Damien Chazelle, Barry Jenkins And More Oscar-Nominated Screenwriters Share The Most Ridiculous Notes Given To Them By Studio Execs

“He’s Good At Drumming, We Get It”

Ah, the good ol’ Hollywood executive. It seems that behind every successful screenwriter in Hollywood comes a story about a crotchety studio exec who wants to give every film a PG-13 in order to collect as many pennies as possible, regardless of what interfering excessively may do to the writing process. This year’s Academy Award-nominated screenwriters including La La Land‘s Damien Chazelle and Moonlight‘s Barry Jenkins shared some of the most ridiculous notes they have received for their works.

These attempts at corrections range from Andrew (Miles Teller) playing the drums too much in Chazelle’s 2014 Oscar-nominated film about a young man attempting to achieve greatness by playing the drums, Whiplash, and there being too much math in Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder‘s Hidden Figures.

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‘Mad Men’ [Credit: amc]

Check out some of the most revealing stories from this year’s other writing nominees stated during the annual Writers Guild of America Beyond Words panel.


1. Eric Heisserer (Screenwriter For ‘Arrival’)

The screenwriter for this year’s sci-fi hit Arrival, mentions pitching an idea to an exec who was not a fan of the prospective characters:

“It was the start of a pitch [and] I said ‘There’s a spy and his wife.’ The executive said, ‘There is no wife. Continue.’”

| Click here for my review of ‘Arrival’ |

2. Barry Jenkins (‘Moonlight’)

Jenkins’ revelation is short and sweet, particularly following the OscarsSoWhite controversy of last year:

“So, where are the white people?”

Arrival‘s Heisserer jumped in and replied, “in the audience.” The quick quip received a big laugh from the audience.

3. Damien Chazelle (‘La La Land’)

This year’s BAFTA recipient for Best Director for La La Land is no stranger when it comes to creating films that utilize music to convey its message. Whiplash‘s Chazelle describes the note that could have potentially diminished the tension-filled effect of that entire final sequence:

“[Whiplash] ends with a kind of long drum solo, which was the whole point of making the movie. And the note was to get rid of all that. The note was written out — ‘He’s good at drumming. We get it.’”

| Click here for my review of ‘La La Land’ |

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‘Whiplash’ [Credit: Sony]

4. Allison Schroeder (‘Hidden Figures’)

As one half of the Hidden Figures screenwriting duo, Schroeder mentions pitching an idea for a female-led espionage thriller. An idea the exec loved, however they wanted to make just a few changes:

“I was really excited, I was pitching this thriller with two female leads, about espionage. [The executive] said, ‘Oh! We love it! It’s great. Can you either change it to incest or two men? I said, “If you’ll really hire me? Yes.’”

5. Theodore Melfi (‘Hidden Figures’)

Now comes the director and second half of the screenwriting duo for this year’s surprise hit details two hilarious moments he experienced during the process of writing Hidden Figures. The first one has an exec asking if a film about NASA engineers could cool it with the arithmetic:

“Most of the notes you get are from actors. They’re bad. This one studio [Fox Searchlight] person said, ‘Do we have to have so much math?’ So I pretended to be interested but, no, it’s about math.”

The second involves Kevin Costner, who gives a brilliant performance as the leader of the Space Task Group, Al Harrison, and his inquiry about the possibility of a receding hairline:

“And then Kevin Costner calls me one night and says, ‘I’ve been thinking about a receding hairline.’ I said, ‘OK. Why?’ He said, ‘I just think this guy would have a receding hairline.’ And so I call the studio because I love to torture them, and said, ‘Kevin Costner wants a receding hairline,’ and they flip out, saying ‘We want Kevin Coster just the way he is!’ So I went back to Kevin and said everyone at the the studio thinks it will make you look old. He went, ‘Oh. Can I chew gum?’”

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‘Hidden Figures’ [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

6. Kenneth Lonergan (‘Manchester By The Sea’)

Manchester By The Sea‘s Kenneth Lonergan reveals going into a trance when execs give him notes, an idea I am sure many of us can relate to when dealing with our higher-ups:

“I’m trying to think of a really bad note that I’ve gotten, but for the past 20 years when executives give me notes I go into a kind of self-induced hypnotic trance in which I just nod and say… ‘Oh that’s interesting.’ I pitched a comedy once and someone said, ‘Where’s the fun?’ I said I didn’t know.”

7. Taylor Sheridan (‘Hell Or High Water’)

The screenwriting genius behind 2015’s Sicario and this year’s Hell Or High Water gives a hilarious insight into his psyche when notes are given to him:

“I’m with [Manchester’s Lonergan]. When I start getting notes, it just starts to sound like the teacher from the Peanuts cartoon.”

Sheridan goes on to detail an experience he had pitching a pilot for amc. His recollection includes immense confusion from both parties and sheer frustration from the talented screenwriter… Just give him the notes, damn it!:

“I was in a meeting, I wrote this pilot for AMC, and we’re all sitting there and they’re giving me all their notes and I’m listening and at one point I say, ‘What the f— are you people talking about?’ And they said, ‘Taylor, you have to look for the note within the note.’ I said, ‘OK, but why don’t you just give me the note?’ They looked at me dead seriously and said, ‘Well we don’t know what the note is.’”

8. Todd Black (producer of ‘Fences’)

The producer of this year’s Denzel Washington and Viola Davis collaboration, Fences mentions working on this year’s remake of The Magnificent Seven, starring Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke. According to Black, certain execs believe a Western could possibly work better with no cowboy hats and facial hair:

“We made a Western called ‘The Magnificent Seven’ [with Sony Pictures]. And the biggest note in development and shooting it was, ‘Do they have to wear cowboy hats and have facial hair?’ And I said, ‘Do you not want them not to have horses either?’ That was a huge note on a daily basis.”

| Click here for my review of ‘Fences’ |

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‘Parks and Rec’ [Credit: NBC]

9. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (‘Deadpool’)

Although it didn’t receive an Oscar nomination, the writing minds behind last year’s colossal (thank you) hit Deadpool once envisioned a parody of the classic HBO series, The Sopranos… Only replace the mobsters with nutritious food! The execs apparently loved it, however they seemed to have missed out on the entire point of it:

“We wrote a parody of ‘The Sopranos’ called ‘The Tomatoes.’ It was all fruits and vegetables in the leads. it was the Tomatoes vs. The Bananas. The note came back, ‘We love it, but do they have to be fruits and vegetables?’”

| Click here for my review of ‘Deadpool’ |

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‘The Sopranos’ [Credit: HBO]
Source: TheWrap
featured image source: Sony Pictures

Fret not, movie buffs! The 89th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be presented on February 26th, 2017.

Which Film Are You Hoping Takes The Best Writing Honors?

Did You Spot Any Of These During Your First Watch? Check Out All The Film References Made In ‘La La Land’!

It is no surprise that this year’s incredible addition to the musical genre, La La Land drew inspiration from a myriad of other iconic musicals. These include such classics ranging from Singin’ In The Rain to West Side Story, with hints of Grease sprinkled throughout and a whole lot of Fred and Ginger.

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‘Face The Fleet’ | [RKO Pictures]
Sara Preciado decided to take these various inspirations and edit a side-by-side comparison between certain sequences in the contemporary La La Land with its classic counterparts all set to the instrumental tune of “Another Day Of Sun.” The result will make you want to spend an entire day sitting in front of your couch rocking a movie musical marathon.

Check Out The Side-By-Side Comparison Below:


How Often Are Certain References Made?

  • Singin’ In The Rain (1952) is, of course, one of the main inspirations/draws for La La Land because of those vibrant, beautiful colors and the fantastic chemistry between Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. The “Lovely Night” sequence started off with a nod to Kelly’s titular dance and it particularly showcased Ryan Gosling‘s musical chops.
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[MGM]
  • There are also numerous parallels with West Side Story (1961), particularly during the “Someone In The Crowd” sequence wherein Mia’s (Emma Stone) friends convince her to attend this extravagant party. Plus, the “City Of Stars” sequence where Sebastian (Gosling) is just singing along without a care in a world is just like Tony (Richard Beymer) felt singing about “Maria.”
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[United Artists]
  • Any fan of the musical genre who watched La La Land immediately caught on to the numerous inspired sequences that drew from the masters themselves, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. From the park bench scene in Shall We Dance (1937) to that hint of On The Town (1941) and that glorious Broadway Melody of 1940, we loved those talented men during the Golden Age of Hollywood and we certainly would not mind seeing more of them in the present.
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[Summit Entertainment] 

Other References Include:

  • An American In Paris (1951)
  • The Bandwagon (1953)
  • La ballon rouge (1956)
  • Funny Face (1957)
  • Les parapluies des Cherbourg (1964)
  • Les demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)
  • Sweet Charity (1969)
  • Grease (1978)
  • Boogie Nights (1997)
  • Moulin Rogue (2001)

| La La Land (2016) Review |

Did you catch all the references made on your first watch of ‘La La Land’?


Check Out The Following For More:

La La Land (2016): A Captivatingly Beautiful Work That Solidifies My Love For The Musical (Review)

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‘La La Land’ | Summit Entertainment
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La La Land tells the story of aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they experience the various highs and incredible lows the City of Stars may grant you. It also stars John Legend and JK Simmons and is directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash).


My Thoughts On The Characters And Story

Back in September, I wrote a piece entitled “La La Land Is Gearing Up To Be One Of The Best Movies Of The Year” because of all the immense buzz the film was generating at various film festivals, particularly at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I didn’t get a chance to watch the film until last night, a few weeks after its initial release. The main reason for the delay being every time we wanted to watch it, the suitable showtime would be all sold out. After finally getting a chance to watch it, I can safely say this is my favourite movie of 2016. I loved every single second of La La Land.

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‘La La Land’ | Summit Entertainment

I think a major reason why I enjoyed it as much as I did is because of how huge of a fan I am of those iconic musicals, specifically the classic Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pairings and Singin’ In The Rain, easily my favourite musical of all time. Those who aren’t generally a fan of musicals can certainly enjoy this film for its beautiful portrayal of the relationship between Mia and Sebastian, however the way the musical aspect is incorporated into it is absolutely brilliant. The incorporation of the music to progress the story along is utilized flawlessly, I would argue perfectly. Using songs to transition between scenes can either be executed beautifully or awkwardly and I am happy to say I believe La La Land falls into the former. Musicals can be seen as jarring because people randomly decide to start singing, however there was never a moment in La La Land where I felt the random burst of song was unwarranted. Each respective song enhanced the sequenced immensely plus the music used to illustrate the state of their relationship is showcased wonderfully.

The depiction of success, failure and how long it may take to reach that level of success one strives (or not!) are themes the film deals with through immaculate cinematography and music. The relationship between Stone and Gosling drives this film and because of how fleshed out they are, you feel for them if they hit rock bottom. You want to see both succeed in this industry that truly stomps on more dreams than grants them. SPOILER/MINOR ISSUE I felt like Keith (Legend) offering Sebastian the role of pianist for The Messengers was a tiny bit contrived, however it ultimately didn’t bother me as much since they already had an established prior relationship and Keith is aware of Sebastian’s skills and talent on the piano. END SPOILER.

There Are More Than Enough Disgustingly Stunning Visuals

From the very beginning with that Cinemascope shot to its final moments, I was genuinely in awe for most of this film because of how beautiful it looked. Chazelle’s impeccable direction manages to showcase as much as he possibly can by involving the rich atmosphere that ultimately becomes a character itself. Sequences that follow that tracking shot motif by focusing the camera on a character and just following them through certain instances is just so enjoyable to watch, damn it! Here is a taste of some of my favourite shots from the trailers that were so incredible to view on the big screen:

Let’s Talk About The Music…

Guys. If anything, listen to the soundtrack of this film because it is easily one of my favourite movie soundtracks. Certain jazz riffs of course reminded me of Chazelle’s 2014 Oscar-winner for Best Supporting Actor, Whiplash and every song is written and performed fantastically. The music composer for WhiplashJustin Hurwitz composed the music for La La Land and Chazelle has found a keeper because thus far, their collaborations is 2/2 for perfection in music.

Hurwitz’s ‘Epilogue’ Encapsulates All The Glorious Sounds:

I can only hope that more filmmakers follow suit and create new worlds that follow the musical formula because I had such an enjoyable experience with La La Land. Damien Chazelle’s ability to portray individuals struggling through music is remarkable and I simply cannot wait to see what he directs next.

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If you’re tired of my gushing and want to see fantastical musical numbers in a beautiful world, not to mention Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling absolutely killing it on the singing front, do a hop and a skip over to your theatre and watch La La Land.

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‘La La Land’ | Summit Entertainment

For More Fun, Tap Your Way Over (sorry) To The Following:


La La Land receives a coveted 5/5 Matt Damon heads.

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Hey Girl… Prepare To Blast Off With Ryan Gosling As He Is Set To Star In Upcoming Neil Armstrong Biopic

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for this Canadian heartthrob as Ryan Gosling has signed on to star in Damien Chazelle‘s upcoming biopic on the most famous astronaut in the world.

Universal Pictures Presents ‘First Man’

The handsome and talented actor will reteam with his La La Land director for First Man, a Universal Pictures biopic centered on Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who became the first man to set foot on the moon. Apparently Gosling has been interested in the project since late 2015, however a finalized deal was reached in December.

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Photo: The Hollywood Reporter

According to studio sources, the film will aim to tell the story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, specifically the years 1961 to 1969. The goal is to explore the sacrifices and the cost — on Armstrong and on the nation — of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

The film will adapt the James Hansen book, First Man: A Life of Neil A. Armstrong and in case you’re feeling any type of initial hesitation, writer Josh Singer is set to pen the script… Singer was the Oscar-winning co-writer of the 2015 Best Picture winner, Spotlight, so I think the script is in good hands.

Chazelle Is A Fan Of Gosling’s Work Ethic

In an interview with the American Film Institute (AFI) for this year’s critical darling, La La Land, Chazelle complimented Gosling on his persistence in learning how to actually play the piano for the role. He revealed how surprised he was that Gosling managed to “[nail] every single piece” in the film despite not knowing how to play at all prior to shooting!

Watch The Chazelle Clip Below:

Chazelle clearly enjoyed working with Gosling on his third ever feature film directing gig, so it will be interesting to see how he tackles Armstrong, space and more Gosling!

Source: [The Hollywood Reporter]

Are You Looking Forward To Some Astronaut Gosling?

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“Yes”

See Also:

‘La La Land’ Is Gearing Up To Be One Of The Best Movies Of The Year

With Emma Stone recently nabbing the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival and critics absolutely adoring it, the Damien Chazelle-directed La La Land is shaping up to be easily one of the biggest hits of 2016. Other actresses who have won the Coppa Volpi for Best Actress have gone on to receive Academy Award nominations for their respective roles, these include Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven (2002), Helen Mirren in The Queen (2006) and Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There (2007). Plus it is the third Ryan Gosling/Emma Stone collaboration, the first two being Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and everyone’s favourite gangster flick, Gangster Squad (2013), so you are guaranteed at least a bit of chemistry in this character-driven picture.

This ode to Hollywood, with its ability to make all of one’s dreams come true then take it all away in an instant, has been a critical darling thus far and the following are reasons why I believe it will receive immense love come December and beyond.

Just watch its beautiful-looking trailer:


Fantastic Critical Reviews Can Never Hurt

La La Land is currently sitting at a 96% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 8.6/10 and 25 reviews thus far. As someone currently living in Toronto as TIFF is progressing, the buzz around town for this movie is insane. It could be that everyone was super stoked to see King Canada aka Ryan Gosling possibly show up for its premiere, however I’m sure the incredible word for this film may have something to do with the buzz.

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just… so… darn… HANDSOME

The Release Date Is Perfect

The film is scheduled for a limited release on December 2nd, 2016, and its wide release being December 16th. You know what other movie is set for wide release that weekend? ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

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Do you know one of best, and most surprising, ways a movie can possibly make money? Go head-to-head against a Star War and no, I am not taking crazy pills.

Last year, the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters and Alvin And The Chipmunks 18: How Are They Still Making These Things? both came out opening weekend against Star Wars: The Force Awakens… When every possible screening was sold out for The Force Awakens, people with children took them to see Alvin and others who don’t need to worry about keeping another human alive went to laugh away their sadness at missing Star Wars by watching Sisters.

The result? Sisters made more than $100 million worldwide and Alvin made almost $235 million. Counter-programming is a disgusting beauty and when moviegoers are left with deciding what to watch, they may check out Rogue One next week since it was sold out and watch that new Ryan Gosling/Emma Stone movie tonight.

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The Pairing Of Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling

People love watching these two together on-screen. Granted, the aforementioned Gangster Squad was not loved by many, however an aspect to the film many may agree on is that the chemistry between Stone and Gosling is heavily present in everything they do.

To watch a film that seems to take inspiration from the classic Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire musical pairing attracts not only lovers of classic Hollywood, but modern-day audiences as well who may not be familiar with the talents of Rogers/Astaire and are left with a surprise love of a genre they never really gave a second thought to…

Plus the added benefit of all the swoons you’ll hear in the theatre when they sing to one another.

See below for Gosling singing. Caution: pregnancy may occur. 

Damien Chazelle’s Direction

2014’s Whiplash, a film that explored the relationship between an ambitious young jazz drummer and his mildly eccentric music instructor, was directed by Chazelle that received immense critical acclaim and made me have occasional heart palpitations during my watch…

If Chazelle could take even half the intensity he brought to Whiplash and channel it toward anything in La La Land, we are going to be left with a fantastic picture. The word-of-mouth could spread to those who aren’t even fans of the musical genre about how amazing this movie is and cause even semi-interested parties to give it a chance.

Are you guys excited to watch La La Land this December or do you have no strong feelings one way or the other?

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