Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

This Month in Filmmaking History - October 2020 Roundup

  • On this day in history

    Night of the
              Living Dead

    screenplay by

    • John A. Russo
    • George A. Romero

    Night of the Living Dead -

    “Night of the Living Dead” debuted on this day in history in 1968. Screenwriters John A. Russo and George A. Romero were tired of making commercials for their production company, The Latent Image. They decided they wanted to try their hands at a horror film. They wrote several drafts of the script, including an early version that involved aliens, before settling on a three-part story that would later become "Night of the Living Dead," "Dawn of the Dead," and "Day of the Dead." Stars of the film have said in interviews that many of the scenes were ad-libbed entirely, and lead Duane Jones rewrote much of his dialogue to make his character sound more well-educated. The film cost just $114,000 to produce and earned 250 times that at the box office for a total of $18 million. Early critics said the movie was too gory, but it's since become a cult classic, and it's been remade several times.

  • On this day in history

    The Last

    screenplay by

    • Mark Peploe
    • Bernardo Bertolucci

    The Last Emperor -

    "The Last Emperor" premiered on this day in 1987, and it was the winner of the Best Picture Oscar at the 60th Academy Awards, plus eight more statuettes that year, including Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. The story was based on the 1964 autobiography of Puyi, the last emperor of China and the final emperor of the Qing Dynasty. The film production was the first Western film ever to be given permission by Chinese authorities to shoot in The Forbidden City, and it required nearly 20,000 extras.

  • On this day in history

       at Tiffany's

    screenplay by

    • Truman Capote
    • George Axelrod

    Breakfast at Tiffany's -

    Screenwriter George Axelrod was hired by Paramount to tailor the screenplay for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" to Marilyn Monroe, though the part eventually went to Audrey Hepburn. The film debuted on this day in 1961. The script is based on Truman Capote's novella, in which he described the lead character, Holly Golightly, as someone more like Monroe. When Paramount cast Hepburn instead of Monroe, Capote felt he had been double-crossed. The film was a commercial success anyway, earning five Oscar nominations and more than $14 million at the box office. It's considered one of Hepburn's most famous roles.

  • On this day in history

    The Jazz

    screenplay by

    • Alfred A. Cohn

    The Jazz Singer -

    "The Jazz Singer" premiered on this day in 1927. The screenplay, written by screenwriter Alfred A. Cohn based on a play of the same name by Samson Raphaelson, follows a Jewish boy who sings Jazz music against his Cantor father's wishes, often putting on blackface to disguise his Jewish heritage and assimilate into American culture. The film is one of the movies that ended the silent era and ushered in the use of dialogue and singing using the Warner Bros. Vitaphone sound-on-disc system. While it is ranked as one of American Film Institute's best American films of all time, the movie's use of blackface is an early example of racist imagery that would continue to appear in American films.

  • On this day in history

    The French

    screenplay by

    • Ernest Tidyman

    The French Connection -

    Screenwriter Ernest Tidyman won an Oscar, a Golden Globe nomination, a Writers Guild of America Award, and an Edgar Award for his screenplay "The French Connection," which debuted on this day in history in 1971. Tidyman started his career as a journalist at the young age of 15 (he lied about his age to get the job), working for The New York Post and the New York Times, before deciding to become a screenwriter just three years before the release of "The French Connection." He also wrote "Shaft," and his portrayal of black men as intelligent and courageous protagonists earned him a spot as one of Hollywood's most sought-after screenwriters at the time.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Fred Guiol
    • Ivan Moffat

    Giant -

    Based on the novel by Edna Ferber, "Giant" was adapted by screenwriters Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffett for the screen. It premiered on this day in history in 1956. The pair earned a Best Screenplay nomination at the Oscars that year. As with Ferber's other novels (including Show Boat and Cimarron), "Giant" dealt with themes of racism; specifically, the discrimination Mexican Americans dealt with at the hands of wealthy landowners in Texas. The movie broke records for Warner Brothers, earning $35 million at the box office.

  • On this day in history

    Jun R.

    • Happy 48th Birthday!

    Jun R. Lana -

    Decorated Filipino screenwriter Jun R. Lana turns 48 today. Lana is perhaps best known for his films "Kalel, 15," "Die Beautiful," and "Bwakaw," which was selected as the Filipino entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 2012 Academy Awards. He's also earned two FAMAS Best Screenplay Awards, the Best Screenplay Award from the Brussels European Film Festival, and 11 Palanca Awards for his screenplays, which are considered the Pulitzer Prize awards of the Philippines.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Jay Dratler
    • Samuel Hoffenstein
    • Elizabeth Reinhardt

    Laura -

    Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Elizabeth Reinhardt wrote the adapted screenplay for "Laura," an American film noir based on Vera Caspary's novel by the same name that premiered on this day in 1944. The writing team earned a nomination for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. "Laura" follows the story of a police detective who becomes enamored with the dead woman whose murder he was assigned to solve. The mystery also earned a spot on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" series and was named one of the top mystery films of all time by the American Film Institute.

  • On this day in history

      30 Rock

    created by

    • Tina Fey

    30 Rock -

    Tina Fey created "30 Rock" in 2006 based on her experiences as a writer and performer for Saturday Night Live. The TV show aired until 2013, earning more than 100 Emmy nominations and 16 wins. The Writers Guild of America West named the show one of the best-written television series of all time. When Fey first pitched the idea, the show revolved around a cable newsroom, but the president of NBC Entertainment encouraged her to write what she knew, so she revised the concept to take place at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, where SNL was written and produced.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Terrence Malick

    Badlands -

    "Badlands" marked Terrence Malick's directorial debut, and the first film he had written for himself to direct. The film premiered on this day in 1973. The story is loosely based on real events involving Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, a couple who went on a murder spree in the 50s. Malick said that while he was writing the screenplay, he was simultaneously assembling a pitch deck and videotape with actors to help him sell the idea to financiers. He ultimately raised half the money to make the film from doctors, dentists, and the like, and the executive producer raised the other half. The film's star, Martin Sheen, said in an interview that it was the best script he had ever read.

  • On this day in history


    • Born 111 years ago

    Dorothy Kingsley -

    American screenwriter Dorothy Kingsley was born on this day in 1909 and passed away in 1997 at the age of 87. Her father was a journalist and her mother, an actor, so storytelling was in Kingsley's blood. But without having experienced a severe case of the measles, Kingsley may have never known. While she was recovering, she reportedly listened to hours upon hours of radio programming and felt that she could write better content. So, during a visit to Los Angeles to see a friend, she met up with agents to show them her writing work. While she didn't find an agent, she did end up writing for several radio personalities, before being hired by MGM to fix up scripts on set. She went on to write for "Angels in the Outfield," "Kiss Me Kate," "A Date with Judy," "Pal Joey," and many, many more, though she's uncredited on several films.

  • On this day in history

    Curb Your

    created by

    • Larry David

    Curb Your Enthusiasm -

    Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is praised equally for its writing and its improv, a unique and hilarious combination that has earned nearly 50 Primetime Emmy nominations and two wins, and five Golden Globe nominations and one win since its premier on this day in 2000. David uses retroscripting for the TV show, which allows him to write an outline to detail the plot and subplot while leaving room for dialogue improvisation. The show is about a fictionalized version of David's life, comedically exploring his annoyance with certain social norms and other people's behavior.  

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Alan Trustman
    • Harry Kleiner

    Bullitt -

    The car chase to end all car chases debuted on this day in history in 1968. "Bullitt," written by Alan Trustman and Harry Kleiner, is best known for its extended car chase scene featuring the star of the film, Steve McQueen. The screenplay was adapted from the novel "Mute Witness," written by Robert L. Fish (Pike). The 1968 Mustang Fastback that stars in the chase just sold in early 2020 for $3.7 million and inspired several "Bullitt" editions of the Ford Mustang in the 21st century.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 65th Birthday!

    David Twohy -

    Considered one of the most creative people in Hollywood, David Twohy turns 65 years old today. His early career successes include his screenplay for "The Fugitive," and later "Waterworld," "GI. Jane," and "Terminal Velocity." Twohy is also a director, having led films including "Pitch Black," and "The Chronicles of Riddick," which he also wrote. His newest project, "Running with Lions," will be a Formula One racing drama.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 54th Birthday!

    Jon Favreau -

    Happy 54th birthday, Jon Favreau! Favreau is an accomplished screenwriter, producer, and director, with an impressive roster of projects. He created the TV series "The Mandalorian," a Star Wars spinoff show for Disney +, and wrote films including "Swingers," "Couples Retreat," and "Chef." He also executive produced a number of films in the Marvel Comics Universe and directed the 2019 version of "The Lion King" and "Elf," as well as many more. Favreau is also the first person to act in a Marvel Comic film and direct one.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Joe Grant
    • Dick Huemer

    Dumbo -

    The heartwarming story of "Dumbo," the elephant who could fly, premiered on this day in history in 1941. It was Disney's fourth animated feature, based on the story by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, and adapted for the screen by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer. "Dumbo" was first meant to be a short film because the studio was struggling financially after "Pinocchio" and "Fantasia." Still, Disney felt the only way to tell the story properly was through a feature. Grant and Huemer outlined the story using chapters and a 102-page outline, and while it's still considered feature-length, it is one of Disney's shortest films at just 64 minutes long. A live-action adaption of the story debuted in 2019.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Feng Li
    • Yimou Zhang
    • Bin Wang

    Hero -

    "Hero," written by Yimou Zhang and Bin Wang, is the first Chinese-language film to reach number one at the US box office, and it did so two years after its premiere in China on this day in 2002. The movie was one of the most expensive and highest-grossing in Chinese history. Miramax bought the distribution rights to bring the film to America but delayed its premiere at least six times over two years because of conflicts over dubbing versus subtitling until Disney and Quentin Tarantino stepped in to secure its release. Tarantino saw how huge the movie was in other markets, and he had a history of re-releasing foreign films in America that he felt deserved attention. He went so far as to lend his name to the film, shown as "Quentin Tarantino Presents," to ensure its success.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • James Cameron
    • Gale Anne Hurd
    • William Wisher

    The Terminator -

    It was all a dream. Did you know that's where James Cameron's original idea for "The Terminator" came from? The movie premiered on this day in 1984. While Cameron was recovering from being sick, he had a dream about a silver torso holding kitchen knives emerging from an explosion. He used that dream as a starting point in his first draft of his screenplay and finished the final draft while staying at the home of science fiction writer Randall Frakes. He enlisted the help of his friend William Wisher to write some of the scenes and took some suggested edits from Gale Anne Hurd, although Cameron said she did not write anything in the script. Cameron later sold the rights to the script to Hurd for just a dollar, on the promise that if Hurd produced the movie, Cameron would get to direct it. Cameron eventually secured funding for the film by having a friend dress up and act the part of the Terminator ahead of his pitch.

  • On this day in history


    • Happy 59th Birthday!

    Peter Jackson -

    Happy 59th birthday, Sir Peter Jackson! It's hard to believe that Jackson began his filmmaking career in the horror-comedy genre before writing, producing, and directing the "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy and the "Hobbit" trilogy. But even before that, he had an early interest in filmmaking. A family friend gave him a camera when he was just nine years old, and his earliest film was an attempted remake of "King Kong" using stop-motion. He'd later remake "King Kong" in 2005, starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrian Brody. Jackson was knighted in New Zealand in 2010.

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