Lauri Donahue

Writing a hit movie in six days — with a lot of teamwork


My latest article in Creative Screenwriting:

Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are a screenwriting team – one of the busiest (and probably the fastest) in Hollywood, working on both indie and studio projects.

Their first hit was the spec (500) Days of Summer in 2009, and they went on to pen The Spectacular Nowand the highly successful movie version of John Green’s bestseller The Fault in Our Stars.

Along the way they’ve collected 12 screenwriting awards, including jointly being named Screenwriter of the Year at the 2009 Hollywood Film Awards.

Scott lives in LA and Michael lives in New York. They work together via email and phone – never in the same room….


My article on the Austin Film Festival in Creative Screenwriting

Here’s my article on the 2014 Austin Film Festival in Creative Screenwriting:

What Comic-Con is for comic book fans, the Austin Film Festival’s Writer’s Conference is for screenwriters.

In the words of one panelist,

Think of this as summer camp – the best, nerdiest summer camp you could ever go to.  You’re on a journey to build a career as a writer.  It’s a two-part journey:  building your craft and building your team of the people around you.  It’s a feedback loop.  The more people who like you, the more people to give you encouragement.  And the more people you know, the more likely one will succeed and help you.


My article in Creative Screenwriting on how screenwriters are using “Moneyball for Movies”

I’ve got another article in Creative Screenwriting:

When Variety reported on July 22 that Piedmont Media Research had developed a system for predicting a movie’s box office take before the film was even made, the firm started fielding calls from some unexpected customers: screenwriters.

Within weeks, Piedmont had heard from more than 50 scribes hoping to use the company’s patent-pending “consumer engagement”-based model to pitch ideas to studios. No longer would writers have to resort to “hit #1 meets hit #2” comparisons to hype the marketability of their concepts. Now they could use hard numbers, backed up by audience research.

My article on The Black List in Creative Screenwriting

My article on The Black List in Creative Screenwriting is finally up.

Here’s an excerpt:

Launched in 2005, The Black List quickly became a Hollywood institution. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly reported:

‘In just four years, the Black List has become Hollywood’s equivalent of the Rookie of the Year award—a neon arrow pointing to the work of undiscovered or unappreciated writers. It has launched careers, been an increasingly important weapon in the battle to get great original screenplays made into great original films, and even become a crystal ball for the Oscars.’

Franklin Leonard, then a development executive at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, launched the list by asking nearly 100 movie execs about their favorite unproduced scripts from the past year. He then compiled the results and initially distributed the list anonymously. The voter pool has now grown to approximately 500, with more than 200 Black List screenplays becoming features.  Collectively, they’ve earned $16 billion at box offices worldwide, earned over 150 Oscar nominations and won 25 statues, including three of the last five Best Pictures and seven of the last 12 screenwriting Oscars.

However, as it turns out, few of the original Black List writers were truly “undiscovered,” since most of the scripts had already been sold and some were even in production.  Furthermore, most of the writers were represented by agents or managers, including heavy-hitters like Quentin Tarantino and then-rookies like Diablo Cody.



Diablo Cody: The 7 Things No One Tells You About Being a Top Screenwriter (plus mostly bad advice from Joe Eszterhas)

A fun list from Diablo Cody, if you’re ever in the enviable position of needing this advice.

This one is my favorite:

6. Everyone you know will suddenly aspire to be a screenwriter.I’ve never heard of a dozen people applying to dental school because their friend or family member became an orthodontist. But if you become a screenwriter and have success at it, at least five of your non-writing acquaintances will spontaneously decide to try writing a screenplay. And you know what? I don’t blame them. I genuinely believe I have the best job in the world, other than Katy Perry. Besides, it’s not like I know what the fuck I’m doing. Go ahead, guys! Take a crack at it!

On the other hand, here’s a mostly (IMHO) terrible list from Joe Eszterhas:  Joe Eszterhas’ 10 Golden Rules of Screenwriting.  I don’t know whether this explains why he was one of the top screenwriters in Hollywood for many years, or if it explains why he hasn’t had a movie made in the States since 1997.  This is the only point I agree with:

10. Don’t let the bastards get you down. If you can’t sell your script, or if you sell the script and they bring in another writer to butcher it, or if the director claims in interviews that he really wrote your script, or if the actors claim that they improvised all of your best lines, or if you’re left out of the press junket, simply sit down and write another script. And if the same thing happens to you on that one, write another and another and another and another, until you get one up there that’s your vision translated by the director to the big screen.