Penning poignant, single mom p.o.v.

Age: 34

Birthplace: Indio, Calif.

Repped by: Ron Bernstein, ICM

Film that changed his life: “When I was 9, I wanted to use my dad’s very expensive Super 8 camera. He said do something else, so I went to see ‘Rocky’ instead. I was punching everything, so my mom decided that maybe I could use the camera. I’ve been making movies ever since.”

Worst studio advice: “On a spec script about a guy who loses his own kid gambling, they said, ‘Instead of using a kid, could we make it something innocuous … like cheese?'”

Struggling and starving,” that’s how Morgan Ward describes his life after he graduated from USC film school.

Then in 1995, his first script, “A Pyromaniac’s Love Story,” was made into a movie starring William Baldwin and John Leguizamo. But the whimsical romance , directed by Joshua Brand (TV’s “Northern Exposure”) didn’t make much of an impression critically or financially.

Six years later, Ward is hoping to make a bigger impression with his follow-up “Riding in Cars With Boys,” a Drew Barrymore vehicle directed by Penny Marshall.

Based on a book by Beverly D’Onofrio, “Riding” tells the story of a single mother (Barrymore), who has a son at 15 and endures a failed marriage to the baby’s drug-addicted father while clinging to her dream of becoming a writer.

“It was the best book I had read in a long time and my first adaptation,” recalls Ward, who was asked to work on the project by filmmaker James Brooks, whom Ward says he “was terrified of failing.”

Ward stayed with the project from beginning to end, and in addition to writing the adaptation, he is an exec producer of the film, set to be released next week by Sony Pictures.

“It’s a comedy about relationships, and it’s also a movie with depth,” says Ward.

He points out that the film has a certain feel-good quality about it, and that it’s the right time for this movie.

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