10 Screenwriters to Watch 2012: Derek Connolly

Success wasn’t guaranteed for Derek Connolly until he wrote “Safety Not Guaranteed,” a $750,000 sci-fi movie that won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance before it rode a wave of good reviews (94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) to a healthy $4 million gross in the U.S.

While Connolly, 36, has spent the past eight or nine years in Los Angeles, he met “Safety Not Guaranteed” director Colin Trevorrow back at NYU, where they took classes in film production and comedy writing together before interning at “Saturday Night Live.”

Connolly describes his relationship with Trevorrow as “a special partnership. You hear about writing partners in college and you think, ‘I’d never want to work with anybody.’ We got together by accident and I see how it can benefit you. I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t started that partnership with him.”

After Sundance, Connolly moved up to Emeryville to work at Pixar, where he’s writing an untitled project for Teddy Newton (“Day and Night”). “It’s totally different, the way they do things up here. You’re here everyday. You don’t go away for three months and come up with a script. You’re involved with a director and it’s very collaborative.”

The Pixar gang also told him “not to dumb it down or treat animation like it’s for kids. ”

Connolly, who has sold original projects to Parkes/MacDonald and Temple Hill, has two projects in development at Disney — “Hank” and a remake of “Flight of the Navigator.”

Scribe’s dream job would be adapting the “Wheel of Time” series of fantasy novels owned by Universal, though he was flattered to read his name among all the scribes being considered (by fanboys) for the coveted job of writing “Star Wars: Episode VII.”

Reps: Verve Talent & Literary Agency, 3Arts Entertainment and attorney Lev Ginsburg.

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