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Matt Joseph Misetich

Jay Silverman

By | Exclusive Interviews

Script Pipeline met director/producer Jay Silverman (The Cleaner) in 2015 and connected him and producer Bethany Cerrona with Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest finalist Jen Goldson (Everything’s Gonna Be Okay). Jay went on to produce Jen’s romantic comedy Off the Menu in 2017. The film premiered in 2018 and stars Santino Fontana and Dania Ramirez. It’s available on Amazon and iTunes.

You started your career as a photographer. How did you make the transition to the film/TV industry? Was it a logical next step given the types of connections you were making and the work you were doing, or did it take sort of a leap?

Yes, I started as a photographer doing advertising. My speciality was working with people and celebrity endorsements. The transition into film started in the 90s when I began doing what I called hybrid filmmaking. It certainly seemed natural to offer live action along with my photography when a famous person’s time on commercial sets are always so limited. It was a huge leap at the start, but my clients enjoyed the synergy and the creative control I gave them. I decided to make the move to feature directing with Girl on the Edge (2015), which was a very personal story. The motivation to make it  was one of wanting to share my experience of healing and to show others who have children who suffer trauma and PTSD that there are answers. . . there is hope. Everything I had done in my career and life up to this point prepared me for the opportunity to tell this story. It felt like such a natural transition, and now telling purposeful films has become my calling.

What were some of the early hurdles in becoming a director (for TV, commercials, or otherwise)? When crossing between different formats, which of course can be a challenge creatively speaking, what drew you to each? And now, with decades of experience, has a preference emerged? Or is directing just directing, no matter the medium?

I always enjoyed problem solving throughout my career, especially when a client would ask for the impossible. Universally, most challenges for TV and commercials involved trying to retain a focused creative vision while dealing with limited budgets and quick turnaround. In the 80s, I got my first studio and was fortunate to solve creative challenges without having to go outside of a studio. This control proved invaluable working in independent filmmaking and selling TV shows. Hence, the reason in 2000 I acquired my stages in Hollywood.

One huge hurdle I had was trying to sell The Cleaner to AMC after developing it for five years. It came as a shock to learn that even though this was my baby, I would never receive “created by” credits. The fact that we had offers for this show twice in two months proved it was a great idea, but not being treated fairly was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

To be a good director in both TV or film, you need to be a good listener. So many creative people are involved in such detail on a film that it’s important to be open to their expertise and knowledge. It’s about taking all the best ideas to make the project better and to collaborate. Also, it was very helpful that I am knowledgeable in every trade on the set. I’m very hands-on and am never afraid to lift a hammer or hang a light or learn to compromise with budgets.

You met writer Jen Goldson at our 2015 Script Pipeline event, and it seemed like her screenplay Off the Menu was optioned instantly. What was it about the script that stood out? 

First,  I believe a person’s passion is the most critical to sell anything. Jen not only had a great pitch that made her stand out, but she totally displayed a desire to want her project in the hands of a filmmaker with equal passion. My producer Bethany Cerrona brought the script on the heels of my last film, which was a serious drama. Timing is everything, and I was excited to jump into this contemporary love story, as Jen’s writing style was very engaging, funny, and inspiring.

Off the Menu went from Jen’s initial pitch to you and exec Bethany Cerrona, to production, to finished film in about two years. Quick, certainly, relative to the frustratingly slow-ticking industry clock, where it can take a while get a project produced. Naturally, it’s easier for a lower-budget indie to hit that fast lane, however what were some of the crucial pieces that had to fall into place? Or was it fairly straightforward? If anything is ever “fairly straightforward” in filmmaking. . . .

Every film is different and presents its own set of challenges. After optioning the script, we met with Jen several times about small changes. Just coming off my last film with new wisdom and experience, we had to figure out a way to get this wonderful script produced affordably without sacrificing the story.

Will Newman, one of my producers, had warned about the cost of having too many characters and locations when making a indie. We mandated early on that to keep the authenticity of the story, it had to shoot, at least partially, on location in New Mexico, so that decision pushed many other decisions into the forefront. Being that Javiara’s kitchen was a character itself, our Production Designer Bonnie Bacevich was able to have full creative freedom on my stage. This decision not only saved us loads of time and money but helped me fulfill my creative vision without all the distractions of using a practical restaurant location. Careful thought and consideration was made to the changes needed to be made to the script to scale down for the budget, which kept faithful to Jen’s original story.

The cast of Menu really seemed to click on-screen. Especially the leads. How did Dania Ramirez and Santino Fontana come on board?

We had an amazing casting director, Nick Anderson. The script went out to Dania and we both met for coffee, and she was excited because she too loved cooking. I knew she would make a perfect fiery chef, and she loved the script, so the timing was perfect.

Around the same time, we were introduced to Santino via Skype from NYC and he also loved the script. And as luck would have it, he was able to fit us in between his show Crazy Ex Girlfriend and his Broadway opening. Once we had Dania and Santino, the rest of the cast fell into place fairly easily.

Every director and producer is different. Everyone leans toward certain themes. But what motivates you to continue directing and producing? What excites you most about the future of the industry?

I’m totally drawn into filmmaking by my desire to share inspiring stories. It’s beyond words how fortunate I was that my first film Girl On The Edge has changed so many young people’s lives.

I’m committed to working on purposeful films with social messages. It’s critical for me to make films that matter. Films have the ability to cross all borders, to bring hope and unite people. Off the Menu gave me the opportunity to tell a hopeful, sweet story about love and family that unites people from opposite worlds through food.

Along those same lines, where do you see us headed as an industry overall? Thanks to the emergence of more platforms seeking content, are you beginning to see a shift in the type of content distributed, or that has a strong chance at getting distribution on an indie level? 

I think all these new digital ways of sharing content are likely how most small films will survive, but it’s a bit of a wild west. . . with so many new films/TV shows getting made, it’s harder to cut through the clutter and get noticed. With Netflix and Amazon changing the game, we are seeing so many interesting voices that wouldn’t have been possible before in the traditional models.

I’m optimistic that if you have a good story and solid production values, your film will find an audience.


Jay Silverman

Jay has excelled as a leading director and producer specializing in award-winning film and television. In addition to directing and producing Off The Menu, Jay directed and executive produced the award-winning feature Girl on the Edge, starring Peter Coyote, Taylor Spreitler and Gil Bellows. The film premiered on Showtime. Jay also co-created and executive produced A&E’s The Cleaner, starring Benjamin Bratt, an hour-long drama based on a real life interventionist who uses unorthodox methods to save lives of those who battle addictions.

Jay lives and works in Los Angeles and has three daughters.

Follow Jay: Twitter

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.

Howard Jordan Jr. (Part 2)

By | Exclusive Interviews

Howard Jordan Jr. placed as runner-up in the Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition with the comedy pilot Family Be Like. He later was accepted to the CBS Writers Diversity Program and locked down agency and management representation. In 2017, we was brought on the staff of the CBS sitcom Superior Donuts. His first solo-written episode aired in February 2018.

It’s been two short years, and you went from runner-up in the Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition to staff writer on a CBS comedy. What pieces had to fall into place to get there? What was the process like? 

I’m not sure if this is a good thing, along the lines of hopeful or inspirational, or a sad thing, a little more disappointing to hear. But all the clichés are true. Keep writing. Keep networking. Keep improving.

There is no singular route to a room, or a sell. What continues to prove effective for me is making time to write and being receptive to notes. If you do that, you’ll get better. If you get better, your odds of taking a leap forward will also.

Certainly, participating in the 2016-2017 CBS Writers Diversity Program was a critical piece in your career puzzle. How much did it change your perceptions and knowledge of the industry? 

It was everything.

When I moved to LA in the summer of 2013, I knew I wanted to transition from my career in advertising as a creative director. But I didn’t know how. Worse than that, I didn’t know anyone. Oh, and did I mention, I also didn’t have any material, yet?

Through family connections and friends of friends, I began to meet working television writers at various levels. The one suggestion that continued to pop up; “Apply to the diversity programs.” But that is rarified air. Eight spots per program and applicant fields ranging between 1,300 to 2,500.

That pursuit is where my education really began. So, I have to mention it. It’s not as simple as 1-2-3. I used a further-developed version of the script named runner-up at Script Pipeline with a brand new Brooklyn Nine-Nine spec to get into the CBS program.

The program reinforced things I already knew from a long career as a creative professional. But the true discovery came in the importance of telling personal stories in conversation and on the page that only you can tell. It educated us about what the industry is looking for, what is expected of a staff writer, and it made it clear that “I can do this.”

The experience on Superior Donuts: what has met your expectations, and what hasn’t? We’re sure there was some degree of hesitation early on, but did you get comfortable with this new environment right away, or did it take some easing into? What’s been the biggest hurdle? 

My expectations were surpassed the moment I got the opportunity to step inside the room. The best thing about being a staff writer is that the success of the show has almost nothing to do with you. You are there to learn and contribute to the direction of the showrunner. It’s that simple.

As far as comfort, you have to feel out the room. In sports terms, play your position. I’m still finding my footing after 30 weeks. It takes time. But I happen to be in a very welcoming, encouraging space with seasoned, proven pros. The only hurdle is learning to be on for 10 hours a day with the same people at the same table, for 9 ½ straight months. I wasn’t ready for such a never-ending dinner party.

No secret that writers are flocking to TV. We started reviewing TV material in 2008, and it’s incredible to see the number of pilots now compared to then. What are key points a writer should keep in mind when developing an original pilot? Do they really have as much creative flexibility as they think they have, or should they take a more rigid approach to what types of concepts they pursue?

I’m no development expert just yet. But I’d suggest making damn sure you love the premise and the characters, write it with purpose, and be ready to write it as many times as it takes to get it just right. Then, take notes and rewrite it. Then, scrap it and start over again, if needed.

I do believe the field is wide open. Write what you love. There are so many outlets looking for content. If you write something that can sell, someone will buy it. Or at least I hope that’s the case. I’m kind of depending on it.

In 2015, we asked where you saw yourself in 10 years—you said having three sitcoms on-air simultaneously. Has that changed? Have you been able to balance writing your own scripts with the demands of writing for the show? 

It hasn’t changed one bit. That’s still my end game. Why not.

The commitment to the room comes first. It’s hard to do, for sure. It takes time management and a very patient spouse. But if you want it, there’s always time to push something forward or explore something new. You make it. You find it.

Keep writing. Keep networking.

Superior Donuts airs on CBS Mondays at 9pm.

Follow Howard: Twitter

Ashley Locher

By | Exclusive Interviews

– Ashley Locher, runner-up of the 2017 Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition with End of Life

End of Life deals with some heavy topics, but what struck us is that you very wisely–and very carefully–avoided drawing too fine a point on the message behind the story. Was it difficult to keep things grounded while avoiding the risk of melodrama and “taking sides,” so to speak, on the issue of medically assisted suicide?

I believe the only way to construct a substantial argument is by exploring the counterarguments. Consequently, I was insistent upon creating characters to represent both sides of the debate. Because of this, End of Life never sought to take sides–it sought to pit the inherent value of human life against the right of a terminally ill patient to die. Hopefully, this does as you said and avoids “drawing too fine a point on the message,” therefore expanding the target demographic and engaging more people in the conversation.

Switching gears a bit, comedy was key in keeping End of Life grounded. That sounds counterintuitive, but had I leaned merely on dramatic tension to drive the story, the script would have been nothing more than a low-budget mumblecore. Besides, I don’t know many people excited to grab a bucket of popcorn and cozy up to watch a dying woman try to expedite the process unless you throw in a little comedy. Moreover, death remains a taboo subject. How better to approach a taboo subject than with humor?

One of the big draws in the script is the straightforward and charismatic lead. For us, it was refreshing to see things from a different perspective—through the eyes of someone older as opposed to, say, a teenager dealing with death. Both are heartbreaking, both get the point across on controlling one’s own mortality. But what influenced your decision to feature an elderly woman as the protagonist? Or does POV matter in this case? What would change, if anything, in the story’s roots had the protagonist been a different character entirely?

Well, the obvious reason I chose an elderly woman as the protagonist is because there are too few roles in Hollywood for women over 40. But, as mentioned above, I recognize death remains a taboo subject. And it becomes even more taboo when discussed in reference to someone without age spots. Since I already planned to address a controversial issue, I felt it best to approach the story from a more digestible angle.

So yes, I think the POV would absolutely change since an elderly woman with a terminal illness has very different considerations than a teenager with a terminal illness. Plus, I also wanted to explore the way death affects a strained mother/daughter relationship, which looks very different when written from the mother’s perspective (like I did) than the daughter’s perspective. One imitates the natural progression of life while the other is reminiscent of tragedy.

Oh, and also: a crass old woman is so much funnier than a crass teenager.

Are you sticking to certain genres or themes? How important do you think it is for writers to develop a niche?

While I believe writers should have the freedom to explore whatever material they connect with, I also believe creatives are frequently drawn time and again to certain genres and themes–often without recognizing it. For example, a new writer might have samples ranging from dark comedy to action/adventure. But if they all deal with dysfunctional families, you have a niche. Being self-aware in this way allows you to quickly assess any given situation and find a way to assert your value.

You received a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting, which is no simple accomplishment. How important do you feel post-graduate education is in improving one’s skills as a writer? Whether it’s in a formal university setting or otherwise? What advice would you give to screenwriters starting out?

First and foremost, an MFA in Screenwriting is absolutely not necessary to become a successful screenwriter. But for a young girl from the Midwest with a Bachelors in Psychology and no connections in LA (such as myself), an MFA in Screenwriting is definitely worth considering. Not only has it allowed me time to build a polished portfolio, it has provided me with valuable opportunities and a built-in network. Moreover, attending an MFA program has fostered my creativity by providing an environment where I can be surrounded by talented classmates and experienced professors who constantly push me to better myself.

Of course my writing has improved, but much of that comes from something you can do with or without a post-graduate education: practice–write as much as you can, as often as you can. And read! Every script you can find. Whether you’ve been writing for years or are just starting out. Even before moving to Los Angeles, I spent most of my time studying the industry from afar.

Writers are always asked what their ultimate plans are for the future. But it’s so difficult to look that far down the line, especially in an industry where opportunities can change in a second. What are you aiming for in the near-term? What do you feel is the best route for you personally, and how might that be the same (or different) for other writers in your position?

Since I’ll be graduating soon, my immediate goals consist of polishing samples and networking as much as possible. Because there are so many people vying for jobs, vacancies are filled almost immediately, which means not only do you have to be in the right place at the right time, you also need to know the right people. Furthermore, there is no one way to break into the industry. Therefore, the best advice I can give is to be ready when the opportunity presents itself.

On a grander scale, I hope to find work in a writers’ room (either as a writer’s assistant or staff writer). Although film is my first love, television is a close second. Especially with the quality of content currently generated by streaming services and the like. Moreover, television is a writer’s medium and provides the opportunity for (somewhat) stable work.

On the business side of things, writers should possess an awareness of market trends, on all levels. From experimental indies to, naturally, big tentpole films. If not only on a general level. Did that come into play when developing End of Life? Was there ever a hesitation to write a story revolving around this subject matter?

While writing End of Life, I knew (if anything) it was bound to be a sample–something for creative execs to read to get an idea of my voice. That being said, I quickly realized that my voice is synonymous with mid-budget, character driven indies. However, with streaming services generating a desire for content, there seems to be more and more room for niche material.

So to answer your question: No, I never hesitated to write End of Life. Because at the heart of it, I love what I do, and I hope to continue doing it until I can no longer tell stories I love. Besides, if I wanted to make money, I would’ve become a psychologist.

Follow Ashley: Twitter

Joshua Paul Johnson and Jamie Napoli

By | Exclusive Interviews

– Joshua Paul Johnson and Jamie Napoli, winner of the 2017 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition with Getaway

Co-writing relationships can be tricky. It’s always impressive when a script turns out so tonally consistent when there’s more than one writer involved. How do you iron out who plays what role? What’s sort of your general dynamic? It’s a safe assumption that your instincts and styles fall in line, but what are some of the challenges in writing a feature with a partner?

Jamie: I think we’re very lucky that we have similar, and perhaps similarly immature senses of humor. We’re often just trying to make each other laugh with each pass of the script. We can’t really have any ego or preciousness with our writing, because the only way this works is if we’re completely honest and brutal when things aren’t working. And I think often the biggest hurdle for us is staying confident that each new draft will be better than the last one. Writing can be a bit of rollercoaster, and the fact that there are two of us can be really helpful for keeping up our passion and momentum. One of us is always moving the ball forward.

Josh: But as far as delegation goes, we don’t have strict roles. Both of us eventually do everything. We always outline the entire story together—which can run upwards of 50 pages. Our outlining process is similar to doing “notecards.” This is the most collaborative part of our process. When that’s ready, one of us opens Final Draft and begins “draft zero.” We call it “draft zero” to remove any expectation of it being remotely good. After that is completed, we re-outline the entire story re-evaluating character arcs, plants/playoffs, and suspense. With that new outline, the other person does the real first draft. We repeat the process over and over until we have a “girlfriend draft”—the one we send out to get torn apart by our significant others.

In general, the challenges involved with any creative relationship necessitate being respectful of each other’s ideas and being able to navigate disagreements. You have to feel OK blurting out an idea even if you’re not completely comfortable with it. When diagnosing a problem we often say “we need a solution, the bad version of which is…” And so we can work through problems together without judgement.

Like co-writing partnerships, comedies, too, can be difficult to execute. But Getaway seems like it could easily hit a global audience, given the setup and attention to detail when it comes to establishing the characters. Comedies sometimes go awry when the humor doesn’t translate, or feels too specific. Was this ever a concern? What advice would you give writers who are attempting to write something similar in this vein, as far as tone and approach?

Josh: To be honest, we never had a conversation about Getaway as it related to global audiences. We just set out to write something that we wanted to see. Our aim was to ensure it was a quick read, had an unconventional tone, and contained themes we believed would make for an interesting debate. It’s been fascinating to see the differences in how men and women react to the story. Issues of masculinity and femininity was something we felt was in the zeitgeist. I’d say that’s the most culturally universal part of it.

Jamie: We’re big believers in writing what you know. That doesn’t necessarily mean writing your life story, because every script can’t be about some under-appreciated artist with writer’s block, but rather taking the fears, neuroses, settings, and characters that you’re familiar with and blending them in unique and surprising ways. We love really desperate characters because they let us laugh at the things we find most embarrassing about ourselves. Josh and I have written a number of comedies about deeply insecure men who desperately want a woman’s respect. I’ll let you come to your own conclusion about what that says about us.

Do you typically write together, or you have your own separate projects? Is it important for writers who team up on scripts to branch out and do their own material? It seems obvious writers can have it both ways, but we see examples where that’s not always the case—in other words, where the partnership itself is the brand. What’s your stance on that?

Josh: Writing partnerships are just like any other type of relationship. What works for one team might not work for another. What we know is our collaborative process and that it works for us. Whenever one of us has an idea, the other person is always the first to hear it. Though we occasionally have differences in terms of taste, interest, and personal experience, we have not yet encountered a need to branch out.

Jamie: We really just enjoy writing together, and I think we complement each other’s skills and shortcomings. We have similar aspirations to write and direct features where we have a large amount of creative control, and most importantly, I feel like we can be a lot more productive when we’re working together. We’re currently wrapping up our first draft on our next feature, and we have a number of feature and pilot scripts on the horizon that we’re really excited about.

What are your backgrounds when it comes to writing? How did each of you get started?

Jamie: I’ve been running around with a camera and screaming, “Quiet on the set!” to my family for pretty much my whole life. By high school, I was reading and writing feature scripts and shooting everything from short horror parodies to a feature adaptation of The Death of Ivan Ilych. Seriously. There is a full length movie on a hard drive in my parents’ attic that reimagines Tolstoy’s 19th century novella about a dying Russian bureaucrat with a bunch of teenagers in suburban New Jersey.

Josh: Similarly to Jamie, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker at a very young age, but I was far from Hollywood. I was in the sleepy suburbs of Iowa, and I would stay up all night re-watching behind-the-scenes DVD extras of The Lord of the Rings. I didn’t have the money to make what I was seeing on TV and in theaters, but you know what—writing is free. So I teamed up with my friend, and we spent years writing these fantasy and zombie novels which have since become kindling for my fireplace. But because we spent so much time together writing, outlining, and discussing ideas, I learned that my strengths are in talking out ideas with a partner. So ever since I’ve been writing, I’ve been co-writing.

Jamie and I didn’t set out initially to be co-writers. We met at USC’s graduate directing program and would often discuss and critique each other’s projects. Those note sessions would start as a few hours, but eventually turned into days and even months. By that point, we realized we had accidentally become co-writers.

Regarding your contest-winning screenplay Getaway, one of the comments during judging: “shades of the Coen Brothers. . . a no-brainer for a fun, darkly comical genre hybrid.” Whether or not you’d agree with that particular assessment, you managed to pull off a true (and rare) page-turner. When it comes to this genre, what trends do you see emerging? It’s certainly subjective, but where are films getting it “right” and where are they getting it “wrong?”

Josh: Neither of us are stand up comedians or joke writers. We didn’t set out to write a comedy. We set out to write a thriller that made us laugh. It’s a bit of an odd goal, but we’re attracted to those kinds of movies. Audiences today are extremely cinema-literate. Because of that, we don’t tend to do straight-genre pieces. We’re always looking for ways to pull the rug out from under the audience. We call those “Oh shit!” moments. For us and our work, it’s important that the audience walk out of the theater not just entertained but also itching for a rich conversation.

Jamie: We’re fans of movies like In Bruges, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Visit, and Get Out that are able to move deftly between really tense moments and scenes that are absolutely hysterical. Making a film that can do that and also be about something of substance is a tall order, but that’s always what we’re aiming for. The success of Get Out was really exciting to us because it means there’s an incredible appetite for that kind of smart, impactful genre film.

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