An interesting interview, a journal of events with screenwriters Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman about the writing, sale and production of their movie Draft Day. An excerpt:
Mid-2011: “We partied like we won the Olympics.”
S: This part is going to kill a lot of screenwriters: Rajiv got approached by the Sundance Institute, which asked if he wanted to submit a script for their screenwriting lab. It was around the time we were thinking we would start writing this thing, but the deadline was two weeks away. That’s when having spent eight months talking about it really helped. I basically slept at Rajiv’s place in Brooklyn, and we worked non-stop for two weeks on a script. It’s not the draft you see onscreen, but it was halfway decent for two weeks of coffee and bourbon and no sleep and constant writing.
R: After we submitted it we sat there wondering, “Did we just hand in something that made no sense at all?” Then we made it to the semi-finals, which meant we had to have a phone interview. The call happened, and we thought it went well, so we went out and partied like we won the Olympics. Then we didn’t make the finals. But since we had assumed we were going to win, we had put this week in January, the week of the lab, into our calendars. So we said, well f–k that, let’s use this week we had set aside to whip the script into shape.
S: We hadn’t said anything about the project to our agents because it didn’t seem like something they would get that excited about — it required the NFL and was kind of a smaller movie.
R: We finally showed it to our manager, Josh, when we handed it to Sundance. He gave us a lot of notes that guided the re-write. But even then, being that it was our first time writing together, we were really thinking that maybe someone would just be impressed enough to give us another job.
S: Thankfully our reps really responded to it, and ran with it.
R: It was a slow burn, where people started hearing about it and then wanted to read it.
April-June 2012: “Everything he said held true. That probably screwed us up for every movie hereafter.”
S: As it happened, I was going out to L.A. to pitch another project. It was a reboot of Private Benjamin, so you know my career was going just swimmingly.
R: I came to L.A. for some meetings and to see a friend in a play.
S: So both of us happened to be in L.A., and I got off the flight and had a message saying that Ivan Reitman had read the script, could I meet with him that day? Neither of us even knew he had gotten it. We met him the next day at CAA, and he basically said, “I love this script, and wanna make this movie. We want you guys to be partners in this. You’ll be there every step of the way.” And everything he said to us held true. That probably screwed us up for every movie hereafter.
June 2012: “We did a rewrite that got kicked up to the Paramount studio heads.”
S: Before long. Ivan was able to get Paramount to consider the script.
R: It was June 18-19 that we were in the whole negotiation.
S: There was other interest in the project, which made that week very exciting — we tried to play out all these scenarios and determine the best way to get this thing made. That turned out to be sticking with Ivan. After Paramount bought the script, a great executive over there, David Beaubaire, gave us notes, and we did a rewrite that got kicked up to one of the studio heads. By this point, Ivan had gotten Kevin Costner attached to the project. Even so, one of the muckety-mucks at Paramount said no.
Fall 2012: “The difference with ours was that Ivan wanted to direct it.”
S: The acquisition gave Paramount a certain amount of time to decide what they wanted to do with the project. After passing on it, they could have tied it up for a year. Instead, they gave us a great gift — they put us in turnaround, which allowed us to take the movie wherever we wanted.
We always believed Ivan would find a place, but that it would take a while. His company, Montecito, had probably 10-20 movies in development. The difference with ours was that Ivan wanted to direct it. So we had that, but the company was juggling a lot, including Ghostbusters III. We wanted to shoot in the fall, and thought we lost our window.
December 2012: “We were the people who topped The Black List.”
S: Because we’re idiots, we had no idea the situation was bad. We had this blind faith in Ivan, and were optimistic it was gonna work out. I don’t think anyone was telling us bad news. Then The Black List came out, and we were at the top. That got the script going again — and was a huge bump for us as writers. We were the people that topped the list. I’m sure that had something to do with the script being more enticing to Lion’s Gate, which picked up the movie right after the new year.
For the rest of the interview, go here.