Episode #19 — Never Let Me Go (2010)

It would always be difficult to adapt Kazuo Ishiguro's phenomenal novel 'Never Let Me Go' for the screen, but Alex Garland was uniquely well set up for the challenge. In this episode of The 21st Rewrite, we digest the profound impact that the novel had on us as readers, give our thoughts on which parts of the screenplay worked brilliantly and which could have been improved, and start to explore the key themes of this exceptional coming-of-age story and dystopian romance.

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None of you will do anything, except live out the life that has already been set out for you
— Miss Lucy
 

Episode #17 — Moneyball (2011) with Aidan Jackson-Evans

Baseball writer Aidan Jackson-Evans joins us this week to discuss the book and screenplay for ‘Moneyball’. Just how accurate is this seemingly-true tale of the manager who learned how to gain a competitive edge through a manipulation of statistics to discover undervalued players? We learn about the real life of Billy Beane, just how outdated ‘Moneyball’ tactics already are in modern baseball, and consider if there is even a ‘best’ way for a screenwriter to try to tell this story at all.

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How can you not be romantic about baseball?
— Billy Beane
 

Episode #15 — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

One of the most original, daring and emotionally compelling screenplays of the 21st century, Charlie Kaufman’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ wowed audiences upon the films release in 2004. In this week’s episode, we track the progression of the story from concept, to first draft, to the final shooting script and the final changes made in the editing room.

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Joel, I’m not a concept. I want you to just keep that in your head. Too many guys think I’m a concept or I complete them or I’m going to make them alive, but I’m just a f***ed-up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours.
— Clementine
 

Episode #14 — First Man (2018)

We conclude our series on the films of Damien Chazelle with ‘First Man’, written by Josh Singer. One of the most accurately-researched biopic screenplays, ‘First Man’ captures the essence of Neil Armstrong’s life, highlighting his struggle to overcome the death of his infant daughter and how that marked his character even as the years passed, and he steadily persevered at his career until ultimately becoming the first human being to walk on the lunar surface.

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All these protocols and procedures to make it seem like you have it ‘under control’. But you’re a bunch of boys making models out of balsa wood, you don’t have anything under control.
— Janet Armstrong
 

Episode #12 — Whiplash (2014)

They say that every good screenplay needs conflict, and Damien Chazelle’s first story ‘Whiplash’ delivers it on every page. In this episode The 21st Rewrite is looking at the tale of the teacher who goes too far, and asks if Terrence Fletcher is a well-meaning character with flawed methods or a true villain? The discussion also touches upon details about what was removed from the screenplay: Andrew taking drugs, some more details about Fletcher’s personal life, and a fascinating commentary on what Hungarian psychologist László Polgár has to do with all of this.

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There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’
— Terrence Fletcher
 

Episode #11 — Particular Disposition (2018)

‘Particular Disposition’ is based on the last execution of two men for the crime of sodomy under English law in 1835. It was selected by the Austin Film Festival jury as the best stage play script of 2018. We were extremely fortunate to spend some time talking with the playwright, Benjamin Fulk, about his writing process and the importance of bringing this forgotten story back to the fore in the 21st century.

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I refuse to live a life in fear
— James Pratt

Episode #8 — The Lost City of Z (2016)

‘The Lost City of Z’ is a screenplay about the now little-known British explorer Percy Fawcett, who led a remarkable life, searching the Amazon rainforest for the ruins of the lost city at a time when most who ventured into the jungle never returned alive. But the screenplay covers so much more than that, and is primarily concerned with the monumental changes that occurred in the concepts of ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’ in the early years of the last century, as well as the impact a life like Fawcett’s can have on the family back home. We discuss the important themes that the screenplay addresses, and our personal experiences that shape our view of the story.

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So much of life is a mystery, my boy. We know so little of this world. But you and I have made a journey that other men cannot even imagine. And this has given understanding to our hearts.
— Percy Fawcett
 

Episode #7 — Ruin (2017 Draft)

SPOILER-FREE EPISODE. Set in post-war Germany, ‘Ruin’ led The 21st Rewrite to discuss the nature of hatred and redemption, the power of weaponized technology to cause mass suffering, Kurt Vonnegut’s testimony from that time, how the generations of the future will perceive the Holocaust in the absence of living memory, and the responsibilities of the screenwriter when dealing with the truth and fiction of these topics. Selected as the most-liked unproduced screenplay of 2017 by the Black List, ‘Ruin’ is the inspiration for another fascinating conversation.

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A wasteland of burnt fields and demolished buildings. Everything as far as we can see is ashes and ruin.
— Scene description, Ruin
 

Episode #6 — Silence (2016)

‘Silence’ is a story that is meant to be pondered over and talked about with your friends. With a profound understanding of the meaning of faith, suffering and the struggle to choose the right path in life, ‘Silence’ is a masterpiece that led to The 21st Rewrite's most detailed and engaging analysis yet. We compare the screenplay to the original novel by the Catholic Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo, and consider Scorcese and Cocks' process of adaptation that took over two decades to do service to the source material.

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The weight of your silence is terrible. I pray, but I’m lost. Or am I just praying to nothing? Nothing. Because you’re not there.
— Sebastião Rodrigues
 

Episode #5 — Manchester by the Sea (2016)

The 21st Rewrite (William Coldwell and Alan Vazquez) are back to discuss the screenplay for ‘Manchester by the Sea’, which was written by Kenneth Lonergan. He then directed this film set in the Bay State seaside town of the same name, which started Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams and won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 2016. Our conversation covers how the screenplay conveys the sense of character and relationships that are built up over the course of the narrative and how personal tragedies can be written in a realistic way.

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I can’t beat it. I can’t beat it.
— Lee Chandler
 

Episode #3 — Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ makes for a fascinating case study of a writer working with the spirit of a rich novel and adapting it into a screenplay that tells a much-changed but still familiar story - which made it a perfect candidate for The 21st Rewrite (William Coldwell and Alan Vazquez) to analyse this week. We consider the original source material (‘Q&A’ by Vikas Swarup) and compare it to Simon Beaufoy's script and the final version of the story as presented in Danny Boyle's film. It is ultimately a tale of triumph, set against the background of modernising India, starring Dev Patel as Jamal Malik, the boy who dares to dream that he can win the love of his childhood sweetheart against all odds.

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Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 million rupees. How did he do it? (A) He cheated (B) He’s lucky (C) He’s a genius (D) It is written.
— Title Card
 

Episode #2 — Roma (2018)

We were so excited to talk about Alfonso Cuarón’s new film, we put our other episodes and research on hold to focus entirely on this one. This is the first Spanish-language screenplay that we have evaluated (don’t worry, the episode is entirely in English) hopefully with more to come for those that wish to learn more about Spanish and Latin American films. The protagonist is a young indigenous woman working as a maid for a middle class family in the Colonia Roma in Mexico City in the turbulent 1970s — the story written by Alfonso Cuarón is a unique combination of memory, magic and the tragedy of life itself. Filmed entirely in black and white and featuring exceptional performances by Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, it is a triumph of artistic cinema.

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Estamos solas. No importa lo que te digan, siempre estamos solas
— Sofía
 

Episode #1 — Steve Jobs (2015)

In our inaugural episode, we take a look at Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for ‘Steve Jobs’ (2015), directed by Danny Boyle. This film seemed to fly under the radar, perhaps due to the fact that it was based on the same person’s life as the less warmly received ‘Jobs’ (2013), but it was incredibly well-written and featured some great performances from Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet. We consider the how the screenplay draws on the source material - Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs’ life - and the interesting techniques Sorkin used to bring that material to life on screen and his usage of the dramatic form.

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It’s not binary. You can be gifted and decent at the same time.
— Steve Wozniak