screenwriter to watch
Robert Rue is a New York City-based screenwriter, fiction writer, teacher and basketball coach. His script DETROIT won the Drama category at the 2015 Austin Film Festival, and the same screenplay was at one point the number one script on the BlackList.com. DETROIT—now called ROAR—is in active development, and Rue is currently negotiating an option deal on his high school basketball script KNOWING JACK.
How did you break in?
I just started doing it. I had been writing fiction for a while when it dawned on me that some of the stories I had inside me wanted to be told in movie form. I got a foothold in the business when a long-shot recommendation from a friend of a friend connected me with an agent at ICM who loved KNOWING JACK and wanted to rep it.
Writer: AFF-winning script DETROIT (now ROAR) and Page Award-winning script KNOWING JACK.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
A positive response to your writing means more than a negative one.
Think about what it takes to create a beautiful screenplay. Its emotional impact depends upon a thousand subtleties that, because you’re a good writer, you make clear but not obvious. You leave little gaps between what is said or done and what is meant. These are invitations for a good reader to take a little—or even large—leap, and you make your screenplay a series of invitations because you know that what’s on the page is never satisfying to a reader. It’s the leap that matters.
Can bad writing prevent the necessary leaps? You bet.
But guess what? So can the reader’s bad mood. So can the dog barking in the next room, or the child demanding the reader’s attention at the exact moment that a script makes the same demand.
Red wheelbarrows and script readers—yes, so much depends on them.
So the person who loves your script—genuinely loves it—has proven something that the reader who thinks it’s bad has not. Yes, proven. This reader has proven that the gaps are leapable and that the flights are satisfying. And where there is one such reader there are more. Sometimes it takes a while to find them and sometimes you can’t find enough of them to make a multi-million dollar movie, but I’d guess that the vast majority of movies ever made have survived readers (sometimes a majority of readers) who thought the scripts were bad.
What has been your hardest scene to write?
The first screenplay I ever wrote. It was terrible. I rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it until it wasn’t terrible, and then I made it good. I just refused to give up, even when I thought I couldn’t go on with the project any more, even when I thought I would never be a screenwriter.
What do you feel was your turning point?
I have been incredibly lucky to have some wonderfully affirming moments in my writing career so far. It meant so much to win at AFF and to win a Page Award. I have also received a lot of support from the BlackList.com. Franklin Leonard and his team nominated me for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and for a job in Disney’s Feature Writing department for which I was eventually a finalist.
What are you working on right now?
I am almost finished with a sci-fi drama pilot, and I am in the midst of writing another feature that takes place in a school on the English Channel during World War II. This script focuses on a teacher’s innovative methods for cultivating insight in a very special group of students who might help turn the tide of the war.
What are your favorite movies?
I have too many to name here, but I love and have happily returned to these in the last year: ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER, CHILDREN OF HEAVEN, ROCKY, A FEW GOOD MEN, THE TRUMAN SHOW.
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
Norman Lear, William Goldman, Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin.
What is your most Memorable AFF Moment?
At the 2015 award ceremony, just days after the birth of my daughter, I was sitting way in the back when James Hart called my name, so it took me about a year and a half to get to the front of the room. And as I’m standing up there at the microphone trying to figure out what to say, I realize that the single most important influence on my screenwriting—Norman Lear—is sitting just a few feet away from me in the audience, waiting for me to say something. One day, when my kids are old enough to understand, I’ll try to explain to them what that meant to me.