10 Screenwriters to Watch

Even the most precocious of scribes let their debut efforts gather dust in a desk drawer (or the remote corner of their hard drive). Not so for 25-year-old Nicole Perlman, who managed to strike gold on her first try with “Challenger.”

Based on true events, the script is a whistle-blower drama in the vein of “The Insider” that tells the true story of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman’s investigation into the Challenger space shuttle disaster.

Perlman was inspired by the story while still in high school, after hearing about the eccentric, brilliant Feynman from some family members who knew him, and began writing while attending NYU for film and dramatic writing.

“Richard Feynman was a hero to me,” she says. “When I began writing the script, it was really meant as a tribute to him. He’s a fascinating detective character.”

Once completed, “Challenger” began piling up awards at competitions, including NYU’s Sloan Grant for Science, the Splendid Pictures/Script Magazine Open Door Prize and, most recently, the TFI/Sloan Screenwriting Prize at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

A blurb in Script caught the attention of Andrew Lauren Prods., which hired Perlman to write “Capture the Flag,” a space-race adventure drama. That assignment landed Perlman representation with Paradigm, which in turn set up “Challenger” at Carol Baum Prods. The film is slated to begin production at the end of the year, with Philip Kaufman directing and David Strathairn starring as Feynman.

“Nicole’s script has the roots of a detective adventure story, but it doesn’t sacrifice the brightness of the material,” says Kaufman. “She’s trying to write up to the audience as opposed to writing down. And that, to me, is what good writing is about.”

The Gotham-based Perlman is currently working on several more fact-based, science-oriented ideas — including a script about synthetic diamond manufacturing — and will be pitching them to studios this summer.

“I love researching new things, trying to become an expert on them, whether it’s new technology or a niche in American history that most people aren’t aware of.”

VITAL STATS

Age: 25

Birthplace: Los Angeles

Inspirations: “The New Yorker, Wired, Seed and the New York Times, things on the edges of public consciousness, stories that have actually happened or stories that could happen in the near future.”

Favorite unproduced script: “Capture the Flag,” which is about to be shopped around.

Reps: Agent, Chris Till (Paradigm); manager, Rick Berg (Code)

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