A film begins life as a screenplay… As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio, Daniel Dercksen is a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years.  This page celebrates screenwriters and their respective journeys of bringing great stories to life on film.

The Art & Craft Of Writing Films /

2023 Film Releases / December Releases / Films On DVD

The Metropolitan Opera’s award-winning series of live high-definition cinema simulcasts continues with Anthony Davis’s groundbreaking and influential opera X: The Life and Times Of Malcolm X. In cinemas from 15 Dec

Director Todd Hayes found Samy Burch’s screenplay for May December exceptional. It navigated potentially volatile subject matter with a kind of observational patience, it simmered with moral and narrative ambiguity which, as a film, would enlist the viewer into an active and excited state of watching and questioning. It explores one of the great talents of the human species: our colossal refusal to look at ourselves. Now in cinemas

Filmmaker Eli Roth’s ode to 80s slasher-horror Thanksgiving began in 2006 when he created a fake trailer that would appeal to the grindhouse crowd. 17 years later horror fans were still begging for the best horror movie never made. Now in cinemas

There’s some thrilling and captivating films, documentaries, live theatre and opera for everyone to escape into during December in South African cinemas and streaming platforms. Read more

Visionary writer-director Terrence Malick masterfully shines the spotlight on humanity with A Hidden Life. It is based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant farmer born and raised in the village of St. Radegund, who refused to take the oath of allegiance to Hitler during World War II, sacrificing everything, including his life, rather than to fight for the Nazis. On Disney +

The blockbuster Hunger Games saga has thrilled and captured the imaginations of audiences around the world for over 15 years. Now, audiences will finally see how this world came to be, through the origin story of Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. Now in Cinemas

Screenwriter David Scarpa’s craft lies in writing material with psychological themes that lend themselves to a sweeping cinematic experience.  With Napoleon, he uses real-life characters as a vehicle to illuminate broader themes about the human condition. Now in cinemas

Writer-director James Napier Robertson is well-versed in dramatisations of real-life stories. He readily admits, “There’s always a pressure and responsibility when telling a story about a real person.’ The fascinating story of Joy Womack, who made history as an American ballerina who was accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Academy drew his interest, and after meeting Joy, he became utterly inspired to tell her remarkable story with Joika. Now in Cinemas

Following winning an Oscar for best original screenplay for Good Will Hunting, their first screenplay which they wrote together, and a friendship of over 40 years, Bostonians Matt Damon and Ben Affleck re-team for the screenplay of The Last Duel, a historical epic based on actual events that unravels long-held assumptions about France’s last sanctioned duel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two friends turned bitter rivals. Watch on Disney Plus

Based on the national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, Knock at the Cabin was adapted by director M. Night Shyamalan. In his hands, the film explores ideas behind faith and belief, certainty and doubt, and the power and limits of both. Watch on Showmax

Andrew Kevin Walker

“I liked the idea of exploring the inner psyche of somebody who kills for a living. And how he qualifies his notion of what he’s doing from what other people might ‘misperceive’ it as.” says director David Fincher of The Killer, who re-unites with screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, with whom he created the indelible serial killer thriller Se7en. Watch on Netflix

For the inspirational Nyad that marks the narrative directorial debut of Academy Award-winning documentary filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, they teamed up with screenwriter Julia Cox to adapt he memoir “Find a Way” by Diana Nyad. Now on Netflix

“This is an incredibly timely story. Thematically it’s about finding light in times of darkness,” says screenwriter Steven Knight on the decision to adapt All the Light We Cannot See for television. “There’s just a very hopeful feeling about it, that hope will triumph over evil in the end.” Watch on Netflix

“So, my apartment is currently being haunted by the ghost of a dead child and he’s trying to kill me,” said Former BuzzFeed cartoonist Adam Ellis in the viral ghost thread dubbed “Dear David.” From there, he unfolded the tale through hundreds of tweets — with photographs and hand-drawn images — over a series of weeks, his followers rapt with each update. So naturally, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling. Now the Dear David film is a reality, from a screenplay by Mike Van Waes, who loves to blend heart and humour with a slash of horror. Now in cinemas

Producer Chris Curling is the lead producer on the film and was first sent the script for The Miracle Club twenty years ago. The screenplay, written by Dubliner Jimmy Smallhorne says his inspiration for the film came from his Mam and all other women who were the best multitaskers. “We all have our jobs to make our little piece better, and I think The Miracle Club is my attempt to make my patch a little better”. Now in cinemas

John Lee Hancock, directing and producing The Little Things from a script he wrote almost 30 years ago, wanted to approach the gritty nature of the job as a means of exploring both the intellectual and psychological sides of solving crimes. 

Wells Tower

“I was just astounded by this incredible story,” says screenwriter Wells Tower after reading a New York Times article, “The Pain Hustlers,” by journalist Evan Hughes about the dubious practices of a pharmaceutical company and the doctors they had convinced to prescribe their new drugs. Pain Hustlers streams on Watch on Netflix

Evan Hughes

Nearly a decade ago, game developer Scott Cawthon had an epiphany and created point-and-click survival game Five Nights at Freddy’s that was optioned by producer Jason Blum, founder of the undisputed global house of horror, Blumhouse, who believed that it was possible to make a successful film from the beloved game franchise. Now in cinemas

Now in his fifth decade making movies, Spanish writer-director Pedro Almodóvar is still pushing himself to explore new directions in his art while at the same time staying true to his playfully provocative roots, exploring the nature of Spanish identity. He originally floated the idea for his latest film Parallel Mothers to Penélope Cruz when promoting All About My Mother over 20 years ago. Now on Showmax.

“It just tapped into such a shared truth for women of every generation in terms of how they navigate through sexual politics,” says screenwriter Michelle Ashford, who had previously tackled sexual dynamics and politics in the television series Masters Of Sex. in adapting Cat Person, Ashford was eager to jump into the minefield of issues that the short story suggested. Now in cinemas.

Killers of the Flower Moon is an epic Western crime saga, where real love crosses paths with unspeakable betrayal. It is directed by Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese from a screenplay by Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese, based on David Grann’s best-selling book. Now in cinemas

For screenwriter Mark Bomback it was a gift to adapt Garth Stein’s beloved novel The Art Of Racing In The Rain, which features a wise and philosophical dog who longs to be reincarnated as a human. Watch on Disney Plus

“I love this movie because it has two things that sometimes people think are opposites,” says Jodie Foster of the thriller Money Monster “One is that it’s a mainstream thriller that’s exciting, fast-paced, smart, and yet, still has a real accessibility.  The flip side, which is the most important reason to go to the movies, is that you’re moved by a real story.  It’s incredibly relevant.” Now on Showmax

“I was very interested in a story about destiny and humanity,” says visionary storyteller Guillermo del Toro, who journeys into the most arrestingly dark, sweeping and realistic world – the cinematic world of film noir with Nightmare Alley, exploring the murky lines between illusion and reality, desperation and control, success, and tragedy. Now on Disney +

Crimson Peak is “the darkest of fairytales,” says filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who brings to the screen a masterful and imaginative Gothic romance. Watch on Showmax

50 years since the blockbuster’s theatrical launch, The Exorcist: Believer marks a new beginning that takes audiences into the darkest heart of inexplicable evil. shocking audiences around the world. Now, a new chapter begins. From Blumhouse and director David Gordon Green, who shattered the status quo with their resurrection of the Halloween franchise, comes The Exorcist: Believer. In cinemas 6 Oct

Producer Jason Blum talks about The Exorcist: Believer

“How do you make a film where the feeling you’re trying to evoke is ‘not knowing’?” questions writer-director Grant Singer. “Mysteries that are most resonant and lasting are the most hidden.  Reptile began with a desire to capture a feeling of being deceived. Now on Netflix

“It made sense for John to do some soul-searching in a way we haven’t seen before, ” says screenwriter Josh Stolberg, who co-wrote the screenplay of SAW X with Pete Goldfinger. Now in Cinemas

Artificial Intelligence (AI), is one of today’s most hotly debated topics and is at the epicenter of The Creator, a science fiction thriller set in the near future. “The Timing of this film is surreal,” says director/co-writer Gareth Edwards. “Even though we’ve been developing this movie for years, it’s opening at a fascinating time when our world is wrestling with a lot of the issues and questions we wanted to address with the film.” Now in Cinemas / AI Films

Almost 20 years ago writer-director Wes Anderson was inspired to adapt Roald Dahl’s story The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. “ The story completely hooked me as a child, but if you take away his words, well, I guess, it’s not a movie I felt compelled to do. It’s a great Dahl story, but if I do it using his words, his descriptions, then maybe I know how to do it.” Watch on Netflix

When writer-director Celine Song found herself sitting at a bar sandwiched between two men from vastly different parts of her life, it was there, sitting in this convergence of worlds, that Song, a mainstay in New York theater as a playwright, found the inspiration for what would become her filmmaking debut, Past Lives. Now in cinemas

“After really showcases an authentic romance and all of its beauty and all of its ugliness at the same time,” says writer-director Castille Landon, who directed After Ever Happy and After Everything of the After franchise. “It feels really real and relevant and I think we’re so exposed to this concept of a fairy tale romance that when you get into the real world, you find that’s not at all how things are.” After Everything is now showing in cinemas (Watch the After franchise on Showmax)

“At the heart of our vision for Luma Animation and for Headspace, is the notion that everyone deserves to be the hero of their own story, not forgetting that, ultimately, we rely on the support of friends and collaborators to triumph,” Paul Meyer and Gerhard Painter, who directed this vibrant South African CGI Sci-Fi action-adventure from a screenplay they co-wrote with Daniel Buckland and Ronald Henry. Now in cinemas / South African Filmmaking

“There is nothing more haunted than a Venetian palazzo, the city just calls for mist and masks, and the creepy crawly, throw-a-body-in-the-river kind of feel, ” says screenwriter Michael Green of A Haunting In Venice, an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel Hallowe’en Party, directed by Kenneth Branagh. Now in cinemas

Michael Green also crafted the screenplays for Murder On The Orient Express and Death On The Nile, both directed by Kenneth Branagh / On Disney Plus.

The inspiration for the high concept horror Talk To Me came from observing neighbourhood kids growing up and marks the debut feature film from Australian twins Danny and Michael Philippou, best known as online global sensations RACKARACKA, with more than 1.5 billion views on YouTube. Now in cinemas

TV Series

“It’s a police-procedural show that shifts and transforms from moment to moment so you never know what’s coming next, says Paul Tomalin, creator and lead writer of the series Bodies, based on the mind-bending graphic novel by Si Spencer. Now on Netflix

Encounters is a landmark four-part series that travels the globe to explore four extraordinary true stories of encounters with otherworldly phenomena. Watch Netflix.


Although AI is now a reality, it started life as speculative fiction a century ago when German writer Thea von Harbou wrote Metropolis.  Read more

Kings have ruled the imagination of readers and audiences since King Sargon of Akkad ruled over a rich Mesopotamian Empire circa 2330 BCE. Read more

Listed Alphabetically (From January – 1 December)


1960 was a passion project for SAFTA-winning and Annie Award-nominated composer Bruce Retief who drew on the spirit of the greats of Sophiatown with director King Shaft. Read more / Now on Showmax

57 SECONDS – Tech blogger Franklin Fausti (Josh Hutcherson) is set for a once-in-a-lifetime interview with
Anton Burrell (Morgan Freeman), a visionary tech guru at his newest product launch.
Suddenly, Franklin thwarts an assassination attempt, saving Burrell’s life, and in the
aftermath, Franklin picks up a mysterious ring that Burrell has dropped. Franklin soon
discovers the ring allows its possessor to travel 57 seconds into the past. A rewind button.
It doesn’t take him long to shift the odds in his favor: he seduces his new girlfriend Julia and
takes easy money in casinos. Read more

65 – After a cataclysmic crash on an unknown planet, pilot Mills (Adam Driver) quickly discovers he’s actually stranded on Earth… 65 million years ago. Now, with only one chance at rescue, Mills and the only other survivor, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), must make their way across an unknown terrain riddled with dangerous prehistoric creatures in an epic fight to survive. Read more

A GOOD PERSON – Allison is a young woman with a wonderful fiance, a blossoming career, and supportive family and friends. However, her world crumbles in the blink of an eye when she survives an unimaginable tragedy, emerging from recovery with an opioid addiction and unresolved grief. In the following years, she forms an unlikely friendship with her would-be father-in-law that gives her a fighting chance to put her life back together and move forward. Written, directed, and produced by Zach Braff, it stars Florence Pugh, Molly Shannon, Chinaza Uche, Celeste O’Connor, and Morgan Freeman. Read more

A HAUNTING IN VENICE – It is all Hallows’ Eve in an eerie Venice in the years following World War II, where celebrated sleuth, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), now resides, retired, and living in self-imposed exile. Poirot receives a visit from an old friend, the world’s number-one mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), who has something she just has to show him, and promises it is not a crime. She wants
him to join her at a séance and help her prove that it is not real. When one of the guests is
murdered, the guests in attendance are all considered suspects, thrusting the Belgian detective
into a sinister world of shadows and secrets. Read more

A MAN CALLED OTTO – Based on the # 1 New York Times bestseller A Man Called Ove, A Man Called Otto tells the story of Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks), a grump who no longer sees purpose in his life following the loss of his wife. Otto is ready to end it all, but his plans are interrupted when a lively young family moves in next door, and he meets his match in quick-witted Marisol – she challenges him to see life differently, leading to an unlikely friendship that turns his world around. A heartwarming and funny story about love, loss, and life, A Man Called Otto shows that family can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places. Read more

ABOUT MY FATHER – Celebrated stand-up comedian Sebastian Maniscalco wanted to make a movie about his father and co-wrote the screenplay for About My Father, starring with legendary Italian-American two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro in a comedy about a man who is encouraged by his fiancée to bring his immigrant, hairdresser father to a weekend get-together with her super-rich and exceedingly eccentric family. Read more

AIR – The film reveals the unbelievable game-changing partnership between a then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand. This inspirational story follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent, and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time. Directed by Ben Affleck, the film stars Matt Damon as Nike’s basketball expert, Sonny Vaccaro; Ben Affleck as Nike founder and CEO, Phil Knight; Jason Bateman (Ozark) as Rob Strasser and Viola Davis as Michael’s mother, Deloris Jordan. Read more

AFTER EVERYTHING – The fifth and final installment of the After franchise finds Hardin (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin) struggling to move forward. Besieged by writer’s block and the crushing breakup with Tessa, Hardin travels to Portugal in search of a woman he wronged in the past – and to find himself. Hoping to win back Tessa (Josephine Langford), he realizes he needs to change his ways before he can make the ultimate commitment. Read more

ALISON / ANGELIENA – Director-writer-producer Uga Carlini changed lives in a profound way with the poignant documentary Alison and, her inspirational and life-affirming film Angeliena. Watch Alison on showmax.com / Watch Angeliena on Netflix.

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE – Relentlessly pursued by a cruel Gestapo officer who seeks to possess the stone for his own selfish means, Marie-Laure and her father soon find refuge in St. Malo, where they take up residence with a reclusive uncle who transmits clandestine radio broadcasts as part of the Resistance. Yet here in this once-idyllic seaside city, Marie-Laure’s path also collides with the unlikeliest of kindred spirits: Werner, a brilliant teenager enlisted by Hitler’s regime to track down illegal broadcasts, who instead shares a secret connection to Marie-Laure as well as her faith in humanity and the possibility of hope. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner over the course of a decade, it tells a story of the extraordinary power of human connection — a beacon of light that can lead us through even the darkest of times. Netflix. Read more

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA – Super Heroes Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) return to continue their adventures as Ant-Man and The Wasp. Together, with Hope’s parents Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Scott’s daughter Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), the family finds themselves exploring the Quantum Realm, interacting with strange new creatures and embarking on an adventure that will push them beyond the limits of what they thought possible. Read more

ASSASSINS – South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha (who was born in Durban)  stars opposite Bruce Willis in the action-packed sci-fi thriller Assassins. A private military operation led by (Willis) invents futuristic microchip tech that enables the mind of an agent to inhabit the body of another person to carry out covert, deadly missions. But when an agent (Mustafa Shakir) is killed during a secret mission, his wife (Mbatha) takes his place in an attempt to bring the man responsible to Justice. The film is directed by Jesse Atlas who makes his directorial feature debut. Read more

ASTEROID CITYAsteroid City is a dot-on-the-map desert town in the American Southwest. The year is 1955. The town’s most famous attraction is a gigantic meteor crater and celestial observatory nearby. This weekend, the military and astronomers are welcoming five science award-winning children to display their inventions. Not far away, over the hills, mushroom clouds from atomic tests are seen. What begins as a celebration to honor the achievements of the Junior Stargazers receives an unexpected visitor: an alien. Asteroid City is locked down and a fake cover story is concocted by the Army, but the precocious geniuses, in a way that calls to mind the youngsters of Spielberg classics, have a plan to get the word to the outside world. Read more

BABYLON is an original epic set in 1920s Los Angeles led by Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva, with an ensemble cast including Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo and Li Jun Li. A tale of outsized ambition and outrageous excess, it traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of unbridled decadence and depravity in early Hollywood. Read more

BACK ON THE STRIP – After losing the woman of his dreams, Merlin moves to Las Vegas to pursue work as a magician, only to get hired as the front man in a revival of the notorious Black male stripper crew, The Chocolate Chips in Back On The Strip. Led by Luther — now broke and broken — the old, domesticated, out-of-shape Chips put aside former conflicts and reunite to save the hotel they used to perform in while helping Merlin win back his girl. It stars Spence Moore II, Tiffany Haddish, JB Smoove, Faizon Love, Wesley Snipes, and Kevin Hart, and is directed and co-written by Chris Spencer in his feature film directorial debut. Read more

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN – Set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, it follows lifelong friends Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. A stunned Pádraic, aided by his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and troubled young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan), endeavours to repair the relationship, refusing to take no for an answer. But Pádraic’s repeated efforts only strengthen his former friend’s resolve and when Colm delivers a desperate ultimatum, events swiftly escalate, with shocking consequences. Read more

BARBIE – “As a writer and a director, I’m always looking for a fun challenge, says writer-director Greta Gerwig, who has established herself as one of Hollywood’s most important voices. “Barbie has so much recognition, so much love, and of course a 60-plus-year history, which was exciting for me. As with Little Women, Barbie is a property we all know, but to me she felt like a character with a story to tell, one that I could find a new, unexpected way into, honoring her legacy while making her world feel fresh and alive and modern.” Read more

BEAU IS AFRAID – The surrealist black comedy- horror stars Joaquin Phoenix as the titular character, an anxiety-ridden man who embarks on a surreal odyssey home after his mother suddenly dies, confronting his greatest fears along the way. The film also includes a supporting ensemble cast that includes Nathan Lane, Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan, Kylie Rogers, Parker Posey, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Hayley Squires, Michael Gandolfini, Zoe Lister-Jones, and Richard Kind. It is written, directed, and co-produced by Ari Aster who induced nightmares with his films Hereditary and Midsommar. Read more

BEAUTIFUL DISASTER – Abby Abernathy, a college freshman, is eager to focus on her studies and start a new social life. But her plans are quickly derailed when she meets Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox, a bad-boy brawler and campus playboy. Travis is exactly what Abby needs – and wants – to avoid. The more Abby gets to know Travis, she realizes he lives by a code of honor and isn’t quite the bad boy he appears to be. The more Travis gets to know Abby, he realizes she’s even smarter and more complicated than he thought. The pair struggles to resist their attraction to each other – and ultimately, their friendship heads toward something that will expose Abby’s past and force them to reconcile their true feelings. Read more

BIG GEORGE FORMAN – From Olympic Gold medalist to World Heavyweight champion, boxer George Foreman leads a remarkable life in Big George Forman. He finds his faith, retires and becomes a preacher. When financial hardship hits his family and church, George steps back in the ring and regains the championship at age 45, becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history. This biographical sports drama is directed by George Tillman Jr. and features Khris Davis as Forman. It also stars Jasmine Mathews, John Magaro, Sullivan Jones, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Sonja Sohn, and Forest Whitaker. Read more

BLACK DEMON – Stranded on a crumbling rig in Baja, a family faces off against a vengeful megalodon shark. When oilman Paul Sturges (Josh Lucas) takes his family to Bahia Negra, the crown jewel of Baja their boat is ferociously attacked by a massive black shark. This shark is unlike any other creature; a shark of legend, known as The Black Demon. Under constant attack by the giant monster and with the time literally ticking away, Paul must find a way to somehow get his family back to shore alive. Read more

BLACK PHONE – When 13-year-old Finney (Mason Thames) is abducted by a sadistic man, he discovers that he can communicate with other victims through a mysterious telephone. Meanwhile, his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) has psychic dreams about the kidnapping and is intent on finding her brother. Read more / On Showmax

BLUE BEETLE marks the DC Super Hero’s first time on the big screen. Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armour capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle. Read more

THE BOOGEYMAN – A terrifying entity preys on the suffering of two little sisters who are still reeling from the recent death of their mother in The Boogeyman.  This chilling supernatural horror is  based on the 1973 short story of the same name by Stephen King and directed by Scott Beck. Read more

BOOK CLUB: THE NEXT CHAPTER– In this romantic comedy four elderly best friends take their book club to Italy for the fun girls’ trip they never had. When things go off the rails and secrets are revealed, their relaxing vacation turns into a once-in-a-lifetime cross-country adventure. Read more

BUTTERFLY TALE – This Canadian-German animated feature film is set along the diverse, picturesque, and ever-changing backdrop of the great Monarch butterfly migration. ​A heartwarming tale of a gutsy and loveable yet inept, one-winged butterfly, named Patrick who stows away in a milkweed trailer in order to be part of the journey of a lifetime. With his best friend, a goofy caterpillar named Marty, and Jennifer, a butterfly who is afraid of heights, Patrick will become an unlikely hero. But first he must face his fear, embrace his uniqueness and triumph over adversity while battling changing weather patterns, humans and three evil birds bent on revenge. Read more

CAT PERSON – When Margot, a college sophomore (Emilia Jones – CODA) goes on a date with the older Robert (Nicholas Braun – SUCCESSION, ZOLA), she finds that IRL Robert doesn’t live up to the Robert she has been flirting with over texts. CAT PERSON is a razor-sharp exploration of the gender divide, the quagmire of navigating modern dating and the dangerous projections we make in our minds about the person at the other end of our phones. Read more

CATS IN THE MUSEUM – Inspired by the true story of the legendary four-legged inhabitants at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, this animated film. When Maurice the mouse saves Vincent the cat during a shipwreck, they meet the famous group of cats who has to protect works of art from rodents at the museum. Vincent wants to be one of them, but Maurice is his friend. In Cinemas / Read more about The Hermitage Museum / Hermitage Cats

COCAINE BEAR – Inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner’s plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it, the wild dark comedy COCAINE BEAR finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500- pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow … and blood. Read more

THE CREATOR – Joshua (John David Washington), a hardened ex-special forces agent grieving the disappearance of his wife (Gemma Chan), is recruited to hunt down and kill the Creator, the elusive architect of advanced AI who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war…and mankind itself. Joshua and his team of elite operatives journey across enemy lines, into the dark heart of AI-occupied territory, only to discover the world-ending weapon he’s been instructed to destroy is an AI in the form of a young child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Read more / Writer-director Gareth Edwards talks about what it takes to be a Filmmaker

CREED III – It’s been years since Adonis Creed shocked the world by coming from nowhere to win the heavyweight title his late father, Apollo Creed, and mentor, Rocky Balboa, once held. Having defeated such opponents as Viktor Drago and Danny “Stuntman” Wheeler, Adonis, aka Donnie, has retired as World Heavyweight Champion to run the Delphi Academy with his former cornerman Tony “Little Duke” Burton, with current champ Felix Chavez in residence as Delphi’s star boxer. Read more

DEAD MAN WALKING – American composer Jake Heggie’s compelling masterpiece, the most widely performed new opera of the last 20 years, arrives in cinemas in a haunting new production by Ivo van Hove. Based on Sister Helen Prejean’s memoir about her fight for the soul of a condemned murderer, Dead Man Walking matches the high drama of its subject with Heggie’s beautiful and poignant music and a brilliant libretto by Tony and Emmy Award–winner Terrence McNally. Read more

DEAR DAVID – Shortly after comic artist Adam (Augustus Prew) responds to Internet trolls, he begins experiencing sleep paralysis — while an empty rocking chair moves in the corner of his apartment. As he chronicles increasingly  malevolent occurrences in a series of tweets, Adam begins to believe he is being haunted by the ghost of a dead child named David. Encouraged by his boss to continue the “Dear David” thread, Adam starts to lose his grip on what is online…and what is real. Read more

DEMON SLAYER – In the Anime Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To the Swordsmith Village a teenage boy whose entire family was brutally murdered by a demon while he was away, has to rid the world of monsters, and with the hope of potentially saving his sister, Tanjiro trains for years to become a demon hunter and protect those who can’t fight for themselves. Read more

THE DIVE – Two sisters go diving at a beautiful, remote location. One of the sisters is struck by a rock, leaving her trapped 28 meters below. With dangerously low levels of oxygen and cold temperatures, it is up to her sister to fight for her life. It is directed by Maximilian Erlenwein from a screenplay by Erlenwein and Joachim Hedén. It stars Louisa Krause and Sophie Lowe. Read more / In Cinemas /

DOG – It follows the misadventures of two former Army Rangers paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime. Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois. dog) buckle into a 1984 Ford Bronco and race down the Pacific Coast in hopes of making it to a fellow soldier’s funeral on time. Along the way, they’ll drive each other completely crazy, break a small handful of laws, narrowly evade death, and learn to let down their guards in order to have a fighting chance of finding happiness. On Showmax. Read more

DON’T WORRY DARLING – Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) are lucky to be living in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men who work for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. When cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can’t help questioning exactly what they’re doing in Victory, and why. Just how much is Alice willing to lose to expose what’s really going on in this paradise? Now on Showmax. Read more

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEFS – A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.It brings the rich world and playful spirit of the legendary roleplaying game to the big screen in a hilarious and action-packed adventure. Read more

EL CONDE is a dark comedy/horror that imagines a parallel universe inspired by the recent history of
Chile. The film portrays Augusto Pinochet, a symbol of world fascism, as a vampire who lives hidden in a ruined mansion in the cold southern tip of the continent. Feeding his appetite for evil to sustain his existence. After two hundred and fifty years of life, Pinochet has decided to stop drinking blood and abandon the privilege of eternal life. He can no longer bear that the world remembers him as a thief. Despite the disappointing and opportunistic nature of his family, he finds new inspiration to continue
living a life of vital and counterrevolutionary passion through an unexpected relationship. Read more / On Neflix.

ENCOUNTERS – a landmark four-part series that travels the globe to explore four extraordinary true stories of encounters with otherworldly phenomena. As told from the perspective of firsthand experiences – in the places where the sightings occurred – and guided by cutting-edge scientists and military personnel, the series goes beyond the science to highlight the profoundly human impact of these encounters on lives, families, and communities. Read more / Watch Netflix.

EPIC TAILS -This animated adventure is set in a port city of ancient Greece where the population is threatened by the wrath of Poseidon. A brave young mouse Pattie and the cat who adopted her will help old Jason and his Argonauts to save the city by facing mythical creatures. When Poseidon, god of the sea, steals the golden fleece and threatens mayhem and destruction, it’s plucky pipsqueak Pattie to the rescue. Read more

EMPIRE OF LIGHT – Set in and around a faded old cinema in an English coastal town in the early 1980s, it follows Hilary (Olivia Colman) a cinema manager struggling with her mental health, and Stephen (Micheal Ward), a new employee who longs to escape this provincial town in which he faces daily adversity. Both Hilary and Stephen find a sense of belonging through their unlikely and tender relationship and come to experience the healing power of music, cinema, and community. On Disney Plus Read more

EQUALIZER 3: THE FINAL CHAPTER – In the vigilante action thriller Denzel Washington is back in action as a retired U.S. Marine and former DIA officer. When he moves to Southern Italy to escape from his past, he discovers that his new friends are under the control of the Sicilian Mafia and he unleashes his past self to protect them. It’s the final instalment of the Equalizer trilogy. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film also stars Dakota Fanning, David Denman, Sonia Ammar, and Remo Girone. Read more

THE EXCORCIST: BELIEVER – 50 years since the blockbuster’s theatrical launch, The Exorcist: Believer marks a new beginning that takes audiences into the darkest heart of inexplicable evil. shocking audiences around the world. Now, a new chapter begins. From Blumhouse and director David Gordon Green, who shattered the status quo with their resurrection of the Halloween franchise, comes The Exorcist: BelieverRead more

EXPENDABLES 4 – In this action film the mercenaries are assigned on a mission to stop Rahmat, who runs a terrorist organization, from smuggling nuclear warheads that will ignite a conflict between Russia and the U.S. Directed by Scott Waugh from a screenplay by Kurt Wimmer, Tad Daggerhart, and Max Adams, based on a story by Spenser Cohen, Wimmer, and Daggerhart, it’s the fourth instalment in The Expendables film series and stars an ensemble cast including Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture reprising their roles from previous films, with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Megan Fox and Andy Garcia joining the cast. In Cinemas / Read more about the Expendables Film Series

FAST & FURIOUS 10 (FAST X) – Over many missions and against impossible odds, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family have outsmarted, out-nerved and outdriven every foe in their path. Now, they confront the most lethal opponent they’ve ever faced: A terrifying threat emerging from the shadows of the past who’s fueled by blood revenge, and who is determined to shatter this family and destroy everything—and everyone—that Dom loves, forever. In 2011’s Fast Five, Dom and his crew took out nefarious Brazilian drug kingpin Hernan Reyes and decimated his empire on a bridge in Rio De Janeiro. What they didn’t know was that Reyes’ son, Dante (Aquaman’s Jason Momoa), witnessed it all and has spent the last 12 years masterminding a plan to make Dom pay the ultimate price.  Dante’s plot will scatter Dom’s family from Los Angeles to the catacombs of Rome, from Brazil to London and from Portugal to Antarctica. New allies will be forged and old enemies will resurface. But everything changes when Dom discovers that his own 8-year-old son (Leo Abelo Perry, Black-ish) is the ultimate target of Dante’s vengeance.  Read more

FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S – The film follows Mike (Josh Hutcherson; UltramanThe Hunger Games franchise) a troubled young man caring for his 10-year-old sister Abby (Piper Rubio; Holly & IvyUnstable), and haunted by the unsolved disappearance of his younger brother more than a decade before. Recently fired and desperate for work so that he can keep custody of Abby, Mike agrees to take a position as a night security guard at an abandoned theme restaurant: Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. But Mike soon discovers that nothing at Freddy’s is what it seems. With the aid of Vanessa Shelly, a local police officer (Elizabeth Lail; YouMack & Rita), Mike’s nights at Freddy’s will lead him into unexplainable encounters with the supernatural and drag him into the black heart of an unspeakable nightmare. Read more

THE FLASH – Worlds collide in The Flash when Barry uses his superpowers to travel back in time in order to change the events of the past. But when his attempt to save his family inadvertently alters the future, Barry becomes trapped in a reality in which General Zod has returned, threatening annihilation, and there are no Super Heroes to turn to. That is, unless Barry can coax a very different Batman out of retirement and rescue an imprisoned Kryptonian… albeit not the one he’s looking for. Ultimately, to save the world that he is in and return to the future that he knows, Barry’s only hope is to race for his life. But will making the ultimate sacrifice be enough to reset the universe? Read more

FREELANCE – Ex-special forces operative Mason Pettits (John Cena) is stuck in a dead-end desk job when he’s reluctantly recruited by former military buddy Sebastian Earle (Christian Slater) to take on a simple freelance gig providing security for washed-up journalist Claire Wellington (Alison Brie). He begrudgingly escorts Claire on assignment to interview the ruthless—but impeccably dressed—dictator, Juan Venegas (Juan Pablo Raba), when a military coup breaks out just as she’s about to get the scoop of a lifetime. Now, the unlikely trio must figure out how to survive the jungle AND each other in order to make it out alive! From Pierre Morel, the dynamic director of Taken and Peppermint, Freelance is written by Jacob Lentz. Read more

GOLDA – The film depicts the life of Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel. During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir must navigate overwhelming odds, a sceptical cabinet, and a complex relationship with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as millions of lives hang in the balance. Directed by Guy Nattiv and written by Nicholas Martin, the film stars Helen Mirren, Zed Josef, Claudette Williams, Henry Goodman. Read more

GRAN TURISMO – In Neil Blomkamp’s sports drama Gran Turismo a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills won him a series of Nissan-sponsored video game competitions aspires to be an actual professional race car driver. It is based on the Polyphony Digital racing simulation video game series, while inspired by the true story of Jann Mardenborough. The film stars Archie Madekwe as Mardenborough alongside David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Darren Barnet, Geri Halliwell Horner and Djimon Hounsou. Read more

GREATEST DAYS – We follow five best friends who have the night of their lives seeing their favorite boy
band in concert. Twenty-five years later their lives have changed in many different ways as they reunite for one more epic show by their beloved band, to relight their friendship and discover that maybe their greatest days are ahead of them. Read more

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.3 – In this third and final film in the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, the superhero team is still reeling from the loss of Gamora. Peter Quill must rally his team to defend the universe and protect one of their own. If the mission is not completely successful, it could possibly lead to the end of the Guardians as we know them.  Written and directed by James Gunn. Now on Disney+ Read more

HANS STEEK DIE RUBICON OOR – The South African film centers on Hans Kraaienburg, a 90-year-old man whose life is turned upside down when he is forced to move to an old age home. Based on the former journalist-turned-author Rudie van Rensburg’s best seller, it is adapted by filmmaker couple Corné (director) and Rene van Rooyen (screenwriter), following their success of Vaselinetjie, Toorbos, as well as the popular drama series Alles Malan. The acting legends in the family comedy include Pierre van Pletzen, Tobie Cronjé, June van Merch, Sandra Prinsloo and Nicola Hanekom. In Cinemas / Read more

HAUNTED MANSION – In Disney’s comedy Haunted Mansion a woman and her son enlist a motley crew of so-called spiritual experts to help rid their home of supernatural squatters. They each arrive at this home for different reasons, unaware that whoever enters will be unable to leave without one of its ghosts forever joined at the hip with them. Once they learn the gravity of the situation the hard way, they realize they must find a way to work together as a team to free themselves and the Mansion from the grip of the spirits. Inspired by the classic theme park attraction the film is directed by Justin Simien and stars Rosario Dawson, Chase W. Dillon, LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, and Jamie Lee Curtis.  Read more

HEADSPACE – a CGI action adventure from South Africa. A colourful science fiction action comedy. A freak accident sends the Space Protection Force and their microscopic spaceship inside 14-year-old Norman’s brain. They can see what he sees and hear what he hears.  The nanosized crime-fighting aliens must enlist Norman’s help to save Earth from Zolthard, an evil intergalactic villain who has taken control of Principal Witherington. Norman and the aliens, together with his friends from school must go to great lengths to conceal the presence of alien life at their high school, all the while fighting the galactic struggle between good and evil. After all, Zolthard still has a school to run, and Norman still has a life to live and homework to hand in! Read more

HEARTSTOPPER – “As a writer, it’s magical to know that something you’ve written has had a profound impact on someone’s life,” says Alice Oseman, the creator and writer of the heartwarming Netflix series Heartstopper. “I’m always so happy to hear that it has helped anyone on their own journey, whether that’s a young person hoping to come out themselves, or a parent who is unsure how to support their child, or anyone else who connected to the scene for whatever reason.” Read more / Watch Seasons 1 & 2 of Heartstopper on Netflix

THE HONEYMOON – When Kat’s (Kajal Bagwandeen) fiancé calls off their wedding the night before the big day, the ambitious but insecure Katya is devastated. Her long-time best friends, Noks (Tumi Morake) and Lu (Minnie Dlamini) persuade Kat to go on her honeymoon to Zanzibar with them. What was meant to be a holiday away from their problems, soon turns to a holiday into their problems – will their friendship survive a wild time in paradise? Read more

THE HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES – The new big-screen adventure follows a young Coriolanus (Tom Blyth), the last hope for the once-proud Snow family, whose failing lineage has spelled a fall from grace in a postwar Capitol. With his livelihood threatened, Snow reluctantly accepts the assignment to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) — a Tribute from the impoverished District 12 — in the 10th Hunger Games. But after Lucy Gray’s charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift both their fates. With everything he has worked for hanging in the balance, Snow unites with Lucy Gray to turn the odds in their favor. Battling his instincts for both good and evil, Snow sets out on a race against time to survive and reveal whether he will ultimately become a songbird…or a snake. Read more

HYPNOTIC – In this science fiction action thriller a detective learns that his missing daughter and a string of high-profile bank robberies might be connected. He must go on a mind-bending journey to find his daughter and stop the secret government agency behind the madness. Read more

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY – It’s 1969, and Indiana Jones is ready to call it quits. Things change after a surprise visit from his estranged goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who is seeking a rare artifact that her father entrusted to Indy years earlier—the infamous Archimedes Dial, a device that purportedly holds the power to locate fissures in time. An accomplished con artist, Helena steals the Dial and swiftly departs the country to sell the artifact to the highest bidder. Left with no choice but to go after her, Indy dusts off his fedora and leather jacket for one final ride. Read more

INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR –  The final chapter of the Lambert family’s terrifying saga. To put their demons to rest once and for all, Josh (Patrick Wilson) and a college-aged Dalton (Ty Simpkins) must go deeper into The Further than ever before, facing their family’s dark past and a host of new and more horrifying terrors that lurk behind the red door. Read more

THE INSPECTION – A young, gay Black man (Jeremy Pope), rejected by his mother and with few options for his future, decides to join the Marines, doing whatever it takes to succeed in a system that would cast him aside. But even as he battles deep-seated prejudice and the grueling routines of basic training, he finds unexpected camaraderie, strength, and support in this new community, giving him a hard-earned sense of belonging that will shape his identity and forever change his life. Read more

JOHN WICK 4 – The neo-noir action thriller John Wick: Chapter Four is the fourth instalment in the John Wick franchise and stars Keanu Reeves as John Wick, who uncovers a path to defeating the High Table, but before he can earn his freedom, Wick must face off against a new enemy with powerful alliances across the globe and forces that turn old friends into new foes. Read more

JOIKA – Joika is based on the true story of Joy Womack, who made history as an American ballerina who was accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. At fifteen years old she left her family home in Texas to travel to Moscow to follow her dream – to become a Prima Ballerina at the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet Company. Read more

JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM – A unique new entry into the collection of holiday classic movies, this epic Christmas musical is unlike any before it. A young woman carrying an unimaginable responsibility. A young man torn between love and honor. A jealous king who will stop at nothing to keep his crown. This live-action Christmas musical adventure for the entire family weaves classic Christmas melodies with humor, faith, and new pop songs in a retelling of the greatest story ever told—the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. Directed by Adam Anders. Screenplay by Adam Anders & Peter Barsocchini. Website

JOY RIDE – Asian American adoptee Audrey (Ashley Park, Emily in Paris) is living the dream. Raised in the picturesque small town of White Hills, she has a successful law career, a close relationship with her parents, and her longtime best friend, Lolo (Sherry Cola, Good Trouble), literally lives in her backyard. But Audrey is ready for more. To become a partner at her law firm and leave White Hills behind, she just needs to close one important deal with a client in China. Sounds straightforward enough, until Lolo encourages Audrey to use the trip to locate her birth mother. Instead of soaring to new heights in her career, Audrey finds herself and her friends on a life-changing journey across Asia with her friends, learning much more about themselves and each other, and what it means to truly know and love yourself in all ways possible. Read more

KANDAHAR -For screenwriter Mitchell LaFortune, the genesis of the story began as he pulled stories from his time as a Defense Intelligence Agency officer who had served multiple deployments in Afghanistan, telling the story of a CIA Black Ops agent and his Afghan interpreter who must evade deadly forces as they escape Iran after a whistleblower reveals the agent destroyed a nuclear facility. Read more

THE KILLER – Paris, night. An unnamed man in unremarkable clothes, The Killer (Michael Fassbender) watches from the floor of an empty office, across from the plush apartment of his target, rifle at hand. Measured, and controlled, he takes every step to ensure the job goes flawlessly… It doesn’t. The Killer flees, following his strict personal mantra of dispassionate action. But his employers want him erased. By attacking his home, they disturb his sanctuary and, with it, his sense of self. This – he will not abide, traveling through the Dominican Republic and the United States, eliminating anyone who might disrupt his hard-won peace again. Netflix. Read more

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON – At the turn of the 20th century, oil brought a fortune to the Osage Nation, who became some of the richest people in the world overnight. The wealth of these Native Americans immediately attracted white interlopers, who manipulated, extorted, and stole as much Osage money as they could before resorting to murder. Based on a true story and told through the improbable romance of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone). Read more

KNOCK AT THE CABIN – The film centers on a gay couple, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui), who are vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, when their house is surrounded by four armed strangers: Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adrianne (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint.) Taken hostage, the family is informed that these four strangers—who also do not know each other—have all been haunted and tormented by a shared prophecy: that the world will end unless the family in this cabin chooses one member of the family to die. Whether these four people are crazy or correct doesn’t resolve the problem. Both scenarios are horrific. Read more

LADYBUG AND CAT NOIR: THE MOVIE – Based on the global blockbuster TV series Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir, which first made its debut in 2015, the much-anticipated feature adaptation centers on the origin story of star-crossed Parisian teens, Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste, who become the powerful superheroes, Ladybug and Cat Noir, and join forces to protect the City of Lights from a dangerous supervillain known as Hawk Moth. Read more

LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER – The final novel written by the imperious D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover remains a towering achievement in English literature and had frequently been adapted on stage, screen, and radio since it was first published in 1928. And yet a feature-length movie version has not been seen for almost two decades. Producer Laurence Mark set out to change that with a fresh, modern look at a classic story of a passionate affair that crosses the class divide. Read more / On Netflix

THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER – Bram Stoker’s literary classic, Dracula, has fascinated audiences, both on the page and the screen, for more than a century. Based on a single chilling chapter from Stoker’s classic novel, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the terrifying story of the merchant ship Demeter, which was chartered to carry private cargo—fifty unmarked wooden crates—from Carpathia to London. Strange events befall the doomed crew as they attempt to survive the ocean voyage, stalked each night by a merciless presence onboard the ship. When the Demeter finally arrives off the shores of England, it is a charred, derelict wreck. Read more

THE LITTLE MERMAID – For the live-action musical The Little Mermaid screenwriter David Magee, director-producer Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca drew inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s source material and John Musker & Ron Clements’ screenplay for Disney’s animated film The Little Mermaid, reimagining and enhancing the story to create a very modern story. Read more

THE LOST KING – Guided by instinct and spectral visions, an ambitious writer and amateur historian defies the academic establishment to unearth Richard III’s long-missing remains in a Leicester car park in the sensational British comedy-drama. Read more

LOVE AGAIN– What if a random text message led to the love of your life? In this romantic comedy, dealing with the loss of her fiancé, Mira Ray sends a series of romantic texts to his old cell phone number… not realizing the number was reassigned to Rob Burns’ new work phone. A journalist, Rob is captivated by the honesty in the beautifully confessional texts. When he’s assigned to write a profile of megastar Celine Dion (playing herself in her first film role), he enlists her help in figuring out how to meet Mira in person… and win her heart. Read more

THE MARVELS – An unlikely trio must team-up and learn to work in concert to save the universe. Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel has reclaimed her identity from the tyrannical Kree and taken revenge on the Supreme Intelligence. But unintended consequences see Carol shouldering the burden of a destabilized universe. When her duties send her to an anomalous wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with that of Jersey City super-fan, Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, and Carol’s estranged niece, now S.A.B.E.R. astronaut Captain Monica Rambeau. It stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani. Nia DaCosta directs from a screenplay screenplay is by Nia DaCosta and Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik. Read more

MAY DECEMBER – Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, a married couple buckles under the pressure when an actress arrives to do research for a film about their past. Despite what began as a shocking affair, then 36-year old Gracie (Julianne Moore) and 13-year old Joe (Charles Melton) now lead a seemingly picture-perfect suburban life some 20 years later. Their domestic bliss is disrupted when Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a famous actress, arrives in their tight-knit community to research her upcoming role as Gracie. As Elizabeth ingratiates herself into the everyday lives of Gracie and Joe, the uncomfortable facts of their scandal unfurl, causing long-dormant emotions to resurface. Read more

MEG 2 – Get ready for the ultimate adrenaline rush in Meg 2: The Trench that takes the action to higher heights and even greater depths with Jason Stratham leading a research team on an exploratory dive into the deepest depths of the ocean. Their voyage spirals into chaos when a malevolent mining operation threatens their mission and forces them into a high-stakes battle for survival. Pitted against colossal, prehistoric sharks and relentless environmental plunderers, they must outrun, outsmart, and outswim their merciless predators. This Sci-fi-horror is directed by Ben Wheatley and is based on the novel The Trench by Steve Alten. It also stars Wu Jing, Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Skyler Samuels, and Cliff Curtis. Read more

M3GAN is a marvel of artificial intelligence, a life-like doll programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. Designed by brilliant toy-company roboticist Gemma (Get Out’s Allison Williams), M3GAN can listen and watch and learn as she becomes a friend and teacher, playmate and protector, for the child she is bonded to. When Gemma suddenly becomes the caretaker of her orphaned 8-year-old niece, Cady (Violet Mcgraw, The Haunting of Hill House), Gemma’s unsure and unprepared to be a parent. Under intense pressure at work, Gemma decides to pair her M3GAN prototype with Cady in an attempt to resolve both problems—a decision that will have unimaginable consequences. As M3GAN and Cady develop an unbreakable bond, Gemma grows more and more terrified that the very creation she invented to help Cady heal is learning at an exponential rate…and that M3GAN may be perceived “threats” to Cady that do not exist. Read more

MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE – “Magic” Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) takes to the stage again after a lengthy hiatus, following a business deal that went bust, leaving him broke and taking bartender gigs in Florida. For what he hopes will be one last hurrah, Mike heads to London with a wealthy socialite (Hayek Pinault) who lures him with an offer he can’t refuse…and an agenda all her own. With everything on the line, once Mike discovers what she truly has in mind, will he—and the roster of hot new dancers he’ll have to whip into shape—be able to pull it off? Read more

MASTER GARDENER – Writer-director Paul Schrader captures the racial tensions of contemporary America. Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) is the meticulous horticulturist of Gracewood Gardens. He is as much devoted to tending the grounds of this beautiful and historic estate, as he is to pandering to his employer, the wealthy dowager Mrs Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver). However, chaos enters Narvel’s spartan existence when Mrs Haverhill demands that he take on her wayward and troubled great-niece Maya (Quintessa Swindell) as a new apprentice, unlocking dark secrets from a buried violent past that threaten them all. Read more

MAYBE I DO is a multi-generational romantic comedy. Michelle (Roberts) and Allen (Bracey) have reached the point in their relationship to take the next steps toward marriage. Thinking it is a good idea to invite their parents to finally meet, they set a dinner and make it a family affair. To everyone’s surprise, the affair takes on a whole new meaning as the parents already know each other all too well – they’ve been cheating on their spouses for months…with each other. Trapped in this precarious predicament, they try to hide their dalliances from the kids while confronting their spouse’s lovers head-on. Let the games begin! “After a career of writing and producing over 700 episodes of television, two plays on Broadway, one Off-Broadway and one movie which was nominated for Best Picture, I wanted to write a screenplay about what I felt was the most important aspect of my life… As we take on love vs marriage and hope one survives the other, giving our audience something to talk about with the people they’ve chosen to love. Read more

THE MIRACLE CLUB – There’s just one tantalising dream for the women of Ballygar to taste freedom and escape the gauntlet of domestic life: to win a pilgrimage to the sacred French town of Lourdes, and all for free. When a group of women get their ticket of a lifetime after the riotous church talent competition. As they confront one another and embrace their past, these women realise that the miracle they have all been looking for is right in front of them: in the strength of their friendships and unshakeable togetherness. Read more

THE MOTHER– A deadly female assassin, on the run from dangerous men, comes out of hiding to protect the daughter she gave up years before. Jennifer Lopez stars as The Mother in Netflix’s character-driven action epic also starring Lucy Paez, Omari Hardwick, Joseph Fiennes, Gael García Bernal and Paul Raci. Niki Caro directs from a script by Misha Green, Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig. Jennifer Lopez, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Marc Evans and Roy Lee produce. Molly Allen and Misha Green are executive producers. Read more

MRS. CHATTERJEE VS NORWAY – In the Indian Hindi-language drama an immigrant Indian mother fights the Norwegian foster care system and legal machinery to win back custody of her children. It is based on the true story of an Indian couple whose children were taken away from them by Norwegian welfare services in 2011. Read more

MISSING – From the minds behind Searching comes a thrilling roller-coaster mystery that makes you wonder how well you know those closest to you. What do you do when a loved one disappears thousands of miles from home – and you have no way to get there to search for them? For 18-year-old June, the answer lies in the digital world she inhabits every day. Read more

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: DEAD RECKONING PART ONE – Over six installments and 27 years of the Mission: Impossible franchise, Mission: Impossible –Dead Reckoning Part One celebrates an extraordinary 16-year working relationship between writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and actor Tom Cruise. “We eat, sleep, and breathe movies all the time. We’re constantly taking all of the knowledge that we have acquired both separately, and together, and trying to apply it to something beyond our capabilities, something beyond what we have done before,” says McQ. Read More / Q & A with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie

MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3 – “I had never realized this would be my career and that I would be able to connect with absolute strangers on the topic of family,” says writer-director Nia Vardalos about My Big Fat Wedding 3, that has taken the world by storm since its first chapter was launched in 2002. “It’s so wonderful that people see their own experiences reflected in mine. It makes me feel very connected to being a family and how everyone is experiencing our same issues.” Read more / In cinemas

NAPOLEON – A spectacle-filled action epic that details the checkered rise of the iconic Napoleon Bonaparte. Against a stunning backdrop of large-scale filmmaking orchestrated by legendary director Ridley Scott, the film captures Bonaparte’s relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Josephine, showcasing his visionary military and political tactics against some of the most dynamic practical battle sequences ever filmed. Read more

NO HARD FEELINGS – Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) thinks she’s found the answer to her financial troubles when she discovers an intriguing job listing: wealthy helicopter parents looking for someone to “date” their introverted 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), and bring him out of his shell before he leaves for college. But awkward Percy proves to be more of a challenge than she expected, and time is running out. She has one summer to make him a man or lose it all. Read more

THE NORTHMAN – Young Prince Amleth is on the cusp of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy’s mother. Fleeing his island kingdom by boat, the child vows revenge. Two decades later, Amleth is a Viking berserker raiding Slavic villages, where a seeress reminds him of his vow: avenge his father, save his mother, kill his uncle. Traveling on a slave ship to Iceland, Amleth infiltrates his uncle’s farm with the help of Olga, an enslaved Slavic woman — and sets out to honor his vow. Now on Showmax. Read more

NUN II – 1956 – France. A priest is murdered. An evil is spreading. The sequel to the worldwide smash hit follows Sister Irene as she once again comes face-to-face with Valak, the demon nun. An elevated horror film that expands on the 2018 hit The Nun; unveiling the evil demon’s shocking untold origin as two young nuns risk it all to unravel the deadly mystery behind her return and drive. Read more

NYAD Nyad recounts a riveting chapter in the life of world-class athlete Diana Nyad. Three decades after giving up marathon swimming in exchange for a prominent career as a sports journalist, at the age of 60, Diana (four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening) becomes obsessed with completing an epic swim that always eluded her: the 110 mile trek from Cuba to Florida, often referred to as the “Mount Everest” of swims. Determined to become the first person to finish the swim without a shark cage, Diana goes on a thrilling, four-year journey with her best friend and coach Bonnie Stoll (two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster) and a dedicated sailing team. Netflix. Read more

OLDBOY – Park Chan-Wook’s Korean neo-noir action thriller Oldboy is not only considered one of the best revenge thrillers of all time but is also widely regarded as one of the best films of all time. A fully restored and remastered version of the film has been released in cinemas for its 20th Anniversary. In the film, Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik), an obnoxious drunk abducted on a rainy night in 1988, wakes up in a strange, windowless hotel room. Kept under lock and key for an unknown reason, Oh Dae-Su’s invisible captors keep him fed and systematically sedated to avert suicide, providing only a colour television to keep him company. Read more

ONE TRUE LOVES – Emma and Jesse are living the perfect life together, until Jesse disappears in a tragic helicopter crash on their first wedding anniversary. Four years later, Emma finds happiness again as she’s about to marry her best friend. However, when Jesse miraculously resurfaces, Emma soon finds herself torn between two great loves. It is based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Taylor Jenkins Reid and stars Phillipa Soo, Simu Liu and Luke Bracey. Read more

OPPENHEIMER – “I want to take the audience into the mind and the experience of a person who sat at the absolute center of the largest shift in history,” says writer-director Christopher Nolan, whose Oppenheimer is an epic thriller that thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it. Read more

PAIN HUSTLERS – Liza Drake (executive producer and star Emily Blunt) is recruited to the failing Zanna pharmaceutical company by charming-but-shady salesman Pete Brenner (Chris Evans). The pair work to convince physicians like Dr. Lydell (Brian d’Arcy James) to write prescriptions for their miracle, fentanyl-based drug Lonafen — who’s sublingual delivery method to provide fast pain relief to cancer patients was developed by Dr. Jack Neel (Andy Garcia) in the wake of his wife’s death. Liza, who takes the gig in part out of concern for paying for medical care for her daughter Phoebe (Chloe Coleman), also ropes her mom Jackie (Catherine O’Hara) into the scheme. As they succeed in their mission via dubious tactics, including a regulation-flouting “speaker program,” Zanna’s fortunes rise, lifting Liza and Pete with them. But the human costs are grave as their greed grows. Netflix. Read more

THE PALE BLUE EYE  is set at West Point in 1830. A world-weary detective (Christian Bale) is hired to investigate the murder of a West Point cadet. It features a surprising secondary protagonist in a young Edgar Allan Poe, played to perfection by Harry Melling. Together, Bale’s Landor and Melling’s Poe must work together to discover the identity of a killer who has taken the life—and removed the heart—of a West Point cadet. Netflix. Read more

PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE – Following the success on the big screen of 2021’s Paw Patrol: The Movie, Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie brings everyone’s favourite pups back to cinemas nationwide with new and mightier super-suits, vehicles, and fun adventures. Read more

PAST LIVES – at once strikingly intimate and bracing in its scope, is broken into three parts spanning countries and decades: first with Nora (Moon Seung-ah) as a young girl in Korea, developing an early bond with her best friend, Hae Sung (Leem Seung-min), before she immigrates with her family to Toronto; then, following Nora in her early 20s (Greta Lee) as she re-connects virtually with Hae Sung (Teo Yoo); and finally, more than a decade later, when Hae Sung visits Nora, now a playwright married to an author, Arthur (John Magaro), in New York. Read more

PETER PAN & WENDY – London, England, circa 1911 – It is the last night at home for 13-year-old Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson), and she is riding a wave of emotions. In a burst of defiance she tells her parents (Alan Tudyk and Molly Parker) that she doesn’t want to leave home, nor does she want to become an adult. Far, far away in Never Land, Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) has heard Wendy’s plea, and for the carefree and spirited boy it is a proclamation, a call to action, and an opportunity to expand his loyal band of followers, the Lost Boys. On Disney Plus. Read more

PLANE – Pilot Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) saves his passengers from a lightning strike by making a risky landing on a war-torn island, only to find that surviving the landing was just the beginning. When most of the passengers are taken hostage by dangerous rebels, the only person Torrance can count on for help is Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), an accused murderer who was being transported by the FBI. In order to rescue the passengers, Torrance will need Gaspare’s help and will learn there’s more to him than meets the eye. Read more

POLITE SOCIETY – A martial artist-in-training believes she must save her older sister from her impending marriage. After enlisting the help of her friends, she tries to pull off the most ambitious of all wedding heists in the name of independence and sisterhood. This British action comedy is written and directed by Nida Manzoor and stars Priya Kansara and Ritu Arya. Read more

THE POPE’S EXORCIST – Inspired by the actual files of Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, the film follows Amorth as he investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and seeks to cast out one of the most intransigent demonic possessions of his storied career, the priest will uncover the truth behind a centuries-buried secret and bring to light a much larger conspiracy, despite warnings from the Vatican. Read more

PUNCH – the feature debut of the New Zealand writer-director Welby Ings. Seventeen-year-old Jim is a small-town boxing hero who carries the hopes and dreams of his father Stan on his shoulders. His growing relationship with a local boy, Whetu, forces him to confront the truth about his sexuality and choose his own future. Jim’s (Jordan Oosterhof) potential as a boxer is a promise, to himself and to his alcoholic father, Stan (Tim Roth). Jim, a high school student, could finally leave his rural life. He could become the boxing star his father never managed to be. The closer Jim gets to a local queer outcast, Whetu (Conan Hayes), though, the more his priorities shift away from being in the ring. Read more

RALLY ROAD RACERS – A plucky underdog story. This CG animated feature tells of a loris named Zhi who enters a no-holds-barred car race across China’s historic Silk Road to save the last Loris Village (including his Granny’s home) from demolition and development by a psychotic toad named Archibald Vainglorious. Read more

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE-The groundbreaking film Red, White & Royal Blue is based on the LGBT romance novel by Casey McQuiston and was adapted by celebrated playwright-screenwriter Matthew Lopez, who makes his directorial feature debut, and co-written by screenwriter Ted Malawer. Read more / Prime Video

RENFIELD – Nicholas Cage plays Count Dracula in this horror-comedy. Renfield, the tortured aide to his narcissistic boss, Dracula, is forced to procure his master’s prey and do his every bidding. However, after centuries of servitude, he’s ready to see if there’s a life outside the shadow of the Prince of Darkness. When he falls in love with Rebecca Quincy, a traffic cop, and decides to finally stand up to his creator in hopes of finally breaking free of his servitude. Read more

RETRIBUTION – In the action-packed thriller Retribution a bank executive receives a bomb threat while driving his children to school that his car will explode if they stop and get out.  This remake of the 2015 Spanish film “El Desconocido.” Is directed by Nimród Antal and  stars Liam Neeson, Noma Dumezweni, Lilly Aspell, Jack Champion, Embeth Davidtz and Matthew Modine. Read more

RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN – Sometimes the hero you are meant to be lies just beneath the surface. DreamWorks Animation dives into the turbulent waters of high school with a hilarious, heartfelt action comedy about a quirky teenager who discovers that she’s part of a legendary royal lineage of mythical sea krakens and that her destiny, in the depths of the oceans, is bigger than she ever dreamed. Read more

RUN – Up-and-coming director Aneesh Chaganty and producers Natalie Qasabian and Sev Ohanian, the latter co-writing Run with Chaganty, offer a fresh perspective and unique spin on the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s work while providing mounting paranoia that culminates in a shocking twist. On Netflix. Read more

RUN RABBIT RUN – How would you cope if your child began to act completely out of character; and started to talk about a previous life? This question sits at the core of Run Rabbit Run, where the fearless voice of the Australian novelist Hannah Kent wanted to explore the tragedy of a mother losing connection to her young daughter. Read more / Watch on Netflix

SALVAGE SALVATION – Sheriff Church (Robert De Niro) and Detective Zeppelin strive to keep the peace in their rough town, where residents’ only two interests are the church or oxycodone. Newly engaged Shelby John (Jack Huston) and Ruby Red want a fresh start. They decide to have a family together and get clean, with the support of Peter, Ruby’s brother-in-law (John Malkovich).When Shelby discovers his beloved Ruby dead on their porch he embarks on a vengeful killing spree to right all the wrong done to Ruby by every link in the drug dealing chain. Directed by Randall Emmett and starring Jack Huston, Robert De Niro, John Malkovich, Willa Fitzgerald, and Quavo. Read more

SARAFINA! – The re-release of Sarafina! In cinemas pays homage to the vital role women performed during the struggle. Sarafina is a young black South African struggling for freedom during the apartheid. While she has remained relatively silent in her opposition of the racist government in her country, the movement to make the language of Afrikaans the official language in her school leads her to protest in the streets with her fellow students. Her anti-government views become even more intense when her favourite teacher is arrested for protesting. Read more

SAW X – John Kramer (Tobin Bell) is back in SAW X, the most intriguing, unexpected, and chilling installment of the global horror franchise. Exploring the untold chapter of John / Jigsaw’s most personal game, the film is set between the events of Saw I and II. A sick and desperate John travels to Mexico for a risky and experimental medical procedure, which he hopes will be a miracle cure for his cancer. But he discovers the operation is a scam to defraud the most vulnerable. Armed with a newfound purpose, John returns to his unique work, turning the tables on the con artists in his signature visceral way, through terrifying and ingenious traps. Read more

SCREAM VI – The film finds Sam, her half-sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) and their friends, twins Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding), having relocated from Woodsboro to New York City after the most recent Ghostface killings left them as the only survivors in their group of friends. The trauma from the experience – which involved Sam’s boyfriend Richie and Tara’s best friend Amber as the masterminds of the killing spree, motivated by the fact that they wanted to reinvent the Stab franchise by creating new source material while using Sam’s connection to Billy as the basis to frame Sam for the murders – has affected each of them differently. Read more

THE SECRET GARDEN – Playwright and screenwriter Jack Thorne had loved the book The Secret Garden as a child and when re-reading it when he adapted it for film, he adored it even more as an adult. “It’s such a bold book,” he says, “such a beautifully twisted book that celebrates a very destructive girl who finds herself again. When I re-read it I was surprised by how dark it was, and I love it for that.” Read more / Now on Showmax

SHAZAAM! FURY OF THE GODS – Billy Batson and his foster siblings, who transform into superheroes by saying “Shazam!” are back in the superhero fantasy. The siblings are forced to get back into action and fight the Daughters of Atlas. They must stop them from using a weapon that could destroy the world. Read more

THE SON – Laura Dern and Hugh Jackman play Kate and Peter, divorced parents of seventeen-year-old Nicholas (Zen McGrath), who struggle to help their child as he succumbs to a deep sadness. Vanessa Kirby co-stars as Peter’s second wife Beth, who must balance her stepson’s needs with those of her own newborn boy. Read more

SOUND OF FREEDOMSound of Freedom is based on the incredible true story and shines a light on even the darkest of places. After rescuing a boy from ruthless child traffickers in, a federal agent learns the boy’s sister is still captive and decides to embark on a dangerous mission to save her. With time running out, he quits his job and journeys deep into the Colombian jungle, putting his life on the line to free her from a fate worse than death. Directed and  co-written by Alejandro Monteverde, the film stars Jim Caviezel, Mira Sorvino, and Bill Camp. Read more

SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE – This computer-animated superhero adventure is the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and is set in a shared multiverse of alternate universes called the “Spider-Verse”. Miles Morales is unexpectedly approached by his love interest Gwen Stacy to complete a mission to save every universe of Spider-People from the Spot, who could cause a catastrophic disaster. Read more

SPINNING GOLD – This biographical drama depicts the life and career of record producer and Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart, who was credited with discovering many iconic musical acts such as Donna Summer, Kiss, Village People; and signing and pushing acts including Gladys Knight and the Pips and the Isley Brothers to greater heights. Bogart launched Casablanca Records in the 1970s, and with a rag-tag team of young music lovers, he rewrote history and changed the industry forever. Written and directed by Timothy Scott Bogart.  It stars Jeremy Jordan as Neil Bogart. Read more

THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE – Based on the world of Nintendo’s Mario games, the film invites audiences into a vibrant, thrilling new universe unlike any created before in an action-packed, exuberant cinematic comedy event. While working underground to fix a water main, Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt; Jurassic World and The LEGO Movie franchises) and brother Luigi (Charlie Day; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) are transported down a mysterious pipe and wander into a magical new world. But when the brothers are separated, Mario embarks on an epic quest to find Luigi. Read more

SUZUME – This Japanese animated fantasy adventure depicts a high school girl and a mysterious young man trying to prevent a series of disasters across Japan. As the skies turn red and the planet trembles, Japan stands on the brink of disaster. However, a determined teenager named Suzume sets out on a mission to save her country. Able to see supernatural forces that others cannot, it’s up to her to close the mysterious doors that are spreading chaos across the land. A perilous journey awaits as the fate of Japan rests on her shoulders. Read more

TALK TO ME – A high-concept horror that reflects current society with a classic lens. A group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and opens the door to the spirit world, forcing them to choose who to trust: the dead or the living. Read more

TÁR – We meet Tár at the height of her career, as she’s preparing both a book launch and much-anticipated live performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Over the ensuing weeks her life begins to unravel in a singularly modern way. The result is a searing examination of power, and its impact and durability in today’s society. Read more

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: MUTANT MAYHEM – The Heroes in a Half Shell first cowabunga-ed onto the big screen back in 1990 and returns in the animated adventure.  After years of being sheltered from the human world, the Turtle brothers set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Their new friend April O’Neil helps them take on a mysterious crime syndicate, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them. Read more

THANKSGIVING – After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts – the birthplace of the holiday. Picking off residents one by one, what begins as random revenge killings are soon revealed to be part of a larger, sinister holiday plan. Will the town uncover the killer and survive the holidays…or become guests at his twisted holiday dinner table? Read more

THE THORN – The epic story of God’s love for the world and the spiritual battle for all humanity. Often described as cirque meets the passion of Jesus, The Thorn combines dance, martial arts, aerial acrobatics, and emotionally powerful performances witnessed live by 1M+ people for 25 years. This unique blend of theatrical performing arts and live-action cinema will engage audiences in the ultimate story of love, sacrifice, and redemption like never before. Read more

TILL tells the heartbreaking true story of the historic lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till
— for whistling at a white woman in Money, Mississippi in 1955 — through the eyes of his mother
Mamie Till-Mobley, a widowed single mother who is the head of her household, the only Black woman working for the Air Force in Chicago. Till-Mobley becomes a revolutionary by insisting that the world witness the horror of her brutally maimed son’s body in an open casket viewing as an act of defiance against oppression and hate. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my boy,” she said at the time. Till-Mobley also gave the exclusive rights to Jet Magazine to publish the images of her son’s maimed body which caused the lynching to gain worldwide notoriety. A mother’s audacity became a lightning rod in the Civil Rights Movement and propelled her to reluctantly become an outspoken activist for the NAACP advocating for social justice and education. Read more

TITANIC – Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is a 17-year-old upper-class American suffocating under the rigid confines and expectations of Edwardian society. Once she meets a free-spirited steerage passenger named Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), he opens her eyes to the world that lies outside her gilded cage, and they embark on a love affair that echoes across the decades. Nothing on Earth can come between them, not even something as unimaginable as the sinking of the Titanic. Declared “unsinkable,” her precious cargo of more than 2,200 men, women and children began their journey from Southampton, England to New York City with a sense of anticipation, awe and optimism. Yet this “ship of dreams’’ ultimately carried over 1,500 people to their death in the ice-cold waters of the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912. Read more

TO CATCH A KILLER – This thriller centers on a talented but troubled cop (Shailene Woodley) who is recruited by the FBI to help profile and track down a murderer. It is directed by Damián Szifron, and also stars Ben Mendelsohn, Jovan Adepo and Ralph Ineson. The film marks Argentine filmmaker Damián Szifron’s English-language debut. Read more

TOORBOS – After a 6-year’s journey from page to screen, René van Rooyen’s insightful adaptation of Dalene Matthee’s novel Toorbos as a screenwriter, and her astute visual sensibility as a director, delivers an inspirational journey of the heart that showcases the best of South African filmmaking. Now on showmax.com  Read more

TRANSFORMERS: RISE OF THE BEASTS -An ex-military electronics expert and an artifact researcher are swept up in a three-way conflict between the Maximals, Predacons and Terrorcons as they aid Optimus Prime and the Autobots in a war to protect Earth from Unicron’s arrival. It’s the is the seventh instalment in the Transformers film series. Serving as both a standalone sequel to Bumblebee (2018) and prequel to the 2007 film. Read more

TROLLS BAND TOGETHER – After two films of true friendship and relentless flirting, Poppy and Branch are now officially, finally, a couple (#broppy)! As they grow closer, Poppy discovers that Branch has a secret past. He was once part of her favorite boyband phenomenon, BroZone, with his four brothers. When Branch’s bro Floyd is kidnapped for his musical talents by a pair of nefarious pop-star villains, Branch and Poppy embark on a harrowing and emotional journey to reunite the other brothers and rescue Floyd from a fate even worse than pop-culture obscurity. Read more

THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY is the story of an unremarkable man who sets off on a remarkable journey. Harold lives a life without purpose until he learns an old friend is dying and vows that in walking across England to see her, his journey can keep her alive. A story of rediscovery and transformation, it is an uplifting reminder that you’re never too old to take a chance, and that kindness is less rare than you think.  Based on the 2012 New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller of the same name, this heartfelt and original take on the coming-of-age narrative will resonate with audiences of all ages. This British drama is directed by Hettie Macdonald and stars Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton. Read more

THE WHALE – In Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, Brendan Fraser gives a virtuosic performance as Charlie, an English teacher living with severe obesity whose time is running out. As he makes a last bold attempt to reconcile with his broken family, Charlie must confront, with his full heart and fierce wit, long-buried traumas and unspoken love that have haunted him for decades. Read more

WISH – Walt Disney Animation Studios’ all-new musical-comedy is set in the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe—the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico—to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen. Read more

THE WOMAN KING – The remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness, unlike anything the world has ever seen. Inspired by true events, The Woman King follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life. Some things are worth fighting for… Now on Showmax. Read more

THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR – Almost 20 years ago writer-director Wes Anderson was inspired to adapt Roald Dahl’s story The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. “ The story completely hooked me as a child, but if you take away his words, well, I guess, it’s not a movie I felt compelled to do. It’s a great Dahl story, but if I do it using his words, his descriptions, then maybe I know how to do it.” Watch on Netflix

Director Todd Hayes found Samy Burch’s screenplay for May December exceptional. It navigated potentially volatile subject matter with a kind of observational patience, it simmered with moral and narrative ambiguity which, as a film, would enlist the viewer into an active and excited state of watching and questioning. It explores one of the great talents of the human species: our colossal refusal to look at ourselves.

For director Todd Hayes, the narrative premise explores a particular American family, a family born out of a public scandal that became a national media event, an actress descends upon Savannah, Georgia, to study the woman she’ll be portraying and the lives that have carried on as a family ever since. It is through this delicate process of narrative exploration that this strange, unsettling story is framed, and that we come to learn about the past, the matriarch at the center of the scandal and her young husband, a Korean American, who she began her affair with when he was 13-years-old.

“May December is a term for a relationship between someone younger and someone much older. I thought it was a nuanced way of setting up the terms of the film right in the title. May is also an important month in this film because that’s when it takes place. “

“All lives, all families, are the result of choices, and revisiting them, probing them, is a risky business. But
it’s hard to think of more volatile romantic choices than these, and all the more so when so many defenses have been called upon to shut out such unanimous contempt and judgment from the world,” says Hayes.

Todd Haynes and Nathalie Portman / Copyright ©2023. MAY DECEMBER 2022 Investors LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Natalie Portman sent Burch’s screenplay was to Hayes in 2020: “With such compelling material, the project provided me the long-awaited opportunity to work with Natalie Portman — to ignite the reflexive whirligig of an actress playing an actress — and if that was not enough, to pair her with Julianne Moore in the fierce and inscrutable role of Gracie,” says Hayes. “Completing the triad would be no simple feat; but the casting of Charles Melton as Joe would serve to fill in the storied past and depict the treacherous present with astonishing subtlety.”

For Hayes, “Immediate cinematic associations were undeniable: Persona, of course, and other Bergman’s which put women in confrontation with one another, or which put characters, in key moments, in direct address to the lens, like in Autumn Sonata, Winter Light or various films of Godard’s. In addition, films about older women and younger men, like The Graduate, Sunset Boulevard or Sunday Bloody Sunday (or the more traditional inverse variety, like in Manhattan or Lolita). But particularly those examples in which a stylistic minimalism — like in The Graduate or Manhattan — is nearly indistinguishable from how the film succeeds.”

May December really begins as a double portrait between two women, an actress and somebody she is
going to be portraying in a film, along with the process of getting to know and mirror each other and the
issues of trust and distrust that emerge. But the film ultimately yields to the centerpiece of the story,
and that’s really in the character of Joe. So it becomes a triple portrait.”

“The film’s remarkable script and lead performances — filled out by by Cory Michael Smith, Elizabeth Yu, Gabriel Chung, Piper Curda, among others — and all of the beauty and nuance provided by my creative partners, have restored what I believe is still possible in cinema: to find identification in the least likely places, and be compelled and surprised by a story and its characters without ever being entirely comfortable with who is right or wrong.” — Todd Haynes

Twenty years after their notorious tabloid romance gripped the nation, a married couple buckles under the pressure when an actress arrives to do research for a film about their past. Despite what began as a shocking affair, then 36-year old Gracie (Julianne Moore) and 13-year old Joe (Charles Melton) now lead a seemingly picture-perfect suburban life some 20 years later. Their domestic bliss is disrupted when Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a famous actress, arrives in their tight-knit community to research her upcoming role as Gracie. As Elizabeth ingratiates herself into the everyday lives of Gracie and Joe, the uncomfortable facts of their scandal unfurl, causing long-dormant emotions to resurface.

The film is now screening in select theaters, and streams on Netflix in the U.S. and Canada from Dec. 1. 

Crafting the Screenplay

“Writing the first draft of “May December” in the spring of 2019 was not very comfortable. Mostly because I was crammed into the coat closet of our old apartment: a 3-by-3 space that we had taken the rod out of and installed a folding tray-table that I used as a desk. There was no room to move once seated, but all the better. I put up some nice wallpaper so I had something to stare at desperately in the middle of the night. Sometimes I would stick my arm out of one of the slats in the door and my now-husband, Alex (who outlined the story with me), would hand me an Oreo cookie. For morale.”

Screenwriter Samy Burch (Craig Fleming / For The Times).

“One of my favorite notes from Todd Haynes during this process that I have written on a note card above my desk: “Add more fog.””

A conversation with director Todd Hayes

How did you discover Samy Burch’s script, and why did it resonate with you?

Natalie Portman sent me Samy’s script in 2020 at the height of COVID, when there was a lot of
speculation about what people were going to do once the industry returned. I was reading a lot of
scripts, but Samy’s was incredibly impressive and arresting. For a relatively new writer, she was so
confident in navigating these morally trepidatious themes with this sense of observation and restraint
and nuance and wit that actually made the process of reading the script very unnerving and intensely

What sort of visual aesthetic and tone did you want this film to capture?

When I first read May December, it was hard not to think about the Ingmar Bergman film Persona. The
pairing of these two female central characters, one of whom actually is an actress as well in Persona,
and the merging of the two female subjects. And then I started to think about other films that deal with
parallel female characters – Autumn Sonata, also by Bergman, and Three Women by Robert Altman –
and films that deal with older women in relationships with younger men – The Graduate, Sunset
Boulevard, Sunday Bloody Sunday. Coming out of these various references, I started to picture a way of
looking at this story in frames that would hold back and be still and allow the subjects to exist in the
frame over time.

You have a deep history of working with Julianne, going back to 1995’s Safe. What does her
performance in May December reveal that we haven’t seen from her before?

Julianne’s repertoire over the years encompasses such an amazing plethora of complex women and a
range of characters and sensibilities. In Gracie, there are aspects that are reminiscent of some other
characters she has played, but what really distinguishes Gracie is how much she’s driven by her own will
and desires, and how much she has learned to expect that the world is going to accommodate them,
and that the men in her life are going to ultimately yield to her needs and demands.
And so there’s a fortitude, an almost stubborn refusal to take anything but the answer that she seeks in
life. And yet that is countered by all these ways of playing somebody who needs to be saved and
rescued and somebody who wants to feel that she’s made almost more feminine and more girlish. In a
way, it’s obviously a device to deny the age difference between her and Joe and to imbue him with a
masculine agency. There are few actors who can navigate those kinds of permutations with such
commitment, nuance, understatement, and then shocking moments of revelation where you just can’t
believe the extremity of the emotional experience that Gracie’s undergoing.

Copyright ©2023. MAY DECEMBER 2022 Investors LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“I loved this script when I first read it. The minute you get into it and start playing it, it’s unbelievably sturdy. It holds a tremendous amount of feeling and humanity and complexity,” Moore says. “It was
evident that it was wonderful on the page, but it became increasingly more interesting and deeper and more alive as we played it. When you work on a character, you don’t come from a place of sympathy. You always want to come from a place of empathy because you are trying to put yourself in that person’s position,” Moore says. And so with Gracie, I was attempting to put myself in a place of what does it feel like to have made this choice, to be living this life, and to believe in this life when you’ve done something that society judges as truly transgressive? It’s an interesting journey to take as an actor.”

What do you find most compelling about Natalie’s performance?

Natalie gives such an uncanny performance that you’re destabilized by it. You have a set of
expectations going in that her character, Elizabeth, is going to be our proxy, our way into this story, and
we’re going to be able to trust her. She’s the outsider coming in. She’s asking all the questions of the
relevant people in the story, and she has a mission. She wants to represent the real truth with all the
presumptions and blindness that might also entail.
But as you start to watch the story unfold, you start to lose faith in the reliability of her point of view as a
character and her own blindness, her own ability to make people yield to what she wants, which so fully
reflects aspects in Gracie. But the things that Elizabeth does not see in herself start to reveal
themselves through the course of the story. And so you’re really watching this dance around the
unveiling of these two characters, and that the very things that they see in the other are the things they
cannot see in themselves.

As Elizabeth, Portman was drawn to the notion of playing an actress who’s portraying a woman who
was so publicly – and relentlessly – ostracized. “People who do things that society might deem bad are often interesting to actors because art is a place where you’re supposed to be able to look for understanding behavior, but without judgment,” Portman says. “And judgment is for law or for society, but art is for just peering into a mind and allowing yourself that curiosity.”

Director Todd Hayes with Charles Melton and Julianne Moore during the filming of May December. Copyright ©2023. MAY DECEMBER 2022 Investors LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

There’s also so much buzz about Charles Melton’s breakout performance.

I knew finding our Joe was going to be a bit of discovery. I worked with my casting director, Laura
Rosenthal, to find somebody very special for this role. And we did. Charles Melton is probably best
known to people from the TV show Riverdale, so this probably was going to be a real departure for him
as an actor.
Right away in Charles’ readings and auditions I was stunned by his understatement and understanding
of Joe in a way that exceeded my own understanding of who this character was. I just kept going back
to it and was like, “It has to be this guy. This guy makes it all seem viable.” He brought this pent-up
quality to the way he interpreted the role from the very beginning that made such a huge impression on
me and really completed the storytelling.

“When I first read the script, I felt this intuitive connection to Joe’s character,” says Melton. “I was really attracted to this idea of loneliness, emotional repression, and the layered experience that Joe had throughout the film. As an actor I am really drawn to these kinds of characters. I really wanted to portray Joe from a place of empathy. Todd and I had constant conversations about what Joe would feel like, and how all that Joe was holding onto would reflect in how he walked, how he talked, how he acted in social situations, and how he moved,” he adds. “I felt so safe with Todd. His process throughout the film was so open, collaborative, and encouraging. Todd always trusted me to lean into my instincts.”

Composer Marcelo Zarvos’ adapted score is so arresting, almost like its own character in this film.
Why was the music so pivotal?

The music represents a throughline throughout the making of this movie that I can’t really think an
example of in anything I’ve done before. Marcelo adapted it from Michel Legrand’s score for the 1971
film The Go-Between, which I discovered in pre-production for May December. It put me on the edge
of my seat and into a state of interpretation, which is exactly what I was trying to do with May
It became an example of how music can do this in films and in a very different way from traditional
melodrama scores. It had a pensive urgency to it. It was like a warning bell that something was not right
or that there was going to be a doomful result to the events unfolding in front of you. And there was
something delicious about how that invited you as a viewer.
Marcelo had also already written and created additional music that took the score to this whole other
level. We decided together that we would adapt the Legrand music, but under Marcelo’s complete and
total creative oversight. And I couldn’t be happier with what we ended up with.

How does the film play with humor?

There was this wit, this sardonic humor that was evident from the start in Samy’s script, but we were
always trying to play this film extremely straight. I don’t think any of us quite realized how much the
humor would ultimately play for audiences until we started to show the film to viewers while we were
cutting the film and getting feedback. And I almost was taken aback. I was like, this movie is really funny
because it’s playing with very dark and complicated themes and you’re very disquieted by what’s going
on. The moral ambiguities in the film keep shifting and you keep not knowing which character to align
with and what to believe. So the humor is welcome as a way of interpreting this film and experiencing it.

Copyright ©2023. MAY DECEMBER 2022 Investors LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Film, like speech and writing, has a unique language

Writing, speech, and visual images all communicate within their own particular spheres.

Film Is A Visual Art

Visual art expresses its subjects in space. The art in visual art consists of how those subjects are composed in space. A painter composes with colour, shapes, and tones. A sculptor composes with shapes and spaces. A photographer composes with real and sometimes unreal objects of light.  The visual side of the film is primarily in the hands of three members of the production team:

  • Production Designer/ Art Director: Responsible for designing sets and the total visual concept of the film.
  • Cinematographer: Who decides the lighting, and in some cases the composition of the shot to be photographed.
  • Director: Who supervises the mechanics of filming.

Film Is A Temporal Art

Film is also a temporal art. A temporal art expresses its subjects in time. The art in a temporal art consists of how those subjects are composed in time. A playwright composes with characters’ behaviour and dialogue. A poet composes with the juxtaposition of words and phrases. A novelist composes with dialogue and descriptions of words and phrases.  The temporal side of the film is the responsibility of:

  • Director: Who must keep in mind how each action relates to the actions that come before and after it.
  • Film Editor: Who puts the pieces of film into interesting and coherent rhythms. His work often influences the structure of the scenes and may change the structure of the film.
  • Screenwriter: Who works out the temporal organisation of the film, which normally precedes the visual organisation. Working from the screenplay, the art director, director, and cinematographer then create the visual organisation.

This is what the Art Of Collaboration is all about.

Have a look st this terrific scene from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and see how he masterfully manipulates the senses through visual storytelling. 

The Visual Dynamics of Film

Films are created in bits and pieces and put together in an order that the filmmaker hopes will make sense to the viewer. When the filmmaker begins to create the film itself, he or she has a choice of a great variety of techniques to tell the story or communicate the ‘bits and pieces’.

Camera Work

The basic element in all films is the shot. This is a single piece of film that may be as short as one frame or as long as the entire film. The shot continues until the filmmaker decides to change to another shot.  In a finished film, the shot becomes a scene. Scenes are the building blocks of sequences, which make up the entire film. They can be compared to sentences which make up paragraphs that create an entire story. The filmmaker uses different kinds of shots to create variations. An establishing shot often comes at the beginning of a sequence to orient the audience with the general surroundings. Other shots are the medium shot, the close shot, the point of view shot. These different shots are used to create various feelings and moods in the audience.

Another series of shots used by filmmakers involves camera angles. There are three basic angles: High-angle shots look down on the subject; low-angle shots in which the camera looks up; and flat-angle shots or eye-level shots.

Here’s Terrence Mallick’s Tree of Life, where the film becomes a meditative visual experience.

The camera can also move; there have been several developments in the area: the steadicam, the fly-cam; remote head cameras and different cranes.

Here’s the flight scene from Man Of Steel, capturing the thrill, excitement and adventure of Superman’s first flight, something we all dream about. 

Optical Effects

Filmmakers use optical effects to influence how audiences see films.

Fade in: At the beginning of a new segment, the scene starts out black and grows brighter until it reaches the proper exposure.

Fade out:  At the end of several sequences, telling us that a segment has ended; the image grows darker until it is black.

Dissolve: A fade-out and fade-in overlapped to create the image that appears to mix one into the other. This is used to show the passage of time from one scene to the next.

Slow-motion: This is used to describe details better, to emphasise violence and action sequences, to show the beauty of a subject and to highlight the emotional impact of a scene.

Wipes: When one scene ‘wipes’ or moves another scene off the screen.

Freeze frame: To emphasise a particular frame or image.

Swish pan: The camera pans rapidly from one character to another in a scene, creating rapid pacing and increasing tempo.

Here’s the classic fight scene from The Matrix Reloaded, using optical effects to plunge us into the action.

Point Of View (P.O.V)

The filmmaker, similar to the author of a novel, can use various points of view.  In Witness, an 8-year-old Amish boy whose father has just died is exploring the Philadelphia Amtrack station. We see him glance towards his mother, waiting on a bench, an unfamiliar sight in her black coat and bonnet. Then the camera moves at child’s-eye level, letting us see what the boy sees. We ‘walk’ as he walks, looking at a gigantic gold-covered statue. Next, the camera cuts to an overhead shot, looking down from high up the rafters, at the statue and the small boy. We, the audience, become involved and identify with the boy. In Road to Perdition, a boy Sam Mendes brilliantly uses point of view to accentuate a young boy’s realisation that his father is a killer.

Here’s the classic opening scene from John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), where we enter the story of Michael Myers, a young boy who becomes one of the most iconic characters in the history of the horror film. 


Next to the actual photography, editing shots into the order a filmmaker wants is perhaps the most important part of creating a film.  A group of scenes that are edited together make up the sequence. The cut is used to change our attention from one scene to another. The joining of one scene with another scene, how scenes follow one another, may seem a simple notion, but the cut in a film is one of the most powerful of the filmmaker’s techniques.

Creative editing involves cutting scenes so the action flows smoothly.

  • Matching action: We see a character walk to a door, open it, and start to go through to the other side. The viewpoint changes to inside the room, and we see the character continue on into the room. The action is smooth. There is one continuous flow of movement from outside to inside.
  • Montage: Each of the scenes passes quickly, but each scene is connected by similar ideas. One classic montage occurs in Citizen Kane. Orson Welles and Ruth Warrick, playing husband and wife, start the sequence by having breakfast at opposite ends of a conventionally sized dining table. As the sequence progresses, the table becomes longer and more stretched out. By the end of the scenes, we see the couple reading separate newspapers and obviously paying no attention to each other. The montage gives viewers a quick understanding of the couple’s growing indifference, to tell without dialogue the reason behind the marriage break-up.
  • Blind Editing: When the editor joins to scenes so that you cannot see where the cut is made. In The Color Purple several scenes are masterfully linked with visual and sound-editing.

The editor must be aware of the rhythm, tempo and pacing of the film.

  • Rhythm: The beat that we feel as we see the edited images pass by.
  • Tempo: The rate of the rhythm, or how fast the rhythm moves.
  • Pacing: The various changes in tempo and rhythm that take place in the film.

The film editor uses two basic techniques:

  • Cut-ins: Some detail of the main action is cut into the middle of another scene. For instance, a medium shot shows several characters talking. Suddenly one of them steps back in terror. At this point there is a cut-in of the actor’s face. The cut-in is also a close-up.
  • Cut-away: Cuts to another bit of action which involves the first scene. In the same shot as in the example above, one of the characters turns and looks off screen in terror. What she sees is what we see next – a cut-away to a man entering a room, holding a gun.

By juxtaposing bits and pieces of film that have been carefully planned and shot, a film editor can do all sort of tricks.

In Carrie, there is a scene in which Piper Laurie, as the deranged religious fanatic who tries to kill her daughter, corners Sissy Spacek in the kitchen. Carrie, who can move things without touching them, makes all the kitchen knives and tools fly up and stop her mother. The scene is totally believable after the editor is finished with it, except, of course, that it is impossible.

Here’s the classic shootout in Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables, an ultimate feat in editing to manipulate the physical and emotional action.


Lighting placed low can give actors a sinister look. If it is dimmed it may make the same actors look depressed or sad. A shadow of a knife across a face and the shadow of a murderer stalking his victim are examples of shadow techniques.

Stanley Kubrick filmed Barry Lyndon using only natural light, drawing us into the world of the story.


Filmmakers can use the intensity or brightness of colour, as well as the lack of colour to paint a story. Woody Allen makes use of black-and-white film in several of his films to create an artistic feel and period feel; ranging from Manhattan to Shadows and Fog. In Schindler’s List, which was filmed in black-and-white there is one scene in which Spielberg’s colourized the coat of a girl red: showing the protagonist’s point of view, following the girl through the ghetto where Nazi soldiers ransacked the buildings and evicted and killed Jewish citizens. Also, in the film based on the life of artist Francis Bacon, Love Is The Devil, the filmmakers used the same intensity of colours in the scenes that Bacon used in his paintings. The recent development of technology resulted in films such as Pleasantville, where characters in a black-and-white world, could gradually, through their influence, cause other characters and objects to change from black-and-white into glorious technicolour. They could even have a character in colour, walking through a black and white setting.

Here’s the classic ‘girl with the red jacket’ scene from Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, brilliantly showing the effect war has on children. 


There is no rule in composition. Usually, the frame or image is composed so that it pleases the eye, emphasises something, or so that it will describe a tension between colours, shapes, and vertical and horizontal figures.

Tim Burton is a master when it comes to composition. Here’s a scene from Sweeney Todd. Every frame is carefully composed to contribute to the theme of passion and desperation. 


Sound design has become an integral part of filmmaking. With the development of sound design, filmmakers can fully involve audiences in the visual action.

What better example than the opening from Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, where sound and image collide. 

Special and Visual Effects

With the advent of more realism in films of the 90s, and especially computer-generated effects,  Special Effects companies now take audiences where they have never been before.

Watch this hilarious clip from Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her, where visual effects contribute to the delightful humour.


Exposition is usually, but not always achieved through dialogue; characters talk about what happened in order to establish the next direction in the storyline. Primary exposition is the telling and showing to the audience the time and the place of the story, the names and relationships of the characters, and the nature of the conflict.

Here’s how Hitchcock uses Exposition in Spellbound (1954)

The Language of Film Is Explored in The Write Journey course

Filmmaker Eli Roth’s ode to 80s slasher-horror Thanksgiving began in 2006 when he created a fake trailer that would appeal to the grindhouse crowd. 17 years later horror fans were still begging for the best horror movie never made.

Roth’s inspiration for Thanksgiving began in when his friends Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were working on their double feature Grindhouse. To add to the double-feature experience, Tarantino asked his friends – including Roth – to create fake trailers that would appeal to the grindhouse crowd. And Roth knew exactly what he wanted to do.

It was conceived as a phony, all-killer-no-filler trailer to be sandwiched between “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof” in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 exploitation tribute double feature. 

In his youth and teenage years, Roth and his friend Jeff Rendell took in a steady diet of horror films, consuming VHS after VHS of carnage, chaos, and gore. And one special subgenre kept them busy. “We came of age in the early 80s, the golden era of the holiday slasher movie,” he recalls. “Black Christmas, Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day, New Year’s Evil… When we saw Silent Night, Deadly Night, we cheered the mayhem while the Santa Claus killer yelled, ‘PUNISH!’”

“This, to us, was cinema at its peak,” Roth continues.

But for the native of Newton, Massachusetts, one holiday eluded him: Hollywood never made the Thanksgiving slasher pic. “It’s hard to oversell the importance of Thanksgiving in Massachusetts,” he says. “Every school group goes to Plimoth Patuxet to see what life was like back in 1620. But where others saw a butter churner, we saw opportunities for amazing kills.”

With his fake trailer, Roth saw the opportunity to create Thanksgiving – the 1980s holiday slasher that somehow Hollywood had forgotten to make. Rendell and Roth wrote it, and as Roth was completing filming on Hostel Part II, he had access to locations, actors, even fake heads from that film to immortalize it. When Grindhouse promised Thanksgiving as a preview of coming attractions, audiences loved it. And that was that.

After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts – the birthplace of the holiday. Picking off residents one by one, what begins as random revenge killings are soon revealed to be part of a larger, sinister holiday plan. Will the town uncover the killer and survive the holidays…or become guests at his twisted holiday dinner table?

For 17 years, Roth would hear from fans wondering if he would ever make the movie for real

Roth was game, but there was just one problem: “We didn’t have a plot,” he says, noting that the fake trailer is simply a stringing together of stabbings, beheadings, and mayhem, themed to the holiday. But a trailer does not a movie make, and Roth and Rendell kept looking for ways to make it real.

“We were so thrilled with how the trailer turned out, we continually found ourselves reverse engineering the story to fit in the gags. How would we decapitate a turkey at the parade? How can we roast a human turkey?” he notes. “We knew we had to make Thanksgiving a real slasher film, one that could exist whether you had seen the trailer or not.” It was clear that there was no way to make these iconic sequences work as an actual movie – which meant that if Thanksgiving was going to become real, they would need another approach.

With that in mind, they focused on the gestalt of the fake trailer, rather than the individual sequences themselves.

“We began with the working premise that Thanksgiving 1980 was the film the Grindhouse trailer was made from, and it was so shocking that every print was destroyed, and the only element that survived was the one trailer,” he says. “The new film we were making would be the reboot of that movie, starting again from scratch, but cherry picking elements we knew would work in the story we were telling today.”

During the many years of writing, rewriting, and getting it right, Roth says it is the fan sites who kept the Thanksgiving dream alive.

“Each year the horror sites would trot it out and lament that we never made it,” says Roth. “I must thank them for this – it kept us going when we were burned out on the idea or couldn’t figure out how to make it great. Finally, after a few story breakthroughs, the idea really began to click, and we worked it out.”

Having finally cracked the code, Roth took his pitch to Spyglass.

It was fortuitous: when Gary Barber, Chairman and CEO of Spyglass and executive producer of Thanksgiving, launched Spyglass, he set out to ramp up the new venture’s production pipeline and recognized the value in horror franchises.

“Spyglass has successfully relaunched long-running horror franchises, including Scream and Hellraiser, and we saw Thanksgiving as a film that could break new ground in the slasher genre as it combines signature throwback elements with fresh humor that makes audiences want to come back for seconds,” says Barber.

Having received his greenlight, Roth turned to casting and production while Spyglass partnered with TriStar Pictures to release the film worldwide, with Spyglass handling select international territories.

The heart of any slasher movie is the kills, and Eli Roth – the genre’s maestro – would make sure that Thanksgiving reflected his best work

“Every kill had to meet our standards of scare and gore; if the movie didn’t deliver on its promise, we’d be dead,” says Roth. And Roth had the added pressure of having done it already. “I found myself not just trying to match what I did in the trailer, but trying to top it in every way possible,” he continues.

Which is why early on, Roth began discussing the project with prosthetics genius Adrien Morot. “His craftsmanship is second to none. Adrien and his wife Kathy made the most incredibly realistic and beautiful heads and body parts I have ever seen. They were so beautiful! But of course, no matter how beautiful the fake head, it must be smashed in with a meat tenderizer.”

It’s a responsibility Roth takes very seriously. Getting to make a horror movie is, for him, standing on the shoulders of giants. “We look at the kills and say, okay, how can we outdo ourselves? And not just ourselves, but every other movie? It’s a badge of honor for us to get the best kill. Every time you make a horror movie, you have a chance to enter into the pantheon of horror greats. The opportunity is there if you take it. So with every death, we try to truly make it a classic.”

And Roth knows when it has that special something. “I have to have that ‘ugh’ feeling… I have a very, very, very high tolerance for movie gore, so if a scene is upsetting me, then I know it’s gonna work for a general audience.”

Another reason why Roth works so well and closely with Morot is they have a shared love for practical effects. “When I think of all of my favorite kills from all of my favorite movies, none of them are digital,” says Roth. “They’re all practical makeup effects. It’s a different emotional response.”

For Roth, a complicated kill is always nerve-wracking until the last drop of blood has been spilled. “I’m always most excited on a day when we’re filming a kill scene, I have this nervous pit in my stomach and I can’t relax until I know we have the kill on camera,” he says. “The timing of the head falling off, the swing of the axe, the way the blood pumps – a million things can go wrong. But when they go right there’s nothing like it.”

As for his own goals, Roth says it’s simple. “Now, hopefully, every year, at every dinner, for the rest of time, when someone reveals the turkey, they will say in a sister voice, ‘Dinner…is served!’ And everyone will scream.” 

ELI ROTH (Director / Story by / Producer) burst onto the film scene at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival with his directorial debut Cabin Fever. Made independently for $1.5 million dollars, the film sparked a frenzied seven-studio bidding war and went on to be Lionsgate’s highest grossing film that year. Roth’s follow-up film, Hostel, which he wrote, produced, and directed, and was presented and executive produced by Quentin Tarantino, earned him critical praise and was a massive worldwide hit, spawning a successful sequel, Hostel Part II, also written and directed by Roth. 

In 2015, Lionsgate released Roth’s Sundance hit thriller Knock Knock, which stars Keanu Reeves as a happily married man whose life is quickly turned upside down by Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas in her English language screen debut. Additionally, Roth co-wrote, produced, and directed The Green Inferno, which was shot on location in the Amazon, filming deeper into the jungle than any previous film. From 2015-2017, Roth hosted Discovery Channel’s hugely popular Shark Week and its late-night talk show “Shark After Dark,” both of which hit new network high ratings with Roth hosting. 

Roth also directed the critically acclaimed #1 family film The House with a Clock in Its Walls,starring Cate Blanchett and Jack Black for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, and the gritty hit action film Death Wish starring Bruce Willis for MGM and Annapurna. 

As an actor, Roth has appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof segment of Grindhouse (in which he also wrote and directed the popular faux trailer Thanksgiving, which played between the features in the film) and Inglourious Basterds, in which he portrayed Sgt. Donnie Donowitz; he also directed the propaganda film-within-the-film, Nation’s Pride. Roth and his cast members received the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble, as well as the Broadcast Film Critic’s Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award. Most recently Roth appeared as the scene-stealing Live Nation head Andrew Finkelstein in Sam Levinson’s The Idol for HBO

As a producer, Roth has produced the hit films The Last Exorcism, The Man with the Iron Fists,Jon Watts’ directing debut Clown, and the hit Emmy-nominated Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” which ran for three seasons. Roth hired an unknown Damien Chazelle to write the sequel to The Last Exorcism, starring Julia Garner and Ashley Bell. Roth’s critically acclaimed docuseries “Eli Roth’s History of Horror” ran for three seasons on AMC; his other series include “A Ghost Ruined My Life,” “My Possessed Pet,” “The Haunted Museum” starring Zak Bagans, and “Urban Legend,” all for Discovery Plus and HBO Max.

Roth’s critically acclaimed documentary Fin, a harrowing documentary detailing the destructive practices of the shark fin trade, premiered to rave reviews in July 2021 as part of Discovery’s Shark Wee. It went on to win Best Documentary at the Ischia Global Film Festival. 

Roth recently finished directing and co-writing the film adaptation of the hit videogame Borderlands for Lionsgate; the film reunites Roth with stars Cate Blanchett and Jack Black alongside an all-star cast including Kevin Hart, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Gina Gershon. 

Roth co-created the DreamWorks Animation kids’ series “Fright Krewe” with James Frey, which premiered in October 2023 on Hulu and Peacock and features an all-star cast including Melanie Laurent, Vanessa Hudgens, and Roth. The series was just renewed for a second season.

An avid shark lover, Roth spends his time promoting shark conservation, working as a board member of the Environmental Media Group. He is currently in post-production on another environmental documentary.

JEFF RENDELL (Story by / Screenplay by / Producer), a native of Newton, Massachusetts, became friends with Eli Roth in kindergarten. Their shared love of film as kids resulted in the creation of countless movies made in their basements. Every weekend they were shooting wacky comedy skits or something horror related.

Although Rendell’s continued interest in film had him attend Emerson College film school, he ended up working most of his adult life in the rare autograph business and then for his father’s World War II museum. The museum provided a connection to the film business in 2009 when Rendell brought several authentic World War II items to be used for Inglourious Basterds.

”The most difficult part of writing the novel was keeping it simple. I’m dealing with a dog, and a dog isn’t going to be thinking in complicated metaphors.  A dog is going to be mostly about nouns, much less about adverbs.  Its vocabulary is generally limited to around 40 or 50 words, and I wanted to write from the perspective of a real dog and not a dog that could understand English.”

Based on author W. Bruce Cameron’s beloved best-selling novel, A Dog’s Purpose shares the heartwarming and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.

Over the course of five decades, a single voice—that of an indefatigable dog—takes us along a riveting and uplifting path that speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever loved an animal.  Although he is reincarnated in the bodies of multiple canines through the years, it is his unbreakable bond with a kindred spirit named Ethan that carries and inspires one dog throughout his journey to find a true purpose for his boy.

From Page To Screen

“I made two movies about dogs previously—My Life as a Dog and Haichi—so this is my third dog story,” says director Lasse Hallström, who claims it is no accident he was attracted to the material: . ”If you have an interest in outsiders and emotions that seems irrational to humans, you can certainly relate to a dog’s feelings and a dog’s life.”

A Dog’s Purpose is adapted for the screen by Cameron & Cathryn Michon (Muffin Top: A Love Story) and Audrey Wells (Shall We Dance) and Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear) & Wally Wolodarsky (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days).

After its publication in 2010, “A Dog’s Purpose” became an enormous hit, finding an audience with animal lovers across the globe who were charmed by its tender, poignant and humorous take on what our animal companions think of us and why they are truly here.  The No. 1-New York Times Best-Selling book spent more than one year on that list and has been translated into 20 languages, and published in 29 different countries worldwide.  It even spawned a sequel, “A Dog’s Journey,” which was published in 2012 and achieved similar acclaim.

The series author, W. Bruce Cameron, is well known as the writer of the best-selling humor tome “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”  The book was adapted into a hugely popular ABC sitcom, which starred the late John Ritter, and Katey Sagal and introduced the world to The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco.

Cameron was moved to write the novel when the woman he was dating lost her dog, and she was having a difficult time processing her grief.  He explains the inspiration: “We were driving up the California coast on the 101 freeway, and I was hurting for her.  Out of nowhere, as if I downloaded it off the Internet, this story came into my head about a dog who doesn’t actually die, but is reborn again and again and again, and develops the sense that there might be some purpose why this is happening.”

The passenger Cameron was consoling was his future wife—as well as one of his fellow A Dog’s Purpose screenwriters—Cathryn Michon.  Michon remembers the day quite fondly: “On our way to the Bay Area, we stopped to get a latte, and when I came back to the car Bruce told me he had a story to tell me…and that it was going to be his next book.  He told this story for 90 minutes straight, and by the end of it I was completely in a puddle I was crying so much.”

For Cameron, watching dogs interact with each other and analyzing their behavior was the most helpful research he did before crafting his novel.  The writer explains: “The most important thing I did in researching the book was not reading about dogs, but going to the dog park and seeing how they behave.  Dogs have a crazy social structure.  Two dogs will be best friends, but when a third dog comes in the dynamic changes instantly.”  He laughs.  “It is 10 times worse than middle school.”

According to the story’s creator, the most difficult part of writing the novel was keeping it simple: “I’m dealing with a dog, and a dog isn’t going to be thinking in complicated metaphors.  A dog is going to be mostly about nouns, much less about adverbs.  Its vocabulary is generally limited to around 40 or 50 words, and I wanted to write from the perspective of a real dog and not a dog that could understand English.”

Producer Gavin Polone read “A Dog’s Purpose” while it was still in galley form, and at the request of Cameron and Michon, he would shepherd it through the development process.  During this time, it drew the attention of Amblin Entertainment.  “We wanted to find a producer to take the book to the next step, and Gavin has such a great reputation for protecting writers, so we sent the book to him,” reveals Cameron.  In their mission to find a champion to take the book to the next step, they needed a director that would have the same goal in mind.

Given Hallström’s track record of inventive filmmaking, and having already directed an Amblin Entertainment (then DreamWorks) film, The 100-Foot Journey, it was a unanimous decision that the filmic version of this story could not be in better hands.  The director claims it is no accident he was attracted to the material: “I made two movies about dogs previously—My Life as a Dog and Haichi—so this is my third dog story.  If you have an interest in outsiders and emotions that seems irrational to humans, you can certainly relate to a dog’s feelings and a dog’s life.”

While Cameron and his fellow script writers had to create rules for our story—in terms of what the dog was thinking and could process—Hallström also had to keep things logical…in what some might say is an illogical notion.

“Ultimately, the one rule we had was that the dog could not speak on camera,” offers Hallström.  “With the narration, the dog’s thoughts have human elements to it, and I have become more and more caught up in the idea of reincarnation because of this film.  But whether the possibility is real or not…who knows.  The point is to be open to the magic that there is something going on in the universe that we cannot yet explain.”

Hallström felt his most important task as director was to ground the actor’s and dog’s performances in reality.  His goal was not to stylize anything nor reach for the comedic aspects.  “I wanted a tone that feels authentic and has a light touch to it, while being rooted in real emotions—of both the dogs and the humans.  It was a fun challenge.”

  • Currently you are able to watch “A Dog’s Purpose” streaming on DIRECTV, TNT, TBS, tru TV, FilmBox+.

One of the world’s most renowned directors, LASSE HALLSTRÖM (Directed by) is best known to audiences as the maker of such poignant but resolutely unsentimental films as My Life as a Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Cider House Rules. The son of an amateur filmmaker, Hallström was born in Stockholm on June 2, 1946.  He began his professional career in high school when, with the assistance of a group of friends, he made a short film about some schoolmates who had formed a band. In 1975, Hallström made his debut with the romantic drama A Guy and a Gal.  Two years later, he focused his lens on one of Sweden’s most famous exports in ABBA: The Movie.  He subsequently made a number of romantic comedies; but it was not until 1985, with My Life as a Dog, that Hallström had his international breakthrough.  A bona fide art-house hit, My Life as a Dog was the touching and wholly un-patronizing coming-of-age story of a young boy sent to live with relatives when his terminally ill mother can no longer care for him.  The film earned a score of international honors, including the Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globe Awards and a New York Film Critics Circle award.  Hallström received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

BRUCE CAMERON (Based on the Novel by/Screenplay by) is a Benchley award winner for humor and was named the 2011 Columnist of the Year by the National Society of newspaper Columnists. He has written for television (8 Simple Rules, based on his book) and co-wrote the feature film Muffin Top: A Love Story, which was released in November 2014. He produced and co-wrote the feature film Cook-Off!, which is in postproduction. His novel “A Dog’s Purpose” spent 52 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list.  The sequel, “A Dog’s Journey,” was published in May 2012, and was instantly a The New York Times Best Seller. Cameron has been a guest on Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, The Today Show, Oprah, Anderson Cooper and CBS This Morning. In 2017, “A Dog’s Way Home” will be published in May, the humor book “A Dad’s Purpose” will be published in June and the young readers novel “Molly’s Story” came out in September.

CATHRYN MICHON (Screenplay by) is a screenwriter, actress and feature film director, as well as the author of the best-selling “Grrl Genius” book series.  An alumna of The Second City, she has written for numerous Primetime Emmy Award-winning television series.  She co-wrote, co-directed and stars in the upcoming Lionsgate ensemble feature comedy Cook-Off!, which also stars Wendi McLendon-Covey, Melissa McCarthy and Gary Anthony Williams.  Michon also directed, co-wrote and starred in the award-winning indie film Muffin Top: A Love Story with David Arquette, currently on Netflix.

AUDREY WELLS (Screenplay by) is a screenwriter and film director from San Francisco, California.  She is the writer and director of Under the Tuscan Sun, which starred Diane Lane.  She also wrote and directed Guinevere, which starred Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea, for which she won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the jury prize at the Deauville Film Festival.  Wells wrote the original screenplays for The Truth About Cats & Dogs and The Kid.  Other writing credits include George of the Jungle, The Game Plan and the American adaptation of Shall We Dance.  Wells is currently adapting The Hate U Give for director George Tillman Jr. and Fox 2000, and writing an original animated feature screenplay for Oriental DreamWorks.  Wells serves as a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA.

MAYA FORBES (Screenplay by) began her career writing for The Larry Sanders Show.  She has since written numerous television episodes and feature films. Her television credits include The People vs. O.J. Simpson and her film credits include Monsters vs. Aliens and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.  All of these she co-wrote with her husband, Wally Wolodarsky. Forbes was named one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” for her directorial debut Infinitely Polar Bear, which starred Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana.  Her latest project The Polka King, written and directed with Wolodarsky, stars Jack Black and will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017.

WALLY WOLODARSKY (Screenplay by) began his career as a writer on The Tracey Ullman Show.  He received a Primetime Emmy Award for his work.  Wolodarsky was an original writer and producer on The Simpsons for the first four seasons, where he won his second Primetime Emmy Award.  He has directed three features and has written several features with his wife Maya Forbes.  The Polka King is the first feature they have written and directed together.

There are some thrilling and captivating films, documentaries, live theatre and opera for everyone to escape into during December in South African cinemas and streaming platforms.


1 December -Thanksgiving

After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts – the birthplace of the holiday. Picking off victims one by one, the seemingly random revenge killings soon become part of a larger, sinister plan.

It is based on Roth’s fictitious trailer of the same name from Grindhouse (2007), it is the third feature-length adaptation of a fictitious Grindhouse trailer after Robert Rodriguez’s Machete (2010) and Jason Eisener’s black comedy Hobo with a Shotgun (2011). It is directed by Eli Roth, from a screenplay written by Jeff Rendell and a story by Roth and Rendell. With Patrick Dempsey, Ty Olsson, Gina Gershon, Gabriel Davenport. Read more

1 December – May December

May December explores one of the great talents of the human species: our colossal refusal to look at
ourselves,” says director by Todd Haynes 

Despite what began as a shocking affair, then 36-year old Gracie (Julianne Moore) and 13-year old Joe (Charles Melton) now lead a seemingly picture-perfect suburban life some 20 years later. Their
domestic bliss is disrupted when Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a famous actress, arrives in their tight-knit community to research her upcoming role as Gracie. As Elizabeth ingratiates herself into the
everyday lives of Gracie and Joe, the uncomfortable facts of their scandal unfurl, causing long-dormant emotions to resurface.

The screenplay was crafted by Samy Burch, based on a story by Burch and Alex Mechanik. Loosely inspired by the story of Mary Kay Letourneau. Read more

8 December- The Inseparables

A fun buddy adventure following the misadventures of a runaway puppet with boundless imagination and an abandoned stuffed animal toy in need of a friend.

Based on an original idea by Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, the Oscar-nominated writers of Toy Story, The Inseparables follows the misadventures of Don, a runaway puppet with a boundless imagination and, DJ Doggy Dog, an abandoned stuffed animal toy in need of a friend. Don and DJ Doggy Dog cross paths in Central Park and pair up against all odds for an epic adventure of friendship in New York City. The film was penned by Bob Barlen and Cal Brunker.

8 December – Wonka

Based on the extraordinary character at the centre of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s most iconic children’s book and one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, Wonka tells the wondrous story of how the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today

The film is an intoxicating mix of magic and music, mayhem and emotion, all told with fabulous heart and humour.  Starring Timothée Chalamet in the title role, this irresistibly vivid and inventive big screen spectacle will introduce audiences to a young Willy Wonka, chock-full of ideas and determined to change the world one delectable bite at a time—proving that the best things in life begin with a dream, and if you’re lucky enough to meet Willy Wonka, anything is possible

It is directed by Paul King (writer/director of the “Paddington” films), who co-wrote the screenplay with Simon Farnaby, based on a story by King. It tells the origin story of Willy Wonka, a character in the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, featuring his early days as an eccentric chocolatier.

8 December – Silent Night

From legendary director John Woo and the producer of John Wick comes this gritty revenge tale of a tormented father (Joel Kinnaman) who witnesses his young son die when caught in a gang’s crossfire on Christmas Eve. While recovering from a wound that costs him his voice, he makes vengeance his life’s mission and embarks on a punishing training regimen in order to avenge his son’s death. Full of Woo’s signature style, Silent Night redefines the action genre with visceral, thrill-a-minute storytelling

15 December – Love Actually

The 20th Anniversary re-release of Love Actually is one of the best Christmas romances of all time, it follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England. The film was written and directed by Richard Curtis. an A-list cast includes Hught Grant, Emma Thompson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, and Liam Neeson.

15 December – Dream Scenario

Dream Scenario is a wickedly entertaining comedy about how ‘going viral’ can be a total nightmare.

Hapless family man Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) finds his life turned upside down when millions of strangers suddenly start seeing him in their dreams. But when his nighttime appearances take a nightmarish turn, Paul is forced to navigate his newfound stardom.

A laugh-out-loud, razor sharp comedy starring a never-better Nicolas Cage as Paul Matthews — husband, father, and remarkably unremarkable everyman who becomes a literal overnight celebrity when strangers around the globe suddenly start dreaming about him. But as his newfound fame takes an unexpected turn, Paul must do whatever it takes to prove to the world that he’s anything but the man of their dreams.

15 December – Met Opera – X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X

Anthony Davis’s groundbreaking and influential opera, which premiered in 1986, arrives at the Met at long last. Theater luminary and Tony-nominated director of Slave Play Robert O’Hara oversees a potent new staging that imagines Malcolm as an everyman whose story transcends time and space. An exceptional cast of breakout artists and young Met stars enliven the operatic retelling of the civil rights leader’s life. Baritone Will Liverman, who triumphed in the Met premiere of Fire Shut Up in My Bones, is Malcolm, alongside soprano Leah Hawkins as his mother, Louise; mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis as his sister Ella; bass-baritone Michael Sumuel as his brother Reginald; and tenor Victor Ryan Robertson as Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Kazem Abdullah conducts the newly revised score, which provides a layered, jazz-inflected setting for the esteemed writer Thulani Davis’s libretto.

In Selected cinemas: 15,16,17,19 December 2023 / Read more about the Met Opera Season

22 December – Next Goal Wins

Directed by Academy Award Winner Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok) and based on a true story, Next Goal Wins follows the American Samoa soccer team, infamously known for their brutal 31-0 loss in 2001.

With the World Cup Qualifiers approaching, the team hires down-on-his-luck, maverick coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) hoping he will turn the world’s worst soccer team around in this heartfelt underdog comedy.

22 December – Migration

This holiday season, Illumination, creators of this year’s record-shattering The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and the blockbuster Minions, Despicable Me, Sing and The Secret Life of Pets franchises, invites you to take flight into the thrill of the unknown with a funny, feathered family vacation like no other in the action-packed new original comedy, Migration.

The Mallard family is in a bit of rut. While dad Mack is content to keep his family safe paddling around their New England pond forever, mom Pam is eager to shake things up and show their kids—teen son Dax and duckling daughter Gwen—the whole wide world. After a migrating duck family alights on their pond with thrilling tales of far-flung places, Pam persuades Mack to embark on a family trip, via New York City, to tropical Jamaica.

As the Mallards make their way South for the winter, their well-laid plans quickly go awry. The experience will inspire them to expand their horizons, open themselves up to new friends and accomplish more than they ever thought possible, while teaching them more about each other—and themselves—than they ever imagined.

22 December – Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom

A reluctant king who must defy expectations to defeat the darkest ancient powers deep within the sea, Jason Momoa is Aquaman in Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom, an all-new chapter in the Aquaman mythology. A grand-scale adventure and action-packed journey above and below sea with astonishing visuals of epic scale, it is a story of the bonds of brotherhood and unexpected allies coming together to forge a new destiny.

Having failed to defeat Aquaman the first time, Black Manta, still driven by the need to avenge his father’s death, will stop at nothing to take Aquaman down once and for all. This time Black Manta is more formidable than ever before, wielding the power of the mythic Black Trident, which unleashes an ancient and malevolent force. To defeat him, Aquaman will turn to his imprisoned brother Orm, the former King of Atlantis, to forge an unlikely alliance. Together, they must set aside their differences in order to protect their kingdom and save Aquaman’s family, and the world, from irreversible destruction.

29 December – Anyone But You

After an amazing first date, Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben’s  (Glen Powell) fiery attraction turns ice cold – until they find themselves unexpectedly reunited at a destination wedding in Australia. So they do what any two mature adults would do: pretend to be a couple in the romantic comedy Anyone But You.

29 December – The End We Start From

When an environmental crisis sees London submerged by flood waters, a young family is torn apart in the chaos. As a woman and her newborn try and find their way home, the profound novelty of motherhood is brought into sharp focus in this intimate and poetic portrayal of family survival.

This British survival film directed by Mahalia Belo and starring Jodie Comer, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Katherine Waterston and Mark Strong. It is adapted by Alice Birch from the novel of the same name by Megan Hunter.

29 December – Ferrari

It is the summer of 1957. Behind the spectacle of Formula 1, ex-racer Enzo Ferrari is in crisis. Bankruptcy threatens the factory he and his wife, Laura built from nothing ten years earlier. Their volatile marriage has been battered by the loss of their son, Dino a year earlier. Ferrari struggles to acknowledge his son Piero with Lina Lardi. Meanwhile, his drivers’ passion to win pushes them to the edge as they launch into the treacherous 1,000-mile race across Italy, the Mille Miglia.

Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ stars Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz.

1 – 10 December – CELLUDROID Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Animation Film Festival

This dimension defying festival features classics and short films from around the galaxy (which you’re unlikely to see anywhere else), both in cinema at The Labia Theatre (Cape Town) and streaming across South Africa.  Official website: www.celludroid.net

Recommended viewing on the Streaming platforms


On the filmfront two families reckon with a looming disaster that grows more terrifying by the minute, forcing everyone to come to terms with their places in a collapsing world in the Apocalyptic thriller Leave the World Behind (8/12),

Maestro (20/12) is a towering and fearless love story chronicling the lifelong relationship between Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein. A love letter to life and art, Maestro at its core is an emotionally epic portrayal of family and love.

When a colony on the edge of the galaxy finds itself threatened by the armies of the tyrannical Regent Balisarius, they dispatch a young woman with a mysterious past to seek out warriors from neighbouring planets to help them take a stand in Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire (22 /12)

In the spring of 1945 at the mysterious Ongseong Hospital in Gyeongseong, an entrepreneur and a sleuth fight for survival and face a creature born from human greed in the series Gyeongseong Creature (22/12)

In the heist film Berlin (29/12) only two things can brighten a dark day: The first is love. The second is stealing a fortune.


In the dark comedy Die Onderonsie (The Quarrel) (1 /12) five ex band-mates come together for their annual reunion, a dead body stirs up suspicion and violence among the friends. With tjommies like these, who needs enemies? 

New allies are forged and old enemies resurface in Fast X (4/ 12). But everything changes when Dom discovers that his own 8-year-old son is the ultimate target of Dante’s vengeance.

The Amazing Maurice (7/12) follows a sassy, street-smart ginger cat, his band of rats and pied-piper friend Keith, who swindle villagers with a staged rat plague.

Channing Tatum is back in Magic Mike’s Last Dance (25/12) when a wealthy socialite (Salma Hayek) lures him with an offer he can’t refuse.

Disney Plus

From acclaimed writer-director, James Mangold comes Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny with Harrison Ford reprising his iconic role as the whip-smart archaeologist one last time for a thrilling, globe-trotting adventure (1 /12). The Shepherd is a new series that is holiday-themed for the season. It features a pilot flying home on Christmas Eve whose radio and power cut out over the North Sea. The live-action action Percy Jackson and the Olympians following the titular character as he learns that he’s a demigod and embarks on a quest that might mean saving the world, the series will debut new episodes weekly on the streamer. (20/12)

Read more about the latest and upcoming films

Films Released in 2023

Exposition in writing can make or break a story. Exposition that’s artfully placed throughout the narrative with just the right balance of discovery and suspense can elevate an average novel or screenplay. Using too much exposition at once, or using it clumsily, will slow down the action of your story and make your readers lose interest in the struggles your characters are facing.

As a writer, you must entice, amuse, alarm and surprise your reader, foregrounding engaging themes and voices so that readers know when, where and why your story takes place. Exposition requires both creativity and research on behalf of the writer.

Narrative exposition is the insertion of background information within a story

This information can be about the setting, characters’ backstories, prior plot events, historical context, etc. In literature, exposition appears in the form of expository writing embedded within the narrative.

Exposition is one of four rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse), along with description, persuasion and narration.

  • Expository writing is a type of writing where the purpose is to explain, inform, or even describe.
  • The purpose of description is to re-create, invent, or visually present a person, place, event, or action so that the reader can picture that which is being described. The writer tries, not simply to convey facts about the object, but to give readers a direct impression of that object, as if they were standing in its presence. See: SHOW DON’T TELL.
  • Persuasive writing is backed by facts, whereas opinion writing is supported by emotions. It is a type of non-fiction writing where writers utilize logical arguments, and carefully chosen words and phrases. Literature rooted in the fiction genre could also be categorized as persuasive writings
  • The narrative mode encompasses the set of choices through which the creator of the story develops their narrator and narration. Narration includes both who tells the story and how the story is told. The narrator may be anonymous and unspecified, or a character appearing and participating within their own story (whether fictitious or factual), or the author themself as a character.


Worldbuilding is the part of the writing process that sets up where your story takes place. When you build a world, you include the landscape that your characters will inhabit, the tone of your story, its major preoccupations and themes, as well as the nature of its morality. Whether you’re writing a book, a film, or a video game, the imagined world you build should still feel like a real world, which means it must function with its own set of rules. Figuring out these rules takes time and attention to detail, but they will ultimately establish the basic structure of your universe. Masterclass

Indirect exposition is a technique of worldbuilding in which the reader is gradually exposed to background information about the world in which a story is set. This can be done in a number of ways: through dialoguesflashbacks, characters’ thoughts, background detailsa fictional universe mostly commonly associated with works of fantasy and science fiction in novels, comics, films, video games and art, or the narrator telling the background story.

If you “tell” someone about an event, they’ll simply know the facts about what happened. If you “show” someone an event through specific details, they’ll feel like they experienced that event alongside the fictional characters who lived it. See ‘Show, Don’t Tell

  • In the writing of Rudyard Kipling. In his stories set in India like The Jungle Book, Kipling was faced with the problem of Western readers not knowing the culture and environment of that land, so he gradually developed the technique of explaining through example.

Direct exposition occurs when the narrator or a character briefly pauses or delays the action of the story to introduce expository details.

Most works of literature, novels, plays, films, and TV shows use a combination of both direct and indirect exposition to convey important information to the reader.

  • Prologues and epilogues are two tools writers can use to create exposition, providing readers with information that allows them to better understand the story or themes. A prologue is a short introduction and an epilogue may contextualize, reflect on, and/or briefly summarize the story’s main events, or may give readers information about what happened to characters after the end of the main story.
  • Writers often use flashbacks and memories to convey important information about events that occurred before the beginning of the narrative.
  • Writers can also use characters’ thoughts as an effective expository tool. Though this is similar to using a character’s memories to fill in important information for the reader, a character’s thoughts in the present moment can be used to indicate their opinions and worldview, relationships with other characters, and can even give readers important information about other characters. In theater and film, characters’ thoughts are often represented through monologue or dialogue. The words that characters speak—either in dialogue or monologue—are often used to communicate both direct and indirect exposition, and can convey important background information to the reader / audience.
  • Non-fiction writers may quote media (such as books, newspapers, websites, text-messages, magazines, letters, or emails) in order to convey important information directly to readers.

The function of exposition

To create a setting, introduce characters, provide background information, and prepare readers / audiences / viewers for future events by revealing their nature and consequences.

Exposition locates readers / audiences / viewers in the world of the story: it establishes the “who, what, where, when,” and sometimes “why” of a plot. 

Exposition gives you a way to show the readers the sort of conflicts your characters have faced in the past, what their hopes and desires are, and what sort of experiences—good and bad—have made them into the people they are today. This makes them feel more real to the reader.

4 ways to convey exposition in your story

  • Narrative exposition is all the words you use to give the reader key details about what’s happening in any given moment, telling us what your character is feeling, how their bodies are reacting to what’s around them, memories that are dredged up in response to their surroundings, and questions they have about their world.
  • Dialogue exposition is conversation between two or more characters. You can use their conversation to convey background information to your reader, too. This might be through your characters talking about something that’s happened, one character explaining something to another, or from them discovering something new together.
  • Internal monologue exposition is where your character is talking to themselves inside their thoughts. In first person perspective, this will usually be a part of the narration. In third person perspective, however, the character’s thoughts will be distinct from the rest of the story.
  • Flashback exposition is describing key plot points that have happened, your reader actually gets to see them happening. This can take the form of an isolated section of the story, such as a prologue or a separate chapter, or it can happen as a short deviation from the events happening in the present. Flashbacks always need to be triggered by something—usually something sensory. Specific sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures are deeply linked to our memories, and you can use those sensory stimuli to reveal information to your reader.

Examples of Exposition

  • Shakespeare opens Romeo and Juliet with a prologue delivered by a chorus: Two households, both alike in dignity. In fair Verona, where we lay our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
    Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
    The entire fourteen-line prologue reveals even the fact that Romeo and Juliet will ultimately die: the entire plot, and the character’s fate, is provided in the exposition of the prologue.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s narrator uses dialogue to introduce Mrs. and Mr. Bennet, their relationship, and their differing attitudes towards arranging marriages for their daughters. “A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”
  • E.M. Forster begins Howard’s End with a series of letters from Helen to her sister, Meg. Helen is staying with family friends at a house called Howard’s End when she writes the letter that closes Chapter 1.

In the opening of Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, written by John Michael Hayes based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder,” we are introduced to the world of a professional photographer who is confined to a wheelchair in his apartment and from his window we meet his neighbors via their daily habits, as well as the mise-en-scène of their apartments. This expository scene gives viewers a taste of the voyeurism that is to come, and drops hints about how each character will figure into the story.

  • The animated film Up, co-written by directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, and Tom McCarthy, opens with a montage that guides us through main character Carl Fredriksen’s relationship with his wife, Ellie. In the span of just a couple of dialogue-free minutes, we experience the joy, love, and loss of the couple’s many years together. This scene is one of the best examples of exposition in recent film history.

Exposition is an essential part of every narrative—not just in the beginning, but throughout its entire journey

Exposition is a crucial part of a story because it serves as the foundation for the reader to understand why something that happens is important to the characters.

When your reader can relate to your characters, this gives you a better chance of keeping their attention until the end of your novel or screenplay.

Exposition gives your readers a wider view of the world you’re creating; adds depth to your characters and broadens your core story to include a greater range of space and time.

Poorly crafted exposition risks dragging down your story’s plot, effective exposition takes your fiction writing to a whole new level and makes the humanity within it feel even more real.

 THE WRITE JOURNEY course offers building blocks in crafting Exposition and Worldbuilding and gives an in-depth exploration of the Visual Dynamics Of Character, The Language and Visual Dynamics of Film, and how to Excavate The Inner Life Of Your Story. It takes you through the process of exploring the Inner Life of your story by creating a scene outline to build and dramatize each story event and to fully explore the exterior and internal lives of your story.

Visionary writer-director Terrence Malick masterfully shines the spotlight on humanity with A Hidden Life.

It is based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant farmer born and raised in the village of St. Radegund, who refused to take the oath of allegiance to Hitler during World War II, sacrificing everything, including his life, rather than to fight for the Nazis.

NOTE: If you want to experience this unforgettable film at its best, watch it without knowing too much about the story and avoid spoilers. You won’t regret it.


A Hidden Life focuses on the soulful relationship between Franz and his wife Fani, poignantly portraying their bond as deeply as Franz’s devotion to his cause. At every turn, Fani is there for Franz—strong, unfaltering and supportive of his path while raising their daughters and running the farm alone, eventually with help from her mother-in-law and sister.

Terrence Malick’s film draws on actual letters exchanged between Franz and Fani while Jägerstätter was in prison. The collection Franz Jägerstätter: Letters and Writings from Prison were edited by Erna Putz and published in English by Orbis Books. Some lines have been added to the letters, and sometimes the letters are paraphrased.

Franz Jägerstätter’s story was little known outside of St. Radegund, and might never have been discovered, was it not for the research of Gordon Zahn, an American who visited the village in the 1970s.

Producer Grant Hill has worked on several of Malick’s films before, including The Thin Red Line. Grant notes that the themes of A Hidden Life resonated with Malick.

“It’s an extraordinary, enduring love story that investigates human reactions and motivations and just how far people will push for their beliefs and conscience. It asks hard questions—do you have the right to hurt people that you love in service of the greater good? Ultimately, it is a timeless story of devotion, love and forgiveness writ large. I think those aspects appealed very much to Terry,” Hill says.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

A Hidden Life differs from director Terrence Malick’s previous films in that it is his first biographical film based on real people whose descendants are still alive.

“The family had suffered enormously, and Terry wanted Franz’s daughters to be involved and give their stamp of approval. We set up a meeting with them through intermediaries to find out if there was a way for him to tell the story that did justice to the storyline and made them feel comfortable.

Ultimately, they were prepared to trust Terry with Franz’s legacy, and we worked with them throughout production,” Hill explains.

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Casting A Hidden Life

In the early days of the project, Terrence Malick made the decision to only cast Austrian and German actors to preserve the authenticity of the story.

Introduced by executive producer Marcus Loges, Malick and Hill worked with casting director Anja Dihrberg (The Captain) to find the right alchemy of characters. Hill comments, “Even though I’ve spent time in Germany and knew a lot of the actors, it was astounding how many really talented people were coming out.

When casting the principal roles of Franz and Fani it was apparent that there had to be a natural relationship between the two roles.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Valerie Pachner (The Ground Beneath My Feet) emerged first and landed the role of Fani. “Valerie can light up the room. She is very strong having been brought up in that area. She knew exactly who that character would be,” said Hill.

Knowing that they needed to find an exact match in Franz to Valerie’s Fani, the team was nearing the end of the casting process a year later when August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds) entered the picture.

Hill remembers, “Terry had talked to August a number of times, but he was busy and couldn’t get in. What was going to be our last session, Anja called late in the day and said that August was in town unexpectedly, and he could be over to the office in half an hour—he came in and read the pages with Valerie. In that first reading you could see it straight away. They moved together and they had both vulnerability and strength together.”

Reflecting on the casting process August Diehl says, “I remember the first time I read the script I had a lot of talks with Terrence. He was curious about me and who he was going to work with. I remember talking about life and how we each see things,” says Diehl. “I grew up in France on a farm without electricity. He was curious about all this, about how I live and what my experiences were.”

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Diehl says he treated the letters between the husband and wife almost like another script alongside Malick’s.

Valerie Pachner had her first conversations with Malick over the phone.

“When he called me the first time we didn’t make any small talk. We immediately talked about the world and life and in that moment, I just felt ‘wow, that’s where I want to go, this is someone I want to work with.’”

Pachner, who grew up in Austria, felt close to the story. “People relied on each other, and at that time that also meant that you could not break out and be different. You had to toe the line. That’s why this story is so unusual.”

Malick sent her a book about women in the first World War working on the farms when the men were away fighting. She also got a present from a friend: a whole book about scything.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Terrence Malick has one of the most intriguing — and influential — approaches to cinematic storytelling of any director working today.

His process is also one that has evolved over the years. In the 38 years prior to “The Tree of Life,” he has made only four feature films. In the eight years since 2011, the 76-year old director has released four more features, along with a documentary, “Voyage of Time.”

Cinematographer Joerg Widmer is a long time collaborator with Malick, and the experience on earlier Malick films provided a baseline language on which to build. While this was the first Malick project for Widmer as cinematographer, he was the steadicam operator and second unit cinematographer under Emmanuel Lubezki on all of Malick’s films dating back to 2005’s “The New World.”

“Terry tends to avoid conventions and find new ways of storytelling and often gives the actors a large amount of freedom to experiment and the camera crew has to be equally open to creative possibilities,” says Widmer.

“Terry and I have a long history together and, as a camera and Steadicam operator on the five previous films, I was familiar with Terry’s approach. So it was easy for me to understand and execute his style of framing and camera movements and to embrace natural light.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

August Diehl was also familiar with Malick’s work but never imagined he’d work with him on a film, let alone star in it. “It was so special. I have never experienced a film like this, we were almost constantly in a flow of shooting that allowed us to organically be in the moment ,” says Diehl, describing Malick’s method of filming long takes.

Valerie Pachner adds that she felt empowered by Malick’s style. “We were encouraged to create ourselves and I felt Terry trusted me. We were constantly talking about if there was something else that we should do? I really felt like we are doing this together. And that’s because of his trust. He trusts the people working with him.”

Pachner describes Malick as “very respectful, humble and kind, and also radical. Radical in the way that he’s following his thoughts and his way of seeing things all the time and inviting us to be part of that journey.”

Filming A Hidden Life

Early on, Malick and Widmer decided to shoot primarily using natural light, turning to artificial illumination only on rare occasions. At the mercy of nature, Widmer and his crew had to be flexible.

Director of Photography Joerg Widmer on the set of A HIDDEN LIFE. Photo by Reiner Bajo. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

“Changing lighting conditions required continuous attention for stop changes to ensure proper exposure,” explains cinematographer Widmer.

For all the other sets, including the prison cells, the team worked with the sun, adjusting the schedule to the appropriate time of day until they lost the light.

“The barns were always shot when the openings of the buildings provided sunlight or at least brightness,” says Widmer.

The team only had to change the shooting schedule once: When the weather forecasters said it wasn’t going to be sunny on the day they planned to shoot the interior of the water mill.

The production was shot digitally on the Red Epic Dragon camera system. The camera was selected for its ability to handle stark contrast within a scene, preserving details in both the highlights and shadows of the image, while still maintaining realistic colour.

“We were prepared to keep the camera gear small,” says Widmer. “The lighting gear consisted mostly of bounce boards and blacks.”

The Jägerstätters lived in St. Radegund, a small village of 500 people in Upper Austria, near Salzburg and the German border–in the same province where Hitler was born and spent his early youth–not far from Berchtesgaden, his mountain retreat during his years as head of the German state. The production spent 24 days in South Tyrol, the northernmost province of Italy, then moved into Austria itself, shooting for a few days in St. Radegund itself. For the prison scenes, the production spent the last 14 days in Zittau and Berlin, Germany.

Supervising art director Steve Summersgill says the locations were selected for their texture, authenticity and scope. “Most importantly we learned that the natural light levels were very much part of the decisionmaking process as to whether or not a certain location may or may not work,” Summersgill says.

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

The film was shot in churches and cathedrals, on farms with real livestock, orchards, up mountains, in fields and along rural pathways. “Nature and the natural environment were part of the subtext and the locations provided us with a foundation to build up from,” says Summersgill.

Production designer Sebastian Krawinkel carried out research on Franz Jägerstätter and the important places in his life, consulting letters and archive materials.

“We scouted some of the locations together a year in advance in order to see them in the right season,” says Krawinkel. “For almost a year I had a weekly dialogue with Terry about which sets he would need and which locations and references he liked.”

© 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

A few scenes were shot in the St. Radegund locations where the events depicted actually took place–including certain interiors of the Jägerstätter house, which has over the years become a pilgrimage site, as well as by the Salzach river near St. Radegund and in the woods below the house. The clock visible on the wall of the Jägerstätter living room is the one that Fani was listening to when, at four in the afternoon on August 9, 1943, at the very hour of Franz’s execution, she remembered feeling her husband’s presence. The bedroom is theirs and looks as it did then. Her embroidery still hangs on the walls. Franz and Fani’s three daughters–Maria, Rosalia and Aloisa–live in, or near, St. Radegund. Fani passed away in 2013, aged 100.

NOTE: Since Malick doesn’t do interviews, lead actors Valerie Pachner and August Diehl, and the film’s cinematographer Jörg Widmer explains the process of making A Hidden Life. Read more

The film’s composer James Newton Howard found his way to the film in a less traditional way.

Grant Hill recalls, “We were at the point of working out if we were going to bring in a composer or whether we go with existing music. Terry had been experimenting with some of James’ music from other films, and eventually reached out to him. It all happened so quickly.”

Howard says scoring the film was a collaborative process.

“One of the early ideas Terry brought to me, was to incorporate sounds he had captured during production such as church bells from the villages, cow and sheep bells, the sawmill, sounds from the prison, and scythes in the fields,” says Howard. ”I took many of those sounds and processed them into musical elements that are woven throughout the score.”

Howard began his process after Malick sent him a series of short clips from the film without any sound or music.

“I wrote very loosely to picture, but we were able to establish the key thematic material and sonic identity of the score. As we moved forward, we chose to work mostly scene by scene where I would write something that he would react to, and then he would often mould the edit to what I had done,” Howard explains.

Though the film takes place against such an important historical backdrop, the film at its core is a human story. “I chose to focus on the emotional journeys and crises of conscience of the characters—writing music to reflect their story.”

Howard began during the film edit.

“After meeting with Terry at my studio in Los Angeles, I flew to Austin and met with his team to watch a cut of the film,” he says. “We worked primarily between March and May of 2018 and recorded everything in early June at Abbey Road Studios in London. “I felt the orchestra was best to reflect the vistas of St. Radegund. The solo violin throughout the film embodies the connection between our two main characters—performed by the violinist James Ehnes.

A story is lifeless without a heart and soul and as its creator, the writer has to bring it to life.

The writer is responsible for the birth of a story, its lifespan, and the everlasting emotional impact it must have on its readers and viewers.

It all begins with the written word and ends with an emotionally rewarding and fulfilling story that lives on in the minds of those who experience it.

It is important for the writer to make the audience experience the story as a visceral and breathing organism.

Every story has a life and it’s not simply you as a writer telling the story, but creating its vitality.

Telling a story is simply dictating what happens.

Creating a story is breathing life into it, and giving it a heart and a soul.

The heartbeat of your story is the plot, using rhythm, pace and tempo to create a dynamic emotional truth.

  • Rhythm is the beat, the smallest structural point in your story; beats build scenes, scenes escalate into sequences, and sequences create acts.
  • The tempo is the rate of the rhythm or how fast the rhythm moves; an action scene is vastly different from a scene that requires a hushed dramatic intensity.
  • Pacing: The various changes in tempo and rhythm that take place in the story.

The soul of your story is found in the inner mindscape, the inner life of the story, probing the thoughts, dreams and nightmares of your characters, illuminating their respective point of view – how they see the world.

The blood pumping through your story is how you write it, the rich visual narrative that captivates and ultimately rewards with its stirring emotional impact.

You know that your story is alive when the characters become real people and start to take on a life of their own in the fictional reality the writer creates, exploring, confronting and challenging their raw sexuality, lurid secrets, hostile aggression, passive serenity, flawed innocence, vulnerable dispositions, forbidden fears and illusive fantasies.

A year after Tennessee Williams won the Pulitzer for his sell-out play A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway, he was still rewriting the play. When asked about this, Williams replied that the character of Blanche was not strong enough to stand on her own two feet and that he as its creator was still holding her hand.

Once you have given your story a heart and a soul, it is equally important for the writer to know what’s at the heart of the story, being fully in control of the focus point of the protagonist’s existence, and the axel around which everything in the story revolves around.

Film magnifies a story 10 times and becomes larger than real life.

Therefore, the focus point of your story needs to be clear and not muddled or diluted by the intricate plot and subplots, amplifying the writer’s thematic purpose.

  • At the heart of a murder mystery, you will find a romance.
  • At the heart of a romance, you will discover the tragedy of abuse.
  • At the heart of disaster, you will find a father and daughter story
  • At the heart of horror, you will unveil the beauty of life.
  • At the heart of death, you will find the vitality of being alive.

It is through your story that the writer allows the reader / viewer to feel what’s happening and establishes a bond.

Only when the action on the screen and the reaction in your mind are united as one, “film” is taking place.

This ‘communication’ begins with the screenwriter who created the idea for the film and uses film as the medium (the element that the artist uses to express ideas) for communicating and expressing the idea.

Just as a book is nothing but words until someone reads it, the film is nothing but tiny pictures until someone sees it.

Stories change the way we see the world and writers have to initiate and inspire this transformative experience.

Our The Write Journey course looks at how you can fully explore and develop the heart and soul of your story.

Are you tired of talking about your story and not writing it? It’s time to take action.

The Write Draft is an advance course that is ideal for writers who have completed The Write Journey Course or The Write Journey Workshop and understand the principles of writing a screenplay for feature film or TV, a novel or stage play.

Following in the tradition of 23 years of extensive workshops throughout South Africa, and courses internationally, The Writing Studio has shaped the successful careers of many of South Africa’s leading filmmakers and storytellers and is now honing the skills of future writers in the art and craft of storytelling.

Who is the course aimed at

  • Ideal for Screenwriters (writing for film of TV), Novelists and Playwrights who have done The Write Journey Course or workshop
  • Writers who are ready to write their story
  • Experienced writers have conceptualized their idea, fully developed their characters, structured and plotted their story
  • Writers who need to rewrite a draft

Goals and Objectives

  • To complete a TOP SHEET
  • Complete a STORY & SCENE OUTLINE
  • Craft a story from opening to ending
  • Submit a complete DRAFT for editing / polishing

What does the course involve?

  • There are 12 Units in the course, and each unit will be completed with a mentor.
  • During this process, your mentor is there to help you understand the material and solve problems

What you need to have for this course

  • Access to the Internet
  • The course is done via email correspondence, offering a one-on-one interaction with your mentor
  • Patience & Persistence

The course is done by Daniel Dercksen, the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years. Daniel has been teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting, and screenwriting throughout South Africa for the past 22 years, and fine-tuning screenplays and stories as a story-editor

Let’s explore films that perfectly encapsulate the raw power and thought-provoking nature of this world-changing technological breakthrough from 2020 to the present.

Part I explores films crafted from the 30s to the 60s. Part II explores films made during the 70s. Part III takes a look at the 80s and 90s, Part IV features films from the year 2000 to 2010, Part V explores films from 2011 to 2017, Part VI looks at films from 2018 & 2019, and Part VII explores the years 2020 to the present.

Archive (2020)

Set in 2038, the film follows a scientist who is trying to advance artificial intelligence a step further than human beings, all while bringing his wife back from the dead. A man secretly begins developing a robot that will be able to hold the consciousness of his deceased wife permanently. After learning from two initial attempts (J1 and J2), his final version (J3) is almost complete.

British science fiction film written and directed by Gavin Rothery, in his directorial debut.

2067 (2020)

In the year 2067, Earth has been devastated by climate change and an ongoing nuclear war. Only one city in the ruins of Australia has been able to hold out against these catastrophic changes, thanks to synthetic oxygen; but this oxygen is tainted and gradually causes a deadly affliction called “The Sickness”. After surviving traumatic time displacement, Ethan finds himself with a hand computer named Archie.

Australian science fiction film directed and written by Seth Larney from a treatment by Gavin Scott Davis (itself from Larney’s own idea)

We Need To Talk About AI (2020)

Acclaimed filmmaker Leanne Pooley directs this insightful documentary examining the future of artificial intelligence and the impact it will have on our world. As computers continue to evolve at an ever-greater speed, they will have the capacity to design and program themselves. Without the help of humans, the next generation of computers will create new and smarter A.I. at an exponential pace. What will these technological developments mean for the future of mankind?

Coded Bias (2020)

The documentary is about artificial intelligence and the biases that can be embedded into this technology. It states that there is a lack of legal structures for artificial intelligence and that as a result, human rights are being violated. It says that some algorithms and artificial intelligence technologies discriminate by race and gender statuses in domains such as housing, career opportunities, healthcare, credit, education, and legalities

 American documentary film directed by Shalini Kantayya 

Invasion (also known as Attraction 2) (2020)

The action takes place three years after the events of Attraction. A girl who was saved from death with the help of extraterrestrial technologies has unusual abilities now. The girl has become the object of the research conducted in secret laboratories of the Ministry of Defense. Julia’s new abilities attract not only people on Earth, they are becoming a threat to extraterrestrial civilizations

 Russian science fiction action film directed and produced by Fyodor Bondarchuk

After Yang (2021)

Jake and Kyra live with their adoptive daughter Mika, as well as Yang, a robotic teenage boy. Jake and Kyra bought Yang, a culture unit, as a way for Mika to connect with her Chinese heritage through sharing stories and facts. Yang becomes unresponsive one day after a family dance competition, but he is no longer under warranty because they purchased him from defunct reseller Second Siblings instead of his original manufacturer, Brothers & Sisters Incorporated. Jake, whose tea shop is struggling, seeks an affordable way to repair Yang.

Written, directed, and edited by Kogonada.

Finch (2021)

Post-apocalyptic survival-film. The story follows an aging man named Finch, a survivor in a now nearly uninhabitable Earth, who builds and teaches a robot to take care of his dog when he dies.

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik and written by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell. The film stars Tom Hanks.

Free Guy (2021)

 It tells the story of a bank teller who discovers that he is a non-player character in a massively multiplayer online game who then partners with a player to find evidence that a gaming company’s CEO stole the player’s game’s source code.

Directed and produced by Shawn Levy from a screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, and a story by Lieberman. 

Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021)

A socially awkward middle-schooler befriends a defective robot he names Ron, and must find a way to protect Ron, who comes under danger from corporate employees.

Animated science fiction comedy directed by Sarah Smith and Jean-Philippe Vine (in his feature directorial debut), co-directed by Octavio E. Rodriguez, and written by Peter Baynham and Smith.

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

The film is set sixty years after Revolutions and follows Neo, who lives a seemingly ordinary life as a video game developer having trouble with distinguishing fantasy from reality. A group of rebels, with the help of a programmed version of Morpheus, free Neo from a new version of the Matrix and fight a new enemy that holds Trinity captive.

Co-written, and directed by Lana Wachowski, and the first in the Matrix franchise to be directed solely by Lana, without her sister, Lilly. It is the sequel to The Matrix Revolutions (2003) and the fourth installment in The Matrix film franchise.

Mother/Android (2021)

 It follows a pregnant woman and her boyfriend who try to reach a fortified Boston amidst an AI takeover. Nine months later, Georgia, expecting her baby, has taken shelter in the forest with Sam. They are trying to reach Boston, which has been fortified against the androids. 

Post-apocalyptic science fiction thriller written and directed by Mattson Tomlin 

I’m Your Man (2021)

Dr. Alma Felser, an archeologist, arrives at a dance club where an employee introduces her to Tom. Alma quizzes Tom with a complex math problem and on trivial details about his favorite poem, and he answers readily. Tom then invites Alma to dance but suddenly begins repeating himself; he is quickly carried away, revealing him to be a robot.

German science fiction romance written and directed by Maria Schrader

Je Suis Auto (2021)

 “Auto” is a self-driving taxi. An unemployed nerd critical of artificial intelligence. The film is a farcical comedy that deals with issues such as artificial intelligence, politics of labor, and tech culture

Austrian social science fiction indie comedy directed by Juliana Neuhuber and written by Johannes Grenzfurthner

Moonfall (2022)

It follows two former astronauts alongside a conspiracy theorist who discover the hidden truth about the Moon when it suddenly leaves its orbit.

Co-written, directed and produced by Roland Emmerich

Brian and Charles (2022)

A feature-length adaptation of the trio’s 2017 short film of the same name. A lonely inventor in rural Wales comes across a mannequin’s head, which inspires him to attempt to create an artificially intelligent robot, though he is unable to activate it. That night, during a thunderstorm, Brian discovers his activated robot wandering outside of his workshop, and Brian brings it into his house.

Directed by Jim Archer, in his feature debut, from a screenplay by David Earl and Chris Hayward

Bigbug (2022)

Set in the world of 2045, where communities have robotic helpers, a group of suburbanites are locked in for their own protection by their household robots, while a rogue, sentient AI android revolt uprising outside.

A French science fiction black comedy written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. On Netflix

Kimi (2022)

CEO of a tech corporation called Amygdala gives an interview about the company’s newest product, Kimi. Kimi is a smart speaker that controversially makes use of human monitoring to improve the device’s search algorithm. Amygdala plans to soon hold an initial public offering, which stands to earn Hasling a fortune.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh and written and produced by David Koepp. Released on HBO Max

M3GAN (2023)

The plot follows an artificially intelligent doll, who develops self-awareness and becomes hostile toward anyone who comes between her and her human companion.

Directed by Gerard Johnstone. It was written by Akela Cooper from a story by Cooper and James Wan 

Jung_E  (2023)

In 2194, Kronoid clones a legendary mercenary’s brain to develop an AI mercenary, code-named Jung_E. Dr. Yun Seo-hyun is the team leader of research project Jung_E and seeks to memorialize Jung-yi as a hero rather than a failure. Researchers at Kronoid have copied Jung-yi’s brain data and put them in Android bodies. Through simulations of Jung-yi’s final mission, they try to extract combat memory data that could be used to develop an exceptional combat AI. Just like Captain Jung-yi failed her last mission, AI JUNG_E also fails in every simulation of the last mission.

South Korean science fiction film written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho. On Netflix

Heart of Stone (2023)

An international intelligence operative must embark on a dangerous mission to protect a mysterious artificial intelligence system known as “The Heart”. She is tasked by the peacekeeping operation known as Charter to keep the object safe from falling into enemy hands.

Directed by Tom Harper from a screenplay by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder and a story by Rucka. On Netflix

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)

A next-generation Russian submarine Sevastopol employs an advanced AI, activated by a two-pieced cruciform key. The AI deceives the crew into attacking a phantom target only to be struck by their own torpedo, killing all aboard. IMF agent Ethan Hunt travels to the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Desert to retrieve one-half of the key from disavowed MI6 agent Ilsa Faust, who carries a bounty from an unknown source.

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, from a screenplay he co-wrote with Erik Jendresen.

It’s the sequel to Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) and the seventh installment in the Mission: Impossible film series. The untitled eighth Mission: Impossible film will be released in 2024.

The Creator (2023)

Set in 2070, 15 years after a nuclear detonation in Los Angeles and a war against artificial intelligence, an ex-special forces agent is recruited to hunt down and kill the “Creator,” who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war.

Directed by Gareth Edwards, who co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Weitz

Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire (2024)

In a universe controlled by the corrupt government of the Motherworld, the moon of Veldt is threatened by the forces of the Imperium, the army of the Motherworld controlled by Regent Balisarius. Kora, a former member of the Imperium who seeks redemption for her past in the leadership of the oppressive government, tasks herself to recruit warriors from across the galaxy to make a stand against the Motherworld’s forces before they return to the planet.

Directed by Zack Snyder from a screenplay he co-wrote with Kurt Johnstad and Shay Hatten, based on a story Snyder also created. A sequel, Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver, is set to be released on April 19, 2024. Netflix.



The blockbuster Hunger Games saga has thrilled and captured the imaginations of audiences around the world for over 15 years. Its enthralling story and captivating mythology speak to all ages, and have turned the film series into a global phenomenon. The franchise is approaching a global box office of $3 billion. Of course, it was born from a publishing phenomenon, with over 100 million copies of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy books sold. Now, audiences will finally see how this world came to be, through the origin story of Coriolanus Snow.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes offers an original landscape that takes the series into uncharted territory while remaining thematically connected to the other films in the franchise. The prequel examines Panem’s past and unearths all the rich history referenced in the previous films through the eyes of a young Coriolanus Snow, whose story becomes the throughline across all previous Hunger Games films.

Everything fans know and love about The Hunger Games begins with The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes. Within an expansive canvas, the film explores the duality of spirit — songbird and snake — within us all. We are light and dark, good, and evil, joy and sorrow — a fusion of feathers and scales. Every decision we make propels us down a path that reveals our true selves.

It’s the fifth installment in the franchise. It is directed by Francis Lawrence, who returns to, and expands upon, this incredible world after directing The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 and 2. The film is shepherded by franchise producer Nina Jacobson, who produces for Color Force along with Brad Simpson. Screenwriters Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt crafted the sprawling adaptation of Collins’s tome

Upon its publication, Suzanne Collins’s The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes became an instant best-seller, embraced by the legions of fans who had read her three wildly successful Hunger Games novels: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. Collins’s new story expands upon the Hunger Games timeline, visiting the rocky beginnings of the sensationalist broadcast of the Games.

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate

The new big-screen adventure follows a young Coriolanus (Tom Blyth), the last hope for the once-proud Snow family, whose failing lineage has spelled a fall from grace in a postwar Capitol. With his livelihood threatened, Snow reluctantly accepts the assignment to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) — a Tribute from the impoverished District 12 — in the 10th Hunger Games. But after Lucy Gray’s charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift both their fates. With everything he has worked for hanging in the balance, Snow unites with Lucy Gray to turn the odds in their favor. Battling his instincts for both good and evil, Snow sets out on a race against time to survive and reveal whether he will ultimately become a songbird…or a snake.

Collins was still writing the novel when she reached out to director Francis Lawrence

As the filmmaker remembers, “Suzanne began by telling me, simply, ‘I’ve been writing a book.’ I was thrilled to hear this because I, along with countless Hunger Games fans, thought it would be fantastic to make another installment exploring the world of The Hunger Games — and we always felt that it would have to come from Suzanne. The fact that she called me up and to have her be reinspired and bring us back into the fold with rich thematic materials was exciting.”

Indeed, The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes offers the same thought-provoking richness as the books that preceded it, and takes the series into fresh, unknown territory. Collins’s novel examines the early days of the Games, the origins of Panem’s authoritarianism, and the invention of rituals that create an obedient society.

The novel looks back at a young Coriolanus Snow and his days as a student, as he begins his journey that will ultimately take him to the presidency of Panem. Producer Nina Jacobson comments: “I was very taken with trying to understand the allure of why a person, like the young Snow, might choose authoritarianism. You’re not born the person you become; you’re shaped into the person you become. I could see how a country can turn towards authoritarianism when people decide that they feel safer when the state is in control.”

Jacobson and Lawrence were eager to unearth Panem’s rich history that Collins referenced in the previous novels. Lawrence notes, “When we were making the original movies, Nina and I would often talk about the dark days and wars that led to the Hunger Games, and to their very creation. Suzanne had built such an incredible mythology and history to that world. The stories in The Hunger Games films are all about the consequences of war. They investigate its different aspects, and as you go through the series, you get further and further into concepts like PTSD, propaganda, the loss of people you love, and the disappearance of a way of life.”

Despite its close thematic connection to the other films in the series, The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakesoffers an original storytelling landscape. “The blood that runs through the first four movies runs through the veins of this one,” Jacobson says. “To show a different side at a different time has been really exciting, especially because it fills in the stories you know as it sweeps you up into its own narrative.”

The film’s timeline offered the filmmakers a different perspective on Panem.  “Seeing Panem through a young Snow’s eyes has been a complete paradigm shift for us,” Jacobson states. “The Capitol, though still in power, is recovering from the effects of a war that is a distant memory in Katniss’s stories, but a recent one for Snow.  To see the formative influences, and to see how Snow is shaped by those people, and by his unexpected relationship with Lucy Gray Baird, casts a new light on his relationship with Katniss and on the future of Panem.”

Collins’s book and the new film also explore the genesis of the showmanship and nascent spectacle of the Games, and how tradition can have surprising origins. Lawrence says, “We enjoyed building this world. The story takes place so early in the history of the Hunger Games that there are many things that audiences experienced in the original movies that don’t yet exist. We deconstruct the Games and go back in time to see how they evolved. We depict how the landscape of the arena has changed, how the Capitol starts to influence the games, and how the Panem audiences begin to participate in the Games, instead of just watching them. It was creatively satisfying to scale back on the technology and drill down to these raw fundamentals.”

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Viola Davis as Dr Volumnia Gaul in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close

Bringing the Story to Life

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes unites franchise stalwarts Lawrence and Jacobson, along with executive producer Mika Saito, co-producer Cameron MacConomy, associate producer Greg Capoccia, director of photography Jo Willems, visual effects supervisor Adrian De Wet, and costume designer Trish Summerville. 

Production began in the picturesque city of Wroclaw, Poland. The epic scale of the book, coupled with Lawrence’s affinity for filming in practical locations, set the production on a 17-week journey across Poland and Germany, utilizing breathtaking and imposing locations to build Panem.  When it wrapped in Poland, the team moved to Landschaftspark, a public park located in Duisburg-Meiderich, Germany. Germany’s famed Babelsberg Studio hosted the stage for Snow’s apartment, one of the production’s only builds

A thrilling train sequence, where Snow first meets Lucy Gray, took place in a train museum in Cologne. It was a challenge for the production to find a train shed that was long enough to enable an actual train to pull into the station and then have passengers disembark.

Later at the train station, Coriolanus finds himself in the back of a truck with a group of Tributes. The truck drops the Tributes in a zoo enclosure, located in the production’s principal and final destination, Berlin. “We found one of the most picturesque parks in Berlin, with an artificial lake and unusual turtle shell construction, and created our own zoo enclosure right in the middle of it,” Hanisch says.

“The idea of making a period piece in the world of Panem was really intriguing for all of us,” says Nina Jacobson. “Part of what was so inspired was Uli Hanisch’s vision on this as our production designer. He had a deep knowledge of the architecture that emerges in the wake of a war, as a country or capital is trying to rebuild itself. And then to have the architecture and its history resonate so deeply with the ideas of the movie was very thrilling.”

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. Photo Credit: Murray Close

FRANCIS LAWRENCE – Director, Producer

Over the past two decades, Francis Lawrence has captivated audiences around the world in films, television, music videos and commercials. And he continues to prove himself as a visionary director and producer with creative storytelling that transcends traditional demographics — conveying the artistry on par with some of the world’s most influential artists. 

In film, Lawrence has helmed the Hunger Games franchise as director of three of the four films — Catching Fire, Mockingjay – Part 1 and Mockingjay – Part 2. His work on the series has grossed over $2.2 billion worldwide. 

Additionally, Lawrence directed Netflix’s adventure comedy Slumberland, starring Jason Momoa, which was released in November of 2022, and the Russian spy thriller Red Sparrow starring Academy Award®-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence. Based on the novel of the same name, the film grossed over $151 million at the box office and was released by 20th Century Fox in 2018. 

In 2005, Lawrence made his feature film debut with Constantine, based on the Hellblazer comic book. This project was followed by the 2007 post-apocalyptic horror film, I Am Legend, adapted from the Richard Matheson novel of the same name.

On the television side, Lawrence executive produced and directed select episodes of Apple TV series See that is based on Steven Knight’s book. He served as executive producer of the Starz miniseries The Serpent Queen based on Leonie Frieda’s book “Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France, ” and served as director and executive producer on the pilot and several episodes of the acclaimed series Kings. In 2011, he directed the pilot episode of FOX’s Touch.

MICHAEL LESSLIE – Screenwriter

Michael is an award-winning screenwriter, playwright, and producer. He has previously written scripts for Macbeth and Assasin’s Creed, both directed by Justin Kurzel, and served as lead writer and showrunner for the legendary director Park Chan-Wook’s television debut The Little Drummer Girl. Macbeth premiered in competition in Cannes to five-star reviews. The Little Drummer Girl also launched to five-star reviews, along with top ratings for the BBC. Both were nominated for several major international awards. Lesslie is also currently working with such acclaimed practitioners as Johan Renck, Riz Ahmed and Margaret Atwood, developing large-scale projects with global reach. He balances this with original work for the screen and the stage. His plays have been performed at the Royal National Theatre and beyond, and in 2007 he became the youngest person ever to open a new play straight in the West End. Lesslie co-founded Storyteller Productions with PJ van Sandwijk in order to bring bold new stories to life and to encourage emerging voices. They have a powerful slate, producing drama and documentary projects with Ron Howard, Doug Liman, Polly Stenham, Chiwetel Ejiofor, William Nicholson, Guy Ritchie, Errol Morris, Steven Knight and Alex Gibney, to name a few.

MICHAEL ARNDT – Screenwriter

Michael Arndt wrote the screenplays for Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Toy Story 3 (2010). He also shared screenplay credit on Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Oblivion (2013), and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). He lives in New York City.

SUZANNE COLLINS – Novelist, Executive Producer

Bestselling author Suzanne Collins first made her mark in children’s literature with the New York Times bestselling Underland Chronicles fantasy series for middle grade readers. She continued to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age with The Hunger Games Series. The Hunger Games (2008) was an instant bestseller, appealing to both teen readers and adults. It was called “addictive” by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly, and “brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced” by John Green in the New York Times Book Review. The book appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 260 consecutive weeks (more than five consecutive years), and there are more than 100 million copies of all four books in the series—The Hunger Games, Catching Fire (2009), Mockingjay (2010), and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2020)—in print and digital formats worldwide. Foreign publishing rights for The Hunger Games Series have been sold in 54 languages to 52 territories to date. In 2012 Lionsgate launched the first of four films based on the novels, starring Jennifer Lawrence. To date, the franchise has earned nearly $3 billion at the worldwide box office, and the much-anticipated feature film The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will arrive in theaters nationwide on November 17, 2023.

In 2010 Suzanne Collins was named to the TIME 100 list as well as the Entertainment Weekly Entertainers of the Year list; in 2011 Fast Company named her to their 100 Most Creative People in Business; and in 2016 she was presented the 2016 Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community for exemplifying the unique power of young people’s literature to change lives and to create lifelong book lovers. It was the first time the Guild presented its annual award to a YA author. The Atlantic called Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen, “the most important female character in recent pop culture history,” and TIME Magazine named Katniss to its list of “The 100 Most influential People Who Never Lived.” On The Hunger Games trilogy, The New York Times Book Review wrote, “At its best the trilogy channels the political passion of 1984, the memorable violence of A Clockwork Orange, the imaginative ambience of The Chronicles of Narnia and the detailed inventiveness of Harry Potter.” For more information about The Hunger Games, visit http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/hungergames

The Write Journey is an interactive, intimate, and introspective journey into the world of the story, empowering writers to take ownership of the creative journey and creative expression.

Following in the tradition of 24 years of extensive workshops throughout South Africa, and courses internationally, The Write Journey is an interactive course for writers who would like to write a screenplay for a feature film or television and is ideal for novelists, screenwriters (for films and TV) and playwrights.

The Write Journey turns the voice in your head into an actual narrative. It’s uniquely two courses blended into one, turning ideas into a successful story while learning about yourself in the process.

It takes you from inspiration, to fully develop your idea, characters and plotting, to mastering the craft of visual narrative, culminating in writing your first pages.

The Write Journey has shaped the successful careers of many of South Africa’s leading filmmakers and storytellers and is now honing the skills of future writers in the art and craft of storytelling. Read more

  • Once the foundation is set with The Write Journey, our advanced The Write Draft course takes writers through the process of writing the first draft or rewrite their screenplay novel / stageplay. Working closely with a mentor, it explores the editing and refinement of the complete draft, getting the screenplay ready for the marketplace. Send us an email for more information on The Write Draft course

If you want to write a story, The Write Journey is your first step in the write direction.

Who is the course aimed at

  • Beginners
  • Ideal for Screenwriters (writing for film of TV), Novelists and Playwrights
  • Experienced writers who are lost in the process of writing their story and need motivation
  • Writers who need discipline
  • Writers who need the guidance of a mentor

Goals and Objectives

  • To lay the foundation of your story
  • To craft a story from inspiration to writing the first pages of your story
  • To define and develop characters
  • To structure and plot your story
  • Mastering the art of outlining your story
  • Taking ownership of your story
  • Writing a story that is ready for the marketplace
  • Free evaluation of the first 10 pages of your story

What does the course involve?

  • There are 12 Units in the course, and each unit has Self-Tasks that you must research and complete in your own time
  • Tasks that you must submit to your mentor to make sure that you are on the right track – during this process, your mentor is there to help you understand the material and solve problems.

What you need to have for this course

  • Access to the Internet
  • The course is done online, via email correspondence, offering a one-on-one interaction with your mentor
  • Me-time
  • Your imagination
  • Space to create

Following 40 years as a Film and Theatre Journalist, and 23 years of screenwriting and creative writing workshops throughout South Africa and internationally, The Write Journey evolved into the Signature course of The Writing Studio, and Independent Training Initiative founded by Daniel Dercksen in 1998.



Following winning an Oscar for best original screenplay for Good Will Hunting, their first screenplay which they wrote together, and a friendship of over 40 years, Bostonians Matt Damon and Ben Affleck re-team for the screenplay of The Last Duel, a historical epic based on actual events that unravels long-held assumptions about France’s last sanctioned duel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two friends turned bitter rivals.

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Eric Jager’s compelling 2004 book, The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime Scandal and Trial by Combat in Medieval France caught the eye of Matt Damon, who immediately saw its cinematic potential and envisioned Ridley Scott taking the helm.

Having worked with Scott on The Martian, Damon knew his visual sensibility and experience with big, historical epics throughout four decades in Hollywood was perfectly suited to this true story based on historical source materials about a legendary duel to the death, the last officially recorded trail by combat of its kind. The book brings the turbulent Middle Ages to life in striking detail.

Two friends and knights, Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, must go against each other in a fight to the death after the wife of de Carrouges accuses Le Gris of sexual assault.

Watch now on Disney Plus

Telling The Story

When etiquette, social aspirations and justice were driven by the codes of chivalry, the consequences for defying the institutions of the time – the Church, the nobility at court, a teenage king – could be severe. For a woman navigating these violent times, one who had no legal standing without the support of her husband, the stakes were even higher.

Jager’s extensive research involved 10 years of tracking down, translating and scrutinizing centuries-old historical records – everything from chronicles, legal records and property deeds to military receipts, architectural plans and historical maps. “I found some documents containing errors or omissions. I also found documents that had either been entirely overlooked or had been mentioned only in very obscure places and that didn’t seem to be a part what historians and scholars knew about the case,” says Jager. “So one of the first big surprises for me was that what historians and legal scholars have been saying for centuries, that Marguerite was mistaken, or even that she had lied, didn’t seem to me to be true.”

The author took numerous trips to the Normandy region, where he visited the actual castle where Jean de Carrouges’ family resided, the royal palace where Parlement assembled to witness the request for a duel and Saint-Martin des Champs (the old monastery retrofitted to host the duel itself). Jager was even able to view the original, handwritten record of the legal testimony, which, due to the sturdy parchment used in the 14th century, was very well preserved and clearly legible.

“It (the duel) is remembered like an old family tragedy,” says Jager. “It’s like part of the history of the Normandy region, part of life there. They have festivals where fencing enthusiasts re-enact the duel. People there live close to history, and they’re fascinated by it.”

Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges and Adam Driver as Jacques LeGris in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. Photo by Patrick Redmond. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

With Scott attached as director, Damon and Affleck spent several months speaking to some wonderful screenwriters, but ultimately decided to tackle it themselves.

“We knew it was an incredible story, the question was how do we tell it in a way that would be really interesting,” says Damon. “And that’s when we came up with the perspectives idea and, ultimately, the kind of the bait and switch, where you have two thirds of a movie with these two men only to discover that this woman is actually the hero of the whole story.”

Damon and Affleck were soon collaborating on the script with Nicole Holofcener, a writer/director (Lovely & Amazing, Friends with Money) and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), with each writing from the perspective of Carrouges, Le Gris and Marguerite, respectively, to ensure the story effectively captured all three voices.

Nicole Holofcener

According to Holofcener, “The reason I came on in is because Matt and Ben are not women. Not that they couldn’t write terrific women, plenty of men do, but I think that’s what I was able to add: my perspective as a female, and a different eye and a different voice as well.”

Men like Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris were the heroes of their own stories – but unreliable narrators of history. Marguerite’s perspective is essential, offering a needed correction to the men’s unchallenged views of themselves and the world around them.

Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. Photo by Patrick Redmond. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“These guys were born into the middle of a hundred year war. They only knew this incredibly violent life, part of which was literally raping and pillaging, which were—and still are—weapons of war, but that was the world that these guys lived in,” says Damon. “It was incredibly, incredibly violent, so when reading the book it felt like the only story that was worth telling was hers; her incredible bravery under this awful pressure, to be interrogated that way, to be shamed that way, but to never relent and, in that culture, tell the truth about what happened to her.”

When Marguerite de Carrouges is attacked, it is traumatizing on many levels. Holofcener says, “After she is raped, the world becomes different forever for Marguerite. She was brutalized; it was almost a culmination of a woman’s life at that time, because she had no rights, no control and no power and she was treated like a piece of meat, even by her husband.  So the rape was the last straw. I think she didn’t even care at that point what happened to her if she told the truth. She knew that he could kill her just for saying it and she knew it was going to end the way it was going to end without her say.”

“She admits to her husband that she was raped, which in 14th-century France was an incredibly brave and risky decision for any woman,” says producer Kevin J. Walsh. “Women at that time carried few societal rights and were commonly under the legal guardianship of men. A woman who had the courage to speak out about sexual assault was often terrorized and vulnerable to further violence by her husband and entire community on the grounds of infidelity, promiscuity, and disobedience. Considering these grave risks, Marguerite’s decision to step forth and tell the truth was even more heroic.”

Adds Affleck, “We found so many aspects of the formal, codified patriarchy of 14th century Western Europe to still be present in vestigial ways (and in some cases almost unchanged) in today’s society. Further, we wanted to examine how institutions, acculturation and social norms had and continue to have such a profound effect on how an individual perceives reality and explore the notion that these factors had a great deal to do with the widely varying historical accounts from the time as well as use perspective to dramatize those private moments which were not recorded by history.”

Grounded in the story of one extraordinary woman, The Last Duel is an exploration of power and survival, and the cultural forces that conspired to distort that truth. Despite their shared experiences, these characters lived in different worlds…and there can only be one truth.

Bringing the characters to life

Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. Photo by Jessica Forde. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Damon, whose credits as an actor include Good Will Hunting, The Departed, The Talented Mr. Riley and the Jason Bourne films, takes on the role of Jean de Carrouges, the seasoned, ambitious knight from a respected family in Northern France who is struggling for power and position. Fighting is all he knows, and while revered for his loyalty and service to the King, he is stubborn, hotheaded and deeply mistrustful.

Adam Driver, who has starred in films including Marriage Story, BlacKkKlansman, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Rise of Skywalker, plays Jacques Le Gris, the squire accused of assaulting his friend Jean de Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite. As Pierre d’Alençon’s protégé, he is both charming and arrogant.

Adam Driver as Jacques LeGris in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Jodie Comer, who co-stars in the BBC hit Killing Eve and can be seen on the big screen in Free Guy, plays Marguerite de Carrouges, a hero ahead of her time who risked her life to stand up for the truth. Married to Jean, she is a devoted wife who manages her husband’s affairs in his absence, but the marriage was negotiated by her father. “For Marguerite, this was an arranged marriage…it wasn’t a marriage that stemmed from love. I think she has respect for Carrouges, but it’s not a happy marriage at all,” says Comer.

Jodie Comer as in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. Photo by Patrick Redmond. ©2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Ben Affleck, whose credits as an actor include The Way Back, Gone Girl and Pearl Harbor, as a director and producer, Argo, and as a writer and director, The Town, is Count Pierre d’Alençon, a wealthy and powerful land baron who is liege lord to Jean de Carrouges. Generous and somewhat impetuous, he relies on one of his vassals, Jacques Le Gris (whom he favors over Carrouges), for the collection of his debts, rewarding him with substantial gifts of land.

Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d’Alençon in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. Photo by Jessica Forde. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

To help visually convey the brutal and gritty nature of a colorful world steeped in tradition and fanfare, Scott looked to acclaimed cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, with whom he has worked on five films (beginning with “Prometheus” in 2012), to man the cameras. Some scenes in The Last Duel were shot with six cameras, all filming simultaneously, but every scene was filmed with at least four cameras. Wolski used large-format Arri ALEXA mini LF’s, Angenieux short zooms and Panavison 65mm vintage primes to ensure Scott would have the best looking footage with which to cut the film.

Production designer Arthur Max and his department began preparing for the jousting portions of the film six months prior to principal photography. Referencing the surviving court documents and Eric Jager’s book and working with models and pre-viz, Max was able to help Ridley Scott better visualize how these scenes would play out.

Filming with Sensitivity

“The Last Duel” is grounded in Marguerite de Carrouges experiences more than 600 years ago. She was one person, but her story is a powerful reminder of the legacy of survivors – and all who have quietly, but steadfastly fought for justice – throughout history.

Medieval Europe was a brutal and unforgiving place for women, as documented in numerous historical records and manuscripts. A woman’s integrity was determined by her chastity and loyalty to her husband, and conforming to these expectations was crucial for survival. The term “rape” was rarely used, and the women who came forward with rape allegations or suffered any kind of sexual abuse were often discriminated against.

When Marguerite spoke out – in vivid and unambiguous detail – about what happened to her, it placed both her reputation and her life in danger. Like many survivors of sexual assault, she faced an extraordinary burden in proving the truth, as well as the judgment of her community. “The crime was horrible, but death for her husband and herself does not fit the crime,” says Nicole Holofcener. “By today’s standards, she was the victim of a horrific crime, and yet it is the ego and the pride of these two men (Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris) that becomes the true incentive for the duel.”

Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. Photo credit: Patrick Redmond. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

While the assault is an important part of Marguerite’s story, she does not let it define her, and the film worked to bring her personhood to the forefront. In order to ensure the film remained faithful to Marguerite’s story as a survivor, the studio sought advice from several advocacy organizations on the story’s portrayal of sexual abuse, survivors and recovery.

The production hired intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien (“Sex Education”) to assist with the preparation, safety and comfort of everyone during principal photography. “The intimacy coordinator is a practitioner who brings skills and a process and a structure to the film’s intimate content, much like a stunt coordinator would do for the fight scenes,” says O’Brien.

O’Brien worked closely with the cast and filmmakers to make sure everyone understood how certain sequences would appear to the audience, and that the portrayal of sexual violence and violence against women on screen was handled with sensitivity. Marguerite’s account of what happened to her had been clouded by historical chroniclers and members of the clergy in the centuries that followed, so Ridley Scott felt it was important to depict the assault to leave no doubt about what she went through.

Shot from two perspectives, but unequivocal on the crime, this scene was filmed without any nudity, as the filmmakers were most interested in capturing the emotional toll of Marguerite’s experience without exploiting it. Scott chose to film the scenes in real time and in chronological order, too.

Scripts and call sheets were clearly marked as to whose perspective was being filmed when. “We always talked about the different perspectives with Ridley before we shot, because the intention changes depending on whose perspective you are in…always, even in little tiny ways,” says Damon. “The perspectives don’t wildly diverge, except in terms of intention, which then kind of informs the characters’ understanding of what’s happening.”

It required the actors to alter their performances when shooting scenes for another character’s point of view, as they needed to lean into how that particular’s character sees you. Comer explains, “It’s so important that in each perspective the audience really believes whichever character is narrating it, and that was actually really fun to do. It was also a little dizzying, as sometimes you were shooting three perspectives on the same day.”

Writer-director James Napier Robertson is well-versed in dramatisations of real-life stories. He readily admits, “There’s always a pressure and responsibility when telling a story about a real person.’ The fascinating story of Joy Womack, who made history as an American ballerina who was accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Academy drew his interest, and after meeting Joy, he became utterly inspired to tell her remarkable story with Joika.

Womack wanted Joika to show what it really took to become an elite ballerina in such a fiercely competitive atmosphere, – something that she felt had never truly been shown in film. And, having seen Napier Robertson’s’ multi-award-winning The Dark Horse, Womack felt he was the person she could entrust to do so. With raw, unflinching honesty Womack poured out her story to Napier Robertson and was involved every step of the way through script development and production.

Joy Womack was one of very few Americans to ever be accepted into the Moscow State Academy of
Choreography is commonly known as the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Founded in 1773, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious ballet schools in the world and provides a potential pathway to being selected into the elite Bolshoi Ballet Company.

Joika is not so much about ballet as it is a dramatic story set in that refined hothouse milieu. The bedrock of the film’s narrative is perhaps best expressed by the person who lived it, the classically trained dancer Joy Womack: “I believe ballet is a bridge between countries and cultures. It’s an international language, a way for people to meet and create and do things without words. It’s about beauty and celebrating something that is bigger than just the basic functions of being human.”

From Napier Robertson’s perspective, authenticity was a must. “The film really has to delve into the minds and physicality and dedication of those who inhabit this world, but not in a movie way. That’s why I asked Joy to be the film’s choreographer. I felt there was nobody better to be making the movie within that capacity than Joy herself. I also needed her encyclopedic knowledge of ballet. Not only did I have her constantly involved as I was writing the script, but she was behind the camera with me figuring out all these huge dance sequences – and doing a phenomenal job – as well as dancing herself in it.”

Joika is based on the true story of Joy Womack, who made history as an American ballerina who was accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. At fifteen years old she left her family home in Texas to travel to Moscow to follow her dream – to become a Prima Ballerina at the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet Company.

From Page To Screen

A powerfully engaging, gripping, and immersive journey of Joy Womack’s formative experiences in Moscow, Joika was brought to the screen under the skilled hand of writer-director James Robertson Napier, and his creative team, as the very first New Zealand-Polish co-production.

Napier Robertson met Joy in 2016 and was completely captivated. He says “She’s an incredible person. I’m often around people who work very hard and are passionate about what they do, but Joy was at another level in her dedication to her art. I was blown away and moved by her story. I felt it was much more than just her getting into the Bolshoi. I’ve wanted to use film to bring to life the story of an incredible, complex and inspiring human being who possesses a beautiful and deeply emotional story. A story that I feel should be more widely known.”

Joy Womack

As the writer-director of The Dark Horse (2015) based on the story of champion speed chess player Genesis Potini, and, more recently as Co-Director on Whina (2022), based on the story of Dame Whina Cooper, James Napier Robertson is well versed in dramatisations of real-life stories. “My approach is to invite that person – or those people – into the process as much as possible. Joy is young, incredibly intelligent and has a huge amount of self-awareness, everything was on the table – we just kept talking.”

Womack herself refers to the initial meetings with Napier Robertson as an ‘a-ha!’ moment of no return. She explains, “Before that, I was in denial – or disbelief – that it [the film] might ever happen. It’s such a joy for me to work with people who are so passionate about what they do. James and I are aligned in that. He’s put his heart and soul into telling my story. I knew that it would be in good hands. I felt respected and honoured that him, and the team brought me into the process.”

Napier Robertson’s script covers the period of time from when Womack first entered the BBA to her
performance in the International Ballet Competition Varna, a biennial event in Bulgaria. Widely referred to as ‘The Olympics of Dance’, it can be a significant launch-pad for those pursuing careers in classical dance.

“I was 15 years old when I came to Moscow,” says Womack, “Without my parents. I lived there by myself and went straight into Russian school so I could learn the language.”

Given the nature of cinematic storytelling, Napier inevitably had to be selective about how he shaped the entirety of Womack’s richly, sometimes distressingly complicated experiences in Russia for the camera – something she understood and accepts. “The film spans almost ten years of my life in two hours, so things are quite compacted and compressed.”



Napier Robertson recognised how vital it was to get the film’s casting right. Especially crucial was making the right choice of who would embody Womack. “As I was writing the script, I remember thinking that the only way it would work is if there’s a truly exceptional performance in the lead. The character of Joy is in almost every scene. It’s a huge and incredibly demanding role, and with that comes a lot of pressure. Talia Ryder has exceeded what I had hoped for. She’s done a phenomenal job.”

Getting cast in Joika was, says Ryder, “…An answer to all my prayers. This felt like something where I could
really bring a big part of myself to a character I actually understood. I love acting, but dance is my number one thing. I’ve been dancing since I was three years old. But it’s a very different part of my life compared to Joy’s life. She’s another breed. Going up to teachers and asserting yourself or trying to prove yourself and asking for a role – those are all things I understand, but differently. They’re skeletons of situations I’ve been in before.”

Ryder trained privately for a year before stepping into Womack’s shoes in Joika. “I love ballet and had a ballet foundation technique, but it was never my strong suit. I’m more of a contemporary dancer, so I had to get whipped into shape.” She seems to have taken the pressure of playing a real human being, who also happened to be on set throughout the shoot, in her stride. “It’s amazing to have that person be right there, because they’re the best resource you can have. Joy was so open about a lot of moments in the script, answering some really personal questions because she wanted to help me give a completely honest portrayal of her. I was like, ‘’I just wanna make you proud of my portrayal of you.’’ But I also have my own ideas about a character, so it’s really about collaborating, and talking.”

This certainly applied to Ryder’s working relationship with Napier Robertson, too. “He’s really been
encouraging,” Ryder enthuses. “I’m a detail-oriented actor. I like to talk about everything down to the pair of socks I’m wearing. James spoke with me for so long about how the choices you make can completely change the feel of a scene. They could go in a million different ways. It’s about looking at every moment as important, and then taking the time to make sure you’re happy with the results.”

Womack, for her part, also carries considerable admiration for Ryder. “Ballet is something we dancers spend most of our lives trying to perfect. Doing that in a short amount of time is quite difficult. Talia took on a big challenge. It’s very brave of her wanting to dance as much as she could in the film. I’m proud of her for how much she poured herself into it. I helped as much as I could, making sure that the choreography was manageable yet ambitious enough to show the Russian classical style.”

But, as Womack admits, the blur between her life and the movie version of it was occasionally disconcerting. “Joika is one of my first experiences working in film, and I was trying to separate the choreographer role I’d been given from ‘’This is about me.’’ It’s kind of surreal. It was interesting, and weird too, to see in the dance class scenes how well Talia had done her homework and picked up little quirks of mine.”

Still, Womack was the person best placed to know what would ring truest during the filming. “I was touched and honoured to sit at James’ side during the shoot and say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t seem believable,’ or to offer some small detail or other that might make a scene seem more authentic. And he was completely open to me taking ownership of everything dance-related.”

Diane Kruger plays Volkova, a queen bee of classical dance who can make or break the raw, young talent in her charge – including the central character of Joy. “Volkova is an ex-prima ballerina,” Kruger says, “A famous teacher and a director at the Bolshoi Academy who has given her life to the ballet. I’ve tried to find a truth to her that can be as uplifting and warm as it can be ice cold. She has great discipline, but also a good heart; she’s not someone who’s mean for no reason. She truly loves her students and will do anything to try and help them flourish in a world that’s really tough. She can be as hard as nails because she expects the best from them. They are like her children. As we learn in the film, she has a very frayed relationship with her own daughter; there’s a lot of heartache and regrets there. There’s also a sadness to Volkova that really attracts me. She has no friends or family. She never married or found love. And she has no time for the human aspects of why we are not all prima ballerinas.”

Volkova is loosely based on a couple of people in Womack’s life, but principally a woman who was her coach at the Kremlin Ballet (a company she joined after leaving the Bolshoi). “She became like a mother to me,” Womack recalls, “And yet she demanded excellence and perfection.” Some elements of Volkova’s character are also taken from another female teacher in Perm who, says Womack, had a reputation for being highly physical in class. “She was notorious for abusing her students. Yet my partner Mikhail Martinuk (Womack’s dance partner for many years, including at Varna) had nothing but good to say about her.”

Bringing Joika To Life

It was James Napier Robertson who was charged with the task of immersing viewers in the intensely dedicated creative environment top-rank ballet demands. Belindalee Hope, one of the film’s producers, readily sings his praises. “James is an incredible actor’s director with the skills of a writer, and it works so harmoniously. He has the whole story completely mapped out in his head. He knows every beat of the film, how he wants to shoot it, and how he wants the audience to feel. He’s determined and dedicated, and it’s his obsession that makes this film great.”

As a writer and a filmmaker Napier Robertson knew what had to be done in order to do justice both to Joy Womack’s story and ballet itself. “The character of Joy puts herself through some incredible circumstances. It was crucial that an audience who knows nothing about ballet will inherently understand why someone would be so devoted to it. Part of it is the wonder and awe of this world. It’s very stylised and visually striking, and then there’s the music, and movement which has such a dynamic athleticism. The film had to capture all of that. It had to look strong and beautiful and be an incredibly powerful, visceral experience for an audience, but at the same time it’s tough, hard and gritty and not trying to be a fluffy version of that world.”

For Napier Robertson that meant “colour and light, the anamorphic lens, frame rates, camera movement –
everything to embrace the theatrical nature of ballet, but never to the point that we start to feel disconnected from the characters. There has to be an emotional journey with Joy that the audience goes on as well. We have to understand it at a much deeper level.”

Much of that depth arose from the circle of Polish specialists hired to work on Joika and their respective teams.

Many conversations were had between Napier Robertson, Production Designer Joanna Kaczynska and
Cinematographer Taumusz Naumiuk. “Talking, talking, talking was the starting point for me on the film,” says the cinematographer. Tomasz, or Thomas, Naumiuk. “Then I asked myself, ‘What can my input be to
Joy’s story?’ There’s no one word that can explain and represent it. It has so many turning points it would be disrespectful to use just one word. But maybe ‘trance’ will do.”

Naumiuk’s idea was to shoot Joika as if it were “Kind of like Degas on acid.” He continues, “We knew already a few ballet stories on film, but we wanted to make something not so common. Ballet, for our main character, is like a religion, or like being a drug addict.”

“There hasn’t been a ballet film like this before,” agrees Talia Ryder. “I think people are going to be really
shocked at how intense some parts of the ballet world are. I hope people will become immersed in that world and appreciate all the hard work dancers go through to look effortless. I also hope that after watching it they’ll want to go and support ballet, see local shows, and make ballet a part of their lives.”

“What makes my story worth telling?” Womack wonders, “And unique enough to be turned into a film? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself. I may not have the most successful career in the entire world, but I’m young and involved and still going. What I do have is dedication and a work ethic. No matter what hits me, in my career, I try to persevere. No matter what hardships might happen, I still have a love for ballet.”

James Napier Robertson is a New Zealand writer and director

His 2015 film The Dark Horse was nominated for over 50 awards at festivals around the world and won over 30, Variety stating it “exceptional…the most deserving cinematic export to emerge from New Zealand in years”, The Australian calling it “outstanding…a work of the highest artistic excellence” and the RNZ Film Review declaring it “one of the greatest New Zealand films ever made.” Napier Robertson won New Filmmaker of the Year at the 2014 Spada Awards, and The Dark Horse won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Score at the 2014 New Zealand Film Awards.

In 2018, Napier Robertson wrote and directed two episodes of Australian mini-series Romper Stomper, which won Most Outstanding Miniseries at the 2018 Logie Awards. In 2019 he worked on BBC mini-series The Luminaries, and in 2020 he directed 100 year-spanning Dame Whina Cooper biopic epic, Whina. Whina recently completed it’s theatrical run in New Zealand, taking it’s domestic box office by storm and grossing well over $1M. The film will be released in other territories around the world in the coming months.

In an age where everyone makes regular trips to their local gym to stay healthy, it is important for writers to keep writing effectively and remain in a perfect state of creative health; where ideas flow freely and projects are completed.

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The Writing Studio’s mentoring entails informal communication, and one-on-one coaching with qualified Education and Training practitioner Daniel Dercksen, a published playwright, scriptwriter and journalist who has been teaching workshops in scriptwriting and creative writing for the past 23 years and has been a film and theatre journalist for 40 years.

The coaching facilitates the psychological and emotional growth of writers during the process of writing their story and coming to terms with the intimate relationship between the writer and what they are writing.

The sessions allow writers to manage their time and discipline, train writers in new techniques to improve their writing style and craftsmanship, guide writers on how to excel in their writing, and counsel writers in coming to terms with issues they are facing during the writing of their stories.

The coaching sessions allow writers to identify their skills and capabilities, their strengths and weaknesses, and enable them to use their talent to the best of their ability.

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Screenwriter David Scarpa’s craft lies in writing material with psychological themes that lend themselves to a sweeping cinematic experience.  With Napoleon, he uses real-life characters as a vehicle to illuminate broader themes about the human condition.

Born in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and raised in Tennessee and Connecticut, Scarpa is a graduate of the Film and Television Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he also attended the School of Dramatic Writing.

He previously worked with director Ridley Scott on All the Money in the World, He reteams with Scott for Gladiator 2.

With Napoleon, Scarpa and Scott discussed the key beats of Napoleon’s life and the specific version of the character that attracted them. It was clear from the initial meetings that Ridley saw this movie as an epic action film, but also the love story of Napoleon and Josephine.

David Scarpa

The chemistry between the actors Joaquin Phoenix (who previously played Commodus in Scott’s Gladiator) and Vanessa Kirby would create a tension and dynamic that, for Scott, would not only bring the characters to life but add volatile layers to Napoleon as he continues his epic quest to become master of Europe. The actors would breathe fire into the tempestuous and unconventional relationship on the page of David Scarpa’s screenplay, revealing Napoleon’s inner demons and an unseen side of history.

A Fascinating Life

One of the greatest military leaders of all time, Napoleon Bonaparte’s fascinating life has evoked both criticism and admiration from scholars, politicians, and his own subjects. Both his rise to power and his harsh and strategic military campaigns are infamous and have influenced the generations that followed, from Winston Churchill to Friedrich Nietzsche.

Ruthless in war, a tyrant in his country, but also a liberator who came from nothing and was one of the first in history to show that leadership talent could come from any class, Napoleon’s success on the battlefield has passed into legend. Such was his tactical brilliance and merciless reputation that the world required seven different coalitions of European powers to defeat him. But off the battlefield, his obsession with Josephine – his lover, his wife, his empress – would define his life as much as any battle.

For director Ridley Scott that story – the meteoric rise of a military genius, the chance to show his duality and psychology on an epic scale as few other filmmakers could attempt – is one that he has wanted to bring to the screen for many years.

“I have a preference for historical drama, because history is so interesting,” he says. “Napoleonic history is the beginning of modern history. He changed the world; he rewrote the rulebook.”

But more than that, Napoleon was a singularly fascinating character for a movie, because – like many of us – he was a prisoner to his own heart and emotions. “Apart from him being an incredible strategist, a marvelous, intuitive – and merciless – politician… I was fascinated with how a man like this – who’s on his way to take Moscow – could be obsessed with what his wife is doing back in Paris.”

Producer Mark Huffam, who has worked on many of Scott’s projects over the years, including House of Gucci, The Martian, and Prometheus, says that Napoleon is a film that requires the vision, tenacity, skill, and experience of Ridley Scott – and that there are few directors who are brave enough to make this kind of film anymore. “This movie has an epic scale that I don’t think you’ll see many times in the future,” he says. “There just aren’t many directors in the world that have the knowledge and experience to make this kind of film, and doing as practically – in-camera – as possible.”

And who can blame them? Napoleon is, famously, a subject that has intimidated some of history’s greatest directors – notably, Stanley Kubrick, whose famed Napoleon project never came together.

Producer Kevin Walsh sees in Scott a desire to pick up where Kubrick left off. “Kubrick is one of Ridley’s heroes,” he says. “Kubrick tried to make Napoleon, but it never happened, so when I asked Ridley a couple of years ago, ‘What is the film that you haven’t been able to make yet?’ His answer was, ‘Napoleon.’”

In every aspect of Napoleon’s life, says Huffam, there are conflicts and dualities. Start just with his legacy as a general and emperor. “Napoleon did great things for politics and the common man. He made it that anyone could become a general, or a politician, rather than just the aristocracy,” he notes. “But, of course, he was a dictator, and the blood on his hands is horrendous. That balance is something that we wanted to explore when making this film.”

And when Scott tells the story through Napoleon’s relationship with Josephine, he adds dualities upon dualities. “He ends up sniveling in tears – the man we have seen command his way to the throne of Europe, the tactical genius, turned into this little helpless man, who is completely in love with the woman next to him on his couch, admitting he is nothing without her,” says Scott. “His letters to her are comically rude and juvenile, overly romantic, and even quite dirty. He was absolutely enchanted by her. And after they parted for the last time, she never even read them. When she died, they were all in a drawer by her bedside table.”

Napoleon is a spectacle-filled action epic that details the checkered rise of the iconic Napoleon Bonaparte. Against a stunning backdrop of large-scale filmmaking the film captures Bonaparte’s relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Josephine, showcasing his visionary military and political tactics against some of the most dynamic practical battle sequences ever filmed.

Scott’s fascination with the leader and the period dates back to his very beginnings as a film director

His first motion picture, The Duellists, is set in the Napoleonic era. He says that was the film where he saw firsthand how and why audiences would respond to a historical story.

“History’s very interesting, because we don’t learn from all of our mistakes,” he says. In that way, says Scott, a historical film covering events two hundred years in the past, filtered through the perspective of the artist, becomes relevant for today.

And as a filmmaker, Scott knows firsthand from experience that he has a responsibility both to history and to art; he creates impressions of subjects that allow them to come alive for audiences. “About a year after I made Gladiator, I received a letter from a senior lecturer at one of the great universities,” says Scott. “He said, ‘ I want to thank you for bringing the Roman Empire to life.’ It had made his students enthusiastic for the subject.” Scott compares making a historical film to “a mathematical equation – either this could have happened or that could have happened; it comes from research and you make a choice.”

Scott says that he was as attracted to the idea of exploring the psychology of the character of Napoleon as he was with filming the spectacle of his epic battles. “I think one of the reasons people are still fascinated by Napoleon is because he was so complicated,” he says. “There is no easy way to define his life. You can read a biography to know what happened, but what interests me as a filmmaker is his character – going beyond the history and into the mind.”

“Ridley allows himself some creative license, but it is always grounded in the truth,” says Walsh. “We did a ton of research with historians and our writers, people that really delved into the history to make sure it was authentic.”

Ridley Scott on set of ‘Napoleon’  Credit: Sony

To create the epic scale of the movie, Scott reunited with several of his past collaborators, who have worked with him many times over the years. Screenwriter David Scarpa, whom he worked with on All the Money in the World, and reteams with Gladiator 2, production designer Arthur Max (an Oscar nominee for his work on Gladiator and The Martian), costume designer Janty Yates (who won an Oscar for her work on Gladiator), director of photography Dariusz Wolski (All the Money in the World, Alien: Covenant), and two-time Oscar-winning special effects coordinator Neil Corbould (Gladiator and five other Scott films) all returned to help Ridley achieve his vision.

You might think that Scott is able to attract these top artists by their desire to work with the great director, but Scott insists it is a two-way street. “All of these elements are incredibly important,” he says. “I’m grateful to have these great, extremely talented people, who seem to still want to work with me. When I know that these departments are in such capable hands, I can be super-efficient.”

“Ridley is incredibly well-prepared,” says Huffam. “He storyboards all of his films himself, which is a huge advantage to every department. He knows exactly what the finished product will be – cutting the film as we’re going along.’

“Ridley shoots the movie in his head,” says Walsh. “You see him, in any down moment, just planning, and creating. It’s not a job to him; it’s creating art.”

Ridleygram of the Battle of Waterloo scene for ‘Napoleon’Credit: The New Yorker

To prepare to shoot the movie, Scott assembled his team in a war room – which in this case was as literal a war room as can be when the subject is making a movie. With large-scale models of the sets for battles at Waterloo, Austerlitz, and Toulan, art department drawings, models, Scott – who is an excellent artist and has always storyboarded his own films – brought the entire team together to share his vision and direct his crafts team in the images he is looking to achieve. On Napoleon, Scott would employ up to eleven cameras at once.

Ridley Scott (Director / Producer)is a renowned Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker honored with Best Director Oscar® nominations for his work on Black Hawk Down (2001), Gladiator (2000) and Thelma & Louise (1991). Scott most recently directed The Last Duel (2021), starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Jodie Comer, and House of Gucci (2021),starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver. He produced Death on the Nile (2022), starring Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, and Annette Bening, and Hulu’s Boston Strangler (2023), starring Keira Knightley, Carrie Coon, and Chris Cooper. He next will direct a sequel to Gladiator starring Paul Mescal for Paramount.

In 1977, Scott made his feature-film directorial debut with The Duellists, for which he won the Best First Film Award at the Cannes Film Festival. He followed with the iconic science-fiction thriller Alien (1979), and the landmark film Blade Runner (1982), which was added to the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1993.

Additional film credits as director include The Martian (2015), which received seven Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture, a DGA Award nomination, and 6 BAFTA nominations, including Best Director; Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), starring Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton; The Counselor (2013), written by Cormac McCarthy and starring Michael Fassbender; the acclaimed hit Prometheus (2012), starring Michael Fassbender; G.I. Jane (1997), starring Demi Moore and Viggo Mortensen; Hannibal (2001), starring Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore; Body of Lies (2008), starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio; Robin Hood (2010), marking his fifth collaboration with star Russell Crowe; Alien: Covenant (2017), the sequel to Prometheus; and All the Money in the World (2017), starring Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams.

Scott and his late brother Tony formed the commercial and advertising production company RSA in 1967. In 1995, the Scott brothers formed the film and television production company Scott Free. Upcoming Scott Free projects include Berlin Nobody, a thriller written and directed by Jordan Scott starring Eric Bana and Sadie Sink; a new movie in the Alien franchise, to be directed by Fede Alvarez; A Haunting in Venice, from Kenneth Branagh starring Branagh, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, and Michele Yeoh; Outside, a feature adaption from bestselling Icelandic author Ragnar Jónasson; and The Chronology of Water, to be directed by Kristen Stewart.

On television, Scott executive produced the Emmy, Peabody, and Golden Globe-winning hit “The Good Wife” for CBS, as well as its critically acclaimed CBS All Access spin-off “The Good Fight”; the series adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s classic “The Man in the High Castle” for Amazon; AMC’s anthology series “The Terror”; and Steven Knight’s gritty adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic “Great Expectations” for FX/BBC1.

In 2003, Scott was awarded a knighthood from the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the arts. He received the 30th American Cinematheque Award at the organization’s annual gala in 2016; the Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Picture Direction at the 2017 Directors Guild of America Awards; and the Academy Fellowship honor at the 2018 BAFTA Awards.

Screenwriter David Scarpa’s (Written by) craft lies in writing material with psychological themes that lend themselves to a sweeping cinematic experience. He uses real-life characters as a vehicle to illuminate broader themes about the human condition.

Three of Scarpa’s produced screenplays, including All the Money in the World, have been selected for The Black List. His future projects include Gladiator 2, which re-teams him with Napoleon director Ridley Scott.

Scarpa’s screenwriting career began with an original screenplay for DreamWorks that became The Last Castle, starring Robert Redford, James Gandolfini and Mark Ruffalo. Since then he has written numerous features, including Scott Derrickson’s The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Scarpa was born in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and raised in Tennessee and Connecticut. He is a graduate of the Film and Television Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he also attended the School of Dramatic Writing.

Back to The Art of Screenwriting and Filmmaking / The Art Of Adaptation

The Genesis of the worldwide phenomenon Downton Abbey: “The return to Downton Abbey has been a rather extraordinary, at times almost surreal, experience,” says series creator and writer Julian Fellowes.

“We finished filming the last season in 2015, made sure that all the characters were safely tucked up in their lives, said goodbye to them, marked the moment with a wonderful wrap party in the Ivy Club, and that, I thought, was that.  But it seemed the public was not yet quite prepared to be parted from the Crawleys and their servants and the rumours of a film grew and grew until Gareth Neame and the rest of the team felt unable to resist them.  And so the film was born.” Read more

The ABC of Getting Your Screenplay Filmed

By Daniel Dercksen

A screenplay is writing intended to be turned into a film – just as a novel is written to be published, and plays are written to be staged. A screenplay is not a complete work. There is no point in writing a screenplay if it isn’t going to get produced. A screenplay is a part of the package, the first element in the movie business.

Package: Some material: a book, screenplay, story outline, concept, a star actor, star director

The screenplay is an element in the deal.

Film is a business. As a writer, you have to not only take ownership of your writing but have to invest in your writing

Every film project starts with a bit of commerce and a bit of art. The film process begins when someone working in development as a film studio or production company reads a wonderful screenplay.

You’ve heard it all before. “Selling a script is impossible. It just doesn’t happen. I don’t know anyone in the film business so I have no chance at all. It just isn’t fair. I’m just not a lucky person.” 

Is your screenplay a viable package?

Screenplays get read, optioned, bought, rewritten, rewritten, rewritten. Once a deal is struck the production executive send the script to a director, who will hopefully agree to direct the script, then the script goes to stars and once a big enough star agrees to do the film, the studio agrees to fund the film, and words are turned into action.

How do I get my screenplay to the marketplace?

Well, selling a screenplay does happen. But – (here it comes) – truth be told, selling a script is like winning the lottery. Some people do win the lottery and some writers do sell their scripts.

Keep your sanity! Remain focused! Remember that your screenplay has three potential goals:

  • To sell
  • To get optioned and / or produced
  • To serve as a writing sample for future work

Selling your screenplay is not about selling a screenplay, but taking ownership of what you have written and developing your screenplay to its full potential so that it is ready to shake the marketplace and be developed to its full potential as a film, or perhaps even a TV series.

Just as a homeowner takes ownership of selling a house, by making sure that it is ready to be sold and that it is ready for the right market, so must the screenwriter develop the screenplay and knock it into shape to satisfy producers and investors.

You are not selling your screenplay, you are getting it ready to be developed into a film, and that process can take up to 50 years in the case of Milos Forman’s passion project Goya’s Ghost

  • It took seven years for author and illustrator Philip Reeve to pen his first young-adult novel, Mortal Engines – which was first published by Scholastic in 2001 – and 17 years for the startling, epic adventure to be realised on the Big Screen. The sceenplay adaptation was crafted by the three-time Academy Award-winning filmmakers of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson
  • Eighteen years later, after achieving critical praise for bold and affecting dramas like Quinceañera (2006) and Still Alice (2014), Westmoreland has finally brought Colette’s story to the big screen with his most ambitious movie yet, though it is also his first solo directing credit on a feature. The fine-tuning of the script was challenging, a process that took 16 years and 20 drafts. “Every year we’d keep trying to hone down the story, because there was so much information, and often life doesn’t fall naturally into a nice, three-act structure. Figuring out how to tell the story in a way that worked as a feature film was a monumental task.”
  • Silence was a 26-year-journey from page to screen for writer-director Martin Scorsese.
  • Fifteen years after Producer Alison Owen bought the rights to Deborah Moggach’s novel Tulip Fever, and sending the option to A-list producers, her tenacity and vision paid off and the film went into production in May 2014 under direction of Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), from a screenplay by Sir Tom Stoppard (Anna Karrenina, Shakespeare in Love, Empire Of The Sun), and the thrilling romance can now be experienced on the Big Screen.
  • 40 years ago the journey of the eight-novel epic The Dark Tower began when Stephen King wrote the words: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,” sparking an entire universe that makes its long-awaited screen debut, telling of an eternal battle between good and evil, with the fate of multiple worlds at stake.
  • During the past 25 years screenwriter Tom Flynn has been selling spec scripts to studios in Hollywood, only seeing Watch It made (which he also directed). Now, with the success of Gifted, a story inspired by his one-eyed cat Fred, and his sister, whom he describes as “the most unassuming ridiculously smart person you’ve ever met,’ Flynn is back to writing full time… this time getting his movies made.
  • Final Portrait is a 10-year passion project for writer-director Stanley Tucci
  • Tom O’Connor’s spec screenplay for The Hitman’s Bodyguard launched his career in Hollywood.

11 Steps To Selling Your Screenplay

1. Write a great script. Okay, this sounds obvious, but the competition and odds are indeed staggering, so put your best work out there. Your script is your calling card and it reflects your writing talent. Your script should demonstrate that you know the craft – this means it should have a strong voice, developed characters, solid structure, and follow the genre conventions. It’s nearly impossible to resubmit a rewrite of the same script to an agent and/or company once that script has been rejected. Sign up for The Write Journey

2. Write an attention-grabbing query letter. Research and query production companies, studios and talent (actors, directors, producers) that are a good match for your script. When you watch a film that is similar to the genre you are writing in, take a look at the credits and visit the websites of the producers and production companies. Just google.

3. Compose a strong Top Sheet. If film industry folks respond positively to your query, you may be then asked to send a Top Sheet that includes a one-page synopsis as well as details about characters, and yourself, with or without your script. Our The Write Journey course shows you how to do this.

4. Prepare a great pitch. Once an agent, manager, production company and/or studio has read and liked your script, you may be called in to meet with them at which time you will be asked to pitch. There are other opportunities to pitch such as pitch festivals.

5. Network. You’ve heard the joke: “What’s the best way to Carnegie Hall? … Practice. Practice. Practice.” What’s the best way to break into the film business? “Network. Network. Network.” Writing is solitary, but the film industry and getting your script made into a movie is all about whom you know and the people you meet. No matter where you live, find a way to make personal contacts with industry professionals. Attending script conferences, workshops, and film festivals are good ways to make connections, as well as social media. 

6. Educate yourself about the film business. Being savvy about the film industry makes you more appealing to potential agents, production companies and/or studios. Keep up-to-date by reading the trades, and screenwriting and film publications. This is a good way to learn who’s looking for what in order to help you target the right people for your project.

7. Script Competitions. Winning a competition is a good method to get your script noticed. Competition winners are often listed in trade publications and this can grab the industry’s attention. Having a winning credit attached to your script can give you the needed edge over the competition.

8. Grants and fellowships. It’s important to seek every possible opportunity to get your work noticed. There are numerous private and government grants and fellowships available for screenwriters. Listings can be found in film and screenwriting online and in print magazines. Receiving funding is a win-win situation. It’s not only advantageous for your wallet, but it’s also an impressive credit to add to your résumé. Additionally, there are numerous artists’ colonies throughout the country that provide screenwriters a quiet place to work as well as an opportunity to network with other screenwriters and filmmakers.

9. Be Patient. If you are asking yourself: “Why do I need to put so much effort into making my script perfect when I keep reading and hearing stories about producers, directors, and studios rewriting and often ruining screenwriters’ original scripts?” – the answer is: Your script is your calling card! Yes, it’s true, scripts often do get rewritten by others and the results are often disastrous. But, don’t use this as an excuse not to make your script the best it can be. Your script is a reflection of your writing talent. You must put all your effort into making your script perfect. If you feel that a production company or studio will “buy your idea and fix it,” do a rewrite. If you haven’t done a good job, you will be quickly replaced with another writer, and companies do not want to invest development money to hire someone else to do a rewrite. Most importantly, you don’t want to be replaced. Your goal is to be the only writer of your project and to receive screen credit.

10. Persevere. Being in the film industry means developing a thick skin.  When a door closes, go to the next one and the next one. 

11. Take on the position of Producer. This does not always have to do with money, it’s essentially about ownership, about making sure that the screenplay you have invested your life in, gets the full treatment and attention it deserves when transforming words into action. Being a Producer is producing results, managing realistic outcomes and not idealistic daydreaming. And, by wearing the cap of Producer, you have to start thinking like one and look at your screenplay as an investment.

The more you can improve your writing, educate yourself about the business, network, and develop patience, the more empowered you will be and in turn, the better chance you will have in selling your script.

You have to invest in your writing and sign a contract with yourself; once you have done that and taken full ownership of your story, no one can take it away from you.


How can The Writing Studio help you?

  • Our The Write Journey course will take you through the process of conceptualizing your idea, developing your characters, structuring and plotting your story, and prepare you for the ardent writing process.  The course also introduces you to the world of filmmaking, the language of films, reading and evaluating films,  and gives you valuable tips on how to sell yourself and your work.  Read more about The Write Journey
  • Once you have completed The Write Journey course you will have written the first pages of your screenplay. You can then complete a draft on your own, sign up for The Write Draft advances course that will assist you during the process of writing your screenplay.  Send us an email regarding The Write Draft

You need a professional reader’s report and not just a friendly nod from your mom or best friend

  • Once you have completed a draft, you can submit it to The Writing Studio for reading or polishing. Read more

Copyright © 2005 – 2023 The Writing Studio 

Of all the extraordinary achievements of M. Night Shyamalan’s acclaimed career as a visionary filmmaker, perhaps the greatest is that his films remain enigmatic, unpredictable and unexpected. The only thing you’re certain of, stepping into a new M. Night Shyamalan film, is that you don’t know what’s about to hit you. Knock at the Cabin just may be the apotheosis of the Shyamalan cinematic experience. It’s a film that both shares a bloodline with his previous films but is also unlike any film he’s made before.

Based on the national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, Knock at the Cabin began, initially, as a 2019 screenplay by Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman that landed a spot on the famed annual film-industry Blacklist, which highlights the best-unproduced screenplays each year.

Originally, Shyamalan’s Blinding Edge Pictures considered producing the film only, but the idea was so compelling that Shyamalan was inspired to tell his version of the story.  “One day in a meeting, Night said, ‘Well, what if I rewrite this and direct it?’” says producer Ashwin Rajan, president of production for Blinding Edge. “He had a real connection to the material and a take on it that made it feel  contained but also profound.” 

The film centers on a gay couple, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui), who are vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, when their house is surrounded by four armed strangers: Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adrianne (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint.) Taken hostage, the family is informed that these four strangers—who also do not know each other—have all been haunted and tormented by a shared prophecy: that the world will end unless the family in this cabin chooses one member of the family to die. Whether these four people are crazy or correct doesn’t resolve the problem. Both scenarios are horrific.

“It’s a thriller with a compelling question at the center of it,” Rajan says. “What would you do if you had to save your family or save humanity, and you could choose only one?”


For Shyamalan, it was a question that contained multitudes, ideas that connected to themes in his AppleTV+ series Servant and his thinking about the state of our world today.

In his hands, Knock at the Cabin is a film that explores ideas behind faith and belief, certainty and doubt, and the power and limits of both.

“It’s a modern-day biblical story,” Shyamalan says. “Servant is that as well. The idea of telling large-scale biblical stories, but in modern times and in modern settings, is resonating with me right now. The film is reflective of my current feeling that everything that’s going on in the world doesn’t look good and doesn’t feel good, but I do feel we are struggling together in the right direction. We’re certainly not getting it right all the time, but in general, the direction that we’re moving as humanity is in the right direction and we deserve a chance to continue. That’s my feeling. One love story is evidence enough that humanity should keep going. Knock at the Cabin is this incredible opportunity for us to experience this gigantic global biblical story through the experience of a family.”

Director and co-writer M. Night Shyamalan on the set of his film KNOCK AT THE CABIN

That idea of family is central to much of Shyamalan’s filmography.

“The one thing that’s consistent with Night is his movies center around family and there’s an emotional journey that the characters and the audience take with each of his films,” says producer Marc Bienstock, who has made five films with Shyamalan. Shyamalan also likes to give himself challenges, and this film presented a major one: a film set almost entirely in one interior location. “I’m very drawn to stories of confinement and telling very large stories through a small window,” Shyamalan says. “That constriction, that balance, a juxtaposition of the size of the story and the way we’re telling it, is very exciting to me.”

It also teemed with creative potential.

“This is an opportunity for Night to really focus in on the art of suspense,” executive producer Steven Schneider says. “Hitchcock is one of his favorite filmmakers and this is, in a way, an opportunity for Night to be very Hitchcockian in terms of his composition of shots and the way in which he can build suspense using every cinematic element, from the performances to the lighting to the editing to the blocking.”

Although the initial screenplay followed the plot of Tremblay’s book, Shyamalan’s revision takes the story in daring and unexpected directions

“We adapted a book to make this movie, but essentially went in an entirely different direction around the midway point of the story,” Shyamalan says. “And that weighed on me a little bit. But in my mind, the story needed and wanted to go this way very strongly. And in fact, that was the exciting part of the challenge: Can I make a movie about a very horrific ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and can I get the audience there?”

Nothing in the story is black and white and almost all the characters—and the audience—will have their assumptions challenged and their beliefs tested over the course of the film as the tensions and the stakes mount. “I subscribe to this type of storytelling where you count on the incompleteness of it, where you don’t fill in everything and you let the audience do the dance with you,” Shyamalan says. “Think of the Twilight Zone, where that conjuring of your imagination is required to finish the painting.”

Although the film is timely and provocative, it is not a bleak or pessimistic view of humanity, despite the terrifying premise. “I can tell very dark stories because I feel deeply about people and about the world in a very positive way,” Shyamalan says. “I can spin anything negative into a positive in real life, based in my deep belief in the positivity of things.”

The Characters

Leonard is the leader of the group of four mysterious strangers who show up at a remote cabin to demand that a family make an unthinkable choice, claiming they’re doing so to prevent the apocalypse. The role of Leonard is complex and layered, director M. Night Shyamalan says. Leonard is not a fanatic. He’s heartbroken and tortured by the idea that he must force this family to make this impossible choice. “Leonard is like a giant who’s physically intimidating and has to do these horrific things, but is actually incredibly gentle, like a teacher,” Shyamalan says.

Dave Bautista of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise was immediately excited about the story of Knock at the Cabin and the role of Leonard.

“Leonard is like a giant who’s physically intimidating and has to do these horrific things, but is actually incredibly gentle, like a teacher,” Shyamalan says.

One of the main messages behind Knock at the Cabin is sacrifice and not putting a definition on what love looks like. “Love takes all kinds of shapes and forms and comes from places you wouldn’t expect,” Bautista says. “I hate to be cliché, but it can save the world.”

Tony award and Emmy nominee Jonathan Groff (Hamilton) plays Eric, who, along with his husband Andrew (Ben Aldridge), are parents to eight-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui).

“You have these two opposing perspectives in a very heightened environment with this scary cult-like energy coming at them and people saying extraordinary things to them,” Groff says “I think the story is definitely asking us interesting questions about faith, trust, family and certainly questions about sacrifice.”

Shyamalan always had a very clear vision about what he wanted from his actors. “Night talks about the difference between hunters and gatherers as directors,” Groff says. “Hunters know exactly what they want. They go out and hunt it. Gatherers have an idea of what they want, but they wait until they get there on the day and see what’s happening and figure it out as they go. Night primarily identifies as a hunter. He knows what he wants, and the crew and cast help fulfill his vision. It’s one of my favorite ways of working because you can really lose yourself in the process. You have that person in charge who has your back and can see everything and can guide you to the kind of performance that they already know that they want.”

Groff notes that he and Aldridge connected on their shared experiences as gay actors in the industry. “Ben and I are both in our mid-late thirties, and it was different when we were growing up 20 years ago,” Groff says. “Acceptance of sexual identity was just in a completely different place. And we’ve come so far since then and we are pinching ourselves that we get to be in this Hollywood horror movie as gay actors playing gay characters in an M. Night Shyamalan movie. This would not have been the case 15 years ago. And it’s such a special opportunity to be able to just be ourselves in a movie—in a fun, interesting, scary movie—being gay both on screen and off. Now that it’s 2022 and things have progressed, we get to ride this wave generated by all of the work that’s been done before us to get us here. And that progress that we’re benefiting from is not lost on us.”

Shyamalan’s films encourage the audience to challenge their reality and what they believe in. “I think this film is doing that more directly than any film that he’s made,” Aldridge says. “It’s really asking its audience about faith and belief, it’s questioning religion and I think it’s throwing up all these direct, confronting questions that are life’s riddles and they’re encapsulated in this unconventional domestic family setting.”

Aldridge, who is openly gay, believes the industry has made noticeable progress in representation.

“In the UK, there were a handful of really extroverted, flamboyant TV presenters, and I remember thinking, ‘That’s what gay is.’ But I didn’t know what it meant on a human level or what I was experiencing myself. So, I think representation is hugely important across the board. It’s important to be able to see ourselves reflected in the art that we’re choosing to watch. It’s how we learn about ourselves; it’s how we learn about the people in the world who are different from us as well. I think representation has the power to change and impact the world in a really positive way.”

Sabrina is one of the four strangers who holds the family hostage, believing she is preventing the apocalypse. The role is played by Nikki Amuka-Bird, who was most recently seen in Shyamalan’s Old.

A common theme throughout the film is the idea of spirituality as an inroad to ask questions. “I was struck with this more than anything because these are questions that really matter to me: about how your spirituality, if you have one, affects your course in life,” Amuka-Bird says. “And I was just really shocked to see a mainstream film like this, a genre film like this, really tackle those big questions. It feels like a cautionary tale in some ways. But essentially, it’s something that you feel in your gut. It’s like the old stories when you were little: once somebody starts telling it, you have to know what happens at the end.”

Redmond, played by Rupert Grint, is one of the invaders of the cabin. The script for Knock at the Cabin combined two of Grint’s biggest nightmares: home invasion and the apocalypse. “There’s something quite seductive about apocalypse movies,” Grint says. “There is this fascination with an apocalypse, and people love contemplating what that would look like.” Rarely has been it explored in such a confined, remote, intimate setting, which. “Seeing it from this perspective, from this cabin, is a perfect setting for something like this.” Grint says. “This is a place where it’s so isolated, anything really could happen and you’re so far away from any help. So, it just makes it even more disturbing.”

Grint was also fascinated with the story because it taps into a lot of the topical fears that surround us right now. “We’re just coming out of a global pandemic,” Grint says. “There’s an environmental crisis in the world that has never felt more fragile. So that kind of impending fear of the demise of the planet is something that’s in a lot of people’s minds at the moment.”

“I liked the idea of exploring the inner psyche of somebody who kills for a living. And how he qualifies his notion of what he’s doing from what other people might ‘misperceive’ it as.” says director David Fincher of The Killer, who re-unites with screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, with whom he created the indelible serial killer thriller Se7en.

A streamlined thriller about an assassin discovering his limits, The Killer is the twelfth feature of director David Fincher.

The Cinema has long been fascinated with the mysterious lone wolf assassin, from Le Samouraï (1967) to The American (2010) .

In contrast to an unknowable, glamorous figure, The Killer makes us privy to his inner thoughts, as well as his bland, practical reality.

“We thought it would be interesting if the ‘cool’ assassin movie tropes were all taken away,” says Fincher.
There are no nightclubs or bespoke suits here – this man shops in airports, stays in chain hotels and does
everything he can to blend in. “I wanted him to be somebody that you wouldn’t notice on the street,” says
Fassbender of his cold-eyed antihero. “He’s not a person you could identify just by looking at him, but
once you get inside his head…”

Adapted from the acclaimed graphic novel written by “Matz” (Alexis Nolent), The Killer explores the
boundaries of the revenge movie. “In a revenge movie, you want to see people get their revenge,” says Fincher. “We just used the idea to ask: ‘Or do you?’”

The audience shares the point of view of the title character, hearing his personal maxims as he attempts
to re-order his life.

“Stick to your plan. Anticipate, don’t improvise. Trust no one. Never yield an advantage. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight…”

But as The Killer travels target to target, from France to the Dominican Republic to America, we find life – and death – doesn’t always follow the rules

Paris, night. An unnamed man in unremarkable clothes, The Killer (Michael Fassbender) watches from the floor of an empty office, across from the plush apartment of his target, rifle at hand. Measured, and controlled, he takes every step to ensure the job goes flawlessly… It doesn’t. The Killer flees, following his strict personal mantra of dispassionate action. But his employers want him erased. By attacking his home, they disturb his sanctuary and, with it, his sense of self. This – he will not abide, traveling through the Dominican Republic and the United States, eliminating anyone who might disrupt his hard-won peace again

What drew David Fincher to the ruthless French comic book, and the inspiration of its creator…

David Fincher first read The Killer shortly after the 2007 publication of an English-language edition of the
acclaimed French comic book series, which first appeared in 1998 and still runs today, 25 years on.

A provocative look into the mind of a sardonic assassin, The Killer is fueled by the dark humor and righteous anger of author Alexis “Matz” Nolent and the pristine and distinctive drawing of artist Luc Jacamon.

“He told me he loved the comic book, what it said, how it unfolded – everything,” says Nolent, who remembered Fincher’s enthusiastic reaction through the years that followed.

Whether it was timing or taste, attempts to adapt the material didn’t come to fruition until Fincher turned to his long-standing collaborator, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker

Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker

Fincher and Walker had first worked together on Se7en, the unforgettable 1995 serial killer movie which marked Walker’s screen debut and the first Fincher feature to fully display the talent of the director, who had made his name in music videos.

Walker also contributed uncredited rewrites on other Fincher films The Game (1997) and Fight Club (1999) and the pair speak frequently.

“Andy and I have talked for a long time about the idea of intercepted thoughts,” says Fincher. “How honest is their introspection?”

While the source material is quite expansive in what it covers – both in terms of story and politics –
the screenplay strips things back to become a more straightforward story of delivering retribution. But within that simplicity, there is an interesting contrast between what the nameless assassin says he believes – as expressed through his voiceover – and how he actually behaves.

“I love the idea of the code amongst assassins,” says Fincher. “But from a storytelling standpoint, what made this rise to the level of ‘We should do this next’ was how it dealt so specifically with subjectivity. You are inside this guy’s head.”

David Fincher during the filming of The Killer. Cr. Netflix ©2023

The audience is given access to the innermost thoughts of a hired killer, but also sees how his theoretical view of the world contrasts with reality.

“If you’re tapped into their thoughts, how do they reconcile what they do with what they believe?”

From The Adventures of Tintin to Asterix to Métal hurlant (a.k.a. Heavy Metal), comic books – or graphic novels, as the collected works are known – in France have long displayed a variety and received a level of respect that has only more recently been mirrored in America. There is great creative freedom within the medium, and it also provides a unique way to deal with perspective.

The difference between thought and reality, which so appealed to Fincher, drew Nolent to write the story in this format in the first place, after starting it as a traditional prose novel.

“I realized it would be more interesting as a graphic novel,” says Nolent. “Because of the discrepancy I wanted between what you read and what you see. You see how The Killer acts, but you are inside his head. What he does and what he thinks do not match.”

Seeing life through the eyes – and scope – of an assassin puts the audience in an interesting position, as
they may inevitably find themselves rooting for someone whose behavior is, put mildly, questionable.

Fincher admires Melville’s movie, while cinephiles may also see shades of Alfred Hitchcock in The Killer,
with its sardonic tone and opening stakeout, which recalls the voyeurism of Rear Window (1954). The
wry commentary of the title character, though, should not blind you to his savagery. The Killer is the story’s protagonist, but hardly its hero, whatever some people might think.

“A lot of readers tell me they agree with him,” says Nolent. “Or, they thought like that but never
expressed it. Sometimes they take the extra step of thinking The Killer is likable – this is not the intention.”

Michael Fassbender as an assassin in The Killer. Cr. Netflix ©2023

Fassbender certainly doesn’t want viewers to admire or aspire to his character.

“It should be terrifying when he does things,” says the Irish actor. “Just a blank face shooting at you. No emotion is involved. It’s just empty. This is hopefully a character that makes you feel ill at ease. I don’t want him to be cool.”

As well as appreciating Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenplay – and Fincher’s films overall – Fassbender
saw it as an opportunity to learn, exploring the methods of another director. When he worked with Malick on Song To Song, he knew it would be a free-wheeling, improvisational experience. “I thought, ‘It’ll be like going back to school, it’s a workshop.’” In contrast, he knew of Fincher’s specificity and desire to execute material in a particular, precise way. “So with Fincher, doing multiple takes, I thought, ‘It’s time for me to see this other way of shooting.’”

The actor loved it, finding working with the director a true partnership. “He’s been so generous and
collaborative from the beginning. It’s nice to be included like that. And it helps us move forward quickly. When I’m looking at the monitor, especially with technical stuff, like a fight sequence, he shows me exactly what he’s looking for and hopefully I can get there more efficiently.”

Michael Fassbender as an assassin in The Killer. Cr. Netflix ©2023

It’s useful to have an actor who is secure in himself when so many other elements need to be aligned to
capture a take that comes close to matching what Fincher has in mind.

“It was an interesting experience directing the movie because I knew that it was all about witnessing
behavior,” says Fincher, reflecting on following the central character.

“How do you show somebody who’s in it for the long haul, is not expending energy on shit they don’t need, who’s completely focused on their prey?”

David Fincher and Michael Fassbender during the filming of The Killer. Cr. Netflix ©2023

The Killer doesn’t interact with many people, Fincher notes, but you witness how he moves through the world, “and his world is supposed to be in parallel to ours. My hope is that if the movie affects people they start to question who’s in line behind them at Home Depot.”

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Stephen “Spling” Aspeling, a leading film critic and radio broadcaster, has released a new book, ‘The Essence of Dreams: An Anthology of Film Reviews’. The collection of Aspeling’s best-reviewed and most transportative films explores cinema’s ability to create immersive and seamless worlds that continue to linger in our imaginations long after the credits roll.


 A Haunting In Venice / All The Light We Cannot See / A Man Called Otto / All Quiet On The Western Front / Alone In Berlin / The Art Of Racing In The Rain / Beautiful Disaster / The Black Phone / Blue Beetle / The Boogeyman / The Dark Tower / Dune / The Good House / Killers of the Flower Moon  / Lady Chatterley’s Lover / Lion / Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris / One True Loves / Pain Hustlers / Papillon / Peter Pan & Wendy / The Secret Garden / Toorbos / The Whale / The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar

Inspired By

Air / The Amazing Maurice / Babylon / Barbarian / Barbie / Cocaine Bear / C’mon C’mon / Death On The Nile / Dog / Empire of Light / Haunted Mansion / Murder On The Orient Express / No Hard Feelings / The Lost King / Notre-Dame on Fire / The Pale Blue Eye / The Pope’s Exorcist / Professor Marston & The Wonder Women / Renfield / Shotgun Wedding / Those Who Wish Me Dead / The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent


Fatima / Miracle Club

Reimagining History

Babylon / The King / The Lost King / Medieval / The Northman / Outlaw King / 1960 / The Woman King


 A Ghost Story / Beautiful Disaster / Good Luck To You, Leo Grande / Lady Chatterley’s Lover / Master Gardener / Love Again / Redeeming Love / Titanic


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever  / Book Club: The Next Chapter / Magic Mike’s Last Dance / Shazam! Fury of the Gods / Top Gun: Maverick


A Ghost StoryA Haunting In Venice / Dear David / Encounters / The Exorcist: Believer / The Gallows / M3GAN / Nanny / A Quiet Place / The Pope’s Exorcist / Scouts vs Zombies


Big George Foreman / The Survivor


Good Luck To You, Leo Grande / No Hard Feelings


Ben Is Back


The Creator / 100 Years Of AI

Stories About Writers

Genius / Rebel In The Rye 


MA /  

Serial Killers

The Killer / Midnight In The Switchgrass

Writing A Teleplay

All The Light We Cannot See


Writer-director Gavin Hood talks about Oscar-winning Tsotsi / Tertius Kapp discusses the ecological horror fantasy Gaia / Johnny Breedt talks about Die Ontwaking / Christiaan Olwagen, talks about Poppie Nongena / Sallas de Jager on Dominie Tienie, Jonathan & Free State /Writer-director Gareth Edwards talks about what it takes to be a Filmmaker / Interviews with South African writers / Writer-director Etienne Kallos 

Origin Stories

The Last Voyage of the Demeter /

True Life Stories

About My Father / A Hidden Life / Air / Belfast / Big George Foreman / Blonde / Breathe / Bridge Of Spies / Call Jane / Dear David /Empire of Light / The Fabelmans / Golda / Gran Turismo / The Inspection / I Wanna Dance With Somebody / Kandahar / Killers of the Flower Moon / Life (James Dean Story) / Legend / Lion / Loving Vincent / Money Monster / The Old Man & The Gun / Oppenheimer / Pain Hustlers / Punch / Professor Marston & The Wonder Women / Run Rabbit Run / She Said / Sound Of Freedom / Spinning Gold / The Survivor / Till / The Walk

Wild & Wacky

Bad Times at the El Royale / Beau is Afraid / Everything Everywhere All at Once / The Menu / Nightmare Alley / Run / Smile / The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent / Violent Night


El Conde / The Menu / Rock the Kasbah / Triangle Of Sadness


The Survivor

Original Stories

65 / Asteroid City / The Banshees of Inisherin / Barbie / Don’t Worry Darling / Emily / The Estate / Hypnotic / Joy Ride / The Little Things / Master Gardener / The Mother / Plane / Polite Society / Tár


Blonde / Call Jane / Emily / The Estate / Good Luck To You, Leo Grande / Joy Ride / MA / The Mother / Miracle Club /Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris / Nanny / Parallel Mothers / She Said / Women Talking

Creature Feature

65 / The Black Demon / Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile /


Greatest Days / The Greatest Showman / The Little Mermaid / West Side Story




A Dog’s Purpose / The Art Of Racing In The Rain / Dog / Call Of The Wild

Board Games

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves


Green Book / Die Stropers (The Harvest) / The Ignorant Angels / Heartstopper / Inxeba: The Wound / The Inspection / Kanarie / Moffie / My Policeman / Nyad / Punch / Rafiki / Red, White & Royal Blue / The Whale

South African

Alison /Angeliena / Gaia / Headspace / Die Ontwaking / The Recce  / Toorbos / Die Verhaal Van Racheltjie de Beer / Sew The Winter To My Skin / Vaselinetjie / 1960

Interviews with South African writers

Heist / Hostage Stories

Money Monster


Bodies / The Killer / Killers of the Flower Moon / The Little Things / Reptile /


The Amazing Maurice / Elemental / Epic Tails / Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio / Headspace / Ladybug & Cat Noir: The Movie / Rally Road Racers / Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken / Strange World

Independent Filmmaking

The Gallows

Crafting A Trilogy

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3.


Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania / Creed III / Fast & Furious 10 / Halloween Ends / Insidious /  Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny / Mission: Impossible –Dead Reckoning Part One / Missing / My Big Fat Wedding 3. / Searching / Transformers: Rise of the Beasts / Saw /


Avatar / Avatar: The Way To The Water / Beau is Afraid / Dune / Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves / Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio / Peter Pan & Wendy / Strange World

What Are James Cameron’s 3 Levels Of Storytelling?


 Notre-Dame on Fire

War / Combat

All Quiet On The Western Front / A Hidden Life / Bridge Of Spies / Mile 22


Andor / Black Adam / Black Panther / Black Panther: Wakanda Forever / The Flash / The Green Knight

TV Series

Cabinet of Curiosities / Justified: City Primeval /

Prison Culture

Shot Caller


Audiences and readers love to hate a great antagonist, a character that acts against and causes the greatest change in the protagonist but also love to see antagonists in action, raising hell for the hero.

The writer’s best buddy on this quest to prevent the protagonist from achieving his or her goal and finding happiness and eternal bliss is the antagonist.

Although most writers think that the antagonist is the villain in the story, don’t be fooled.

The antagonist is simply a character who causes the greatest change in the protagonist and sets the protagonist on a path of transfiguration.

Antagonists are SIMPLY people. They’re full-blooded, full-bodied characters.

  • People with wants, needs, fears, and motivations.
  • People with families and friends and their own enemies.

It’s a character that embodies the sum total of all forces that oppose the protagonist’s will and desire. Theirs are clashing motivations. They possess needs and wants that exist in defiance of one another.

Stories are lifeless without meaningful Antagonists

The best stories draw their strength from the antagonist because the audience is excited when a protagonist faces an extraordinary challenge from a fascinating and complex opponent.

It is sometimes, but not always the villain. It is the hero’s opponent, the one who acts against the protagonist.


The dark mirror to Hugh Glass’s journey of survival in The Revenant is John Fitzgerald’s journey into paranoia, recrimination and haunted bitterness. Tom Hardy made for an incredible nemesis, portraying a wounded soul who has fears of the other because he is not capable of opening up to and understanding otherness.

One of the most interesting antagonists is one found within the protagonist, a character that lies dormant within the protagonist. Some of the most powerful characters embody both the protagonist and antagonist.


The Danish Girl is the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artist Einar Wegener who was married to a landscape artist in Copenhagen, in 1926.  Wegener becomes his own antagonist when his wife, on deadline for a portrait, Gerda asks her husband to fill in for a model by putting on a dress so that she can finish the painting. The experience is transformative, as Einar soon realizes that being Lili is an expression of her truest self, and she begins living her life as a woman. When she is given the opportunity by Gerda to dress up in women’s clothes, there is light for Lili.

The antagonist does not have to be human; it can be the creature in Alien, a fire in Backdraft, spiders in Arachnophobia, a monstrous tornado in Twister, a deadly asteroid in Armageddon, or a deadly virus in Outbreak.


In The Walk the towers of the almost-completed and partially occupied World Trade Center in New York in 1974 becomes the antagonist for Philippe Petit, a French aerialist, who surprised the city of New York with a high-wire walk between the towers. For Petit, his story goes beyond wire walking and becomes a universal, inspiring story, a story about an artist pouring his heart and soul into his work. Philippe saw the two towers and he literally drew a pencil line between them and said, ‘I’ve got to put a wire between those towers; I’ve got to walk.’  In his mind, those towers were built for him to create an ultimate performance.


In Room, a solitary, locked, 10”x10” garden shed becomes the antagonist for a 5-year-old boy who is held captive with his mother for seven years.  It tells the remarkable story of an exuberant 5-year-old who has never seen the modern world we all know outside the place he calls Room. When the boy makes a thrilling discovery: the outside world, he experiences all the joy, excitement, and fear that this new adventure brings, but holds tight to the one thing that matters most of all—his special bond with his loving and devoted Ma.

The stronger the antagonist, the stronger your protagonist will look

The writer pours a lot of energy into the negative side of the story to bring the protagonist and other characters to full realization.

The antagonist is the avatar of conflict. He causes it. His character embodies it. The antagonist is there to push and pull the sequence of events into an arrangement that pleases him. He makes trouble for the protagonist. He is the one upping the stakes. He is the one changing the game and making it harder.

Supreme enemy and subsidiary enemy

The protagonist can also be faced with two antagonists

In Gladiator Maximus has to battle the evil Commodus, who is the Supreme enemy, as well as his sister Lucilla, who is the Subsidiary enemy. It is the function of the subsidiary enemy to overthrow the supreme enemy, just as it is the function of the supreme enemy to destroy the protagonist.

Antagonistic forces

The writer can also make use of antagonistic forces. It is a force that works against your characters and forces them to make choices, and take action.

  • In Leaving Las Vegas the antagonistic force is alcoholism: it drives the character to drink himself to death.
  • In American Beauty it is homophobia: This forces the antagonist to take action and act against the hero in the story.
  • In American History X the antagonistic force is racism.
  • Drug addiction and drug trafficking are the antagonistic forces in films such as Requiem for a Dream and Traffic.

In our The Write Journey course we explore the Protagonist, Antagonists, Villains, supporting and functional characters and take a closer look at elements that build character, the visual dynamics of character, how to write Dialogue, and how to craft character biographies.