by Judi Uthus
In the first film festival of its kind, screenwriters came out from behind the scenes to discuss their art with fans at “Cinco & Ken’s The Greatest Movies Ever Written!,” presented by the Agoura Hills Cultural Arts Council over the weekend and held at the Regency Agoura Hills Stadium 8 theatre. The festival paid tribute to screenwriters and gave the public a rare opportunity to discuss the scenes and characters from their favorite films with the story tellers who created them.
Among the participating screenwriters was Lowell Ganz, who co-wrote the critically acclaimed film Parenthood with Babaloo Mandel “It’s our favorite,” Ganz told CV Happening at a VIP reception. “It’s meant a lot to us that its hung in there.”
Following a screening of the film, Ganz engaged fans during a live Q & A. “I haven’t seen this movie with an audience since its release,” he said about the 1989 comedy drama that inspired the more recent television series. Agoura Hills resident Harley Kozak who played Susan Buckman in the film was part of the audience who came to see Ganz.
“This type of festival is long overdue,” said Cinco Paul, screenwriter of Despicable Me, who, with writing partner Ken Daurio, hosted the event. The four films selected by Paul and Daurio were Parenthood, Despicable Me, Tremors and Edward Scissorhands. “These are movies you can watch over and over because they get better every time you do,” Paul told the audience.
Paul and Daurio admit that Parenthood is their all time favorite film and chose it to open the festival because, “my appreciation for this movie’s script keeps growing with time. You eventually become each generation the movie portrays,” said Paul. Those at the screening learned that Ganz and Mandel met as television writers for The Odd Couple and Happy Days and teamed up to write hit movies, including City Slickers and Splash.
Festival audiences were interested in what inspired the films and how the characters come to life. The screenwriters discussed how their personal life experiences became characters and scenes for their scripts. Ganz told fans of Parenthood many of the comedic situations were not only an autobiographical account of his own experiences but turned into a collaborative effort with actor/director Ron Howard, creating scenes that ultimately demonstrated how parenting is a pain but worth it. “The irony is how every character sees how crappy parenting is but in the end everyone wants to become one,” he said.
The film Tremors, widely acclaimed for its balance of horror and humor, was an opportunity for many fans to see the 1990 cult classic for the first time on the big screen and meet screenwriters Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson. Daurio said that Tremors was selected because “watching it was the most fun we’ve had in the theater, and after seeing it at least 12 times, we learned every way you can disrupt the ground,” referring to how giant underground worms terrorized a small, remote town.
Maddock shared the inspiration behind such an offbeat story. “I was sitting on a rock thinking about what if something was underneath it and I wasn’t able to get off of it.” Known for their sharply etched characters and comedy, Maddock and Wilson met in USC’s film school and began tackling the script once they did a number of successful projects with the studios because otherwise no one would have gambled on producing it. “You get the inspiration for the idea, decide how you’re going to achieve it and tackle the dialogue that is going to make it work,” said Maddock.
The Despicable Me screening featuring Paul and Daurio was moderated by Kristine Belson, president of Sony Animation and the producer of How To Train Your Dragon and The Croods. The screening and panel discussion was geared toward families interested in hearing about the creation of their beloved Minions.
Edward Scissorhands closed the festival with fans eager to meet screenwriter Caroline Thompson. She collaborated with director Tim Burton on the 1990 film which also turned into a cult classic and helped launched Johnny Depp’s career. Burton had shown Thompson a picture of a character with hands like scissors and she wrote the script in three weeks, basing the film on her suburban upbringing.
Fans said they left the screenwriting festival with a new appreciation for the hard work and talent behind a memorable film. “It doesn’t just pop in your head,” Ganz told them. “It takes draft after draft.”