‘Arrival’ Screenwriter Eric Heisserer Reveals How He Beat Hollywood

By November 18, 2016Blog, Featured

Here’s your chance to listen in on a true writer’s writer, Eric Heisserer, screenwriter of the hit sci-fi thriller — and highly-anticipated Awards-season movie — Arrival. He joins host Jeff Goldsmith on The Q&A podcast to discuss how he built his career in Hollywood and each of the projects that have brought him to this point — with two movies released in one year (Arrival and surprise box-office hit Lights Out), and an early favorite for Academy Award nominations. Packed full of firsthand, hard-won Hollywood lessons, this insightful interview is one not to miss.

As always, Jeff Goldsmith delivers a fascinating, in-depth interview, and the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship is proud to sponsor The Q&A Podcast during this Awards season.

Arrival is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners), and based on the short story Story of Your Life by author Ted Chiang. The film has received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, with praise for its gripping, emotional story of life and loss, its intense and suspenseful atmosphere, and for stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner‘s performances.

>> Why Short Stories Make Great MoviesAre you writing a short story with cinematic potential? The ScreenCraft Short Story Contest is open for entries now! The top 5 finalists will be read by our network of over 40 literary and entertainment industry professionals.

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Up to now, screenwriter Eric Heisserer has been best known in Hollywood for his horror scripts, such as Lights Out, Final Destination 5, and 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. But he is a lifelong science fiction fan and had hoped to someday segue into the genre.

In this interview Heisserer discusses branching out after establishing a career in one genre, finding inspiration for his projects, and what he does to prepare for a pitch. You’ll also hear what it’s like to hang out with drunk astrophysicists, dealing with scared studios, how directing makes you a better writer, and so much more.

A few of our favorite takeaways:

Nine-year-old audience member Miles is given the opportunity to ask the first interview question and wastes no time, asking: After reading the short story, how did you know that it would be a really good movie?

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Heisserer answers: That’s a really good question. Honestly, I did not know. But I knew how it made me feel. I was profoundly affected by it, emotionally. And I thought, ‘What a wonderful gift this story gave to me. Is there a way I can gently lift this from the story and give it to an audience in a film?

Later, when asked what he’s learned from his experience, Heisserer imparts this advice to screenwriters: The thing I learned is how important it is to write things on spec if you’re passionate about them.

And the quote we’ll be tacking to our walls? “It starts and ends with passion.”

There’s so much insight revealed in this interview, straight from one of the most talented and hard-working screenwriters today. There might be more inspiration and wisdom in this episode than a semester of film school. It’s a must-listen for aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers.


ScreenCraft is truly proud to sponsor The Q&A podcast, which offers aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers rare access to people who are working in and shaping the industry today. It’s a mission ScreenCraft works hard to support with initiatives like the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship, now in its 4th year, which is designed to advance the careers of emerging screenwriters through ongoing consultation, mentorship and introductions to key entertainment industry leaders. Are you ready to launch your career? Apply today.