10 Screenwriters to Watch

When your very first feature script gets made just months after you’ve finished a first draft, it may look like success comes easily.

It’s what happened to tyro scribe Fox when she wrote the script for what eventually became 2005 Universal release “The Wedding Date.”

“I had amazing stuff happen right off the top,” she says. “I thought this was how it worked. Hollywood is awesome! Cut to three years later: What happened?”

Bad reviews happened, but Fox, who is prone to being really funny even when she’s describing tough times, says the whole experience actually helped her with her “perfectionism thing.”

Now she’s proving that lightning can strike twice. Her romantic comedy idea “What Happens in Vegas” — which she describes as “raunchy with a really good heart” — was immediately snapped up in a high-six-figure deal by Fox last year. The studio went out to cast with her first draft, and “Vegas” is now headed for an August start with Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher set to star.

Despite this uncanny knack for nailing it, Fox admits she’s spent most of her life avoiding writing scripts for fear that she’d fail.

She majored in art history and English at Stanford and then completed the Stark producers program at USC. Instead of writing, she decided to observe established scribes. She assisted screenwriters and “Smallville” creators Al Gough and Miles Millar and made “a lot of threats to write,” but found herself too dedicated to her bosses’ needs.

“I’m a believer in paying your dues,” she explains. “I won’t say, ‘I have two degrees; I shouldn’t be getting your latte.’ Because I paid my dues when I got to the table, I actually had something to say.”

After what she says was akin to “a fellowship” with writer-director John August, Fox was approached by scribe-producer Jessica Bendinger to write “Wedding Date.”

Sweet baby Jesus, don’t ask me for a writing sample,” she recalls thinking. “I got the job by writing the outline.”

“Dana is that rare mix of smart on the page and hilarious in the room,” Bendinger says, also pointing to her “insane work ethic.”

Since the good news on “Vegas,” Fox has managed to take on two rewrites (Spyglass’ “27 Dresses” and Fox’s “Wichita”) and is also working on an animation project for Fox.

“My big philosophy is: Try and work with good people, because the process is your life,” says Fox, who adds that she would like to direct someday. “That’s going to be really, really hard. I’m glad I learned the lesson, ‘Failure is OK.’ “

Vital Stats
Age: 30
Provenance: Rochester, N.Y.
Inspired by: “The J’s — Jim Brooks, John Hughes, Jay Roach; the movie and the music of ‘Once'; and my friends.”
Reps: Agent: Cliff Roberts at WMA; manager: Joy Gorman at Anonymous Content; attorney: Kim Stenton at Myman Abell Fineman Fox Greenspan Light

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