Being an actor turned writer can have its privileges, as Chris Sparling, one of Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch can attest to. “I knew at the very least which lines I’d hate to say#8221; said Sparling, speaking with Variety VP & Exec Editor Steven Gaydos at the Whistler Film Festival presentation on Dec 6.
Audiences got to glean insight about the art, craft, and business of screenwriting from the six writers in attendance – whose highly-anticipated projects have attracted some of the top A-listers around.
This year’s Screenwriters to Watch included Ben Schwartz (Major!), writing duo Chris Bowman & Hubbel Palmer (Loomis Fargo), Chris Sparling (The Sea of Trees), Graham Moore (The Imitation Game), Matt Charman (co-writer of Suite Francaise), Melissa Stack (The Other Woman), Michael Starrbury (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete), Phyllis Nagy (Carol), and Suha Arraf (Villa Touma).
Bowman and Palmer have a special advantage when it comes to avoiding writerly procrastination, they keep each other accountable — and competitive. However, they caution, pick your collaborators carefully. “Every note [Chris] gave me didn’t feel like a compromise#8221; says Palmer.
Melissa Stack also recalled the collaborative nature working on ‘The Other Woman#8217; where she spent most days on set. “They had amazing chemistry and were very generous and kind to each other#8221; she said, “The more they played together the better it got.” Stack also revealed the true ‘troublemaker’ on set, “Leslie [Mann] stirred the pot.”
Phyllis Nagy, a long time playwright, had resisted jumping into the screenwriting fray for a long time, turning down projects, insisting on also directing. That tactic seemed to have paid off. Her first pic, ‘Mrs. Harris’ earned her two Emmy nominations.
Sparling doesn’t see writing and directing as mutually exclusive either. “You see the movie in your head#8221; he insists, so you’re already directing it in a sense.
Meanwhile Nagy’s next project is a screen adaption of her late friend Patricia Highsmith’s “Carol#8221; out in 2015. She says that while working on this film she had become more aware of a shifting trend with financing becoming more global than before.
Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch are presented for the third year at the Whistler Film Festival.