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The Q&A with 9 Oscar-Nominated Screenwriters

by ScreenCraft on February 10, 2017

In an interview recorded live at the Los Angeles Film School, host Jeff Goldsmith of The Q&A Podcast spoke with an incredible panel made up of writers of some of the year's best films. The lineup featured nine writers who are nominated for Academy Awards this year in the Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay categories:

Mike Mills, 20th Century Women, nominated for Best Original Screenplay
Eric Heisserer, Arrival, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay
Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water, nominated for Best Original Screenplay
Allison Schroeder, Hidden Figures, nominated with Theodore Melfi for Best Adapted Screenplay
Damien Chazelle, La La Land, nominated for Best Original Screenplay
Luke Davies, Lion, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea, nominated for Best Original Screenplay
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay
Tarell Alvin McRaney, Moonlight, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay

ScreenCraft is a proud sponsor of The Q&A Podcast during this Awards season. Jeff Goldsmith always delivers fascinating, in-depth interviews with filmmakers working in the entertainment industry today, and this episode is no exception. With a panel of screenwriters this talented, and representing such a range of styles and experiences, the insights shared in this podcast are relevant to aspiring screenwriters everywhere.

As each of the panelists discusses career and writing low points he or she has experienced, what's most obvious is that screenwriting is a marathon. Everyone encounters challenges, whether they're obstacles along a career path or internal struggles like depression and self-doubt.

Moving to a lighter note, the writers talked about their favorite methods of procrastination. Hearing just how dedicated almost every writer on this panel is to the art of not writing will make you laugh -- and probably cringe in recognition.

What's also clear throughout the conversation is just how connected these writers are to their stories. Whether the films are autobiographical in any way or not, these writers were able to tune into their personal experiences and find what made them universal. To express what they've been through in a way that other people could connect to.

Some of our favorite takeaways:

Kenneth Lonergan: Any good screenplay could only have been written by the author of the screenplay, or it wouldn’t turn out very well.

Allison Schroeder: I wonder if someone else had started this [Hidden Figures], if there would have just been one – if it would have just been Katherine. From the get go I was like, nope – there’s three. And not only are there going to be three, but they’re going to not tear each other down. And they’re going to lift each other up. And they’re going to be friends, and they’re going to laugh, and they’re going to cry together. And I think as a woman there are so many moments, so many frickin’ indignities, that people don’t even realize that we have. And I think there’s a lot of little moments, little moments in that film, where you get to see it with these women. And it matters, you know.

Mike MillsThat’s both the way of writing that makes me most nervous and most comfortable, is to deal with things that really happened to me or I’ve really seen. I feel like they have the most electricity and value. So every page of my script has something raw that I probably shouldn’t be sharing.

Taylor Sheridan: If you look at all of these films, they’re all deeply personal films that defy convention. By the rules of Hollywood, one could argue, none of our films should have been made. Not one of them. And yet, we all decided to tell a story that mattered to us, in the way that we wanted to see that film ourselves. ... And so I think what the lesson is, we’re not that unique. What is interesting to me is probably going to be interesting to other people.

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