lonely keyboard interview:
Screenwriter / Producer
EHREN KRUGER Ehren Kruger received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting in 1996 for his original screenplay Arlington Road, which was subsequently produced as his first feature film. His other writing credits include The Ring, Scream 3, The Skeleton Key, and The Brothers Grimm. He also co-wrote Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which was released in June of 2009. He's currently working on the 37th screenplay of his professional career. Ehren is a supporter of Doctors Without Borders.
Q & A by John Robert Marlow
JRM: How did you break in, how did you come to be where you are now, and what role did the Nicholl Fellowships play in that?
Ehren Kruger: I started writing screenplays when I was in high school, I went to NYU undergraduate film school, then moved to Los Angeles to try to understand how the actual business worked. Because film school is great for giving you deadlines and getting you excited about a career in the arts, but it really is a separate animal from the business of getting films made.
So I ended up in Los Angeles, working as an assistant for an agent, and a producer, and a television network executive, and I spent my free time reading every script I could get my hands on. I was encouraged as much by the mediocre scripts as by the great ones. The great scripts are, "Wow, this is how the craft is done," and that's what inspires you.
The mediocre scripts tell you that it's not an impossible dream. You look at those and you say to yourself, "This writer has an agent? I can at least do that." So there's inspiration to be found everywhere.
A friend at the small agency where I worked moved on to a larger agency and was willing to recommend one of my scriptsa monster movie project involving dragonsto a feature literary agent there. I ended up signing with that agent, who sent that script and another one out to producers and studios. The responses were polite: "Nice writing, but we're not interested in buying."
I'd entered three scripts in the Nicholl Fellowships that same yearthis was 1996and one of those was Arlington Road, which went on to win a Fellowship. My agent had actually read Arlington and advised against sending it out right away, because at the time it was perceived as my least commercial screenplay.
Winning the Fellowship attracted quite a bit of interest, and we optioned it to a producer who attached director Mark Pellington within a year and set it up with financier Lakeshore Entertainment shortly after. And then it actually went into production. So I had a very, very fortuitous Nicholl Fellowship experience.
Of course the flipside of that is that the script I wrote during my Fellowship year [Nicholl Fellows are required to write a new script during their Fellowship Year] went absolutely nowhere, and pretty much never left my drawer. But the money from the Fellowship allowed me to quit my day job and write full time for that first year of my career.
JRM: What was your day job at that point?
Ehren Kruger: In 1996, I was an assistant to a development executive at the Fox TV Network. So I was reading lots of X-Files and Melrose Place and Simpsons scripts during my lunch hour.
JRM: As they say in the meetingsthen what happened?
Ehren Kruger: About a year after winning the Fellowship and optioning Arlington Road, I started to get some assignment work as a writer. I also sold another spec script of mine to a cable tv network, and that was eventually made as a tv movie.
My first three assignment jobs were: a remake of Hitchcock's 39 Steps, a political thriller about arms smuggling based on an article in Vanity Fair, and an adaptation of a sci-fi short story about a world where human mortality was its financial currency. None of those first three assignments ended up as a produced film, but by 1998 I'd become a working writer.
At about that time I wrote my next spec, Reindeer Games. That one ended up selling. It was my first true spec sale to a movie studio – Dimension Films, which was run by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. In the wake of this, the Weinsteins pretty much became my patrons for the next few years. They gave me a lot of work: rewriting scripts, polishing this and that. They trusted me to work in different genres, and to do it competently and quickly. It's an incredibly valuable learning experience for a young writer to be involved with projects in actual production.
And so over a two or three year period I learned quite a bit about the demands of writing professionally. Because there's sitting-alone-in-your-room writing, and then there's writing to make the studio happy, and writing to make the director happy, the actors happy, and to fix problems that have been shot that now have to be fixed in post.
Those early yearsthrough 2001I spent predominantly working for the Weinsteins, who provided my own real education about the nuts and bolts of the craft, taking stories to the finish line, and all of the things that can go wrong along the way.
JRM: These are things that you don't think of when you're sitting alone in your room?
Ehren Kruger: They're things you don't anticipate. You may write a scene that works perfectly well on paper, it works perfectly well in your head, the director and the cast think it worksand then you block it with actors or shoot it and the scene just lays there, completely uninteresting.
Sometimes it's not until you see the scene in dailies that you really understand which better choices you might have made. And so you need to develop some kind of shorthand for hopefully predicting those sorts of things the next time you're alone in the room.
You make a movie three times. You write it once in draft, you write it again when you're shooting on the set, and you write it the third time when you edit it. Any given scene is really three different scenes, and the only one that matters is the one that works onscreen.
JRM: So there are legitimate reasons for on-the-set, last-minute rewrites.
Ehren Kruger: Oh yes. Being a screenwriter is a wonderful, very schizophrenic kind of existence. You spend months and months alone with the material. And when you finally get it to the point where you're happy with it, you need to be able to sort of take off that "I know how best to tell this story on paper" hat and put on your "collaboration" hat.
Now you have to welcome any and all comments from crew department heads, from actors, directors and studio execsand you have to be enthusiastic and optimistic about that, hoping they're going to help improve what you've worked so hard to perfect already.
At the same time, you need to maintain some level of objectivity in order to discern which are good ideas and which are bad ones, and to be able to defend and support the good ones. So it can be a very strange existence, and you have to be okay with both phases.
JRM: I've been surprised at how quickly actors, for example, can improve things.
Ehren Kruger: When you rehearse a scene you can tell right away if dialogue, for instance, sounds honest and and/or engaging. And when an actor says, "I can't say that line," they often have a very good, legitimate reason. Often it doesn't sound natural, or it doesn't sound natural when they say it.
The last thing you want to do is fight for a line of dialogue. You want to fight for the idea, you want to fight for the emotions that need to be expressed. But you do often need to tailor a scene to its performers. A good line is not one that reads well, but one that plays well.
JRM: What do you wish you'd known when you started out?
Ehren Kruger: I wish I could have known better which stories not to write, which ones were not going to make it to fruition. That I'd had a better sense of which of those stories that I wanted to tell would have a chance of getting other people excited about them and getting made.
That, for example, I could have seen more clearly and said, "Well that's a derivative premise," before I wrote fifty pages of it. Or, "That's just not a movie that studios are making this decade," before writing ninety pages of it. Or, in the case of more specialized, art house ideas: "Much as I love this story, there's just not a great role for an actor, and without a great role, this will never get financed."
All of which is my way of saying that I wish I could have put a more objective, realistic business eye on some of the ideas and stories I started to tellthings that, in hindsight, I look at now and recognize "That one really never stood a chance."
JRM: To tap the benefit of your hard-won experience and knowledgehow does one look at a potential project and make those decisions correctly?
Ehren Kruger: I don't think you need a crystal ball. When you start any project, you need to ask yourself some questions. Whatever it is, when you come up with an idea for a story, pretend that you're going to finance the movie with your own money. Then ask yourself: Would I invest in this, and if so why?
What are the elements that make it an attractive potential investment? Is it the idea, the genre, is it great roles for actors? How am I going to market it? What's the hook for the trailer and poster? What can I emphasize about this story that makes it stand out from everything else? And yet has anything remotely similar made money in the past five years?
And if you have some sort of realistic handle on that, then you should feel confident that if you do your job correctly and write a good script, you'll have not only a good script and a good writing samplebut something that you have every reason to believe will have commercial value.
And that holds true whether the project is something you can make for a million dollars and auction at Sundance, or something you can only make for a hundred million dollars.
These are not questions that I thought to ask when I was starting out. Back then it was just: I have an idea for a story, and I like this idea, so I'm going to write it. But often that's three to eight months of your life. And you may get to the end of that and have a story that you love creatively, but one that no one else loves as a business proposition. And there could be any number of reasons for that.
Maybe the characters are just there to serve the function of the plot, for instance, making it hard to entice good actors. Or there's no clear, concise concept that can be easily articulated by a junior studio executive when speaking to a senior studio executive, who then speaks to the head of the studio.
It's hard to overstate the importance of having a story that you can articulate efficiently and clearly to someone else, because that's how they're going to be describing your story to whoever is ultimately going to say "Yes, buy that thing" or "No, don't buy that thing."
That's not a decision that's going to be based on, "Hey, it's just a great script, you have to read it," becauseat the other end of the processyou simply can't market a movie to audiences based on "Trust us, it's good." Studio executives need to know what the concept is, and what the element is that's going to make this project stand out or attract top talentmeaning directors or actors. Because for the most part, it's really stars and filmmakers who determine which movies do or don't get made.
There are writers, and certainly I was one of them, with an unrealistically optimistic opinion of the salability of stories that they themselves have fallen in love with simply because they want to tell those particular stories. This is fine for novelists, because at least in that industry you have the last resort option to self-publish. For screenwriters, it's different.
Another thing that would have been helpful advice for me when I was starting out would be this: Realize that it's never going to be finished. You're always going to be making changes and it's never going to be done until it's onscreen and on the shelf at the video store and you can't do anything more to it.
So accept that and say, "I'm going to write a first draft in two months or three months, and it's going to be as good as I can make it in that period of time. And that's fine because I'm then going to rewrite it. And if things go well, I'm going to have to rewrite that.
"And on a good day a director and actors will get involved, and I'll have to rewrite it again. And on a great day, they'll make the movie and cut it together, and things won't be working and I'll have to rewrite it yet again."
JRM: You've said that, for the most part, directors and stars determine which films happen. Do you think that viewing things in that way sometimes leads the studios astray?
Ehren Kruger: Studios, ultimately, are running a business. They're looking for a return on their investment. Because of that, they're more comfortable making movies that fit into a certain mold that's worked for them in the past. That could be a genre mold, a movie star mold, or something based on the passion of a particular star. Basically, they want some assurance that this kind of film has worked before.
So you might say it leads them astray creatively, in that sometimes they're looking for stories or plots that seem somehow derivative. But these are smart people, and even when they want something to fit into a particular genre or mold that they know how to sell, they still need a spin on that. They still need a sense that they're providing something new to the audience, because they also know that the audience wants to see new things.
Seen from the outside, it's this bizarre combination where studio executives say "Tell me a story that I haven't seen before, but I'd like it to be a project that I can market in such a way that I can tell the audience: "I'm giving you something that you've never seen before, but it will be similar to an experience that you've had before and enjoyed.""
Which is a sort of doubletalk, really, but there is a method to the madness.
JRM: Tying into your ‘schizophrenic business" comment earlier.
Ehren Kruger: Yeah. I think there are certain writers whose work all screenwriters look to and admire and say, "Wow, I wish I could have a career like Charlie Kaufman or the Coen brothers." They are operating within studio business models, and yet their scripts manage to maintain such a singular voice.
The fact of the matter is that if those movies consistently made a hundred million dollars, the studios would absolutely want more Charlie Kaufmans and more Coen brothers. Assuming, of course, that there are comparable talents out there.
At the end of the day, the audience goes to what the audience goes to. If a movie like Mall Cop is fifty times more profitable than a movie like Doubt, whose fault is that? And which one do you think will become next year's business model? What you hope for as a community of artists is that good and interesting movies will be rewarded financially, thus increasing the demand for more good and interesting movies.
The big studios are in a big money business. They're all segments of major corporate behemoths, and they need to be making movies that put people in seats. And so that's why you'll have a studio president who looks at the slate for the year and says, "We need to make five tentpole, four-quadrant movies; we're going to make a couple of romantic comedies, a couple of horror pictures, a few teenage comedies, and one or two serious, award-caliber, fine filmmaker/movie star films. So that's what we're looking to fill."
JRM: Just to cover all their bets.
Ehren Kruger: Basically. Because they then have to turn to their corporate employers and explain why this is their billion-dollar slate for 2012, and assure them that they're going to be wisely spending the shareholders' money.
JRM: I recall Sylvester Stallone saying "They call it show business, not show art."
Ehren Kruger: It really is true, and you have to make your peace with that. This same sort of model happens at the specialty divisions. They're not looking to make huge blockbusters, but they do have their own models for the four or five pictures they do every year.
With them, it's often based more on filmmakers or actors than on particular genres, but even there they're trying to replicate past successes. Fox Searchlight is hoping to replicate Juno when it puts its money behind 500 Days of Summer. Focus was trying to replicate Brokeback Mountain when it green-lit Milk.
So even within these specialty divisions, they're saying "Let's look at what's worked in this world in the past. Those are the things we can more comfortably make the argument for when the people upstairs ask why we're greenlighting this project and not that one."
Once you realize that these decisions are being made with a business hat on, you're going to have a better sense of how to sell your very out-of-the-box, unusual screenplay idea in a way that will make it seem new and fresh while at the same time allowing the buyer to think "Wow, we'll market this the same way we marketed Being John Malkovitch, or No Country for Old Men." So now it looks like a safe commercial bet, as opposed to a wild, out-of-the-box story.
JRM: So you make it appear to be in some box that they're familiar with.
Ehren Kruger: Right.
JRM: How do you approach writingdo you have particular habits or working environments that you find helpful?
Ehren Kruger: I have three small children, so I need to be far away from them when writing. In terms of habits, I go into a sort of fugue state. On a good day, when you're writing, time just slips away and you're in the world that you're writing about. And whatever environment you can be in to block out everything else and achieve that level of concentration is where you need to be.
I have a writing office that's just for writing. There's no internet connection, so I can't spend two or three hours doing "research" online. I go to my writing office simply to get pages done.
For me the hours will change. Certainly it's different when I have to travel to Los Angeles for projects in preproduction or production. Then I have to write from hotels or in transit, so it's not always an idyllic space. But I've found pretty good methods of ensuring that whatever pages I set out to do on that day, I'm able to get them done.
JRM: Care to share?
Ehren Kruger: Set a realistic goal for what you want to accomplish that day. Which is different from going in and saying "Well I'm just going to write and see how far I get." Find whatever that goal is that you can accomplishwhether it's five pages or two pages or one pageand even if you have to force yourself, at least you're getting through that much.
You may find that you don't get hung up so often, or get stuck for days wondering "How should I do this scene?" or "What should the next scene be?" You don't get into the habit of thinking you have to get it right before you can move on to the next thing.
Make your peace with the fact that you're always going to be writing it, and you'll get through that first draft faster, which puts you at a point where you can look at the script as an entire, coherent thing.
It may be a messit may be a wreckbut it's at least a full story, and you can look at it as a whole and say, "The themes I want to come through aren't coming through," or "I haven't set up these characters properly," or whatever.
Let's say a script is like a path through a forest of possibilities. In the beginning, you're just hacking your way through and the rest of the scriptthe pathcould go anywhere. You don't know yet, because all you can see is the tree in front of you. And you may spend a month trying to cut down this towering redwood when all you really have to do is go around it.
Without some sort of plan, you could wander around in there for years. But if you say to yourself, "I'm going to get this many pages done today, this many done in a week," and so onyou'll be out the other side and able to go back and smooth out the rough edges.
Point being, the faster you can get through that first draft, the quicker and easier it will be for you to analyze the problems that come up and address them.
I find in talking to other writers that a lot of them want to write that first draft forever. But once you turn professional, that becomes a real problem. So one of the most helpful things you can do is to create a discipline for yourself now, that will serve you well during the coming years, when people are paying you and demanding that drafts be completed by a certain date.
JRM: You mentioned doing revisions while the film is being edited. I think most writers who haven't been through the process assume that during shooting is the last possible time when things could be rewritten.
Ehren Kruger: It's commonassuming a director wants the writer involved in the process, which most do. I've been involved with production, to some extent, on most of the films I've worked on. Sometimes on set throughout the movie, other times for just a week or two. I'm usually involved in rehearsals, and the script changes significantly at that time.
And I've almost always been invited to see cuts of the film, and when reshoots were needed, to work on those scenes, or to contribute ADR [additional dialogue recording] lineswhich are inserted to clarify things. You hide new lines of dialogue when an actor's off-camera. This might be done to better explain a plot development, or to hit an emotional beat with more clarity.
Sometimes you'll find that you've written a scene with such alleged craft and subtlety that when you see it onscreen, you realize the audience isn't entirely clear on what the scene was about. So you have to throw in an ADR line where a character states, on the nose, what the scene's crucial information is. And sometimes that's all it takes.
You definitely discover things in editing. For example, something that's clear on the page can be lost on the screen. A character who works on the page may be, for whatever reason, terrible onscreen. Then you have to minimize them, if not cut them out of the movie entirely. But if they had some important exposition, now you have to find another way to get that in using a different character.
Or you might find a character who's working great and there's not enough of him or her, so now you have to write new material for that character.
Things that you didn't anticipate when you had this production draft done that everyone was happy with, everyone signed off on and everyone told you what a great script it wasthe movie will reveal to you. So don't trust any of that until you've seen a cut of the film.
JRM: It's been said that nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. So other than the obviousan abundance of talentwhat do you believe makes you different from other writers? Why re you where you are?
Ehren Kruger: I try to have a lot of ideas, as opposed to just a few. So if something isn't working, if I write a script and no one buys it and no one's interestedeven though I have a lot of blood, sweat, and tears invested in that story, I attempt to not let that bother or dissuade me. I just try to switch tracks and start the next script.
I also make an effort to be as absolutely collaborative as I can be, to be a writer that filmmakers and studio execs enjoy working with. I try to fight for the things I believe in about a story, without getting hung up on every little change to the script, and to embrace the collaborative nature of my chosen form of writing.
Because sometimes a director will come in, for instance, and want to take the story in a different direction, or do it with a slightly different tone, or attach actors who wouldn't necessarily be my first choice.
It's sort of a question of having three or five or ten things that you'll quit the movie over, but not fifty. If there are fifty things you're sure you'll quit the movie over, you need to be directing. Though a director might tell you there are fifty things you should quit a movie over, but there shouldn't be a hundred.
I try to be disciplined. I think any successful screenwriter will tell you that at a certain point, there's a lot of luck and timing and having-the-right-person-read-your-material-at-the-right-time that goes into determining which projects get greenlit and which don't. So you just have to be workmanlike and treat it as a craft.
It's a bit like being a baseball player. One out of every four times up at bat, you get a hit. Technically, you fail seventy five percent of the timeand yet you have a career in the major leagues. If one out of every four scripts you write can be sold, and one out of every four scripts that you sell gets made, you're doing very very well. And yet seven of the eight things you wrote will never be seen by anyone.
You have to make your peace with that and say, "I don't know which one of these eight it's going to be, but I have to write eight to have a pretty decent shot at getting one onscreen." That's a tough pill to swallow, but it's the nature of the business.
JRM: When do you know which projects are going to happen?
Ehren Kruger: Looking back on every project I've written that's been produced, there was a single moment when that movie was either going to get made, or fail to get made. For the ones that did get made, the cards fell right in that moment. For the others, the cards didn't fall right.
And that can be a director's attachment, an actor's commitment to the movie, the studio having a good year as opposed to a bad year, a studio head who believes in the movie not losing his or her job. It can be any number of things that are totally out of your control.
With Arlington Road, that moment came while I was in a script meeting with the director and the studio head. Technically, the project had already been greenlit, and we were supposed to start shooting in a couple of months. Tim Robbins had been cast as the villain, but we were still looking for the right actor to play the hero.
And as we're sitting there going over the dialogue page by page, the studio head gets a phone call. And then he says, "Okay, I just heard from Jeff Bridges' agent. Jeff is apparently out driving around Santa Barbara, thinking it over. Here's the deal: we've gone to a few actors who've passed on this part. I've looked at the list, and there are a number of actors we could go to after Jeff, but I really don't want to make the movie with them. So if Jeff says yes, we'll make this movie. If he says no, I'm pulling the plug and canceling production."
Then without missing a beat he says "Now on page sixty eight here, this line of dialoguedo you think we could change this to something else?"
And the director and I just looked at each other, realizing that at that moment, the fate of the entire movie revolved around a single actor driving around Santa Barbara, deciding whether he wanted to play this role or some other role, or maybe just hang out with his family and surf two months from now.
And this could be the start of our careers, or not. Who knows? It's completely out of our hands. We need to concentrate on page sixty eight, apparently.
In the life of almost every movie, there's a moment like that, where after all the work you've put inwriting drafts, getting it in the hands of the right people who then believe in it, and on and onit becomes a reality or it doesn't. And that's long before you have any idea whether it's going to be a good movie or a terrible movie.
JRM: Are you usually a witness to that moment?
Ehren Kruger: If not, you certainly hear about it. The studios often have what's called a greenlight meeting, where they'll give an official thumbs-up or thumbs-down to a given project they're considering making. And at that point everyone's pretty encouraged creatively, because a script doesn't get into that meeting unless it's in decent shape.
Then it's all about the business reasons. Is this a good bet? Do we in the marketing department, in the physical production department, the creative development department all agree that this particular product, with this filmmaker and these actors involved, is likely to return our investment?
And that's a totally different mindset from the writer who kicked the whole process off when he or she sat down in a room to tell a story. But that decision in the greenlight meeting is what matters in the end.
And the defining factor usually comes down to, "This actor is reading the material now. If they say yes, we're going; if they say no, we're not." Or it's "The director's deciding which of three projects he or she wants to do next, and if it's yours we're making the movie right now; if it's one of the other two, who knows, maybe we'll never make the movie."
JRM: Do you have to be medicated through these moments?
Ehren Kruger: That might help. It's a good business for gamblers, for people who like to write a screenplay and then take it in and kind of lay it down on the craps table and say "I'm going to hope for six good rolls in a row, and then I'll have a movie." And you really have to roll a twelve, five or six times in a row. Then you're in production.
And you can make four rolls in a row, and things are looking goodbut then you roll a seven, which was a movie star attachment you needed, and you're done.
That's why it's good to have multiple plates spinning and be excited about multiple ideas, and to avoid getting overly attached to any one project the failure of which will crush you into not being able to turn on your computer for the next six months.
JRM: What beliefs or attitudes do you have that set you apart from others?
Ehren Kruger: I try my best to have a thick skin. Everyone at every opportunity will have a reason to not make your script, to not believe in your story. They'll gladly tell you why it's not quite good enough, or it feels a little familiar, or they're just not making that genre right now. It's easy to beat yourself up and go crazy about that, which a lot of writers do. I just try to shrug it off.
I've sold six scripts that I've written on spec, and not once did I have multiple financiers wanting to buy the script. It was always one place making an offer, and fourteen other places saying, "No, it's not good enough," or "It's not right for us," "Not interested," or what-have-you.
You can look at that and say, "Wow, one out of fifteen places thought my script was worth investing in; that's pretty bad." Or you can be realistic about the business and say, "One is all I need."
I think most working writers who are not terribly embittered share the philosophy that "I believe these stories are worth telling, and I believe I'll find people who agree with me. I'm going to hear "No" most of the time, but that's okaybecause every now and then, I'm going to hear "Yes.""
JRM: How many people never hear the one yes?
Ehren Kruger: The majority never hear the word yes. But again, if you've written one or two scripts that are of strong quality, you're going to have certain odds of hearing a yes; if you've written eight, nine, ten scripts of that same quality, your odds go up.
And it's easy to say write eight, ten scripts; that's probably three to five years of your life. But the more you can train yourself to write the right onesto choose the right ideas to writethe better your odds become.
There's no book you can read to get all that. You just talk to your friends, pitch them ideas: "Hey do you think this would make a good movie? What do you think of this? Are you engaged in this story? Have you seen this before?"
By doing that you get some sense of whether you're onto something interesting. And by watching and reading and developing an awareness of what's being made and what's notover time you'll train yourself to have some idea of what's fresh and original, and yet can be sold in a way that financiers are comfortable with.
JRM: One of the issues for struggling writers is thatpardon my grammarno one they ask has a much better idea than they do.
Ehren Kruger: It's a very hard business, because it's something that's inherently subjective.
JRM: What goes through your head when you sit down to writewhat are you thinking?
Ehren Kruger: Honestly, I just try to disappear, mentally, into the story. I try to put myself in the theater watching it play out, to get some sense of the pace of it and how the audience would perceive the scene. My standard advice is to get something on the page that makes the reader want to turn to the next page.
And to look at every page and ask, "Am I spinning my wheels here, or can I not wait to see what happens next, or to see what happens to this character?" Am I getting restless? Do I want to go get popcorn? Do I want to see what's playing in the theater next door during this scene? Because if so, then I need to fix the scene.
There's a rhythm to storytelling, to the pace of the story, and if you're not consistent with that then the story loses its propulsive force, or loses its command of tone, or loses the trust of the reader. It's probably very much like composing music, in that you have a finite period of time to tell your story, and time is a huge component of it.
And yet despite the constraints of length and format, there's a really amazing breadth of writing voice and style that can be conveyed in a screenplay.
Sometimes you'll send a script in, and it's being read by a producer or a studio executive. You may call for an update and hear, "They're really enjoying it; they read half of it last night, and they still have to read the second half."
And you just say to yourself "Oh no; I've lost. They put it down. It's over." And it's kind of true. When someone picks up a script, you don't want them to put it down ‘til they've gotten through it. Because that's the way you experience a movie.
JRM: Any tips for pulling the reader along?
Ehren Kruger: Try to be efficient. Usually, the fewer words, the better. You don't want to overwrite. Words equal time.
JRM: What are the most important things for a writer to know?
Ehren Kruger: Oh. Wow.
JRM: I didn't say these questions would be easy.
Ehren Kruger: No; you're asking the big questions.
JRM: I'm being efficient: make every question count.
Ehren Kruger: There you go. I guess that this is as much business as it is art, and that at times it will feel much more like business than art. And yet without that time when you're alone in the room, thinking of it as an art and wanting to do it as an artthere's no point in doing it at all.
When it works, this happens to be the most lucrative field of writing there isbut that can't be your primary motivation. You really have to want to tell a story for the story's sake. That has to be what makes you want to sit down and do it. At the same time, you need a healthy respect for whether the story you're choosing to tell can reasonably be thought of as a marketable commodity.
Most of the truly frustrated writers I know are motivated more by trying to make money than by loving to sit down and write until they have a hundred twenty pages to read and enjoy. And it doesn't end well for writers who are predominantly driven by that.
JRM: Why does it not end well for those folks?
Ehren Kruger: Because they start viewing their own self-worth as artists in terms of industry success.
JRM: You mean in terms of income?
Ehren Kruger: Income, produced credits, box office numbers, all of it. It's just a very debilitating existence to think of writingan art formcompletely in terms of selling a product. If that's the case, you should be a producer; you should not be a writer. You should give up the writing, and instead become an advocate for writers. Go pitch other writers' ideas, because really good producers are fantastic at that.
JRM: What makes a script stand out from the crowd?
Ehren Kruger: In my case I've had some success with surprise elements, sort of mystery structures, narrative reveals and twists, intricate plotting. Those are things I started with, and got something of a reputation for. I still love intricate plotting, but now I'm much more fascinated by character than when I began.
I look back on scripts I wrote ten years ago and think, "It's a good thing I put that down ten years ago, because I don't recognize who wrote that." It just wouldn't interest me today; I'm a different person.
Sometimes, when things go well, you're asked to work on a script that you put down years ago, and you'll pick it up and say, "I can't believe I ever thought this was finished, or that these scenes really engaged me. This needs to be about something else entirely now." Writers change and adapt, and different things interest them at different times. So what hopefully makes a script of mine stand out today, could be totally different from what might have caught someone's attention ten years back.
JRM: What gets your attention in a script by someone else; what makes it stand out for you?
Ehren Kruger: There are several things that can stand out. If the script's very well executed, for example. Really strong character writing, even in the most uncommercial plot, will always get noticed. Unique characters with consistent voices. Interesting plotting. Also an ear for dialogueeither purely naturalistic or tonally unique, putting a spin on the language.
Any of those things will make a script memorable. Even if it's a script that can't be sold, you'll be remembered, and that can get you in for a meeting to pitch other projects. You can almost always tell within ten pages whether a script is going to have one or two or all of those elements, and whether you're in good hands.
Another thing, a funny thing: a script is truly a blueprint for a movie. Producers will tolerate things that publishing houses would be apoplectic about: typos, formatting errors, what-have-you. I pick up scripts by really brilliant writers who have a serious aversion to spell-check. And yet does anyone care? The story has momentum. The dialogue's so good.
JRM: Someone can clean that up.
Ehren Kruger: Right. The audience will never read it anyway. Not that I advise doing any of those things, by the way.
JRM: What makes you think a script will be a chore to read?
Ehren Kruger: A script is always a chore to read if I know where it's going, if I predict what's going to happen twenty pages from nowand that's what happens twenty pages from now. If the dialogue doesn't come naturally, that's a problem. Or the plot isn't working. If I don't care about or am not fascinated by the protagonist within thirty pages, you're in trouble. There are so many ways to go wrong.
Again I think one of the most important things you can do is to give your script that sort of propulsive energy mentioned earlier. And I don't mean the kind of energy you need to convey in action movie-writing, where you're hurtling at the speed of sound.
Even if it's a static chamber piece, you can have that propulsive energy of character, or events, of "What's going to happen to these people, where are they going to end up?" Scripts should read like they're movies; you're turning the pages because you want to know what happens next. Any script that doesn't do that is a chore.
JRM: When selling a spec, Chris Lockhart says it all boils down to one question: Is this a movie?
Ehren Kruger: It needs to be a movie to get a movie made. It doesn't necessarily need to be a movie to get a writing career going.
JRM: Good point.
Ehren Kruger: I read a lot of scripts. Agents send out writing samples, and many of those stories are clearly not movies. But the writing is good, and when you read that as a producer, you want to know that writer and meet them.
Because the writer can always come up with another story, or pitch his or her take on a rewrite assignment or an adaptation of a book or magazine article or something that you may have as a producer.
So you're not always looking at "Is this a movie?" every time out. Sometimesas a producer, for instanceyou're reading scripts for the writing. You're asking yourself, "Is this a writer with command of the genre?" Or of character or dialogue or whatever it is you're looking for for your particular project. If the answer is yes, then you want to take a meeting with that writer.
Which is not to say that, as a writer, you should sit down and write a script that you think is not a movie, just to display your command of dialogue. At the end of the day, you just want to write a good script, to tell an interesting story well. Someone else will say "That's a movie" or "That's not a movie" or, more likely, "That's a movie but it's not a movie I want to make."
But if you've told the story well, you can at least use that script as a sample of your work. You can say, "I know how to tell a story and create characters you can care aboutso if you have a job opening for someone who can do that, consider me."
JRM: What are some of the mistakes you see writers make in their approach to people or the industry?
Ehren Kruger: Probably the biggest mistake I see writers make early in their careers is this: they send out scripts that are not ready, or scripts that should have stayed in a drawer. That really hurts you in terms of getting your scripts read, because you usually have one opportunity to make a first impression.
It can be exciting to reach the end of the script, to have that feeling of accomplishment at having finally told the story. But it's also easy to lose any sort of objective gauge on how your own work compares with the bulk of the writing that's out there.
So what happens is, the eager writer asks a very strong contact to read a script that's not in very strong shape. And that's one of the worst things you can do. Because you may write a second script that's five times better, but you've burned that contact by sending the not-so-good script, so they're not likely to read the next one.
The more you can read screenplays and objectively measure your own writing quality against the stuff that's already out there, the better sense you'll have of whether your material is ready to show, or whether a certain script should be considered a work-in-progressor something you just need to set aside so you can move on to the next story idea.
I started writing in high school, but I wrote a good nine or ten scripts before I showed one to anyone else. Because I picked up scripts by professional writers, and I'd look at those and then look at mine, and I could see that my work wasn't there yet.
I needed to keep working at the craft, at constructing scenes and characters. I really felt that I had to at least reach an average "professional quality" level before I could ask someone to read me.
That's one of the reasons a contest like the Nicholl is great. It's an objective competition where total strangers are giving you feedback on your work, as opposed to friends who may be reluctant to say something too critical. And if you aren't getting to the quarterfinal or semifinal round, it usually isn't as much about the story you've chosen to tell as it is about the quality of your storytelling.
It gives you a kind of barometer for your writing, before you put your script in the hands of development executives at a studio, who will base what they think of you as a writer on this one sample.
This is not to say that an okay script will sink you in the studio system. If you write a script that's okay, the story's okay, the writing is okay, it's pretty good overall, that won't ever burn you a bridge. But if you send in a script that they think is not good, they will not rush to put your next script on the top of their pileif they agree to read it at all.
JRM: In your opinion, what are the percentages floating around out there as far as good scripts vs. bad scripts?
Ehren Kruger: The world is awash in bad scripts. Some bad scripts get made, though usually not. Some good scripts get made into bad movies. But no one ever really sits around at a greenlight meeting or a table reading and says, "Let's invest a lot of money in this script because we think it's bad. We think this doesn't work."
I think the more useful term is to say most scripts are "unexceptional." They are fine, they have some good qualities, but they're forgettable. Even top tier pro writers will have an off script now and then, where their agents say, "I've got to be honest with you, I don't think we should send this one out." And sometimes they go out anyway.
JRM: Do you think "name" writers can afford to do that occasionally?
Ehren Kruger: Once you have a few off scripts, word gets around. So you can't get away with very many, and you certainly can't get hired by anyone you wrote an off script for. A good story well-told is hard to do, even for the pros. How many movies are truly "exceptional"? And yet whatever your genre, that has to be your goal.
JRM: Aside from the script itself, what says to people in the business"Hey, I want to work with this writer?"
Ehren Kruger: Being collaborative. Being professional. Taking notes well, or being articulate about why you think a certain note is a bad idea or won't make the story better. Having some level of debating skill. Being comfortable with fighting for the things that need to be fought for, while letting the other things go.
Once you're represented and working as a writer, it's a very small community of employers out there, and you really want to be a writer people enjoy working with, meeting with, having debates withsomeone they feel is a collaborative writer.
Also, to some extent, a writer who's not going to get burned out on multiple drafts; someone willing to believe that, at the end of the day, we're going to make this thing better.
It helps to be a fairly positive person about the goal. Because everyone has the same goal: making a movie. Sometimes you get there and sometimes you don't, and when some of the ideas that are coming into play seem totally wrong180 degrees from the story that you started writing in the first placeyou just try to steer the ship as best you can toward the movie you believe in.
JRM: What says "I don't want to work with this writer?"
Ehren Kruger: When a writer is stubborn or intransigent or lazy, which could be not doing the work in a timely manner, or failing to make requested changes, or being asked to make a character better and the character doesn't get better. As a writer, you can fail or be fired for not adjusting your work to what your collaborators are hoping to see in the next draft, or for being unprofessional. Of course, you can also be fired when you've done nothing wrong. And the call as to when any given script is "finished" is completely subjective.
JRM: What are the odds of selling a spec as opposed to getting work from a spec that doesn't sell?
Ehren Kruger: These days, I don't know. I do know that the spec market is not what it was in the high-flying Shane Black-Joe Eszterhas days. But specs still sell. There are certain genres that sell better than others, and of course the more affordable your project's budget, the more options you have with buyers.
That said, studios are always looking for a big clear idea, and I know as a producer that it's not to your disadvantage to be a writer with an inexpensive quote. Studios are not looking to spend a lot of money on writers these days if they don't have to. There are definitely jobs out therebut to get on the list for them, you need to have your spec work read and liked.
JRM: There's a widespread perception that a big part of making it in Hollywood is "who you know." How true is thatand how does "who you know" stack up against "what you know" and "how good you are?"
Ehren Kruger: The most important thing is to tell a good story, and to demonstrate talent. There are so many producers out there looking for good material that it gets found. It may not always get made into a moviethere are too many variables for that and many, many good scripts have not been made as moviesbut people tend to agree on what constitutes good material, and on who the strong writers are.
The Nicholl Fellowships are a great example of that. You don't need to know anyone, you don't need to live in Los Angeles to submit your script, and people want to know who the Fellows and the finalists areand at that stage there's no difference between the five that make Fellow and the five that remain finalists, really. You've been a finalist, whattwice now?
JRM: Yeah. Most recently in 2007.
Ehren Kruger: Then you know that some pretty serious people want to read those scripts. And a lot of people also want to read the semifinalist and quarterfinalist scripts.
All that said, once you have good material, yes, you need to have a way to get it in the hands of decision-makers: agents, producers, managers. That's a small community in the scheme of things. They can only read so many scripts each weekend, and a few during the week, and you need to get your script on that stack.
It certainly helps to have some type of personal connection. That could be an agent who's going to follow up with a producer and say, "Have you read my client yet?" Or it could be having a direct relationship with a development executive or producer or assistantsomeone working at one of these companies who has a vested interest; they know you, they like you, so they see that their boss gets around to reading your script.
It is far easier to make those connections when you're in Los Angeles. I suppose in theory the internet should help get that kind of thing done from anywherebut I think that's pretty much still theory at this point. Lacking those kinds of connections, or living outside of Los Angeles, something like the Nicholl can really help.
JRM: It's been said that there are three crucial elements to breaking in: talent, access, and timing. Can you rate their relative importanceor would you alter the equation in some way?
Ehren Kruger: Talent is by far the most important thing. Followed by access I'd say, which we've talked a bit about. Timing comes into play with whether or not a script sells, and whether or not it becomes a movie. Developing yourself into a good writer is most of the game.
Good writing sticks in your mind. If I read a writing sample five years ago, from someone with no creditsand I liked the sampleI'll remember their name. And if someone says to me today, "Hey, so-and-so wants to come in and pitch a take or meet on this potential assignment," they'll get the meeting with me because I know they're capable of doing good work.
Talent is what people are going to remember. Access is important to get your stuff read. And then timing is just a question of what happens to your script. You can write a great script, it's fantasticbut you have unfortunate timing; someone else releases a similar movie just before you send the script out. That's happened to me, and it's no fun.
But it doesn't take away from the fact that your script is still good, and people will still read it. They may say, "I don't want to buy it because of this competitive project, but bring me the next thing that you have and I'll keep you in mind for assignment jobs."
JRM: How important is networking?
Ehren Kruger: You need to get your material read, and that's a way to do it. Now, you can get your material read without networking. You can win a Nicholl Fellowship and never leave your room, never want to leave your room, and get an agent that way. And you can get that agent to send out your script and you can sell that script and you've still never left your room. That could happen.
But once you sell the script, you're going to have to leave your room to go get notes on what you need to change. You're going to take general meetings with potential future employers. That takes conversations; that takes networking; that takes making allies in the business.
JRM: How does a new guy or gal make contacts?
Ehren Kruger: If your day job is at all related to the entertainment industryeven tangentiallyyou're going to make contacts. I started as an assistant, and a number of the assistants that I worked with are now writers for film and television, or are agents or creative executives. That's fairly common. Just don't walk around L.A. making enemies.
JRM: What are the chances of making it in this business without a good rep?
Ehren Kruger: You don't need an agent to break in, but you do need one to keep a career going. So ultimately you need to have good representation, in part because most buyers and producers will only read things that come to them through reputable agents.
JRM: Agent vs. managerwhich is best, or does a writer need both?
Ehren Kruger: It depends on the writer and how much attention or advice they feel they need. I've had an agent my whole career, and I've never needed any additional sort of attention. But I know writers who wouldn't dream of being without a manager. It depends on the writer's needs.
JRM: What do you see as the difference between agents and managers?
Ehren Kruger: An agent sells a writer's scripts and helps a writer get hired for assignments. This sounds pretty head-hunter/salesman basic, but takes a great deal of connections and persistence and enthusiasm and work. A manager may do quite similar things, but tends to have a bit more day-to-day personal involvement with whatever needs assisting in a writer's career. A manager may also take on a producing role in a client's work, which has pros and cons, depending on whom you ask and when.
JRM: What makes a good rep, and what are some of the things that tell you you're dealing with a keeper?
Ehren Kruger: I think a good rep is someone who is really passionate about a writer's potential for a long career, as opposed to a rep who seizes on a script or a concept because they hope they can one-shot-sell it.
A good rep is someone who's happy to sign a new writer, knowing that writer is probably not going to make them very much money for something between one and four years. The rep does that because there's a talent to the writing that gives him or her confidence that this particular writer could become a good, profitable, long-term client.
The other thing is real honesty. And that may come in the form of, "I like your first script, but I don't think your second script is up to your own standard, and I think you'd be doing yourself a disservice by sending this one out."
A good rep is someone who, if they're not returning phone calls fast enough for you, at least they tell you why: "I'm sorry, you have to understand that I have other clients, and at this point in your career they are more important than you are. That's not to say I don't believe in you; it's just to say I cannot call you every day."
JRM: If they didn't believe, you wouldn't even be having that conversation.
Ehren Kruger: Exactly.
JRM: What are some signs of a bad repthings to watch out for?
Ehren Kruger: Someone who doesn't return your calls. They'll say "What do you mean, what do you mean? Nah, don't worry about that. Forget about that. Everything's fine." Someone who signs you based on one script, and when that script doesn't pan out or doesn't sell, you never hear from them again. Someone who in a very firm sense is not being honest with you. Those are dealbreakers.
JRM: Big agency vs. boutique vs. small agency: what's your take, pro and con?
Ehren Kruger: I really don't think it matters when you're starting out. Any reputable agency with a good agent who believes in you is a good place to be. When you get further into your career, there are some benefits to the larger agencies in terms of access to talent, access to projects.
On the other hand, I know a lot of writers who are repped at big agencies but are less than thrilled, because when you are not among the most important writers at those agencies, you sometimes don't get the kind of attention you feel you deserve.
It really depends on what agency you're at and who your agent is.
JRM: Speaking of getting farther down the career pathshould writers be worried about getting pigeonholed in certain genres?
Ehren Kruger: Yes. You should. You will be. So you should write in multiple genres, as long as you can write well in multiple genres. And you should always write movies that you yourself would see. Because if things go well, you may have to work on that movie for two years of your lifeand you really don't want to be working on a project that you'd never buy a ticket to yourself. It's really painful, and involves a lot of self-loathing.
JRM: You seem to speak from personal experience…
Ehren Kruger: Maybe once or twice.
JRM: The eternal question: how does a writer get repped?
Ehren Kruger: Networking and writing competitions. I'm a huge advocate of the Nicholl Fellowships, and people take that very seriously on a resume. Otherwise, if you can get in touch with an agency's younger, newer agents, they're generally always on the hunt for good new clients.
If you can tell them that there are respected screenwriting competitions that recognize your work, they'll want to read you. It really does make you stand out on a cold call. Competition placements might also get you a personal connection with someone who likes your work and can get it to a rep.
JRM: What are the important competitions in your mind?
Ehren Kruger: I've been out of that game for so long nowtwelve years?that I can't tell you what the current state of affairs is, except to say that the Nicholl Fellowships are still at the top.
JRM: Still preeminent.
Ehren Kruger: Definitely.
JRM: How important are loglines, pitch-sheets, and treatments, in your opinion?
Ehren Kruger: The logline is how an executive will describe your project to the boss, so hopefully your script lends itself to that. Treatments are hugely important in professional writing. A lot of producers and studios will demand to see a treatment before clearing a writer to draft, unless the writer absolutely refuses to do that. I don't really recommend absolutely refusing to do that.
JRM: This is for assignment work?
Ehren Kruger: Yes for assignment work, but also whenever someone requests to see a treatment first. A director, for instance, might want to clarify where your next draft will be headed.
JRM: Many writers believe it's all on the pagethat once the script is in the right hands, the writing will sell itself. In your opinion, how important is it to be "good in a room," and to be able to pitch the work in person?
Ehren Kruger: If you've done good work, people will read it. Even the heads of big entertainment empires. There are some tales floating around about actors who don't read, or studio heads who don't read, but they're mostly apocryphal. The people running studios, by the time they get to that position they've become very adroit at reading scripts and understanding the strengths and flaws in any given piece of material.
Eventually, you'll have the opportunity to pitch projects or pitch takes on assignments, and so hopefully get paid before you write "fade in." That's always the dream. Once you get to that point, being able to pitch a story in fifteen minutes requires its own set of skills, and you'll need to learn those.
You have to be comfortable with saying, "Hey, I'm going to tell you a story, give you the set-up for a movie; I'm going to tell it with enthusiasm and make you excited about seeing it; I'm going to give you a little of the second act, where it goes; and then I'm going to tell you how I pay it off in the third act. And you're going to love it, and you're going to pay me money for that, for fifteen minutes of talking."
That takes a certain chutzpah that is sometimes at odds with the character of a person who sits alone in a room all day, staring at the page. Most writers I know, when they started out, they hated having to pitch. Hated the whole idea of putting on this salesman's hat.
But if you take the pressure off of that, off of "This is me getting a job or not," then you can try to approach it like you would sitting down at a campfire, or tucking your kids into bed, and then telling a story. You're entertaining them for fifteen minutes, and as long as it's a story you believe in, it's not so hard to do.
Still, it took me years to get to that point and become comfortable with pitching. It helps to keep in mind that everyone you sit down with to pitch a story to, they're hoping to hear a great story from you. They want to hire you. They honestly don't know what the movie should bestudio executives, producersand they're hoping for someone to come into the room and tell them.
So you need to pitch from that perspective: "I'm going to tell you what the movie is." Not "I'm going to hopefully suss out what movie you want me to tell you, so you'll hire me." And then if you don't get the job, at least you pitched the movie you believed in, the one you wanted to write.
Maybe they'll want something else, but you're pitching the one that you want to spend the next three to six months or, if you're lucky, the next two years of your life doing.
JRM: So did you become comfortable with pitching before or after you'd sold your first script?
Ehren Kruger: After. Years after.
JRM: What do you see as the pros and cons of feature vs. television work, from a writing and directing or producing standpoint?
Ehren Kruger: Any writing that someone's paying you for is great, in the grand scheme of things. There's a huge crossover between television and features, so to me it's all the same. Some of the best writing out therein terms of really being able to develop characters in depthis definitely on television.
JRM: Should writers want to direct or produce, and if so why?
Ehren Kruger: It depends on the writer, and on what part of the process they like. If you just like the writing, that's what you should do. But if you finish the script and you're completely unsatisfied because it doesn't resemble a finished producta moviethen really you should be directing it, because you get to write it twice more: on the set and during editing.
Producing is a lot easier for writers to do in television than in film, because film is such a director's medium. But it's certainly possible in film, if that's what you decide to do. I think most writers start their careers when they're alone in the room, and then when their scripts start getting made they discover how collaborative an endeavor it becomes.
You go from being a juggling act on the streetcorner to joining the traveling circus. And that's either a whole new world of possibilities that you enjoy, and you miss the traveling circus when you leaveor you're happy to go back to your juggling act on the corner.
If you fall in love with the traveling circus, you think about moving toward directing or producing, where it's a traveling circus all the time.
JRM: Any deeper meaning in that analogy?
Ehren Kruger: Well you've seen Fellini's films, right? That's what making movies is: a traveling circus. Some fire to put out every day. It's chaos. It's totally losing the forest for the trees in the middle of shooting. It's all out of sequence and you're making changes on the fly and somehow at the end of it all you're supposed to wind up with a coherent film. I refer you to Fellini's movies.
JRM: What industry trends do you see that writers should be aware of right now?
Ehren Kruger: I think the most troubling trend for writers is the increased desire on the part of the big studios to be making movies that are pre-branded, or that have a built-in audience; they're based on a book or a toy line or a comic book or something that sold to someone somewhere before.
That gives the studio confidence that people will buy tickets for the movie form of whatever-it-is. It's troubling for me and I'm a working writer, so it should be doubly troubling to writers trying to break in.
JRM: This from the guy doing the Transformers sequel.
Ehren Kruger: Well, that's a project that's interesting for me personally because I haven't written that precise kind of movie before. The big stakes-action-adventure with some comedy that you can take your kids to. So that's why I pursued that job. It involves a few new challenges for me as a writer. But also, to my overall point, in this marketplace it would be difficult for me to sell an original screenplay about giant alien robots. Not necessarily impossible. But difficult. So if I have any affinity at all for the giant-alien-robot genre, I need to be practical. My options are limited.
That said, they continue to make hundreds of movies every year, and there are only so many branded properties available. So they are still making original stories. And believe me, I myself am still writing them. But I would advise: emphasis on original. Your concept needs to stand out.
Another trend I see is that studios want to make inexpensive movies, and they want to make superexpensive movies. They don't want to make too much in betweenwhich, ten years ago, was not the case.
So you hear a lot about people trying to make a movie for under $40 millionit's better under $20 millionand then they want to make movies that are over $100 million. And there's sort of a middle area where it's harder right now to get things made.
JRM: That works for me.
Ehren Kruger: Sure; the big action stuff.
JRM: Any suggested resources for writers?
Ehren Kruger: Read screenplays. I think they're far more valuable than most books on the craft.
JRM: How about the relative importance of reading screenplays as opposed to watching films?
Ehren Kruger: It's most useful to read scripts for films you haven't seen. That's how your own work is first experienced by others. As a potential film.
JRM: What's next for you?
Ehren Kruger: I'm adapting a book called God Is A Bullet right now. It's challenging because the book is absolutely take-no-prisoners, and I have to make it a little more palatable for the vast moviegoing audience. Because there's wow-that's-a-harrowing-story, and then there's I-can't-take-it-I'm-leaving-the-theater.
JRM: What is it with youwerewolves, terrorists, cults…
Ehren Kruger: Where are the chick flicks, you mean?
JRM: Yeah; where's all that warm-and-fuzzy stuff?
Ehren Kruger: I've written romantic comedies; I just don't seem able to make anyone pay me for them. The next thing I have coming out is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which I cowrote with Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci. That's slated for summer, 2009. I'm sure it will be advertised globally, so you'll know it's coming.
Ehren Kruger's most recent release was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which landed in theaters in June, 2009. Ehren is also writing and executive producing the upcoming television mini-series The Talisman (based on the book by Stephen King and Peter Straub), adapting God is a Bullet (from the novel by Boston Teran), and adapting the graphic novel Torso (by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko).
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