Archives for category: Screenwriting

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Ruby Sparks (2012) and finally got my hands on a copy. Starring and written by Zoe Kazan, the movie is smart, entertaining, and thought-provoking — especially for writers.

In the story, Calvin Weir-Fields, played by Kazan’s real-life love, the always fascinating and appealing Paul Dano, is approaching 30 and 10 years past his breakthrough novel written when he was a teenage wunderkind. Now he’s afraid of failure and can’t write. His analyst, Dr. Rosenthal — in a charming cameo by Elliott Gould — tells Calvin to write about someone who will love him unconditionally. Calvin asks whether it’s okay if he writes “badly” — and Rosenthal gives him permission to write “very badly.”

Freed from his inhibitions, Calvin creates his dream woman — Ruby Sparks (Kazan) — and a novel begins to flow out of him. He falls in love with his creation to the point that she becomes real — appearing one morning in his kitchen. At first, he thinks he’s lost his mind — but when other people can see Ruby, he realizes he has dreamed her into existence.


After the first blush of romance, problems crop up — until Calvin figures out he can get Ruby to do anything he desires, just by writing a new page in the novel, which he types on a vintage Olympia typewriter (nice touch!). The movie is at its best in the darker passages when exploring relationship dynamics — and how couples engage in power struggles and negotiate truces.

I enjoyed the film’s literary references and antecedents — Pygmalion, Frankenstein, Pinocchio, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland — but Ruby Sparks has an original point of view with new things to say. I also enjoyed the L.A. locations — especially Calvin’s minimalist home near Griffith Park and several scenes at Skylight Books.

Writers are always faced with philosophical, moral, emotional, and intellectual dilemmas related to their creations. As we write, our characters take on lives of their own, and when finished the book takes on a life of its own. What is the writer’s part in the equation? Ruby Sparks helps us explore this question and many more.

Hats off to Zoe Kazan for a terrific screenplay and winning performance!

Find Ruby Sparks at

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
            Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
            A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
            And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
            By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again. 

PAINTING: “Windy Night” by Marilyn Jacobson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Prints available at

EDITOR’S NOTE: A fascinating project about Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) is currently in the works — a film about his life in San Francisco, with a screenplay by G.E. Gallas. Find out more at

Yesterday (August 1st), we celebrated Herman Melville‘s 194th birthday with a few Moby-Dick erasure poems. We continue exploring all-things-Melville today by taking a look at Moby Dick, the 1956 movie directed by John Huston — with a screenplay by Huston and Ray Bradbury.

In a 2010 interview in The Paris Review, Bradbury offers some fascinating background about how he developed the script. Here is an excerpt…

INTERVIEWER: Why did you do Moby Dick?

BRADBURY: …he [Huston] called me up and said, Do you have some time to come to Europe and write Moby-Dick for the screen? I said, I don’t know, I’ve never been able to read the damn thing…I’ve had copies of Moby-Dick around the house for years. So I went home and I read Moby-Dick…I dove into the middle of it instead of starting at the beginning. I came across a lot of beautiful poetry about the whiteness of the whale and the colors of nightmares and the great spirit’s spout. And I came upon a section toward the end where Ahab stands at the rail and says: “It is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the air smells now, as if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay.” I turned back to the start: “Call me Ishmael.” I was in love! You fall in love with poetry. You fall in love with Shakespeare…  I was able to do the job not because I was in love with Melville, but because I was in love with Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote Moby-Dick, using Melville as a Ouija board.

…read Sam Weller‘s 2010 Paris Review interview with Ray Bradbury at


“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.” WILLIAM FAULKNER

Photo: William Faulkner working on a screenplay in Hollywood, early 1940s by Alfred Eriss.


On Groundhog Day (Saturday, 2/2/13) the Silver Birch Press blog included several posts about the 1993 movie Groundhog Day and its screenwriter Danny Rubin. I forwarded the links to Rubin and the following day received a reply.

Rubin mentioned that he’d just returned from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he was guest speaker at the Groundhog Club Annual Banquet. According to the club’s website: “Usually on Groundhog Day Danny Rubin spends his day answering emails and phone calls from well-wishers, ‘It’s like my birthday only without the cake’ says Rubin. When asked whether he would like to see six more weeks of winter or an early spring Rubin responded, ‘However it comes out I will dress appropriately.'”


With his email, Rubin attached several photos from Groundhog Day 2013. In a reversal of what you’d usually see — the mayor handing Rubin the keys to the city — Rubin handed the city keys to his apartment. (Love this — so funny!)

The second photo shows the enthusiastic crowd at 7 a.m. in 1 degree temperatures waiting for Phil (the groundhog) to appear. (Rubin said he’d been there since 5 a.m. — so I figure he participated in the festivities in an official capacity to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the movie.)

Check out Rubin’s recent ebook — How to Write Groundhog Day, a must-read for screenwriters or anyone interested in the writing process — at Visit Danny Rubin at his website,, where a variety of goodies await.

Thank you, Danny, for the photos and report about Groundhog Day 2013! 

ABOUT DANNY RUBIN: Danny Rubin is a screenwriter, actor, lecturer, celebrity blogger, and most notably the screenwriter of the modern classic Groundhog Day. Rubin has taught screenwriting in Chicago at the University of Illinois, Columbia College, and the National High School Institute; at the Sundance Institute in Utah; the PAL Screenwriting Lab in England; the Chautauqua Institution in New York; and in New Mexico at the College of Santa Fe.  He is currently the Briggs-Copeland Lecturer on Screenwriting at Harvard University. Rubin holds a B.A. in Biology from Brown University and an M.A. in Radio, Television, and Film from Northwestern University. He is married to librarian, web-designer, and architect Louise Rubin with whom he shares two children.

Photos © Danny Rubin, 2013, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Since February 2nd is Groundhog Day, today I’ve been exploring all things groundhog-related. One of my finds was The Magic of Groundhog Day: Transform Your Life Day by Day, a 2008 book by Paul Hannam with a foreword by screenwriter Danny Rubin.

Here’s a blurb about the book from Library Journal Review (2008): “Using the 1993 movie Groundhog Day as a springboard to illustrate the principle of repetitive thought patterns, professional entrepreneur and lecturer Hannam (Oxford University) discusses how to change one’s inner life to see the beauty in the world. According to Hannam, the ‘groundhog effect’ is the force that keeps people feeling stuck and powerless to change. Only by breaking free of this looplike effect, he posits, can they liberate themselves to enjoy healthy habits, relationships, and careers.”

Find the book at


When writing an earlier post about the 1993 movie GROUNDHOG DAY, I learned of a book I’ve always wanted to read — the inside story of this remarkable screenplay — and now I can. In How to Write Groundhog Day (released in 2012) screenwriter Danny Rubin pulls back the curtain on his inspiration for the script, his writing process, and how the screenplay navigated its way through Hollywood to GET MADE. The book includes the original screenplay, notes, scene sketches, and Rubin’s personal tour of the revision process. Find the ebook at


Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the release of one of my all-time favorite movies — the charming, delightful, funny, profound, original GROUNDHOG DAY starring Bill Murray. And since today is February 2nd (for the uninitiated, the day marks the annual event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, when a groundhog named Phil determines the number of weeks until spring by whether or not he casts a shadow), I encourage everyone to kick back and (if you can get your hands on a copy) watch this wonderful film.

Applause, applause for the gifted screenwriter of the brilliant script for this film — Danny Rubin. Visit Rubin at his website (, where he’s posted all kinds of fascinating material.