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Yorkey: Screen meets stage in unusual career path

10 Screenwriters to Watch 2011: Brian Yorkey

Brian Yorkey entered the world of screenwriting an accomplished playwright and lyricist — he penned the book and lyrics for “Next to Normal,” the 2009 Broadway musical about a mother suffering from bipolar disorder, which won three Tony Awards and a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

While the worlds of stage and screen rarely mix, Yorkey sees a blurry area between the two, and he approaches new material for both in the same way.

“When I was a kid, whenever we’d go anywhere new, I would be less interested in seeing tourist stuff than in looking at the houses and apartments and trying to figure out what it was like to live where these people lived,” he says. “So whether I’m writing a song or a screenplay or a musical or stage play, I start by asking myself one question: What is that world like?”

His approach produced original storylines that were rich in character, and Hollywood soon took notice. He’s been busy ever since.

First, his feature pitch “Time After Time” sold in a bidding war to Universal for high six figures, prompting Summit Entertainment to fast-track the project.

Next, Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt preemptively sold a script for their feature “Score!” to Warner Bros. The musical, which tells the story of two down-on-their-luck Broadway songwriters who take jobs as counselors at a theater camp, will be co-produced by Anonymous Content and Team Downey. Robert Downey Jr. is also slated to appear as one of the film’s leads.

And finally, Yorkey and Kitt have been busy writing original songs for Diablo Cody’s reimagining of “Sweet Valley High,” a feature set up at Universal with Marc Platt (“Wicked”) producing.

Still, Yorkey hasn’t forgotten his theater roots. In addition to working on an untitled Broadway project he’s also collaborating with Sting on a piece of musical theater that will be based on the songwriter’s 1991 album “The Soul Cages.”

With so many film projects in the works, how does he feel about now being able to add “accomplished screenwriter” to his resume? “I’ll let you know when it happens.”

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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