Screenwriting Couple Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver Offer Advice on Breaking into Industry: ‘Try to Make the Stories as Personal as Possible’

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” may not feature the words of screenwriting power couple Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, but their imprint is all over the reboot franchise and because of the producer credit they fought for when they wrote “Rise,” their names will be too. Having been an agent before he transitioned into screenwriting, Jaffa was well acquainted with the benefits of obtaining producer status and it has since allowed him and wife Amanda Silver to maintain ownership over a reboot franchise many consider to be better than its predecessor. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Jaffa said his creative shift away from agency work wasn’t much of a surprise, but that Silver helped him along.

“I loved movies and saw a ton of films,”Jaffa said of how he spent his youth. “I would drive from the small town I grew up in to Dallas and go to a revival house and watch old movies. I always thought it would be fun to try to write movies. On our first date, Amanda and I ended up at Dupar’s over on Ventura Boulevard. We sat up, talking about movies over coffee and pancakes all night long. And that was a moment when I started thinking more and more that I could try to make the switch.”

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Silver had been earning her graduate degree in screenwriting at the time from USC School of Cinematic Arts and though she had early success selling her thesis script, “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” she and Jaffa would quickly realize that as romantic as a career in Hollywood sounded, certain realities are always commonplace. In acknowledging the pitfalls of the business, Silver said, “You write something. You spend a year on it. You pour your heart and soul in it, and 20 people read it. It’s part of the job.”

This was a big reason why being producers on “Apes” was so important.

“On the scripts that we love that did not get made,” said Jaffa, “decisions were made in rooms that we were not part of. So, when the ‘Apes’ idea came together and we called Peter Kang, who was the executive on the movies at Fox, we said we had an idea to reboot one of their franchises, but we had to be producers on it.”

In an industry that often tries to separate writers from the actual process of producing their work, Silver believes there’s no harm in writers putting themselves out there if they want to see their work through to the end.

“We’ve encouraged all the writers we’ve spoken to to push to become producers on their projects,” said Silver to THR. “If they say no, they say no. They’re not going to offer it to you. You have to ask and state your case. And sometimes we’ve been told no. That’s fine, but at least we asked.”

Extending this ethos to the process of pitching, Silver said, “I think there are lots of screenwriters who are introverts, and you’re out of your comfort zone a lot when you pitch. And you’ve got to grow a very tough, rough skin at the same time as you’re trying to remain sensitive and open.”

And how should writers come up with stories to pitch? Despite their mega-film bonafides like credits on “Avatar 2: The Way of Water,” they believe the best way into a screenplay is finding what’s true to you.

“Try to make the stories as personal as possible,” Silver said, “rather than trying to contort yourself into what the market wants.”

Adding to this like a true teammate, Jaffa said, “The key is to get your material in front of people who are actually in a position to move scripts along and help you get started. If you’ve got something to say, then I think eventually you’ll get on track.”

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