Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wishing you all a very prosperous and healthy 2018!  This is my first year welcoming in the New Year living in Los Angeles.  Looking forward to enjoying laughs, good wishes and the twinkling of the LA view at midnight.

May all your hopes and dreams come true. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

by Janet J. Lawler
Los Angeles, CA

I'm honored to be a Feature Finalist in the 2017 Los Angeles International Script Awards.  
Thanks to the judges and readers who took time to get to know my characters on the page. 

Congratulations to all the screenwriters who entered LAISA and to all those who advanced!
Here is the complete list of the winners and semi-finalists.

Keep writing out there.  Keep dreaming!  We need your fresh voices now more than ever! 


Wednesday, September 20, 2017


In June, I finally moved to LA.  

I'm a native New Yorker and moved to California two years ago (to beautiful San Diego).  However, we felt we needed to be closer to the action, especially with my coming up to LA for meetings and projects. The commute from San Diego to Los Angeles wasn't fun (2 hours each way, 3-4 with traffic).  

So, what's it like living in LA as a writer?  

Well, for one, you bump into a million other writers (at the grocery, at movie screenings, Meetup events, picnics, the dog park, even working out).  There are writers, directors, actors everywhere.  It's fun because it gives you something to immediately talk about, but it can be a little weird too.  Everyone is hungry, hustling and looking for their next gig.   

What I really love about living in LA is the culture and food.  We're enjoying great Latin food, Mexican food, Thai food, Health food, you name it.  And the pizza isn't bad either (that says a lot coming from a NYC girl).  There is so much to do living here.  From outdoor activities, like hiking and swimming, to museums and plays to movies and the beach.  In CA, you can be as busy as you want to be and there never should be a reason to be bored. 

This summer had natural disasters from coast to coast.  
We saw wild fires within miles of our house in August (unheard of in Burbank).  It was the biggest fire in LA history.  We also had an earthquake tremor the other night, but I slept through it, thankfully.  
Cast and Crew
Being new in town, I've joined a lot of groups and have attended numerous events.  Two awesome events were held by AT&T.  They had a tech 2-day conference held at Warner Brothers in July (which was off the charts fabulous -- with top directors Patty Jenkins and Kathryn Bigelow giving talks.  

And last week, I participated in the AT&T Create-a-thon.  It was such a fun event where I met other filmmakers and we produced a short film together.  Shout out to my fellow creators Shane Eyler (director/producer), Anthony Castellane (producer /co-director),  actors Phylicia Townes, Edwin Morrow and Jackson Charles. My role was producer/writer.  AT&T gets kudos for promoting diversity and creativity and ALL for free.  No entry fees, no submission fees, just giving creators a platform to express themselves.  Great job, AT&T Developers and Create-a-thon (also they fed us free food and supplied free film kits!)
Creating a Scene
AT&T Short Film Presentations
I also wrote a spec screenplay over the summer and a first draft of a TV pilot.  It feels good to be writing and focusing on what I love to do -- also to be in Hollywood with studios and creators all around -- it inspires.  It can be overwhelming and intimidating to be in this town, but for now, it's where I want to be.  I've wanted to live here for decades, but life and work back east didn't make that possible -- but all things come in time, maybe not on our timeline , but they do come.  Just keep the faith. 

Hope you had a wonderful and productive summer!  Keep pursuing what you love and never give up.  Surround yourself with positive, energized people.

Until next time.

Friday, July 21, 2017

On the Warner Bros. Studio Lot
by Janet Lawler
Los Angeles

The SHAPE AT&T Tech and Entertainment Expo at Warner Bros. Studios made one thing clear -- Hollywood and Silicon Valley plan to make Virtual Reality a bigger part of your entertainment future.  The two-day event (July 14-15) in Burbank showcased top movie talent and virtual innovations.
Expo attendees try the VR world
According to the experts, plan on soon using VR to watch your movies and sporting events.  Toss aside those 3D glasses and strap on state-of-the-art VR goggles.  VR technology is getting more advanced with HD and 360 immersive viewing all designed to enhance an audience's experience both at home and in theaters.   You won't just be watching a movie or sports event -- you'll be in it -- feeling a part of it.  It's pretty mind blowing and a little disorienting.
Kathryn Bigelow
Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") spoke about her passion project The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes, a virtual reality short film she directedWatching her short film, we put on the VR goggles.  Some of the goggles worked fine, but there is a learning curve on operating them (like not touching the sides or you'll stop the movie) and beware of poking the person sitting next to you as you move your head up down and side to side entering this virtual world.  

Bigelow's film "The Protectors" focused on African elephants’ as they near extinction from ivory-seeking poachers.  The overall movie experience was definitely more exciting wearing the VR goggles feeling like we were walking through the African jungle.  Collectively, our hearts were beating faster.
"Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins
As if Bigelow wasn't enough to please the audience, Shape AT&T Expo next brought out "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins.  She was an audience favorite giving advice to emerging filmmakers.

Jenkins discussed her career (having worked as a camera person for years before directing) and presented the AT&T Entertainment Short Film Finalists and its winner Nicholas Arioli.  

Nicholas Arioli wins the Entertainment Project Emerging Filmmaker Award presented to him by   Director Patty Jenkins and AT&T’s David Christopher. 
Actress Kate Hudson talks Social Media in Hollywood
On day two of the Expo, Entrepreneur/Author/Oscar-Nominee Kate Hudson spoke about being a celebrity in today's social media age.  She said she does her own posts on social media and won't allow someone else do it for her.  She likes being authentic with the content she puts out (often of her singing on Instagram!).  Hudson noted the downside in today's fast-paced digital environment is that stars don't have the luxury of having their careers groomed like in traditional Hollywood (naming her mom Goldie Hawn as an example), but rather celebrities today and content are quickly disposable.  There is a constant desire to be relevant or appear to be.  And, that causes headaches for talent agents who have to handle crisis management when stars get into trouble with their posts or videos.   Hudson agreed that it's an exciting time in technology, being able to have more fan engagement, multiple platforms for creativity and global distribution. 

The Expo capped things off by offering Warner Bros. Studio tours.  I was like a kid in a candy shop!  Warner's has such a rich movie history with everyone from James Cagney, to Bette Davis to Clint Eastwood and now Ben Affleck having called the studio home.  We toured the set of "The Fosters"... and checked out the iconic "Friends" set... and the DC Super Hero section where "Wonder Woman" is on display right along with Batman and Superman.
Outside the Steven S. Ross Theater
Wonder Woman at Warner Bros. Studios Archive Museum
"Friends" set at Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Kudos to a job well-done, SHAPE AT&T Expo, and to all the outstanding speakers, participants and volunteers!  It was an inspiring and innovative weekend.

Until next time. 
IMDB page

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Stranger Things" Nominated for Best Drama (Netflix)
Find the list of nominees below compliments to The NY Times.  The show will air on September 17th.   Hope your favorites made the list.  My faves are in yellow highlight below.

Best Comedy

Atlanta” (FX)
“black-ish” (ABC)
Master of None” (Netflix)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
Silicon Valley” (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix)
Veep” (HBO)

Best Drama

Better Call Saul” (AMC)
The Crown” (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
House of Cards” (Netflix)
Stranger Things” (Netflix)
This Is Us” (NBC)

Best Limited Series

“Big Little Lies” (HBO)
“Fargo” (FX)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (FX)
“Genius” (National Geographic)
“The Night Of” (HBO)

Best Actress, Comedy

Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”)
Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie”)
Allison Janney (“Mom”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)
Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
Tracee Ellis Ross (“black-ish”)
Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”)

Best Actor, Comedy

Anthony Anderson (“black-ish”)
Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”)
Zach Galifianakis, (“Baskets”)
Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)
William H. Macy (“Shameless”)
Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”)

Best Actress, Drama

Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”)
Claire Foy (“The Crown”)
Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Keri Russell (“The Americans”)
Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)

Best Actor, Drama

Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)
Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”)
Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)
Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)
Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”)

Best Actress, Limited Series or TV Movie

Carrie Coon (“Fargo”)
Felicity Huffman (“American Crime”)
Jessica Lange (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Nicole Kidman (“Big Little Lies”)
Susan Sarandon (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Reese Witherspoon (“Big Little Lies”)

Best Actor, Limited Series or TV Movie

Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of”)
Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”)
Robert De Niro (“The Wizard of Lies”)
Ewan McGregor (“Fargo”)
Geoffrey Rush (“Genius”)
John Turturro (“The Night Of”)

Television Movie

“Black Mirror: San Junipero”
Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
“The Wizard of Lies”

Supporting Actor, Drama

Jonathan Banks (“Better Call Saul”)
David Harbour (“Stranger Things”)
Ron Cephas Jones (“This Is Us”)
Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”)
John Lithgow (“The Crown”)
Mandy Patinkin (“Homeland”)
Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”)

Supporting Actress, Drama

Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is The New Black”)
Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”)
Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)
Chrissy Metz (“This Is Us”)
Thandie Newton (“Westworld”)
Samira Wiley (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

Supporting Actor, Comedy

Louie Anderson (“Baskets”)
Alec Baldwin (“Saturday Night Live”)
Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”)
Tony Hale (“Veep”)
Matt Walsh (“Veep”)

Supporting Actress, Comedy

Vanessa Bayer (“Saturday Night Live”)
Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”)
Kathryn Hahn (“Transparent”)
Leslie Jones (“Saturday Night Live”)
Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”)
Judith Light (“Transparent”)

Limited Series

“Big Little Lies” (HBO)
“Fargo” (FX Networks)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (FX Networks)
“Genius” (National Geographic)
“The Night Of” (HBO)

Supporting Actor, Limited Series or Movie

Alexander Skarsgard (“Big Little Lies”)
David Thewlis (“Fargo”)
Alfred Molina (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Stanley Tucci (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Bill Camp (“The Night Of”)
Michael Kenneth Williams (“The Night Of”)

Supporting Actress, Limited Series or a Movie

Judy Davis (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Laura Dern (“Big Little Lies”)
Jackie Hoffman (“Feud: Bette and Joan”)
Regina King (“American Crime”)
Michelle Pfeiffer (“The Wizard Of Lies”)
Shailene Woodley (“Big Little Lies”)

Variety Sketch Series

“Billy On The Street” (truTV)
“Documentary Now!” (IFC)
“Drunk History” (Comedy Central)
“Portlandia” (IFC)
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
“Tracey Ullman’s Show” (HBO)

Congratulations to all the nominees!  Until next time... 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Eleanor Coppola Makes Her First Movie

Eleanor Coppola Makes Her Directorial Debut at Age 81
by Janet J. Lawler

Eleanor Coppola Directs
Eleanor Coppola has a famous last name, but she's quick to note she doesn't carry the Coppola DNA.

She's only married to Francis Ford Coppola ("The Godfather") for fifty-four years now. Oh, and she's also the mother of Sophia Coppola ("Lost in Translation"), but Eleanor has her own artistic voice.

She'd like you to give it a listen by seeing her new film "Paris Can Wait".  It opens this weekend in select theaters.
Eleanor and Francis
Eleanor Coppola is more known for her documentaries such as "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse", which focused on the insanity surrounding the making of her husband's movie "Apocalypse Now".  She also wrote a book about it ("Notes: The Making of Apocalypse Now").

But her new movie "Paris Can Wait" stars Diane Lane.  It's Eleanor's debut as a narrative feature film director.   She produced and wrote the movie too.  And if that isn't commendable enough, she's also 81 years old and venturing into a new world.

How hard was it to get this small movie made in today's Hollywood?

As Eleanor noted in recent interviews, it wasn't easy getting financing for her original story (loosely based on a road trip she took in France with a business associate of Francis Ford Coppola's while in Cannes).  The "Paris Can Wait" script didn't contain action, violence, sex or explosions.

Instead, it's a breezy, lovely film reminding us to slow down and savor every moment --  to venture off the main road of your life and explore new terrain, neighbors, food, scenery, art, see how others live and, maybe, just maybe, find a moment to breathe.

Boy, can we use a movie like that right now.  I could use a long weekend excursion through France.   And who better to spend a road trip with than Diane Lane?  In the French country side?  Sipping a glass of wine?
 "Paris Can Wait" is out.

Be sure to find it in your town and buy a ticket.   See it on the BIG screen.  Don't wait for it to land on Netflix or iTunes.

Not only because the director's last name is Coppola, but because Eleanor poured her heart and soul into making this film.  She took a chance on us, the mature movie audience, to find it.  It's a cinematic treat.  So, savor it like a French truffle.

These type of original movies won't be around for long.


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IMDB page


Monday, April 03, 2017

by Janet J. Lawler

The Black List recently sponsored the above titled talk by Lindsay Doran at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.  Great audience turn out and an impressive talk.   
Writer/Producer Lindsay Doran
Lindsay Doran, a former film executive and Oscar-nominated writer for "Sense and Sensibility" knows a thing or two about storytelling.  She's been around movie making most of her life, in some form or another, and makes a living these days as a story consultant, as the Script Whisperer, for major studio projects.

Lindsay's talk focused on many things, but mainly on how most dramatic movies win Oscars and Golden Globes, while happy, uplifting movies (like, say, for instance, 2008's Mamma Mia which grossed over $600 million dollars at the global box office) get snubbed or mocked by Hollywood.
Why is that?  Why do depressing dramas win more Oscars than comedies year after year?  Are we conditioned to think sad is better?  More award-worthy?  It's no wonder Moonlight beat La La Land this year.  Maybe it wasn't such a shocker after all.

So, what's a screenwriter to do?  Stay away from the happy ending?  The feel-good movie? Is a good cry valued more on the big screen than a good belly laugh?   It looks that way, according to Lindsay's research.  She probed Hollywood executives, agents and producers about the above questions and found that most favored sad over uplifting stories, pessimism over optimism, and goal-driven flicks over relationship movies.

But how do audiences feel?  What are we craving when we pluck down money at the box office?  With the success of many children's animation movies maybe we are chasing the happy endings.
Lindsay suggests screenwriters consider the psychological benefits of writing more positive stories, heartwarming tales and happy endings for our characters.  To ask the question, what is the human moment in your script?  What are the relationships worth writing about here?  Will a movie about characters still make money?

Yes, Lindsay Doran says.  Most moviegoers remember "the relationship" part of a movie rather than the goal accomplished.  She noted iconic movies like Dirty Dancing (it's not Jennifer Grey flying into Patrick's Swayze's arms at the end of that movie that really mattered, but instead, her father recognizing his daughter's talent and her becoming a young adult); along with Rocky (how we tend to forget that Rocky Balboa actually LOST the fight to Apollo Creed in the original Rocky movie... but it's still uplifting to audiences forty years later because Rocky, instead of beating Creed, found self-worth and true love at the end.)  Adrian!  That's what we remember (and the great training montage).  

So then, when you sit down to write your next script, it doesn't have to be a downer to move people.  It can be a musical, a comedy, a happy fairy tale... just don't expect it to win the Oscar.  But you never know, La La Land came awfully close this year (and even won it for Best Picture for a few brief shining moments!).

Until next time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


It's that glitzy time of year.  The elections are over, the inauguration in the history books, so now it's time to get some much-needed pizzazz in our lives.

Who better to do that for Americans than that little gold man Oscar?

Mark your calendar for the Oscars airing on February 26th, 2017 on ABC.
Make plans to attend an Oscar party to watch or stay home in your pajamas comfy on the sofa.  I'm  more the stay home and watch it on the sofa type (I really want to watch the show and not socialize), but this year we may break tradition, and watch The Oscars at a friend's house.  (Talking only during commercials).  Yeah, that won't last long.  Plus, I'll have to dress up, although no need to be fitted for a designer gown... yet.  A girl has to dream... speaking of... 

My favorite dreamy movie to win the Oscars is La La Land.  It received 14 noms.  Strictly speaking as a self-anointed dreamer, this movie truly lassoed my heart from its odd opening number.  I loved the direction, the cinematography, the acting, the homage to old Hollywood and Los Angeles (being new to California I'm still in awe of this town).  A musical about following your bliss may not be your particular cup of tea, but considering the tense climate we're all living through right now in our beautiful nation (and world), an uplifting song and dance movie sweeping the Oscars may not be such a bad thing. 
A shout out also for Moonlight (a deeply moving story with gripping performances).  I'm letdown that Taraji P. Henson didn't get nominated for Hidden Figures.  She gave an amazing, heartwarming performance and a complete departure from her character Cookie that she's best known for playing on Empire.  Don't miss Hidden Figures.  It's eye opening and will take you to the moon and back.

No nomination for Annette Bening in 20th Century Women?!  Surprising and disappointing.

Before the end of next month,  go see as many great movies and performances that you can fit in.  Read the nominated screenplays and cast your ballot either home alone online or with your friends.  Either way, have a wonderful time and forget the world's troubles at least for one magical night.

Here is the complete list of Oscar nominees.
Read best screenplays for free here 

IMDB page