10 Screenwriters to Watch
If you want to be in the tentpole business, it doesn’t hurt to be a fanboy. As a middle-class kid growing up in Santa Rosa, Calif., Dan Mazeau disappeared into the fantasy worlds so lovingly crafted by the original movie brats, worshipping heroes like Indy, Luke and Marty McFly.
The pic that got him thinking about doing it for a living was “Jurassic Park.” “From the moment that film started rolling, I was completely blown away,” Mazeau recalls. “By the time it was over, I knew I wanted to do this with my life.”
Mazeau took a bit of a detour before embarking on a full-fledged screenwriting career. “I went to UC Berkley and majored in physics,” he says. “I loved learning the science, but when I got out of school and found myself in front of a microscope for 12 hours a day, it became pretty clear I wasn’t cut out for it.”
He enrolled in the MFA screenwriting program at UCLA and promptly began work on his first spec, a family fantasy epic called “The Land of Lost Things.” “It’s about a kid who’s always losing things, and his parents’ marriage is in trouble. Then he discovers a magical universe, where everything we lose ends up, kind of like Oz. While he’s there, he tries to save their relationship.”
Mazeau finished the script in 2006 and began shopping it around through the few contacts he had in the business. The response was immediate: Before long, the script was set up at Nickelodeon/ Paramount, with Arnold Kopelson producing.
Since then, Mazeau has been in high demand. His first gig for hire was adapting “The Adventures of Jonny Quest,” the Hanna-Barbera cartoon from the 1960s, for Warner Bros. Dan Lin, former senior veep of production at the studio, was so impressed with Mazeau’s work that he brought the pic with him when he left to set up his own production outfit on the Warner lot. (Daniel Alter and Adrian Askarieh are the other producers.)
“Dan really understands the pop elements of the genre, but, more importantly, he works from a character perspective,” Lin says, “He’s just incredibly imaginative and creative.”
Mazeau’s current gig is rewriting an untitled moon project for DreamWorks. Based on an original script by director Doug Liman, pic tells the story of two friends who build a rocket from spare parts and try to land on the moon. Simon Kinberg and Alli Shearmur are producing, and Jake Gyllenhaal is attached to star.
“I’m an unconditional, unapologetic fan of big, fun, popcorn movies,” Mazeau says. “But I want them to be great. I want them to thrill me, entertain me and, most importantly, move me.”
Influences: “Steven Spielberg, hands down,” says Mazeau.
Favorite unproduced script: “The Land of Lost Things.” “That one is closest to my heart,” he says.
Up next: “Jonny Quest”
Reps: Agent: David Kopple at Gersh; managers: David Alpert and Ashley Berns at Circle of Confusion; attorney: Mary Sullivan at Katz, Golden, Sullivan & Rosenman