This past Tuesday, February 17th New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were admitted into a special screening of Foxcatcher — nominated for 5 Oscars, (starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo) and participated in a Q&A with screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman who received a nomination in the upcoming Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. E. Max Frye won an Edgar Award from WGA for his first screenplay, Something Wild, directed by Jonathan Demme. As a writer on HBO’s Band of Brothers, he received a Christopher Award, a Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy.
Dan Futterman was nominated for a 2005 Academy Award, a BAFTA Film Award, as well as a Writers Guild of America Award for his screenplay for the film Capote. He also won an Independent Spirit Award and shared the USC Scripter Award with Capote biographer Gerald Clarke. Dan and his wife and frequent writing partner, Anya Epstein, were show runners for the third season of the HBO series In Treatment and are currently writing and producing a new series for Fox TV, Gracepoint. As an actor, Dan has appeared on Broadway’s Angels in America and Off-Broadway, at Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theatre Club. His film acting credits include A Mighty Heart, The Birdcage, Urbania, and the upcoming Kill the Messenger. The Q&A was moderated by producer Tova Laiter.
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman gave invaluable advice to aspiring screenwriters and storytellers in general. Shedding light on his writing process E. Max Frye explained that he scribbles down his original drafts as quickly as possible on a legal pad. This allows him to get the story in his mind on paper in the most uncensored way possible. He doesn’t do a traditional plot outline, but rather starts from the concept of character and expands from there. He emphasized the importance of rewriting and never showing anyone of consequence the script until it is in it’s absolute final form. The reason for this is that there is no one in the industry that will read a script twice, so you have one shot only to impress.
In contrast to E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman talked how he likes to structure like crazy. The process of writing Foxcatcher took six years and the breadth of his notes over the course of that time was “insane.” It was a particularly meticulous process working with a director such as Bennett Miller for whom this screenplay was written. Bennett is not a writer himself, so Dan would have to glean what Mr. Miller wanted from the trial and error process of providing ideas and talking about what does and doesn’t work.
The information E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman provided to NYFA students, many of which were in the screenwriting program, was incredibly beneficial. We sincerely thank Max and Dan and wish them the best of luck at the upcoming Oscars!