Screenwriter Nicole Perlman is in town for the Vancouver International Film Festival and the newly revamped VIFF Industry Conference as a part of the Genre Smash! panel during Totally Indie Day on October 4th. She's most widely known as the first credited female screenwriter on a Marvel Studios film for her work writing on this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy, the year's highest grossing film domestically so far.
Guardians' success is also more distinct as it's her first credited produced screenplay despite an impressive career in screenwriting including appearing on the 2006 Black List (an annual list of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood) for her award-winning script based on the Challenger investigation (written while she was a writing student at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts) and a script for another unproduced film, a biopic about the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong (she even spent time with him before his death in 2012).
Perlman talked about her love of genre storytelling and sci-fi fantasy in the context of relaying important and meaningful messages or themes told with imagination. "I think that genre is a really fun way to explore themes people might not be normally comfortable exploring." She enjoys layering interesting concepts through world building and fantastical concepts or she called it, "slipping some broccoli into a dessert". Using robots, aliens, and other sci-fi analogues for real-life has long been a way for filmmakers to introduce subversive ideas in a more palatable manner to a wider audience.
You may be wondering why Guardians, a relatively unknown comic book property was even chosen to be adapted in the first place over other more well-known characters. In fact, it was Perlman who chose to work and develop the project after joining the Marvel Writing Program in 2009. After 2.5 years of developing the script herself including many original ideas and stories that made it info the final product, Marvel gave it the go-ahead and hired filmmaker James Gunn to re-write and direct with smash results this summer. Guardians is the only produced film to come from the program, which closed in 2011.
Speaking with Perlman, her thoughtfulness and pragmatism about screenwriting was clear. Her knowledge in expressing the creative process and insight into studio filmmaking was refreshing. She clearly has a love for science and technology that extends from real-life to the limits of the imagination. While mostly working in genres, she uses research and creativity to put her vision to paper. She's also a part of the Science and Entertainment Exchange whose mission is to create synergy between the science and film/TV industries to create more accurate depictions of technology. She sees writing and science as a way of imagining the next step in human existence.
Currently, Perlman's career is unsurprisingly surging as she's juggling multiple screen adaptations including one for the science fiction book The Fire Sermon, the Matthew Swift book series for television, an original film collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, and her Challenger script being re-optioned.
You can learn more from Perlman, along with Simon Davis Barry (creator of Continuum), Dennis Heaton (executive producer of Motive), and Hart Hanson (creator of Bones) who will all be talking genre filmmaking this Saturday at VIFF Industry.
You can listen the raw, unedited audio from my interview with Perlman below.
(As seen in Vancouver Is Awesome.)
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