10 Screenwriters to Watch

Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber want to bring the romantic comedy back to reality. “There’s so much better material in your own relationships,” says Neustadter, who grew up in an Atlantic City suburb. “We’re reacting against the movies the studios have been making about a boy and a girl where the comedy comes from a dolphin attack that’s completely separate from the relationship.”

“All of our own war stories are both funnier and more relatable than most of the romantic comedies that we see today,” adds the Manhattan-bred Weber. “The best stuff comes from a real place.”

Neustadter and Weber met in 1999 working for Tribeca Prods. (Weber was Neustadter’s development intern), where in their spare time, they’d go to the Tribeca office roof and “write stuff down that made each other laugh,” recalls Neustadter.

Based on their first spec, “500 Days of Summer” — “kind of an autobiography of a relationship disaster,” Neustadter says — which is currently in production with Fox Searchlight, they were able to land other jobs, including a surprise gig working on Sony’s “Pink Panther” sequel. (“I hadn’t even seen the first one when we got the job,” says Neustadter.)

Neustadter likens their “Panther” pitch to the spirit of one of his favorite bands, the Talking Heads. “It was always said they didn’t know what they weren’t allowed to do, and that’s how we approached it.”

Since then, they say they’ve had seven scripts sell in the past 26 months, including “Underage” to Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Pictures, about a guy who unwittingly sleeps with a girl who is under 18 and is forced to become her boyfriend.

“Scott and Mike know how to push the boundaries of storytelling,” Reitman says, “both in terms of narrative and social convention, and they back it up with crisp and sharply observed writing.”

Looking forward, Neustadter and Weber say they want to emulate the screenwriting career of Cameron Crowe (they also acknowledge similar interests in Judd Apatow). “Those kinds of movies where there’s comedy, there’s drama and there’s great characters and it’s very dialogue-driven,” says Neustadter.

“My favorite movie ever is ‘The Graduate,’ ” he adds. “We’re constantly trying to figure out how to nail that tone and bring it back to the forefront.”

SHORTHAND

Age: Neustadter

(pictured above, right): 30; Weber: 31

Favorite unproduced script: “Every single thing has been purchased,” the duo say.

Influences: “We’re influenced by ‘Annie Hall,’ both in what it’s saying about relationships and how it’s saying it: its structural genius.”

Up next: Dramedy “No Relation,” set up at Fox Searchlight

Reps: Agents: CAA; managers: Sean Perrone, Aaron Kaplan at Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment; attorney: Sean Marks at Myman Abell Fineman Fox Greenspan & Light

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