How I Read

“I had the benefit of Sheila Gallien’s insights on every script I wrote for six years: from Apollo 13 to Cast Away, with four or five others thrown in for good measure. Her advice was always clear, direct, and to the point. It was always grounded in rock-solid principles of story-telling. She helped me see what I had done wrong, and how to make what I had done right even better. That is a rare gift.”  William Broyles, Jr.

For six years I was the assistant and mini-development department for William Broyles, Jr. Together, we worked on Cast Away, Unfaithful, Planet of the Apes and Entrapment, and developed other great projects that did not make it to the screen, including projects with Michael Mann, Lynda Obst, and more projects with Tom Hanks.Cropped BW Read

 

Apollo 13 had just begun shooting. My first assignment was to deconstruct the shooting script and original script and prepare for a credit arbitration. I came to this task with a degree in Theater Arts, experience in dramaturgy, and two years reading in Hollywood; still this exercise cracked open story and structure in a way I had never imagined. I created beat sheets for these drafts, comparing and contrasting dialogue, intention, distilling the story of each one, digging at the heart of what story was itself at its deepest level. My research and analysis went to the original writers, who pleaded their case, ultimately received sole credit, and I received an education that could not be bought.

My next task was researching a script that would span my career with Bill Broyes, Cast Away. I still remember the way the first draft felt, after months of deep and difficult work. Bill wrote no less than twenty major structural rewrites, and a hundred revisions, with two talented and hugely different directors, Jonathan Demme and then Robert Zemeckis, under the constant supervision of Tom Hanks. I was privy to the moment the right draft burst to life, and the movie emerged after years of development. When I visited the set of Cast Away, and saw Chuck’s life raft for the first time, I cried. I had lived with that character for so long, and his suffering was suddenly palpable. A hundred rewrites. I learned what a writer brings to the story, and what a visual artist, the director, brings, as the story becomes pictures.

I was in pre-production–twice–in London on Entrapment. Antoine Fuqua saved my life when I walked, dazed and sleep-deprived, into the wrong facing traffic. He was replaced by Jon Amiel, but by then I was experienced. On the first trip, the airline lost my clothes, and I had an early meeting with Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta Jones, and the producers. Jetlagged and bedraggled, I lost focus when Sean Connery poured my tea and kissed me on both cheeks. His voice, his stories, are just as you would hope they were. Then I felt an elbow in my side. It was my boss. “When Mr. Connery says something?” I nodded, glassy-eyed, “Write it down!” Right, and I struggled to keep up with his thoughts so I could transcribe them, as I did those of the brilliant and tireless duo of Elizabeth Gabler (President, Fox 2000) and producer Rhonda Tollefson. The project was pay or play. Big money was on the line. Bill wrote deep into the night, feeding pages and taking notes, until we made the deadlines, twice, and the movie was made.

I witnessed the transformation of a French farce into Unfaithful. I saw visual elements become characters, and saw Bill Broyles take that beat so much chillingly further in the American story. Adrian Lyne cornered me on the phone one night after Bill left, “But, darling, what do you really think?” And so I told him.

I have been in heartbreaking pitch meetings for projects that did not happen, researched and developed and pored over projects that did happen but were lost from the writer’s original vision. I have bonded with and loved men and women and stories that were developed over years, with producers and studio executives and other writers and directors. I have been party to the amazing talent and commitment and mind-numbing hard work these people put in often before or without any kind of compensation.

Before I worked for Bill, I was an assistant in the literary department of CAA. I worked for the agent who piloted John Singleton’s work. I read and laughed at Dumb and Dumber when those guys were “hip-pocket” clients. I later worked for Jon Levin, who represented writers, directors, producers and stars. I escorted Dustin Hoffman, Francis Coppola, Brad Pitt, Oliver Stone, Goldie Hawn, Tom Selleck and countless producers into closed door meetings, and sat in on weekly pitch meetings with major stars of every trade. I created and circulated the minutes from these meetings, and heard what they were all looking for, hoping for, developing.

I started consulting on my own in 2001, and have continued to work with professionals, as well as emerging and aspiring writers. My clients have been nominated for awards, won screenwriting contests, been optioned, and produced. What I bring to the table is a living, breathing experience of filmmaking at its most brutal and creative. When I work with you, I use my education and experience, my passion and intuition, to develop the most profound, most connected, deepest and most original work possible.

My notes are a combination of development notes and a concentrated, educated, intuited map-reading of your work, your path, and your level of accomplishment. I address tone, structure, character, pacing, scene length, description, introduction and every other element in an interconnected way, and my notes will reflect that. For every level of service, I make myself available for questions, comments and collaboration.

I believe in hard work, rewrites, more rewrites, deep thought, and mercy.

Photos by Anna Kim Photography

 

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