a drama, I have three witty characters. I will say, as you mentioned, I have that one sci-fi pilot, but even that has humor. My least favorite writers are the earnest ones. I think it just reads false. But as for “range,” I think what’s most important is knowing who you are as a writer. A writer who thinks they can write every genre is not going to perfect any one genre. So know who you are—and that takes time to figure out.

As far as the feature market in general, what are the types of stories you feel are lacking, or do you wish we had more of? Both on an indie and studio level? What themes do you usually gravitate toward?

I wish we’d get away from “female driven” as a genre when women are 50.8% of the U.S. population (yes, I just Googled it). So I’ve recently started calling Dunkirk “male driven” [laughs]. I’m hopeful about the representation of interesting female characters, with recent films such as The Florida Project, Mudbound, Lady Bird, and last year’s The Edge of Seventeen, American Honey and White Girl (and heck, let me throw in the wonderful HBO series Insecure and Amazon’s Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).

I’m more attracted to interesting and flawed characters than themes. I don’t write to themes as I find it too limiting, and it feels like a book report.

Getting a spec produced is still, relatively speaking, a rarity. Beyond the typical advice writers hear all the time—write something low-budget, write something broad that appeals to a large market, and so forth—what else can someone do to increase their odds? We know in your case the introduction to a producer helped, but is it all about the script? Are there intangibles writers should keep in mind?

If you want to be a feature writer, the climb will likely be a long one—and may take you about 5-8 scripts to really master feature writing and land you representation (which is more difficult these days). The nice thing about television is there is a ladder of progression. You can start off as a writer’s assistant (if you can get that position, most writer’s assistants have agents—I know!) and then you can go on to staff writer/story editor and so forth. You don’t have any of that in feature films. BUT, and there’s a big but in this, it is very difficult for television writers to creatively make the leap to feature films because they tend to write episodically which you don’t want to do in feature films. So, if your heart is in features, they’re still getting made and go for it!

As for “intangibles,” a producer or director will think a writer is completely green if they get defensive about notes. My best advice for any emerging writer is to work in development and see first hand what producers or film/TV execs go through. You will have a better appreciation for the craft and will have more confidence as a writer.

*Just wanted to thank Script Pipeline again for their support and advocacy with getting two scripts of mine off the ground and actually produced! I think they’re the best in town, and in this day and age, when it’s harder to land representation, screenwriting contests like this are more vital than ever. Go Pipeline!


Jen Goldson

As of 2018, Jennifer has two films produced: the romantic-comedy Off The Menu starring Santino Fontana and Dania Ramirez, directed and produced by Jay Silverman (available on VOD and all other platforms), and the thriller Snatched starring Dina Meyer, Jen Lilley and Corin Nemec (to be released). Another project, Rent Control, is currently being packaged with Theresa Bennett set to direct and Sukee Chew producing. Her feature screenplay Everything’s Going to be Okay was a Script Pipeline Finalist in 2015 and has since been optioned by Envision Media Arts (EMA). Andy Tennant is attached to direct, with Sukee Chew also producing.

She works as a development consultant for MOST Resources, and has also worked at NBCU, in business affairs, and in feature film development at various production companies and studios.

13th Great Movie Idea Contest Results

By | Great Movie Idea Contest Finalists

Grand Prize Winner

Mommy Is Missing by Matt MacDonald

Born with a fiery passion for storytelling and high-SPF sunblock, writer/director MATT MACDONAL

D grew up in the sweltering desert heat of Phoenix, Arizona. Scourged by the sun’s villainous UV rays, Matt opted at an early age to embrace air conditioning — devouring books, video games, and large quantities of sugared cereal.

An accomplished voice-over actor and nationally published author, Matt received his MFA in Film & Television Production from the prestigious USC School of Cinematic Arts. His work has screened at more than 40 film festivals worldwide (including the Palm Springs International ShortFest and San Diego Comic-Con), been highlighted multiple times as a Vimeo Staff Pick, and featured by the likes of Mashable, Kotaku, io9, Bloody Disgusting, Rolling Stone, and HBO’s Project Greenlight. Matt’s dad frequently tells him to “keep up the good work.”

As a writer, director, and editor, Matt has worked with brands such as Microsoft, Playboy, McDonald’s, Nike, Activision/Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Taco Bell, among many others. He was most recently selected as a writing fellow to the 2017 Shudder Labs, an independent horror development retreat produced by AMC, as well as directed the viral sensation “Not Normal,” a 12-minute animated short film created entirely with the video game Grand Theft Auto V and nominated for a 2018 MPSE Golden Reel Award. Collectively, Matt’s work has amassed close to 16 million online views.

In his free time, Matt enjoys spin class, theoretical science, and pie. His favorite Beatles song is “Hey Jude” and you’ll frequently find him in one of the many Greater Los Angeles Area Yogurtlands.

Runner-up

Seen by Cate Smierciak & Nick Clifford

11th Great TV Show Idea Contest Results

By | Great TV Show Idea Contest Finalists

Grand Prize Winner

Pro Losers by Dan Perlman

Dan Perlman is a stand-up comedian and writer from New York City. Dan performs stand-up every night at some of the top clubs andalternative rooms in the city, recently headlining Caroline’s on Broadway. Dan created and wrote an animated series, That’s My Bus!, which received a pilot order from FOX after winning 1st place at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival. Dan has appeared on TruTV, MTV2, and as a cast member on MTV’s Vidiots. As a writer-filmmaker, he has had four projects featured in the New York Television Festival, most recently the award-winning comedy series, Flatbush Misdemeanors, in which he co-stars and co-writes/directs. On radio, Dan was a writer for SiriusXM’s Bennington and Comedy Contributor for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio. Dan wrote for the 2017 WGA Awards, hosted by Lewis Black, and the 2018 WGA Awards, hosted by Amber Ruffin. As a stand-up, Dan’s festival credits include New York Comedy Festival, SF Sketchfest, Boston Comedy Festival, New Orleans Hell Yes Fest, and Finger Lakes Comedy Competition (2015, 1st place).

Runner-up

Cora Strayer, Private Detective by Kevin Leahy & Paul Reda

January 2018 Script Sales

By | Script Sales

      

January kicked off 2018 with a slow start. Mental Pictures has picked up Joseph and John Magary’s Charlotte XVI, a romantic drama that follows the love lives of a 16-year-old girl and her mother. Myna Joseph will direct, and Maya Hawke will star. Derek Kolstad’s action/thriller script Nobody found a home at STX Entertainment. Bob Odenkirk is set to star and produce. Amazon picked up Task Force Two, an action pitch from Jennifer Yee McDevitt. The story will follow an elite search-and-rescue team in California. Genesius Pictures has entered pre-production with Mrs Lowery and Son, written by and based on the play by Martyn Hesford. Adrian Noble will direct. Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave will star. Universal picked up My Own Worst Enemy, an action/comedy script by Chad St. John. Kevin Hart to star/produce.

Other script sales:

– Jon Felson has been tapped to adapt environmentalist Julia Butterfly Hill’s memoir The Legacy of Luna for Gulfstream Pictures.

– Jac Schaeffer is set to script the Black Widow movie for Marvel.

– Stephen Daldry to direct Jack Thorne’s untitled script about Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, who qualified for the 2016 Olympics under the first Team Refugee. The film has been set up at Working Title Films.

– Peter Chiarelli to write a script based a treatment from Jessica Chastain and Kelly Carmichael for Universal. The untitled comedy follows two women battling the elements as they try to get home for the holidays. Chastain and Octavia Spencer to star.

– Disney has tapped Stephany Folsom to write Toy Story 4.

– Emily V. Gordon will adapt Cynthia D’Apri’s The Nest for Amazon.

Mudbound – Screenplay

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

Directed by Dee Rees and written by Rees and Virgil Williams from Hillary Jordan’s novel, Mudbound tracks the relationships between the white McAllan family, who recently bought a farm in Mississippi, and the Jackson family, who live and work on the land, before and after World War II. Although some of the elements may feel familiar—racism in the pre-Civil Rights-era South is well-trodden territory in both literature and film—Mudbound mixes race relations with PTSD, alcoholism, abject poverty, the horrors of war, masculinity, depression, and a Southern Gothic style, giving the film an epic feel that explores the full breadth of human emotion. As much as it is a movie about bigotry and discrimination, it’s also a film about the universality of pain, depression, and suffering—and how that pain can trickle down and turn back into bigotry and discrimination. Even though the majority of the characters face poverty, the script makes it clear that a racial hierarchy pervaded 1940’s rural Mississippi, both through subtle moments like Henry McAllan’s treatment of his land’s tenants to the explicit epithets Henry’s father frequently spouts, and this hierarchy simmers throughout the film until it finally boils over in a climax brutal and distressing in its realism.

Rees and Williams’ Academy Award–nominated script turns frequently to voice over, allowing the audience to get inside the heads of each of the six main characters. Though voice over often becomes a liability in lesser hands, the narration (coupled with Rees’ cerebral direction and cinematographer Rachel Morrison’s Oscar-nominated cinematography) gives the film a poetic feel in which the characters’ shared experiences and diverging perspectives fold on each other to paint a complex, unflinching, and epic portrait of the era, recalling older human dramas like John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley and The Grapes of Wrath. “Show, don’t tell” is an enduring saying that will likely never go away, but the elegiac elegance of Mudbound’s voice over justifies itself, college writing course axioms be damned.

Although the screenplay, the direction, and the visuals provide an excellent draw, the actors give the story pathos, and Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund do their best to carry it as two veterans who befriend each other, but Mary J. Blige steals the show. Blige gives a standout performance that’s both emotive and understated—and she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the role. (She also scored a Best Song nom for the closing credits song.)

Mudbound is a rarity in modern film—an epic character study about racism that not only does justice to each of its characters but also looks to the past to tell a story relevant to our present. For that alone, it’s necessary viewing—and it’s on Netflix, so if you’re a subscriber, you’ve got no excuse.

Read the Mudbound Screenplay

Script Pipeline Contest Winner Sold “Snow White & the Huntsman” to Universal

By | Slider

Script Pipeline execs Chad Clough and Matt Misetich connected Evan Daugherty with management after his script Shrapnel won the 2008 Script Pipeline Screenwriting CompetitionSWATH later sold to Universal and grossed $400 million worldwide.

Evan went on to write the hugely successful films DivergentTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and other upcoming studio projects, including a reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise with MGM and Warner Bros. producing. In addition to TV series in development, Evan is writing and directing Ink and Bone for Dimension Films.

From Evan: “Script Pipeline helped launch my professional career as a writer.”

Los Angeles Times Interviews Script Pipeline’s Chad Clough on Spec Market

By | Press, Slider

In the January 19th, 2018 edition of the LA Times, Chad Clough, Script Pipeline Executive and CEO of Pipeline Media Group, was quoted on the state of the spec market: “Right now, the industry wants original voices. . . . There’s still a need for an excellent script.”

Writer Chris Erskine, gleaning interviews from Clough, screenwriter Nicholas Kazan (Reversal of Fortune), and producer Elizabeth Cantillon, commented on the decline of the spec script and how a resurgence may be forthcoming:

“Clough, of Script Pipeline, says the spec market could be—like old vinyl or vintage guitars—a thing of the past and the future. He cites an increasing voracious marketplace, as evidenced by Netflix’s pledge to produce 80 new original movies in 2018. So could the corpse soon rise from the dead, for a surprise Hollywood ending, even a fresh life?”

Read the full LA Times article

Submit to a Script Pipeline Writing Competition

December 2017 Script Sales

By | Script Sales

Closing out 2017, Hollywood slowed down in December on account of the holiday season. Warner Bros. and Safehouse Pictures picked up Leo Sardarian’s sci-fi/action spec The Expansion Project. The script follows a rookie female marine who ends up stranded on a planet. San Andreas‘s Brad Peyton is attached to direct. Guillermo del Toro’s Del Toro Productions is teaming with Fox Searchlight and Phantom Four Films to produce the supernatural horror/thriller Antlers. Written by Nick Antosca and Henry Chaisson, the spec follows a young teacher who discovers a deadly supernatural secret connected to the father of one of her students. Hostiles director Scott Cooper is currently in talks. Rickey Castleberry and Zimran Jacob’s college comedy Swag has found a home with Estevan/Sheen Productions. Kevin Pollack to direct.

Other script sales:

– Rashida Jones to adapt the graphic novel Goldie Vance for Twentieth Century Fox. Jones will also direct.

– Mairghread Scott to write the animated feature Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors for Marvel Entertainment.

– Guillermo del Toro will write and direct an adaptation of the noir thriller Nightmare Alley for Fox Searchlight.

– Greg Pierce to adapt Hannah Kent’s novel Burial Rights. Jennifer Lawrence is attached to produce/star, and Call Me By Your Name‘s Luca Guadagnino will direct.

– Joel David Moore to write/direct an adaption of Huh Jung’s Hide and Seek for CJ Entertainment.

– Mark L. Smith has been tapped to script a new Star Trek movie, based on an idea from Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino will possibly direct.

SMILF – Pilot

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

For the better part of a decade, the half-hour dramedy has been a staple of premium cable. Led by shows like Sex and the City and Weeds, many of these series combine biting humor, sympathetic yet edgy female leads, and serious themes. Often, this combination can be a delicate balancing act, and even the best dramedies can occasionally fall too far on the comedy–drama continuum and cause tonal whiplash. It takes truly talented writers, directors, and actors to keep this balance intact.

That’s part of the reason why SMILF is so impressive. Created by and starring Frankie Shaw (who also directed the pilot), SMILF follows Shaw’s Bridgett Bird, a 20-something single mother in Boston. The title stands for “Single Mother I’d Like to…” (you can probably complete the rest), but don’t let that stop you—the title betrays what is ultimately a realistic portrayal of single motherhood with a tone that, although comedic, feels true to life. Throughout the series, Bridgette tries to navigate life as she balances work and her audition schedule, attempts to have a normal sex life, worries that her sex life will never be normal again, struggles to pay the bills, and acts like she’s fine with her ex and his new girlfriend all while raising a toddler mostly as a single mother. Bridgette is an easy character to sympathize with, and every plot point is in service of her wants and herself as a person.

Although much changed between Shaw’s original draft and the final product, the framework for the series can be clearly seen in the script, and if anything, the changes helped refine Bridgette, her goals, and her relationships with those around her. Each of the series’ actors brings it—Shaw fully and perfectly embodies Bridgette, and the supporting cast (which includes Miguel Gomez, Samara Weaving, Rosie O’Donnell, and Connie Britton) also deliver.

Ultimately, SMILF is an exquisitely funny show that doubles as an honest, unapologetic look at a character we hardly see.

Read the SMILF Pilot

Dave Bautista Starring in Script Pipeline Contest Winner – 2018

By | Slider, Success Stories

The action-comedy Stuber, written by Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest winner Tripper Clancy, attached Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) in December 2017. Jonathan Goldstein (Horrible Bosses) and John Francis Daley (Bones) producing. 20th Century Fox picked up the script, based on a pitch developed by Tripper and manager Jake Wagner (Good Fear), in April 2016.

Tripper was one of the Grand Prize Winners of the 2010 competition. Soon after, Script Pipeline execs linked him with Jake, initiating a long working relationship that has led to projects set up at Sony, Fox, Hasbro, Paramount, and Mandalay, where he’s adapting the acclaimed novel The Art of Fielding.

Submit to a Script Pipeline competition

Submit for notes and potential industry exposure