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Script Pipeline

6th Annual 2017 First Look Project Results

By | First Look Project Winners



Dead Man’s Gulch by Rob Rex – Winner

Rob Rex is a screenwriter from Telluride, Colorado — which is important, because it says a lot about the influences that shape his writing.

Known to most for its world-class skiing, extreme sports, and year-round festivals, Rob has found (or was born with) a particular fascination with Telluride’s Wild West history of bank robbers, outlaws, miners, and bootstrappers. But there’s more to it than that. The dramatic peaks and vertical cliff faces — formed over millennia and blanketed by a night sky so dark that you can see the Milky Way with your naked eye — evoke grander schemes and otherworldly muses. Thus, both history and science-fiction intermingle in much of Rob’s work.

Rob has won a number of awards for his writing. His dual wins in Script Pipeline’s First Look Project (Action/Adventure and Sci-Fi) mark the first time in competition history that a single writer has won with two different screenplays in the same year. Rob has also won Silver and Bronze PAGE awards, two second place wins at the Cinequest Film Festival, two Top 3 placements at the Austin Film Festival, and a Semi-Final placement in the Nicholl Fellowship.

Wendigo Mike Langer – Finalist


F*ck You, John by Zac Kish – Winner

Zac Kish grew up as a military brat, bouncing from town to town, country to country, experiencing glorious adventures ranging from fishing for piranha in the Amazon to this one time he got e-coli at the bottom of Peru’s Colca Canyon and threw up on the donkey he was riding out of the valley and it got on him and it got on the donkey and it got on the guide and it was awkward and gross and pathetic and they still had like three hours to go and he still kinda feels bad for the donkey.

Zac’s writing is animated without animation… buoyant, at times over-the-top,  genre-bending, nostalgia-satisfying, dash-filled comedy that maintains the heartfelt qualities of animation within live-action. Growing up on Disney musicals, anime, superhero comics, and stop-motion Christmas specials, Zac still loves classic heart, cartoons, and innocence… then totally corrupting it with his own adult baggage.

Since recently graduating from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Zac has gone on to be a semifinalist in the 2016 Academy Nicholl Fellowships, a semifinalist in the 2017 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition, and is currently developing a project with Unique Features.

Murder Me by David Luz – Finalist


Six Letter Word by Lisanne Sartor – Winner

Lisanne Sartor gained notoriety early in life for: 1) Calling her fourth-grade teacher a female chauvinist for not letting girls play kickball with boys (a clear outrage). 2) Giving impromptu sex-ed seminars to her fifth-grade cohorts using Judy Blum’s classic FOREVER as her textbook (how proud were Sartor’s parents? Surprisingly, not very). 3) Calling her eighth-grade teacher a bitch for unfairly penalizing a fellow student for talking when in fact, Sartor was the culprit. (The vice principal told Sartor that, while he shared her opinion of said teacher, Sartor would be wise to keep such future opinions to herself. She never quite learned that lesson.)

Though Sartor seemed destined for a life of activism and politics after graduating from Yale, she instead moved to Los Angeles and became a Directors Guild assistant director via the DGA Training Program (a girl’s gotta eat). This career path made sense considering the fact that Sartor’s New Jersey Italian family’s favorite adage is: “If you want to play with the big dogs, you can’t piss like a puppy.” Being an assistant director is a tough, physical, “big dog” job and Sartor was damn good at it. But after seven years, she had a bad back, nerve damage in her feet and a Biblical appreciation for caffeine. It was time to figure out what kind of dog she truly was. She quit ADing to write screenplays and has never looked back.

Sartor subsequently got a UCLA MFA in Screenwriting, had one of her original screenplays made into a Lifetime MOW, worked on projects with various production companies, and since 2006, has helped run CineStory, a screenwriting non-profit dedicated to developing emerging screenwriters through mentorship and writers retreats.

She’s also an award-winning director who got her start at the prestigious AFI Directing Workshop for Women. Her short films have screened all over the world at wonderful festivals like Telluride and Cannes. She most recently participated in the AFI/Fox Bridge Program for Directing. She’s in the financing/casting stage of her first feature and is prepping her sixth short. She doesn’t sleep much.

And she doesn’t piss like a puppy.

Lone Wolf by Kyle Bellinger – Finalist


The Thin Place by Joe Hemphill III – Winner

Joe Hemphill is a writer currently based in Boston, MA. Originally from the Midwest, Joe left his hometown and went south to begin his career in filmmaking, attending Watkins College of Art in Nashville, TN. Here he wrote several award-winning shorts, including his acclaimed World War II film Springtime, which premiered at the Nashville Film Festival and was selected to screen at the historic Belcourt Theatre downtown. Following his stay in Music City, Joe decided to further his education at Boston University, gaining acceptance into the MFA in Screenwriting program where he is currently finishing up his master’s degree. His pilot script Can-Am recently won the Brinkerhoff Television Pilot Contest in 2017.

Along with writing, Joe has participated in over twenty-five short films and features, filling every role imaginable, including director, AD, producer, UPM, and production designer. He is a huge proponent of independent cinema and the Boston film scene. His screenplay The Christmas Party is currently in pre-production, and several others are out for finance/directors in New York and LA .

The Ones Who Stay by Jef Burnham – Finalist


Axis by Rob Rex – Winner
(see bio above)

Ink by Heidi Nyburg – Finalist


Silicon Curve by Heidi Nyburg – Winner

A first-generation US citizen born and raised in Silicon Valley, Heidi was destined for a life working in technology. She took that route and worked as an analyst in several industries. Then a friend told her about a brand new company where they rode scooters in the hallways and watched movies. Despite her lack of scooter proficiency, the movie thing was a huge draw. That company turned out to be Netflix. She spent several years there, first as an analyst and was later promoted to product management. After taking a weekend course in writing for television, Netflix founder Reed Hastings would often remark to her “that’s going in your screenplay!” Heidi thought Reed might be onto something.

After working at Netflix, Heidi graduated cum laude from San Jose State University with a degree in Television and Film. While attending SJSU, she wrote and directed several short films garnering awards for Best Screenplay and Audience Choice for Best Picture. She co-produced Spartan Film Studios’ feature film Always Learning which premiered at the Austin Film Festival as a Write/Rec selection in 2013, and was the recipient of the 2013 Rising Star Award from the Canada International Film Festival.

Heidi is also a graduate of the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting and the UCLA Professional Program in Television Writing. Her main focus is character-driven, hour-long dramatic television. She is thrilled to be working with Script Pipeline and honored that her original dramatic pilot Silicon Curve was chosen as the 2017 First Look Project winner.

Default by Hannah Dillon – Finalist
Panthers by Eric Anthony Glover – Finalist
It Came from Camp Valkyrie by Dani Messerschmidt – Finalist
Sorority Ghosts by Annie Pace – Finalist


Chimeras by Gianluca Minucci – Winner
Nora by Shepherd Ahlers – Finalist
The Parker Tribe by Jane Baker – Finalist
The Plague by Guillermo Carbonell – Finalist

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Screenplay

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

Tragedy is, unfortunately, universal. What isn’t universal, though, is how we cope with it. Take Mildred Hayes. Seven months ago, her daughter was gruesomely murdered, and her local police department doesn’t so much as have a lead. Fed up with their lack of effort, Mildred rents three billboards on a dirt road asking the chief of police why no arrests have been made and unapologetically drags her entire town into her grieving process.

With Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, writer/director Martin McDonagh, continuing in the tradition of his previous films In Bruges and Seven Psycopaths, has created another strong dark comedy with even stronger characters at its heart. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand in a committed performance), on paper, could come across as abrasive, but everything she does is a direct result of her daughter’s death and her need for closure and Mildred’s profane, outrageous attitude provides levity and humor to what might otherwise be a somber and dour drama. That’s not to say the film is thematically shallow—McDonagh is committed to showing that answers aren’t easy to come by, and he treats the would-be antagonists of the story (the cops whom Mildred views as ineffectual and apathetic) with surprising nuance. This isn’t a movie with clear-cut villains and heroes; it’s a story of grief and tragedy in a small town.

As great as the film is to watch, the script is equally as great to read. Moving at a brisk pace (and an even brisker 84 pages), McDonagh’s flair for irreverent dialogue comes across on the page, and even without McDormand’s performance, Mildred feels like a fully realized human, not just a character spouting lines and monologues. And Mildred’s unrelenting commitment to finding the killer and holding the police to a higher standard, even as the whole town turns against her, drives the script and makes Mildred a character easy to root for. Because, ultimately, Three Billboards is a story about a mother’s grief and how she comes to terms with her daughter’s death.

Read the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Script

November 2017 Script Sales

By | Script Sales

Spec scripts made a strong showing in November. Kicking things off, Lakeshore Entertainment picked up Mark Hogan’s spec The New Mrs. Keller, which has been described as a Hitchcockian techno-thriller. Escape Artists snagged Let Her Speak, a true-story spec based on Texas state Senator Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster to stall anti-abortion legislation. Sandra Bullock is attached to star. New Republic Pictures and Will Packer Productions are teaming up for Green Rush. Written by Matt Tente, the crime spec follows an ex-con who schemes with his daughter to steal millions of dollars worth of medical marijuana taxes from city hall. Amy Pascal’s Pascal Pictures picked up Envoy, a sci-fi/thriller spec written by Kat Wood. The script follows a military intelligence specialist who attempts to become the first-ever human representation to alien life. Finally, Sentient Entertainment scooped up Tony Mosher’s drama/thriller spec Sirius about two members of a Danish special forces dog sled team who get trapped not only by the frigid weather but also highly trained adversaries. Pierre Morel is set to direct.

Other script sales:

– Misha Green has signed on to write/produce the remake of Cleopatra Jones for Warner Bros.

– Sam Cohan has been tapped to adapt the documentary Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators for Millennium Films. The film will follow creators H.A. and Margaret Rey as they try to escape Nazi-occupied Europe with their original Curious George manuscript.

– Quentin Tarantino will write/direct a movie about the Charles Manson murders for Sony.

– Allan Heinberg will script a Multiple Man movie for Twentieth Century Fox. James Franco is set to star.

– Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama to adapt Morbius: The Living Vampire for Sony. This will be a spinoff from the Spider-Man franchise.

– Gary Dauberman to write/produce an Are You Afraid of the Dark? adaptation for Paramount.

– DC and New Line have found Adam Sztykiel to write their Black Adam adaptation. Dwayne Johnson to star.

October 2017 Script Sales

By | Script Sales

This year, script sales slowed down in the month of October. Misher Films picked up Craig Luck and Ivor Powell’s sci-fi spec Bios. Set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, the film will follow a robot tasked with protecting his creator’s dog. Currently, Tom Hanks is attached to star, and Miguel Sapochnik is attached to direct. Meanwhile, Stay Gold Features and Rosa Entertainment have teamed for Heart of the Beast. The drama/thriller spec, written by Cameron Alexander, follows a former Navy SEAL and his combat dog as they try to survive after an accident in the Alaskan wilderness. Moving away from stories about dogs, QC Entertainment and Good Universe have picked up Max Landis’s horror script Decon about a young medical prodigy who is pushed to their breaking point over the course of one night after joining a team that treats the most dangerous and gruesome diseases.

Other script sales:

Bob’s Burgers is getting a movie! Creator Loren Bouchard is set to write.

– Universal is moving forward with The Paper Bag Princess. Based on Robert Munsch’s children’s book, the movie will be directed by Elizabeth Banks and will star Margot Robbie.

– Phillip Noyce is set to produce/direct a pair of war features: Rats of Tobruk, written by Michael Petroni, which will follow Australian soldiers during the Siege of Tobruk in WW2, and Alive Day, written by Kathleen McLaughlin and adapted from an autobiography of an ex-US special ops soldier.

– Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera are set to write 48 Meters Down, the sequel to their 2017 movie 47 Meters Down. Roberts will also direct.

– Good Universe and Burr! Productions have acquired the rights to Susan Fowler’s upcoming book about her experiences at Uber. Allison Schroeder will to adapt.

– Paramount is moving forward with their live-action Dora the Explorer movie. Nicholas Stoller is set to write; Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller will produce.

The Big Sick – Screenplay

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

Now that we’re nearing the end of 2017, studios have begun releasing scripts for potential Oscar contenders, and one film that received early and near-universal praise upon its release was The Big Sick. After watching the film, it’s easy to see its appeal. Directed by Michael Showalter and written by real-life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (based on the true story of how they met), The Big Sick effortlessly balances comedy and drama without doing a disservice to either and touches on compelling themes along the way.

Set in Chicago, the film follows Kumail (played by Nanjiani himself), an aspiring stand-up comedian and current Uber driver, and Emily (played by Zoe Kazan), a grad student studying psychology, as their relationship starts. However, after five months, Emily breaks up with Kumail after she learns he still hasn’t told his traditional Pakistani family that he is dating a white woman. (One subplot features Kumail’s mother’s attempts to set him up in an arranged marriage, or as they call it in Pakistan, “marriage,” to paraphrase one of Kumail’s jokes.) But soon after, Emily falls ill, and Kumail’s the only person able to come to the hospital… which means he has the honor of calling her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano doing career-best work) after she’s placed in a medically induced coma. The film then follows Kumail as he attempts to befriend the parents, who already hate his guts since Emily told them everything.

Where The Big Sick succeeds the most is with the characters and their relationships. The banter between Kumail and Emily early on in the movie, and the excellent way Nanjiani and Kazan play off each other, makes them a couple hard to route against. The relationships—specifically the ones between Kumail and Emily, Kumail and his parents, Kumail and her parents, and Emily’s parents—help generate most of the film’s conflict. Throughout, characters don’t live up to others’ expectations, whether they be the choices they make, the lies they tell (or, conversely, the truths they speak), or how they plan to live their futures.

All in all, if you haven’t seen it yet, The Big Sick is well worth a watch: it’s a (somewhat) serious rom-com that finds humor in a tragic situation.

Read The Big Sick Script