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The Writer

The screenwriter may devise an original script, re-work an existing story from a novel or stage play, or flesh out an idea proposed by a producer or director. But in any case he or she is the first person who thinks of the movie as a whole, as a story, peoples it with the motivated characters to move it forward, and imagines what all of these people will say to each other. That's a great deal, and screenwriters sometimes rightly feel that they aren't given the credit they deserve for the essential structural foundations established in their screenplays. The key word here, however, is "foundations." A script, unlike a novel or even a play, is not a finished work of art; it is the blueprint for an edifice that will be painstakingly constructed, one long shooting day at a time, by the eventual Director and his crew. The exception is when the writer is also the director, a phenomenon quite common in the arena of independent filmmaking (and made respectable by the "auteurist" prejudices of French New Wave filmmakers like François Truffaut). Otherwise, the screenwriter must eventually cede control of the material to the director and the actors. If he is temperamentally capable of doing this, and if he has won the trust of the director, a screenwriter can nevertheless be an invaluable collaborator on the set, by creating new lines of dialog on the fly, by executing spot re-writes, and above all by keeping an eagle eye on what might called the "Higher Continuity" of a film, questions of thematic and narrative coherence.


Donald Margulies, author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play "Collected Stories," wrote the television adaptation for the PBS HOLLYWOOD PRESENTS production.

One of America's most celebrated playwrights, Margulies won a 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Dinner With Friends, which tells the story of a seemingly happy couple who re-examine their own relationship when their best friends decide to divorce. Dinner With Friends ran in New York for a year and a half and is being produced all over the country and around the world. HBO Films presented a film version in August 2001.

Margulies began his career off-off-Broadway in the early 1980s. His off-Broadway debut, Found a Peanut, was produced by Joseph Papp in 1984. His career really began to take off in 1992 when Sight Unseen won an Obie Award for Best New American Play and became a nine-month off-Broadway hit. His other plays include The Loman Family Picnic; Pitching to the Star; Zimmer; Luna Park; What's Wrong With This Picture?; The Model Apartment; Broken Sleep; July 7, 1994, and God of Vengeance.

Elected to the Dramatists Guild Council in 1993, Margulies has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He has received numerous awards, including the 2000 Sidney Kingsley Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Theatre.

Margulies has also developed screenplays for HBO, NBC, Paramount, Propaganda, Touchstone, Warner Bros., TriStar and Universal. He lives with his wife and son in New Haven, Connecticut, where he teaches playwriting at Yale University.


Donald Margulies
Donald Margulies


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