10 Screenwriters to Watch

Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins met as undergrads at Harvard. They went their separate ways after college and just recently reunited to write a spec script, “Book Smart.”

The script is about two overachieving high school seniors who, after realizing the only thing they haven’t accomplished is having boyfriends, resolve to find ones by the prom.

It was snapped up by Fox in February; Natalie Portman’s shingle, Handsomecharlie Films, has come aboard to produce.

“Sarah and Emily create funny, smart, unself-consciously strong female characters,” says Portman. “When I read ‘Book Smart,’ it was as though the script we always talk about wanting to find for our company suddenly materialized.”

After writing for the Lampoon in college, Halpern moved to Los Angeles and wrote for “The Unit” and “Private Practice.” Haskins did improv in Chicago until moving to Los Angeles to write for Current TV. Once they teamed up, their biggest challenge was finding time.

“We were both writing with full-time jobs,” says Haskins. “It was a labor of love.”

For each, it was also the first time they were creating the material they wanted to write and making a living at it. “It’s been very exciting to go in two years from doing improv shows, and making $300 every so often, to being able to write and consider this my profession,” Haskins adds.

Amy Poehler read “Book Smart” and met with the duo to talk about adapting “Lunch Lady,” based on a series of upcoming graphic novels about a cafeteria server with superpowers. Their ideas meshed, and the project is now in development at Universal.

As for their style, Haskins and Halpern say their humor is very much grounded in reality. “A lot of the comedy we think is funny comes from our real experiences and humiliating things that have happened to us,” Halpern says, “but that’s my way of saying that we think a lot of funny stuff is just real.”

AGE: Halpern, 28; Haskins, 29

HOMETOWN: Halpern, Lincoln, Mass.; Haskins, Chicago

INSPIRED BY: Steve Martin, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, “Waiting for Guffman”

UP NEXT: “Lunch Lady,” starring and produced by Poehler, set up at Universal

REPS: Halpern, agents: Lis Rowinski, Sharon Sheinwold (WME). Haskins, agents: Kassie Evashevski, Barbara Dreyfus (UTA); attorney (for both): Warren Dern (Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern)

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