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Britt-Gibson: Tough guys inspire hard-edged screenplays

10 Screenwriters to Watch 2011: Justin Britt-Gibson

Justin Britt-Gibson is obsessed with tough guys, the cynical, obsessive, hard-living, hair-trigger types found in the fiction of the Donald Westlake and Mickey Spillane and movies like 1971’s “The French Connection” and 1967’s “Point Blank,” starring Lee Marvin.

“I live and breathe in that world,” Britt-Gibson says. “That’s what gets me up in the morning, punching the keys.”

The scribe put himself on the Hollywood map — and the 2007 Black List — with “Grown Man Business,” which a takes ’70s-style revenge film storyline and sets it against a gritty urban backdrop similar to “Boyz in the Hood” and “Juice,” two favorites from his youth.

“My father’s still around, we have a relationship, but my parents divorced when I was 4,” Britt-Gibson says. “I thought, what would happen if my biological father found out I was killed when I was 18 years old? I decided to do my take on the guy avenging the death of the son he never knew.”

Britt-Gibson grew up far from the ‘hood in Silver Springs, Md., with his mother, Donna Britt, a onetime USA Today film critic and Washington Post columnist currently writing a memoir for Little, Brown and Co.; stepfather Kevin Merida, national editor at the Post; and two brothers.

A film major at Temple U., he came to L.A. in 2002 for a summer internship at Tom Hanks’ Playtone Prods., where he pored over scripts, studying their structure. Returning after graduation, he worked as a freelance journalist, P.A.’d on the short-lived series “Listen Up,” and wrote several scenes for the third season of HBO’s “Deadwood” as part of a writers program held by series creator David Milch.

In the years since, Gibson-Britt, who’s signed with Gersh, has scripted the “Lethal Weapon”-esque “Streets on Fire,” in development at Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst Films, and “7th Son,” a graphic novel adaptation for Warner Bros. He also has a blind deal with Fox 21, and he’s doing a rewrite for Paramount on “Code Name Sasha.” But what he’d like more than anything is to see “Grown Man Business” finally make it to the bigscreen.

“To this day, it’s my baby,” he says.

TEN SCREENWRITERS TO WATCH 2011:
Josh Appelbaum & Andrew Nemec | Jay Baruchel & Jesse Chabot | Justin Britt-Gibson | Neil Cross | Andrew Haigh | Kurt Johnstad | Lauryn Kahn | Paula Pell | Jon Spaihts | Brian Yorkey

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