Vol. 8 No. 1 - Spring 2014
Spring 2014
Beau Willimon, Animation Roundtable, Amy Talkington,
Writing Fellowshop Survey, Event Recaps and More!

Editor's Note
Welcome to CUE's first newsletter of 2014! 2013 was CUE's busiest year yet, as we hosted ten events, including the screenplay showcase at UTA, a private screening of Nebraska followed by a Q&A with producer Albert Berger (FILM '83), two Navigating the Industry Roundtables, and plenty of parties!

In this issue, we tell you about our next Navigating the Industry Roundtable focused on animation, feature an interview Beau Willimon (CC'99, THEATER '03), executive producer of House of Cards, and turn the Alumni Spotlight on writer/director Amy Talkington (FILM '99), who tells us about writing her first novel which publishes this month. We also introduce the first installment of our Fellowship Survey, which showcases short interviews with alumni who have participated in various programs -- including the ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship, the Sundance Screenwriting Lab, and FIND's Project Involve, to name a few -- and share their thoughts on the fellowships as well as application tips.

As always, if you have people you would like to see interviewed, events you would like hosted, or just want to let us know what you're up to, give us a shout: editor@cue-network.org.

Kate Buhrmaster (FILM '08) and Austen Rachlis (FILM '08)
CUE Co-Chairs

Stay connected via the CUE Facebook page , our website and for those who are graduates of the School of the Arts, the official School of the Arts Alumni Facebook group.

Navigating the Industry Roundtable: Animation March 12th at 7:30PM

CUE's popular Navigating the Industry roundtable series, offering informal, candid conversations with alumni working in various aspects of the industry, is back! This month's focus is animation. With the recent Oscar win for Frozen, written and co-directed by Jennifer Lee (SOA Film '05), this is a particularly exciting and timely topic.

Our panelists will discuss how they got started in animation, what the process consists of, and what makes it different than live-action.


Beth Cannon (SOA Film '10) is a development executive with Dreamworks Animation Television
Jon Kern (SOA Theatre '07) is a writer on The Simpsons
Frank Angones
(SOA Film '11) has written for Disney's children's show Wander over Yonder and is currently developing two shows with Disney

Guests are invited to arrive at 7:30PM for pizza and mingling. The panel will start at 8:00PM.

Roundtable attendance is strictly capped at 15 people, so RSVP Today!

Recaps of recent events.

7th Annual Holiday Party

On December 13, Columbia alumni took over the upstairs of Beso restaurant and bar in Hollywood with our seventh annual holiday party. We continued the tradition of making this a Columbia-only event, and the venue provided the perfect setting for alumni from different programs to meet, mingle, and celebrate with drinks and a steady stream of delicious snacks. For those who attended, we hope you enjoyed the evening and the company of Columbia connections both new and old. For those who missed out, pop by one of our upcoming events and check out the community that CUE is creating here in LA.

To see a full list of all the events CUE held in 2013 (ten in total), please see our 2013 Year in Review.




Beau Willimon (CC’ 99, SOA ‘03) wrote the Academy Award nominated screenplay for The Ides of March based on his play Farragut North before executive producing Netflix’s first original series House of Cards. Beau graciously agreed to talk to CUE about the steps of his career and the process of writing House of Cards.

1. What was your path from college to where you are now?

Well, it was a very rocky, curvy path. I went to Columbia College and majored in Visual Arts, specifically as a painter. I didn’t take any writing classes as an undergrad.

When I graduated, I worked for the Estonian Government for a little while. I lived on Lower Eastside and worked odd jobs. I spent four months in Vietnam researching a screenplay – my first screenplay – based on the life of Tomas Vu, a Visual Arts professor at Columbia who grew up in Vietnam during the war.

And then I bullied Eduardo Machado, who was then the head of the playwriting program at Columbia, into letting me audit a playwriting class he was teaching. And we met during office hours and he told me to write and play and apply to the program, and if it was good enough, he’d accept me.

So I wrote a play and he accepted me and I did my 3 years there. When I graduated I had no plan. I worked a hodge podge of jobs. I was a barista. I taught SAT prep classes. I did internships. It was very hand-to-mouth. The whole time, I kept writing plays, but no one wanted to do them.

I had a friend, Jay Carson, who had a meteoric rise in the world of politics, and I worked with him in the past on campaigns for Schumer, Bradley, Hillary Clinton, so I followed him onto the Dean campaign in ’04. Based on that experience I wrote the play Farragut North.

Read the full interview here...


Featured Articles
Writing Fellowship Survey

Throughout the year there are various fellowships and labs available to filmmakers and television writers -- including the Sundance Lab and ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship but also ones that are not as well known, such as the CAAM Fellowship or the Toronto Film Festival Lab. Each newsletter, CUE will include short interviews with past Columbia participants of fellowships with approaching deadlines. They will tell you what exactly you do in each of the programs and any application tips they picked up in their time.

FEATURED This Month:


Read the full article here...



Amy’s first book LIV, FOREVER will be published by Soho Teen in March, 2014. It has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection and an Amazon YA Book of the Month. Amy is currently adapting it for film with Offspring Entertainment attached to produce. You can see the trailer Amy directed for the book here.

Amy also has numerous film projects in active development including the “VALLEY GIRL” remake at MGM, “KICKED, BITTEN AND SCRATCHED” at Lionsgate, the “PRIVATE BENJAMIN” remake at New Line (with Anna Faris set to star) and “HOT FUSS,” based on a pitch she sold to Disney. Amy wrote and directed “THE NIGHT OF THE WHITE PANTS” which stars Oscar-nominee Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl and Selma Blair and was released in 2008. Amy wrote and directed six short films which were selected for numerous festivals (including Sundance and SXSW) and received many accolades. In the television arena, Amy wrote ABC Family’s “BRAVE NEW GIRL” and co-wrote “AVALON HIGH,” a children’s movie for which she won a 2011 WGA Award.

She is participating in a free event Thursday, March 13th at the Barnes and Noble in the Grove with Mickey Rapkin (Pitch Perfect) and Shauna Cross (Whip It) moderated by Beth Schacter, discussing screenwriting and young adult novels. For more information: http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/4680550

March 13, 7 PM at Barnes & Noble, The Grove
A conversation about "Screenwriting, Film, and YA" with Shauna Cross (WHIP IT, If I Stay) and Mickey Rapkin (PITCH PERFECT). Columbia Film alum Beth Schacter (BUNHEADS) is moderating. (Free).

If you miss Amy in LA, she’s also doing a signing in New York:
March 20, 5-7PM, Books of Wonder, 18 W 18th St, NYC
LIV, FOREVER NYC Launch. Book reading and signing.

Read the full article here....

Know someone who deserves to be in the spotlight? Send us an email and tell us! editor@cue-network.org.

Columbia Alumni Win Oscars

Dede Gardner (CC ‘91) produced the acclaimed 12 Years A Slave, which took home the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay awards - among nine nominations in all - at the 2014 Academy Awards Sunday, March 2. A veteran film executive, Gardner is co-president of Plan B Entertainment, notes Variety. She also produced World War Z, Killing Them Softly and The Tree of Life.

Jennifer Lee (SOA-Film ‘05) co-directed Frozen, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film (it won the same award at the Golden Globes, and also won for Best Animated Song at the Academy Awards). Leading up to the Oscars, Lee described to the L.A. Times why she had never wanted more to be an animated character. Her Disney film follows the adventures of fearless optimist named Anna on an epic journey to find her sister, notes IMDB. Columbia Film faculty members Andy Bienen and Eric Mendelsohn are cited among her mentors.

Also nominated for Oscars this year were several more Columbia-affiliated entertainment pros. Nebraska, produced by Albert Berger (Film ‘83) was nominated for six awards, including Best Motion Picture of the Year.

Dallas Buyers Club, an SOA-Film article notes, was produced by Focus Features, which was then headed by faculty member James Schamus. It was nominated for six awards, of which Best Picture was one. Meanwhile, as note by SOA, recent adjunct faculty member David Riker co-wrote Dirty Wars, nominated for Best Documentary Feature.


Jack Paglen (Film ‘06): "Transcendence"
Roberto Bentivegna (Film ‘10): "The Eel"

Movies are coming out from Columbia University alums who spoke at our CUE roundtable last February about their scripts making The Black List. Paglen wrote "Transcendence," a science fiction film due out in April starting Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman. Bentivegna wrote "The Eel," which he will reportedly direct with Sam Rockwell starring.

What’s it really like to get your script made into a movie? Work. It involves stress, joy, negotiation and patience. The process could be its own docudrama.

Three top-notch screenwriters on Hollywood’s Black List, with projects in various stages of development moving toward production, shared considerable insights into how and why to do it at the February 2013 “Navigating the Industry” CUE roundtable in Los Angeles.

They are Harry Kellerman (Columbia U. Film ‘07), Jack Paglen (Film ‘06) and Roberto Bentivegna (Film ‘10), all of whom grace the latest Black List.

This annual roster started in 2005 as a survey of the best scripts film executives saw that still hadn’t been made into movies. The voting pool is now 500 film execs and more than 200 Black List screenplays have become feature films, nominated for more than 140 Academy Awards. Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech are two lauded films from the list.

"You sit and work on a script going on faith," Kellerman told the CUE group. His “Who Framed Tommy Callahan” goes noir tracing an elementary school student’s “search for truth behind the candy bar ring conspiracy that got his brother expelled,” the Black List notes.

Consider "what is it about your life experience" that you can bring to bear in the subject matter, Kellerman said. And whatever you're writing, aiming for "top notch structure" is worthwhile (for the story and its future development).

Paglen, Bentivegna and Kellerman all also went a lot deeper into detail on day-to-day writing tactics, what has helped them in the industry, what choices they’ve had to make and what the development community pragmatically needs from screenplays and screenwriters.

Paglen’s “Transcendence” is, as described on the Black List, “an epic love story set in a time where a dying scientist is able to upload his consciousness into the internet and, facing its global implications, must fight against the forces who are actively working against the existence of a singularity.”

In Bentivegna’s “The Eel,” per the Black List, an escaped convict “is ensnared in a plot by a corrupt Sheriff to kidnap the young heiress to an oil fortune, complicating his quest for freedom.”

The three Columbia alums who wrote these scripts also talked about how their projects came to the attention of Hollywood insiders, and how being on the Black List has influenced their progress.

And thanks to each of them for taking part in this event. CUE’s roundtable series features informal and candid conversations with alums working in various aspects of the entertainment industry. Bentivegna, Paglen and Kellerman were a great lineup.

--Donna Howell


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