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October 3, 2012

August in October

SCA Alum/Screenwriter John August visits SCA after a pre-screening of Frankenweenie

By Valerie Turpin

Summer may be over, but August has returned to the School of Cinematic Arts. On October 2, students gathered in the Ray Stark Family Theatre for a special 3D screening of Frankenweenie, followed by a discussion with the film’s screenwriter and USC alum, John August. The event, with the Q&A moderated by Writing Professor Howard Rodman, was hosted by Writing Presents..., an SCA Writing Division speaker series aimed at bringing top directors and screenwriters to SCA to discuss their work within the industry. 

John August '94

John August graduated in ‘94 from the Peter Stark Producing Program, a two-year master’s program for creative producers, creative execs and filmmakers. August has served as executive producer and director on several films but focuses the majority of his career on screenwriting. His career has seen many successful collaborations with director and producer Tim Burton, for whom he has written the screenplays of Big Fish, Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among others.

On working with Tim Burton, August explained, “What’s nice about writing a movie for Tim Burton is that he’ll tell you the movie that he wants to shoot and you’ll write that movie and he’ll largely shoot that movie, and that’s remarkable. It’s not that endless sort of second guessing or, ‘What if we did it this way? What if we did it that way?’ Tim definitely treats the writer like a department head.”

August’s most recent collaboration with Tim Burton was writing the screenplay of Frankenweenie, based on Tim Burton’s original short of the same name. Frankenweenie follows the journey of young Victor in the mystical town of New Holland, who applies the power of science to bring his beloved dog, Sparky, back to life—with a few adjustments.

When asked for words of wisdom to impart to aspiring writers, August encouraged students to “write

Still from Frankenweenie

the movie that you would pay $15 to see opening night. [That] doesn’t say that you need to write a commercial movie, but to write the movie that you would genuinely spend that money to see opening night, because that’s the only one you should be wasting your time writing right now. I think so often you write the movies you think you should write, the movies that are, well, this seems commercial, or it seems like it’s prestigious or well-meaning or seems like it will win an award; that’s not the kind of thing you should be working on. You should be working on the movie that you yourself wished existed in the world.”

To learn more about Disney’s Frankenweenie and to view the trailer, visit: http://disney.go.com/frankenweenie/?cmp=wdsmp_fkw_url_dcomfrankenweenie_Extl

Frankenweenie opens nationwide on October 5th.