Beginning her career in Los Angeles as a literary agent assistant at the William Morris Agency in 1982, Denise Meyers always felt the drive to pursue screenwriting as her main career in life.
“I thought that since I’d watched hundreds of movies growing up, I understood what went in to a good screenplay,” said Meyers in an interview with the Black List. “I wasn’t a terrible writer, but I wasn’t a great writer either.”
After 12 years of exhausting her contacts with her material and getting nowhere fast, Meyers moved onto a different career as a gourd artist, but, at the end of the day, her heart wasn’t in it as much as screenwriting.
“I set a goal for myself to learn how to write screenplays the way they are supposed to be written, with no expectation that I would ever get any farther in the film business than I had ever been before,” said Meyers. “I wanted to master the art form, in the same way I taught myself how to work with gourds.”
Meyers took advantage of an 8-Week Screenwriting scholarship at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, where she hoped to truly master the craft.
“I won an eight-week screenwriting scholarship to NYFA a few years ago, and the experience was invaluable,” she said. “I use everything I learned at NYFA in every script I have written since then, and it has helped elevate my career beyond what it was before.”
Since attending NYFA, Meyers has won a number of screenwriting competitions, including a spot on the Athena List (with a script she wrote at NYFA), the Atlanta Film Festival, Table Read My Screenplay Austin, and several others.
From there, she wrote a short screenplay called “The Dark of Night,” which won the grand prize at Table Read My Screenplay Austin in 2015.
“Denise Carlson, an instructor at NYFA, told me about a short script writing contest she had plans to participate in called the NYC Midnight Short Screenwriting Contest,” Meyers recalls. “Twelve hundred people from across the globe signed up to participate, so there were groups of 40 people each who were given a genre, a character and a setting. My group received the following prompts; suspense, a diner, and an unemployed man or woman. We had eight days to write 12 pages, then, if we survived each heat, we were given a new genre, character and setting. I came up with the idea almost immediately, though God knows where it came from. The story is set in 1930. A woman on her way to Chicago for a job interview seeks refuge in the diner where she encounters a waitress, a drifter, and a cop, each with dark and dangerous secret.”
Meyers gave the script to Robin Wright’s assistant and, before she knew it, she was getting a call from Wright who wanted to direct the film, along with some of her cast members from “House of Cards.” In fact, 80 crew members from “House of Cards” signed on to work on the film including the director of photography, Dave Dunlap, and costume designer, Jessica Wenger. Boris Maldin, the producer of “House of Cards,” loaned his cameras and equipment.
After that, Leslie Bibb, Sam Rockwell, Callie Thorne and Michael Godere signed on to act in the film for scale.
Meyer’s “The Dark of Night” recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The black and white film noir is about a woman seeking refuge from a storm who takes matters into her own hands when she encounters a drifter and a waitress at an isolated diner where everyone has a secret and nothing is what it seems.
Meyers says she just finished a one-hour pilot episode based on “The Dark of Night” that she is developing with TV producer Michelle Rubenstein. She also completed a new feature about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney that she hopes to get in front of Brad Pitt, and is currently working on a World War II drama about a battle in the Pacific that only a handful of people know about. Finally, she’s working on a web series based on her experiences as an award-winning screenwriter who still fixes toilets for a living.