When it was time for Script to reveal its list of the lucky chosen top ten scriptwriters of the decade, I was naturally eager to read the list so I could discuss it with friends and begin arguing about why or why not it was wrong or right. Naturally, it’s a list filled to the brim with genius and raw talent that only makes me jealous I’m writing this column instead of co-writing one of their next scripts. However, once I took a moment to consider the list, what I noticed was, these are the highly talented screenwriters who made the most movies in the last decade.
They are certainly some of the writers offering us the most interesting Hollywood fare, but the ones being severely overlooked in a list like this are the writers who have broken new ground and offered us some of the most unique scripts of the decade. Perhaps because they don’t make five or seven films every ten years, they get left off a list like this. But I think they deserve their own list because in my opinion, their screenwriting talent can go toe to toe with any of the giants on the list in Script, even if their body of work doesn’t match in volume yet.
Primer by Shane Carruth. I heard it described once as the “headiest sci-fi movie since 2001.” This is a script many Hollywood writers need to study in order to learn how to keep the audience engaged by not treating the audience so stupidly. Carruth’s script is so minimalist, it never gives us enough to catch up, thus we’re fully along for the ride until the last frame, when he delivers the final reveal. This script delivers us a film that makes us say, “I’ve never seen that movie before.”
Brick by Rian Johnson. Easily the most unique script ever written that’s set in high school. Johnson combines every genre and sucks us into a world we’ve never experienced, even though we can totally relate to every emotion the main character is experiencing. Drama, thriller, detective story, even satire. How did he do it?
Seriously, not one woman on the list? At least you could’ve included Nancy Meyers, arguably Hollywood’s most successful female writer, who crafts wonderful stories about the female middle-age experience with a truly delightful and heartfelt voice.
Lovely & Amazing by Nicole Holofcener. The indie queen of screenwriting over the past decade, Holofcener is one of the few screenwriters around who gets a chance explore complicated women’s issues in a bold and honest manner. As evidenced by any top ten screenwriters of the decade lists, women get shut out, and I’m just glad Holofcener is still writing and getting funding to make her films.
Lars And the Real Girl by Nancy Oliver. This is a script no one would make until someone finally did. Every critic said, “I know – it sounds like an awful concept, but believe me, it’s amazing.” And it ended up with the nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Perhaps one of the most genuine films I’ve ever seen, this script proves you can write a story about nice people, and it can still be dramatic.
Obviously, if anyone else made this list, it would most likely be four completely different scriptwriters. But the point is, let’s not forget the ones who are writing out of the box, and as a consequence, getting less films made, and getting much less recognition overall.