Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

This Month in Filmmaking History - November 2020 Roundup

  • On this day in history

    Cool Hand

    screenplay by

    • Donn Pearce
    • Frank Pierson

    Cool Hand Luke -

    “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Have you heard, or maybe even used, that famous quote? You have writers Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson to thank for “Cool Hand Luke,” a 1960s prison drama film that debuted on this day in history. The pair earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay since the film was based on Pearce’s novel, which he sold to Warner Bros. Pearce didn’t have any screenwriting experience though, so Warner Bros. also brought on Pierson to help write the screenplay. The story is based on Pearce’s real experience on a chain gang in Florida, where he had been incarcerated for counterfeiting and cracking safes.

  • On this day in history

    Harry Potter and the
         Sorcerer’s Stone

    screenplay by

    • Steve Kloves

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone -

    While many people had already met Harry Potter and his sidekicks through J.K. Rowling’s series of books, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter really came to life when the first film debuted on this day in history at a premiere in London. Steve Kloves was brought on by Warner Bros. to write the script after the production company paid $1.65 million for rights to the book. After reading the synopsis from Warner Bros., Kloves went out and bought the book and became a huge fan of the series. He said he was nervous about meeting Rowling because he didn’t want her to think he would mess up the story, but the two eventually hit it off and got along great. Rowling maintained a lot of creative control over the story, and seven sequels followed.

  • On this day in history

    le Fou

    screenplay by

    • Jean-Luc Godard

    Pierrot le Fou -

    Jean-Luc Godard’s film “Pierrot le Fou” debuted on this day in history in 1965. The film followed in the footsteps of other Godard features, where actors often break the fourth wall and stare directly into the camera, and its pop art and cartoon-like visuals are many. Godard is known for waiting to write his film’s screenplays until the very last minute, and that was no different for this film, leaving many scenes to be improvised. Critics consider “Pierrot le Fou,” or “Pierrot the Madman” in English, to be one of the ultimate examples of Godard’s filmmaking style, which led the French New Wave movement.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 68th Birthday!

    Michael Cunningham -

    Happy birthday, Michael Cunningham! This screenwriter and novelist turns 68 today. He’s had a storied career, co-writing the screenplay for “Evening” starring Glenn Close, Toni Collette, and Meryl Streep, and earning a Pulizter for his fiction novel “The Hours.” Cunningham is currently a creative writing lecturer at Yale University.

  • On this day in history

    Days of
       Our Lives

    created by

    • Irna Phillips
    • Allan Chase
    • Ted & Betty Corday

    Days of Our Lives -

    “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives.” Not much has changed since that opening title sequence first debuted on this day in 1965 at the beginning of the “Days of Our Lives” television series. Nearly 14,000 episodes later, the soap opera has become one of the longest-running television shows on the planet, with episodes airing almost every single weekday since this day in 1965. Irna Phillips, Allan Chase, Ted Corday, and Betty Corday created the soap that focuses mostly on two main families in a fictional town. Dozens of head writers have filtered on and off the writing team over its seven decades in existence.

  • On this day in history

       A Nightmare
    on Elm Street

    screenplay by

    • Wes Craven

    A Nightmare on Elm Street -

    Wes Craven wrote and directed the slasher film, “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” which debuted on this day in 1984. A remake premiered in 2010. The original is considered one of the top horror films of all time, and six sequels and a television show spinoff followed. The movie’s storyline explores the edge of dreams and reality, and although the film was an obvious success, getting a studio on board was not easy. Craven eventually got New Line Cinema to agree to produce the film, and it became the movie to launch New Line into success. Craven is said to have framed his rejection letter from Universal Studios, which noted that the “script did not receive an enthusiastic enough response.”

  • On this day in history


    created by

    • Joan Ganz Cooney
    • Lloyd Morrisett

    Sesame Street -

    Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett created “Sesame Street,” a children’s television show that uses puppets, animation, and real actors to communicate educational storylines. It first aired on this day in 1969. In the US, approximately 95 percent of preschoolers have watched the show, and more than 85 million American adults saw the show as children. The show’s writers rely on a curriculum sheet and a writer’s notebook to help them navigate the challenges of writing a curriculum based show through storytelling and comedy. The scripts are then reviewed to make sure they’re up to par regarding educational and entertaining content.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 49th Birthday!

    Jennifer Celotta -

    Happy 49th birthday, Jennifer Celotta! Celotta is a prolific television writer, producer, and director, having written on shows including “Home Improvement,” “Two Guys and a Girl,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “The Office,” and “The Newsroom.” She’s also directed episodes of “Cobra Kai” and “The Newsroom,” and acted as a consulting producer on TV shows as recent as Netflix’s “Space Force.”

  • On this day in history


    • 25 Screenwriting Credits

    Fantasia -

    Disney’s “Fantasia” debuted as a traveling theatrical feature on this day in history in 1940. It was Disney’s third animated feature but was different because it didn’t have one storyline, and instead featured animated shorts set to classical music. The music produced the visuals, rather than just lying under the animated action. The film did not do well at the box office because World War II meant distribution was cut off in Europe, but the movie was also expensive to produce. However, critics loved it and considered it a masterpiece, and inspiration from the film can still be seen throughout Disney parks, video games, and more. More than 25 writers and 1,000 artists worked on the film.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Neal Purvis
    • Robert Wade
    • Paul Haggis

    Casino Royale -

    Neal Purvis and Robert Wade began writing the screenplay for “Casino Royal” in 2004, and Paul Haggis joined later to rewrite the climax of the movie. The film premiered on this day in 2006. The screenwriters had Pierce Brosnan in mind when they wrote James Bond’s character, though Daniel Craig ultimately played the role. Eon Productions felt that its earlier Bond films relied too much on special effects and computer-generated imagery, so they wanted “Casino Royal” to stick more closely to its original book version, and be less “fantastical” than its predecessor, “Die Another Day.” Haggis changed the ending from the book though, (SPOILER ALERT) opting to have Vesper die as Bond tries to save her, rather than commit suicide. It was a darker Bond film and was considered a welcomed reinvention of the series.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 65th Birthday!

    Ildikó Enyedi -

    Ildikó Enyedi turns 65 today. The Hungarian director and screenwriter rose to some notoriety in the late 80s when her film “My 20th Century” won the Golden Camera Award at the Cannes Film Festival. She directed several more features in the following years. But then she went nearly two decades without making a movie until she released “On Body and Soul” in 2017, which went on to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and earn an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Jack Rosenthal
    • Barbra Streisand

    Yentl -

    Did you know that Barbra Streisand – yes, the American singer – is the only woman to have won the Best Director award at the Golden Globes? She won for the romantic musical “Yentl,” based on the stage play of the same name, which was based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story, “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy.” It debuted on this day in 1983. Barbra Streisand also co-wrote the screenplay with Jack Rosenthal, and co-produced and starred in the film. The story follows a young Jewish girl who pretends to be a boy to learn Talmudic Law. The original concept for the movie was not a musical, but Streisand struggled to get a studio attached because they felt the story was “too ethnic.” So, she added a musical component so that the idea of a musical featuring Barbra Streisand would be more appealing. It took 15 years and 20 scripts to get the film produced.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 78th Birthday!

    Martin Scorsese -

    Filmmaker Martin Scorsese turns 78 today. He’s considered one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers in history, winning honors including AFI’s Life Achievement Award, an Academy Award, Emmy Awards, Golden Globes, a Palm d’Or, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and even a Grammy Award for Best Music Film for “No Direction Home.” His films often include themes of religious guilt, corruption, and frequent collaborations with actors such as Robert De Niro. Scorsese founded The Film Foundation, World Cinema Project, and the African Film Heritage Project, seeking to identify, restore, and preserve films – from the famous to the virtually unknown.

  • On this day in history

    Malcolm X

    screenplay by

    • Arnold Perl
    • Spike Lee

    Malcolm X -

    Filmmaker Spike Lee and screenwriter Arnold Perl co-penned the screenplay for “Malcolm X,” based heavily on “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” written by Alex Haley, which premiered on this day in 1992. The movie dramatizes Malcolm X’s life, starring Denzel Washington in the role. Producer Marvin Worth initially hired Perl and screenwriter James Baldwin to write the script, but Perl died before it was finished. Baldwin died 16 years later, and Lee rewrote the script. Baldwin’s name was removed from the credits at the request of his family because of the revisions made to the original. Roger Ebert ranked the film as one of the ten best movies of the 90s. Washington earned a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of Malcolm X.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 62nd Birthday!

    Charlie Kaufman -

    Filmmaker and novelist Charlie Kaufman turns 62 today. His films include “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” all of which have been described as surrealist in nature. He likes to delve into the meaning of life through his work, although he got his career start by writing spoofs and comedic articles for “National Lampoon” magazine. He wrote several spec scripts for TV shows such as “Married … With Children” and “The Simpsons” in an effort to find a talent agent, which eventually paid off. In 2020, he released his first novel, titled “Antkind.”

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 59th Birthday!

    Larry Karaszewski -

    Happy 59th birthday Larry Karaszewski! Karaszewski is one half of the writing team behind the movies “Problem Child,” “Ed Wood,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” and “Big Eyes.” He almost always works alongside screenwriter Scott Alexander, his roommate when he was a filmmaking student at the University of Southern California. They’ve earned best writing and best screenplay honors from the Satellite Awards, the Golden Globes, and the Independent Spirit Awards, and their most recent big win is with the debut of their first TV series, “American Crime Story,” which won nine Emmy’s after airing in 2016.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Jennifer Lee

    Frozen -

    Jennifer Lee wrote the screenplay for Disney’s “Frozen,” which debuted on this day seven years ago. The computer-animated film was based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale, “The Snow Queen,” and Disney first considered adapting the story way back in 1937. But, the studio found it hard to make the Snow Queen relatable to a more modern audience, so the idea was shelved. Many attempts were made over the years to revive the project, but it wasn’t until 2012 that Lee finally saw success. She drew inspiration from Norway, anime, and other epic adventure films, and spent nearly nine months working with a team to crack the story. And crack it, they did. “Frozen” broke records as the highest-grossing film of the year, earning nearly $1.3 billion worldwide.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 86th Birthday!

    Robert Towne -

    Happy birthday, Robert Towne! The American filmmaker and actor turns 86 years old today. Towne is most famous for writing the screenplay for “Chinatown,” which many critics say is one of the best scripts ever written. He also wrote two “Mission: Impossible” screenplays. His career started in television writing, where he worked on shows including “The Outer Limits,” and “Breaking Point,” before getting work as a script doctor doing uncredited rewrites on films such as “Drive, He Said” and “The Godfather.” His career has come full circle, as he now works as a consulting producer on TV shows again, including “Mad Men.”

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Bill Forsyth

    Housekeeping -

    Bill Forsyth directed and wrote the screenplay for “Housekeeping” based on a 1980s novel by Marilynne Robinson, and the film debuted on this day in 1987. In later interviews, he said he made the movie as a sort of trailer for the book to encourage people to read the novel. The film about two sisters who end up living with their eclectic and unbothered aunt was a hit with film critics, earning four out of four stars from Roger Ebert. It was the first North American film for Forsyth, whose previous hits were filmed in Scotland. The movie won the Best Screenplay Award and the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 69th Birthday!

    Kathryn Bigelow -

    Named one of the most influential people of the year by Time Magazine, Kathryn Ann Bigelow turns 69 years old today. The filmmaker is best known for her films, including “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Point Break,” “K-19: The Widowmaker,” and “The Hurt Locker,” for which she won an Academy Award for Best director. She is the only woman to have won that award. While she’s made films that span genres, she frequently uses violence in her movies, and she’s been known to go the extra mile to get the best shots, whether that’s wearing a parachute while Patrick Swayze jumped from a plane or working in 130-degree Fahrenheit heat in Jordan.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 66th Birthday!

    Joel Coen -

    Happy birthday to filmmaker Joel Coen! The filmmaker turns 66 today. Coen has an incredible list of screenwriting credits on films, including “Fargo,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” “The Big Lebowski,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” and many, many more. He most often works with his brother, Ethan Coen, writing, producing, and directing their movies together, often alternating who gets what credit. The pair have won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 53rd Birthday!

    David Nicholls -

    English novelist, screenwriter, and actor David Nicholls turns 53 today! Nicholls is best known for his screenplays for “Far from the Madding Crowd,” “When Did You Last See Your Father,” “One Day,” and “Starter for 10,” the latter two which he also wrote the books. He’s been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series, Movie or Special Category for “Patrick Melrose,” and was named UK Author of the Year by Specsavers National Book Awards. He also earned Book of the Year for “One Day” at the British Book Awards.

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