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Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive Script Pipeline interviews with writers and industry.

Joshua Paul Johnson and Jamie Napoli

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– 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…

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Penelope Chai and Matteo Bernardini

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– Penelope Chai and Matteo Bernardini, winner of the 2016 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition with Cinderella Must Die.  Regardless of the fact 2016 turned out to be our best year for screenwriting, with so many fantastic finalist screenplays, Cinderella Must Die was a unanimous pick for the grand prize. Personally, when I read during the quarterfinalist round, 30 pages in I stopped immediately to text Chad (Script Pipeline’s Executive Director) and our development assistant to tell them they have to read this immediately. Part of this was due to the unique spin on the fairy tale, but mostly because of your writing style. Is style and crafting a unique voice—which is something we constantly emphasize for emerging writers—an area you feel can be refined through “deliberate practice,” meaning an element you can specifically work on, or is it something that simply comes from years of experience? What has helped each of you the most when…

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Nir Paniry

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– Nir Paniry, runner-up in the 2015 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition with The Coyote.  What pushed you more into writing than any other field within the film industry? Besides the love of writing itself, I think it’s the autonomy of it all. Every other job in the film business relies on moving parts. If you’re a director you need a script. If you’re an editor you need a film, etc, etc. . . . You’re reliant on others in order to start creating. When you’re a writer (unless you’re on assignment) you are completely dependent on your own mind and gumption to put pen to paper. It’s insular, like painting a picture. I can think of a story tonight and start writing it tonight. There are not many  jobs in this business that function that way. And yes, ultimately if it moves up the pipeline, your story will change and morph and become a…

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Howard Jordan Jr.

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– Howard Jordan Jr., runner-up in the 2015 Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition with the comedy Family Be Like. An advertising industry veteran, Howard is pursuing a career in writing television comedy. You worked for many years in advertising. Tell us a little about your background and how you transitioned into TV writing. Technically speaking, my career started at 12. I ripped ads out of magazines, rewrote, and my mother mailed them in. But it officially began when I attended masters program “slash” boot camp for wannabe advertising creatives. My first job was at a small agency in Manhattan. I worked on anything and everything. I didn’t have time, or money, to do much else. But I managed to take sitcom writing classes at night. I’ve always loved sitcoms. And I’m kind of an unofficial pop culture encyclopedia, so I figured, why not do both? However, as I advanced from junior copywriter to creative director with famous campaigns…

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Henry Dunham

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– Henry Dunham, winner of the 2015 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition with the contained crime/thriller The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (formerly Militia), which released in January 2019. The film, his feature directorial debut, received massive praise from Rolling Stone, Birth.Movies.Death, Slash Film, and other top critics. A Detroit native and Michigan State alum, Henry has written, directed, and produced his own short films prior to Standoff. Prior to entering the Script Pipeline competition, how had you tested the waters—submitting to production companies, other contests, querying managers and agents. . . ? To be honest, I never submitted to production companies/agencies blindly before because I used to intern for them and spent a lot of the time having to actually read those blind submissions, seeing firsthand how futile a process it is. You’re not getting the attention you think you are, and some kid (like me) who’s probably very tired and probably over-worked is reading your story, and…

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Josh Chesler

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– Josh Chesler, writer of Chasing Ghosts starring Tim Meadows (SNL) and co-writer of Underground (Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition finalist), currently in pre-production with LAConfab Entertainment. His latest projects include the surreal adventure screenplay David P. Boorman and the Quest for Good News and the TV series Extractors, co-written with Paul Connor. Chasing Ghosts will be available for digital download and on VOD and DVD April 21. Have your career goals always leaned toward film and writing? From as early as I can remember, I was interested in writing and telling stories. I started reading at a very young age and began voraciously devouring books as well as movies. In junior high, I wrote a lot of short stories just for fun–most of which are thankfully stored on obsolete media that can never be recovered. Then in high school, I had the good fortune of being able to take some film classes, which really changed my…

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Micah Barnett

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– Micah Barnett, writer of The Rabbit (Warner Bros.) with Chris Tucker attached to star. Micah also sold the television project Ricochet to NBC in 2013. In 2010, after receiving a “Recommend” on his screenplay The Merc List, Script Pipeline introduced Micah to manager Jake Wagner, who later signed him. What’s your background in the industry? What made you become a screenwriter? I was an English major in college and didn’t study film or even consider it a career, but I always loved movies. And I remember with only about a month before graduation I read an interview in some school publication with an alumni, Wendy Finerman, who talked about producing Forrest Gump. This was the first time I really thought about where movies came from. . . and I realized that, hell, someone has to actually create all of these great movies I’ve been consuming since as long as I can remember. Eventually, I worked up the…

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Debbie Lollie

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– Debbie Lollie, writer of Help Me Out, aka The Ex-Man (2013 Script Pipeline First Look Project Winner) You won the First Look Project with a romantic comedy revolving around what’s considered a “high-concept” premise. Was this a deliberate decision? To write something that might appeal to execs at the studio level? The goal and hope with any screenplay is always that it will be made into a movie. Therefore, attracting the industry’s attention with a “high concept” project is a key objective, but that term is highly subjective and difficult to define. I think of it as being a gut instinct. Something about a story idea just hits you and provokes an emotional reaction. I think another aspect is that the project is commercial. But a strong caveat here. I don’t think one can set out to write a “high-concept” script. That can’t be the primary driving force. Due to the subjective nature…

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Alex Ross

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– Alex Ross, writer of Hexen (2014 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition Winner) Hexen was your first script—but for a screenplay this well-written, one worthy enough to win the Script Pipeline Grand Prize, “first script” is a bit misleading. How much time and energy did you put into the project before submitting to the competition? What was the impetus behind writing this type of story? I never considered myself to be a writer to be honest–not a good one, anyway. I’m mostly interested in exploring ideas and feelings through the image, not the word. I spent years looking for a project to direct, but nothing spoke to me, and it was frustrating. Then I heard Quentin Tarantino talk about how if his mother and father hadn’t gotten together, Reservoir Dogs would not exist today, and I took that as: we are all original, we all have things to say, we just have to find a way…

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Tom Krajewski

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– Tom Krajewski, writer of Supernormal (2014 Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition Winner) Your winning script Supernormal is a single-cam comedy with a surprisingly fresh spin on the superhero premise. Ultimately, it was both the concept and the writing that caught the attention of Script Pipeline judges. But did you think it was risky writing what many execs might unfairly label “another superhero script”? Or did you feel the writing alone would at least give it a chance? Thanks for the compliment–and I’m very honored to have won! I guess I didn’t think it was that risky (I guess I’m ignorant?). To me, the fresh spin–which is very clear in the logline–just sounds unique enough to get an exec’s interest (maybe I’m more arrogant than ignorant?). Anyway, I was also hoping that, once the reader got to the big twist at the end of act one, they’d get hooked after seeing…

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Tripper Clancy

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– Tripper Clancy, writer of Henry the Second (2010 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest Grand Prize Winner), and the upcoming Stuber (Fox), The Ambassadors (Fox), and Shedd (Paramount). In 2014, Tripper was hired to write the Kevin James adventure/comedy Stranded for Sony Pictures, and in 2017 was brought on board to write an adaptation for the critically acclaimed novel The Art of Fielding. You won the 2010 Screenwriting Competition with the comedy Henry the Second, and after industry circulation by Script Pipeline (with a very small handful of rejections), you secured representation relatively quickly. What has that process been like the last couple years? I was lucky enough to land my first agent about a month after moving to LA. Sure, it was a tiny agent at a tiny agency (and I had to pay formy own copies when a spec went out!), but I thought, “Holy shit, this is easy!” Five…

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Morgan Von Ancken

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– Morgan von Ancken, writer of Cutting Numbers (2013 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest winner). After being announced as the Grand Prize winner, Morgan later signed with agency powerhouse UTA. Cutting Numbers is a unique premise in a genre (essentially an indie dramedy) usually devoid of true originality. How’d the concept come about? My first job out of college was a temping gig where I transcribed thousands and thousands of handwritten names into a spreadsheet. One of the ways I coped with the monotony was by inventing a super sad series of little games. In my favorite one, I pretended that each name I invoiced was someone whose life—in some anonymous, inexplicable way—I was saving. The responsibility was empowering, and I remember extrapolating each person’s personality and appearance from their name and handwriting. It kept me sharp, too. If I screwed up and skipped a name, that person’s blood was on my…

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Haji Outlaw

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– Haji Outlaw, writer of Deadmen (2013 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest runner-up) You were a former Script Pipeline finalist with a TV spec for the comedy Eastbound and Down. Your 2013 runner-up screenplay, Deadmen, is a western (technically), yet a “lighter,” psychological western. What’s the transition like writing straight comedy to this type of material? Honestly, the transition from straight comedy to Deadmen wasn’t much of a transition. It just comes down to telling a story and characters for me. As long as the story and characters are interesting, I’m ready to write it. I actually wrote the first draft of Deadmen about four months after I wrote Eastbound. Even though I’ve done standup for nearly 10 years and wrote Eastbound, the majority of what I enjoy watching are not comedies. My favorite TV show of all-time is The Wire (and currently Breaking Bad), and my favorite movie of all-time…

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Andy Demsky

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– Andy Demsky, writer of Totaled (2012 Script Pipeline Contest winner) Without giving away too much of the concept, what prompted you to come up with the idea for Totaled? A few years ago, a friend was telling me how his car had been totaled and I should have been listening to him, but instead my internal English Major was geeking out on how much that one word packs into it. If you say your car is totaled, I know there was a wreck, probably pretty bad. There was surprise, fear, and uncertainty, maybe pain, but certainly drama. Someone got pissed, someone may have faked an injury. Police may’ve been called. The car had to go to a body shop for evaluation, phone calls had to be made to an insurance company, someone along the line shouted “This is bullshit!” and the owner is now faced with a lot of…

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Jason Vaughn

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– Jason Vaughn, writer of The Synth House Wife (2012 Script Pipeline Screenwriting Contest winner). Synth is currently in the latter stages of development and is headed toward production. Describe the process of writing The Synth House Wife. Where did the concept stem from, and what type of story did you want to tell? My concept was triggered by that scene in Minority Report when John Anderton takes the precog, Agatha, to a hacker who helps people live out their fantasies. I thought, what if an entire story was focused on a man going someplace to relive one night of his life? What if this fantasy involved a woman he loved? What if the facility could create a physical simulacrum of her? And, if he wasn’t going for sex (as other people would, in this future), then why was he going? Thinking of trying a short story, not a screenplay,…

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