screenwriter to watch
After working in the Fox Writers Studio in 2011, Tripper has gone on to write comedies and dramas of all shapes and sizes for Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Amazon, Netflix, MGM, Fox Animation, Paramount Animation, Hasbro and even studios abroad. His original spec script, STUBER, produced by Fox, starring Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista, hits theaters July 12, 2019. He recently adapted the New York Times’ bestselling novel, THE ART OF FIELDING, and is currently a writer on season one of I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS, a half-hour show for Netflix. A graduate of Wake Forest undergrad and The University of Texas grad school, Tripper lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Maggie, and their daughters, Olive and Ruby.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I wrote a lot of specs. A lot. I broke in with a writing partner on a spec that was good enough to land us an agent and get us into a handful of general meetings. Little did I know it would be several years before anyone actually paid me as a writer.
Writer “I Am Not Okay With This”
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Don’t write for the marketplace. It’s a moving target and no one has a crystal ball. When you’re breaking in, the most important thing is to let people see who you are on the page, that you understand how characters think and act and talk, and that it feels authentic.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
Adapting Chad Harbach’s novel, THE ART OF FIELDING, was probably the most challenging because I had already been a huge fan of literally the entire story, characters, everything. The book is 500+ pages long, so figuring out how to tell that story in under two hours of screen time meant that I’d have to lose so many moments I loved. Cracking the structure of the script allowed me to determine which parts were truly essential to telling the story.
What was a major turning point in your career?
I wrote what I like to call a “f*ck you spec.” What I mean is it’s a spec script that you’re writing for you. It’s your voice. It’s the kind of movie you want to see. If someone loves it or hates it, who cares? Well, my manager at the time did in fact hate it! So I sent it to a few screenplay competitions and I actually won one of them (Script Pipeline), which led to my new reps. As a sample, that spec put me in a ton of rooms and it launched my career.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a couple of feature rewrite jobs for the studios, but most of my day is spent in the writer’s room on a new Netflix show called I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS, a pretty unconventional story that can only be described as LADYBIRD meets X-MEN. It’s my first TV experience and it’s a lot of fun going to work each day and collaborating with a group of extremely talented people.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Rushmore. The Sting. The Big Lebowski. When Harry Met Sally. Big. Argo. The Hustler.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
Lawrence Kasdan. Just imagine writing The Big Chill, Body Heat, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Silverado in the same stretch. Now imagine directing two of those. Now imagine ALSO writing The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi during that same period. The dude has a mastery of both structure and character. Screenwriting requires using both the left and right sides of your brain simultaneously and I’m not sure anyone has done it better than Kasdan.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival.
I attended AFF when I was a grad student at UT and I absorbed so much from every panel I attended. This past year, coming back as a panelist, was an incredibly satisfying experience. My favorite part was doing the roundtables, getting to hear so many different perspectives from aspiring screenwriters and assuring them that we’ve all chosen a fairly impossible career path, but once you break through it will have been worth it.