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SBIFF: Screenwriters Panel

The Men Behind the Best Movies of the Year


The day was cold and cloudy but that didn’t dissuade the sea of people who gathered outside of the Lobero Theatre to attend the SBIFF’s Screenwriters panel. This year’s five top film scripters were Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club), Bob Nelson (Nebraska), Jeff Pope (Philomena), John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), and Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle).

Film critic Anne Thompson moderated and started with the question: What do they feel is “the scene” in their movie. As they went down the line, each writer had a thoughtful—sometimes humorous—reason for their answer: Singer loves the microwave scene; Ridley felt the soap scene and Alfre Woodard’s part were most potent; Pope’s was when Philomena (Judi Dench) tells Coogan’s character about the romance novel she’s reading and when he scolds the head nun; for Nelson, it is when Woody (Bruce Dern) revisits his childhood home; and Borten’s favorite is when Ron (Matthew McConaughey) is told he has AIDS.

Other topics for the day included sharing what experiences led them to be able to write the scripts they did; how they go about creating a screenplay (i.e., their process); how long did it take for their film to be made—Borten won with a whopping 20 years for Dallas Buyers Club—and what it was like working with the director of their movie. “I’ve never seen a director direct like David,” Singer said of Hustle director David O. Russell. “He does not lay back behind the camera. He is in there on the front lines and so proactive…he’s one of the most dynamic directors I’ve ever seen.” Ridley appreciated the fact that 12 Years director Steve McQueen was never dictatorial. “He always approached it with ‘Hey I’m thinking this.’ He was very hands off,” he said.

During the hour-and-a-half event the panelist shared interesting, informative, and laugh-out-loud moments with the audience. While the mega-stars that come to the festival are exciting to see, the smaller events such as the Screenwriter’s Panel also offer filmic treasures.

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