March 29, 2013

The Nine-Year Overnight Success Story of the 'Olympus Has Fallen' Screenwriters

Working on the outside looking in when you are an aspiring screenwriter can be a grind. Certainly, there are moments when you may wonder if you are making progress toward your ultimate goal of getting a screenplay turned into a feature film. If you don't put in the hours on your writing, however, your craft will never rise to the level necessary to make a sale or get a greenlight. Those hours, in the case of screenwriter Creighton Rothenberger, started at 4 a.m. before his corporate job for several years until 2002 when he won the Academy Nicholl Fellowship. After conceiving Olympus Has Fallen in 2003 and writing it with his wife, Katrin Benedikt, this screenwriting duo spent another nine years writing specs before selling this particular script in 2012 and seeing it hit the big screen last weekend. Watch them tell their story below.

First, here's a trailer for Olympus Has Fallen, the first of two films to hit theatres this year with a Die Hard in the White House story:

Here are highlights from Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt's Academy Conversation:

Script Magazine also recently published an in-depth interview with both Rothenberger and Benedikt. While Olympus Has Fallen was an older spec that their newer representation asked the writing duo to dust off and update, Rothenberger and Benedikt point out in the written interview the importance of next idea:

CR: That’s one thing that we’ve learned as writers: no matter what you're working on right this second, always be thinking the next fresh original idea that you can write.  As a writer, the most important thing that you have is a great idea.  And then, if you are truly a writer with the ability to put it on the page, you’ll be able to execute and have someone interested in it down the line.  But you constantly have to be generating fresh, original ideas.  That’s the life-blood of any writer.

KB:  … even for us, for example, Olympus Has Fallen would never have seen the light of day had we not moved out here in 2007 and wrote five other spec scripts at that time.  One of which got the attention of our new rep.  It was another script that we had written, on spec, for free while we were struggling.

For aspiring screenwriters here on NFS, we've talked about perseverance and what we can do to write our next screenplay. Hearing the long journey (and risks) that Rothenberger and Benedikt had to take along the way certainly inspires me to continue working on my craft every day, and reminds me that you never know which script will get someone's attention about your writing, nor which script will actually sell.

Make sure you check out the complete Script Magazine interview with Rothenberger and Benedikt to learn more about their story, and thanks to Academy Conversations for sharing their video (had to refrain from saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," but I guess I just did).

What lessons from Rothenberger and Benedikt's journey to you find most valuable for your own path as a screenwriter? Let us know in the Comments.

Links:

[via Academy Nicholl Fellowship Facebook page]

Your Comment

17 Comments

Ironically, this is one of the most horribly written movies I've seen recently. I would put it on the same page as Battleship. Wait, I'm sorry, nothing was as bad as Battleship. But this was pretty bad. I mean, I loved the action set pieces in the opening, but other than that— I mean, good lord the dialogue was terrible.

March 29, 2013 at 12:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MD

I can't help but think of Vince Flynn's novel Transfer of Power with this and the other WH movie coming out. I know that it's possible they came up with the idea on their own but it'd be interesting to find out if the book had any bearing on their script.

March 29, 2013 at 12:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I checked the novel Transfer of Power. the story lines are pretty close. There is nothing new under the sun dude.

March 29, 2013 at 1:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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James franco

Lets all take advice from some people who write shit scripts! That'l help!

I don't think Hollywood needs some more crappy over played action movies, they could literally recycle scripts and no one would notice. I mean look at this films plot;

'Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers.'

Haven't we seen this film already? Like many times...

March 29, 2013 at 2:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rock

Hm... does sound amazingly overdone. But guess I'll have to read the script/watch it to really be able to tell

March 29, 2013 at 2:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Nooo! Thats what hollywood is banking on.
Theny don't care if you like it, they just want you to see it. Like all of Michael Bay movies.
Blockbusters are not about the films, its about the spectacle/event in that; if you're not there you're square, this movie is gonna be huge.. but not well written, acted, directed.

March 29, 2013 at 2:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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VINCEGORTHO

Nine years! and then Gerrard Butler gets cast! Gutted!

March 29, 2013 at 2:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Conan

Bash away but how many who commented, except maybe Mr. James Franco, have sold scripts that've actually been produced on a level comparable to the scope of Olympus? The movie does sound cliche from the synopsis but I haven't seen it yet.

March 29, 2013 at 3:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Winchester

How many scripts has Gene Siskel sold?

Seriously. This line of "well, how many $70 million dollar movies have you made?" is nonsense and happens all over this site any time anyone offers criticism.

If you don't want to take someone's opinion at face value, don't. But you have no idea who anyone is, and more importantly, if you limited the discussion to people who have sold a $70 million movie, there isn't going to be much discussion.

I would love to hear their thoughts on the business side of the industry but the video clip above is filled with non-substantive drivel. They basically admit to doing dozens of rewrites for their reps and the director, and that all their contribution really was was the high-concept element of the White House being attacked.

As to writing craft, I think I and others are capable judges. I've seen these kinds of movies; I've seen them done well, and I've seen them done poorly, and some of the dialogue was just laughable in nature; it was like Lockout level of cheese, except that was an intentional homage to Escape from LA etc... I mean, three minutes into the movie you have Gerrard Butler saying he's bringing out the whole package. Some of this dialogue is just so ham fisted its absurd.

March 29, 2013 at 5:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MD

The script is terrible but it got made and they are working steadily. More power go them.

March 29, 2013 at 3:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

It all comes down to the 10,000 hour. Malcom Gladwell proves the point with Anderson Cooper.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kq2n1Jlx5P0

Macklemore the rapper who has had the #1 song/album on itunes for the past 3 months without a record label wrote a song about it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEr5H4E4r3I

March 29, 2013 at 5:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marky mark

Meaning from THE BEATLES to BILL GATES they all put in 10,000 hours or roughly..10 years of work before they became who they were or are.

March 29, 2013 at 5:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marky mark

BTW my comments are directed at the 9 YEAR OVERNIGHT SUCCESS title...not the shitty script/movie.
Whenever someone who no one knows makes it they are presented to the public as an overnight success. They got their because of hard work/sacrafice and non stop passion dedicated to what they love. Look at comedians Bill Burr and Louis CK. They are making serious money now but ...how many shit bars did they drive 2 states to just to do 15 or 30 minute sets in front of 18 drunk people. 10,000 hours or 10 years of dedication does seem to pay off...even for shit movies!

March 29, 2013 at 5:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marky mark

To be fair, Louie CK was Conan's writer, Chris Rock's writer, and wrote and directed Pootie Tang among other things. He's been successful for a long time.

March 30, 2013 at 6:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MD

Exactly...it was putting that time in with those shows that in turn made him even better. Now he is headlining shows vs opening up for people like Chris Rock.

March 30, 2013 at 8:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marky mark

Great action stuff but also the biggest piece of hate propaganda since the Nazi's...Herr Goebels should be proad!

April 4, 2013 at 8:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Fred H. Nesbitt Jr

Trailer music was done by a friend of mine http://www.jacktrammellmusic.com/

June 13, 2013 at 5:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mike