2022 had some exceptional movies come out from some incredible writers. My favorite time of the year is when The Hollywood Reporter gathers some of the best screenwriters in Hollywood for roundtables. These informative sessions help people learn about careers, stories, and structure.
So who came out to the chat this year?
Chinonye Chukwu (Till), Daniel Kwan (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Jordan Peele (Nope), Martin McDonagh (The Banshees Of Inisherin), Rian Johnson (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery), and Tony Kushner (The Fabelmans) joined The Hollywood Reporter to talk about their work this year.
Check out the video from The Hollywood Reporter below.
The THR 2023 Writer's Roundtable
The conversation got started right away, with Martin McDonough addressing a worry he had about making "a playwright's film."
"I guess I meant something that was very wordy and not cinematic, just a couple of people drinking tea, speaking in an English accent, and nothing happening for three hours," McDonough said. "That’s the not-good side of playwriting. To try and write for film? I couldn’t get my head around it for years. With screenplay writing, you can jump around in time and space, and scenes can be two lines long and then three pages. We don’t really do that in plays. A scene is seven pages long or it’s an act long. So, that stuff was a learning curve. Now I find it harder to go back and write plays because I love being able to jump around."
This was a year with some very visual films. Among them, Kushner said Nope stood out as having a reverse Spielberg gaze, which was high praise for Peele.
Peele took this compliment, saying "Obviously, I’m hugely inspired by his work and filmmakers who really shoot for the moon and go for the magic. When I was writing this in 2020, the George Floyd protests were going on, so I also wanted to create a film that indicted the industry that’s kept us out of the conversation, in a way, and present the dangers of bad miracles and chasing them, but also give my characters their weapon and agency to get there and reclaim something. So this was, in many ways, a love letter to all those films, but at the same time, I found something in myself that I had to be honest about, which is that I’m chasing a spectacle."
'Nope'Credit: Universal PicturesSpectacle has been a buzzword of late with people trying to get audiences back to the theater. Sometimes, that means going back to your roots. Kushner has worked with Spielberg a lot over the years, and from that understanding, grew a partnership on The Fabelmans.
"The first day of filming Munich, there was a night shoot. We didn’t really know each other at that point, and I asked him to tell me about when he decided that he was going to be a filmmaker," Kushner said of working with the famed director. "He told me the story that’s the central incident in The Fabelmans. I said, 'That’s an amazing story, and you should make a movie of it someday.' And he said, 'Maybe someday I will.'”
Kushner continued, saying, "We’ve worked together now for 20 years. During West Side Story, his mother had died two years before, and his father, who was 102 [years old] at that point, was beginning to reach the end, and I think Steven was bracing for that loss. So, we started doing more formal interviews. Then, during COVID, we decided to get together three days a week, for four hours each time, on Zoom, and start writing."
For writers, it's not just about working with directors, but producers as well. Of course, get good enough, and producers will chase you down. That's what happened with Till. Famed producer Barabara Broccoli chased down Chinonye Chukwu to tell this emotional story.
'Till'Credit: United Artists Releasing
Chukwu said, "Barbara reached out to me about a month after my last film premiered at Sundance.[Clemency won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Dramatic Competition there.] My immediate response to myself was, 'No, I’m not in the emotional space for this,' but Barbara is a persistent person, and I met with her and the other producers, who included Whoopi Goldberg, and it was such an extraordinary experience where I felt seen and heard and appreciated.
"And they said the magic words: We believe in your artistry and want you to tell this story in whatever way you believe it needs to be told," Chukwu said. "Thankfully, when I told them that this had to be centered in Mamie’s emotional point of view, and she needed to be the protagonist and we needed to follow her specific journey, they said that’s what they wanted too, and we started from there."
These answers, among the others in the video not listed, are great lessons for writers at every stage.
What was your favorite part of the conversation?
Let me know in the comments.