50 Brilliant Screenwriters to Watch Out For

The Lists Nick Horton
1/22/2016 at 8:13AM

Page 1 of 250 Brilliant Screenwriters to Watch Out For

Across film and TV, here are 50 excellent writers whose work is well worth keeping an eye out for...

This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.

Below are 50 writers I believe will be the people producing the films and television we won’t stop watching and talking about over the next several years. I’ve mainly drawn them from the US and UK film and TV industry, and with a mix of writers who have had pretty major success already (some household names off-screen), and others that are almost totally unknown. What links them all, though, is that they are only now making a name for themselves in their screenwriting career, with some having only a handful of film and TV credits to their name, others working steadily but unspectacularly until now, and a few with a major break-out hit.

US Film

John Patton Ford - Rothschild

Previously known for writing/directing 2010 short film Patrol, John Patton Ford became a hot property in Hollywood thanks to his inclusion on the 2014 Black List. For those who are unaware, the Black List is a yearly list of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, as voted for by industry professionals. While inclusion (or even coming top) in it doesn’t guarantee success, it’s a pretty good indicator of what will be making waves in the film world. The Imitation GameBabelJunoThe Prestige500 Days Of Summer, In BrugesSuperbadSlumdog Millionaire, Source CodeThe Social Network, Chronicle, and Whiplash have all featured previously.

So it’s a pretty good bet to reckon on Ford’s Rothschild, described as "A young, well-educated loner kills the members of his mother’s estranged family one-by-one in hopes that he will inherit the family’s vast fortune" becoming one of your favorite films in the next few years. Plus people in the industry have consistently spoken about what a lovely man Ford is, which is always nice to know.

Nicole Perlman - Guardians Of The Galaxy

The success story of the Marvel writers programme so far, Nicole Perlman was a science geek growing up, and expanded this love into writing science-fiction scripts. But while her script Challengers gained plaudits and won awards, it wasn’t produced. As she told Time magazine, I was noticing that I was having trouble convincing people, when I was pitching on projects, that I would be capable of doing this. There was a little bit of an attitude of, ‘Well, you’re a woman, you’re not writing romantic comedies, we’ll give you the Marie Curie biopic.’”

Following this, she was enrolled onto the Marvel writing programme, and given freedom to develop up the lesser characters any way she liked. Choosing Guardians Of The Galaxy, Perlman’s script was given the green light. Despite public differences between her and director James Gunn over who contributed what to the final version, Marvel obviously liked her work enough to invite her back to pen Captain Marvel, which she will be co-writing with Meg LeFauve

Meg LeFauve - Inside OutThe Good Dinosaur

A long-time producer, with Emmy nominations to show for it, LeFauve recently made the switch to screenwriting, coming on-board Pixar’s Inside Out with immediate success. Credited by director Pete Docter with getting the structure and story arcs right for the film, she then followed that up with work on The Good Dinosaur. Staying within the Disney fold, she is currently working on Captain Marvel.

John Scott III - Maggie

Following time in the military, and a career in commercials, John Scott III decided to try his hand at screenwriting for the movies. However, as he explained to Variety, “I wrote my very first screenplay back in 2008 and it was a big piece of crap,” His next attempt however, proved slightly better. A film inspired by his strained relationship with his father, Maggie was a horror film with a difference, and not just because it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Playing out zombieism as a terminal illness, Maggie has a ton of depth and proves that first attempts can always be bettered.

Melissa Stack - The Other Woman

Proof that becoming a writer can happen at any stage in your career, Stack was a practicing lawyer with semi-harboured ambitions of becoming a writer. Realizing that she had to do something about it, she enrolled at USC on a writing Masters, but still needed to practice law in order to make money.

However, when her script I Want to F**k Your Sister landed on the Black List, it opened doors for her. The result of this was the recent Cameron Diaz comedy The Other Woman, as well as an untitled Paul Feig revenge comedy.

Mike Le - Dark SummerAmnesiac

How’s this for a Hollywood story come true? After moving to LA to pursue his dreams of screenwriting, Le ended up working as video store clerk in West Hollywood. One day he impressed a customer with his knowledge of film. That customer turned out to be Owen Wilson, who offered him a job.

Cue several years learning from Wilson and Wes Anderson. After releasing his own comic series Mayhem, Le returned to his screenwriting ambitions, penning two cult horror films, Dark Summer and Amnesiac, with a third, Patient Zero, to be released this year.

Stephany Folsom - Thor: Ragnarok

Another Black List alumni, Folsom’s script 1969: A Space Odyssey, Or How Kubrick Learned To Stop Worrying and Land On The Moon gained her massive industry attention, further focused when the script was chosen for The Black List’s inaugural live read of their unproduced scripts. The focus on her writing will only increase after she was announced as the new writer on Thor: Ragnarok, giving her the responsibility of bringing the Thor series to a satisfying conclusion.

Taylor Sheridan - Sicario

Proof that actors are multi-talented, Taylor Sheridan, perhaps previously best known for playing Deputy Chief David Hale on Sons Of Anarchy, may now find himself much more in demand as a writer following the huge success of Sicario. As he told Variety, “At some point for me, the idea of telling my own story sort of fascinated me more than telling someone else’s.”

Of course, upping the ante even more is the fact that Sicario tells the story of the drug trade along the Mexican-US border, meaning a lot of the script is in Spanish. Meaning a lot of research for Sheridan. But if Sicario’s thrilling narrative can attest to, Sheridan understands the power of cinema, no matter the language.

Andrew Dodge - Bad Words

Imagine if Spellbound had been made as straight up comedy instead? Well thanks to Jason Bateman’s directorial debut Bad Words, you can see exactly that. And it’s incredibly funny, thanks in no small part to writer Andrew Dodge. Over 15 years at the Columbia Pictures story department, Dodge honed his craft while also getting all the ‘bad comedy’ out of his system. Writing Bad Words in his spare time, he then had no idea what to do with the finished script. Luckily his manager did, and it ended up being shown to Bateman.

Aaron Berg - Section 6

Aaron Berg’s story of writing and selling Section 6 is why the dream of Hollywood is still so much of a lure, and why so many of us try our hand at writing. After crafting Section 6, the tale of how Britain’s MI6 came into existence, this first time screenwriter prompted what can only be called be a scrum between the studios desperate to do the deal for it. Overnight Berg was a writing star, and has since landed representation with mega agency CAA and been tapped to write GI Joe III.

Justin Simien - Dear White People

Beginning as an idea for a television series, Dear White People morphed into a feature project anticipated by many. Boyz 'n the Hood and Real Women Have Curves producers Stephanie Allain and Effie T. Brown got on board, and Simien used his skills as a publicist (his previous job) to spread the word about an IndieGoGo campaign to help raise funds. The result was a huge Sundance success followed by more success upon wide release.

As talented as a director as he is a writer, several projects including a comedy series and a musical have been rumoured for Simien’s next move.

Travis Beacham - Clash Of The TitansPacific Rim

It’s still early days yet, but Travis Beacham is certainly having the writing career all movie loving geeks would surely dream of. After graduating from the North Carolina School of Arts, his first spec script was picked up for development by Guillermo del Toro. Following that, he then wrote an early draft of the Clash Of The Titans remake, before hitting geek gold with his script for Pacific Rim, which paired him with del Toro once again. An astute world builder to match del Toro, Beacham is a genre specialist creating work of depth.

Katie Dippold - The HeatGhostbusters

Beginning her career in improv comedy, it wasn’t before the writing and performances of Katie Dippold began to gain her attention. After working on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and MADtv, she was hired onto Parks And Recreation. In 2013 she gained her feature breakthrough with The Heat, the Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy buddy-cop comedy, which proved surprisingly smart and warm hearted.

Obviously the right people took notice too, and she was hired to reboot the new all-female Ghostbusters, one of 2016s most hotly anticipated films.

Jennifer Lee - Wreck-It RalphFrozen

Originally an art director for publisher Random House, Jennifer Lee decided to get serious about her writing bug and enrol at Columbia Film School. Although always interested in animation, it wasn’t until her friend Phil Johnston, at the time writing Wreck-It Ralph, asked her to come to L.A. and take over writing duties on the film. Suitably impressed, Disney asked her to stay on to script their next film, Frozen. Lee ended up co-directing as well, and the rest is, well, the biggest animation hit of all time. Lee is now concentrating on live-action scripts, as well as planning the Frozen stage musical and Frozen 2.

Graham Moore - The Imitation Game

Sherlockian author Graham Moore’s only real Hollywood experience was as a staff writer for the basically never seen 10 Things I Hate About You series. But after meeting producer Nora Grossman at a party and finding out she had optioned an Alan Turning biography, he knew he had to be involved.

As he told Variety, “I instantly freak out and launch into this totally insufferable l5-minute monologue where I’m like, this is how the movie starts, this is how the movie ends, I know everything about him, you have to let me work on this. I’ll write it on spec, I’ll do it for free, I just have to be involved.” That script topped the 2011 Black List, and won him the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. Not bad for your first feature.

Next up is an adaption of Erik Larsson’s incredible non-fiction as novel work The Devil In The White City, a true crime story about America’s first serial killer operating in the shadows of Chicago’s 1893 World Fair.

Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha

Known for being an accomplished and gifted actress, it was her collaboration on writing duties with Noah Baumbach on Frances Ha which served notice of her screenwriting prowess. Lifting the mumble core genre into something breezy, immediately engaging, yet still emotionally affecting, Gerwig was instrumental to just how good that film was, on page and on screen. While her acting career will surely take precedence as demand for her skills grows, let’s hope Gerwig finds time for more script work too.

Jeremy Saulnier - Blue Ruin

Proving as formidable a writer as he is a director and cinematographer, Jeremy Saulnier smashed it out of the park with his 2013 indie revenge thriller Blue Ruin. In fact I loved it so much I named it my top pick in my list of underappreciated films under 91 minutes long.

Financed through his own Amex, his wife and a last ditch Kickstarter campaign, the former corporate filmmaker wowed Cannes. He then turned down all the subsequent offers to go his own way again, writing and directing Green Room, a crime thriller about a punk band, and starring Anton Yeltsin and Sir Patrick Stewart. Acclaimed at Cannes, it’s finally released in cinemas this April, so you can see what all the fuss is about.


Sam Esmail - Mr. Robot

It almost beggars belief that one of the most critically acclaimed writers in the entertainment world right now is basically a complete professional novice. While Sam Esmail is a graduate from the AFI Conservatory (basically the best film school in the world), the hit series Mr. Robot is his second produced work.

Like many others here, it was the Black List that first gained him notice, Sequels, Remakes, And Adaptations landing on the 2008 list. Indeed, Mr Robot was famously first conceived as a film script, before being retooled as a serialised television show. One critically and audience adored season later, giving parent network USA the hit they badly needed, and Esmail is now writer/creator gold, gaining so much clout that he will now be directing every episode of the second season of Mr Robot.

Meredith Averill - The Good WifeStar-CrossedJane The Virgin

After gaining experience as both writer and producer on the hugely acclaimed The Good Wife, Meredith Averill managed something incredibly unique in the world of screenwriting - she managed to successfully pitch an original sci-fi concept and took it to full series. While Star-Crossed, a show about a human girl falling in love with an alien interloper, sadly only lasted one season before the CW cancelled it, it had enough promise in it to make you wish it had been able to fulfil its potential.

While now working on Jane The Virgin, Averill recently had Centralia greenlit, a drama about the remaining residents of a mining ghost town where a underground fire has been raging for 50 years.

Jon Bokenkamp - The Blacklist

A Nebraskan native, Jon Bokenkamp won a screenwriting contest back in the mid-00s. An agent and a first paid gig followed, but nothing truly breakthrough. Until 2013, when his Halle Berry crime thriller The Call did solid numbers at the box-office, and he had a TV pilot picked up. That pilot was The Blacklist, the James Spader starring time drama about Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, a brilliant military man turned master criminal who agrees to share his list of the world’s most dangerous criminals with the FBI in return for immunity and working exclusively with a rookie FBI profiler.

Now in its third season, its been a huge success for everyone involved, reinvigorating Spader’s career and putting Bokencamp firmly at the top of a lofty pedestal of TV writers.

Gennifer Hutchinson - Breaking BadThe Strain

Proving that hard graft and scrapping will get you where you need to be, Gennifer Hutchinson started out by picking up writing work wherever she could, including for trading cards. Following assistant work on shows such as The X-Files and Mad Men (not bad places to learn your craft) she joined the crew of Breaking Bad, and penned one of my favorite episodes of the entire series, Salud, in which Gus takes down the formidable cartel on their own territory.

Recently she has adapted the Guillermo del Toro/Chuck Hogan horror-fantasy series The Strain for the small screen, turning it into something very much worth making time for.

Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer - Broad City

Starting life as a YouTube web series, Broad City quickly became a word of mouth must watch hit online. So much so that it wasn’t just inevitable that it made the transition to TV, it was necessary so as wide as possible an audience could enjoy it. While on the surface a comedy drama about young women navigating their life in New York City doesn’t seem the most original, Broad City is in fact one of the freshest shows around.

Jacobson and Glazer are friends in real life, and in writing and playing recognisable versions of themselves onscreen they bring a warmth to the comedy lacking in other similar series (I’m looking at you Girls). It also helps that Broad City is laugh out loud funny an almost obscene amount of times.

Lisa Joy - Pushing DaisiesWestworld

Starting in the corporate world at Universal, Lisa Joy seemingly left the entertainment world behind when she left to attend Harvard Law School. However, always interested in writing, she wrote several scripts in her spare time. About to start a job with a law firm, a spec script she had written for Veronica Mars got her a job writing for the brilliant Pushing Daisies, working with Hannibal genius Bryan Fuller.

After moving over to Burn Notice, she found time to write a graphic novel (and adapt it too) before finally teaming up with husband Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher, and writer of Interstellar and The Dark Knight) to reboot sci-fi classic Westworld for HBO. Watch this space for even greater things.

Alan Yang - Master Of None

While leading star Aziz Ansari may have gained the majority of the plaudits for Netflix’s superb Master Of None, co-writer and co-creator Alan Yang was just as integral to the warmth, freshness, and style of the adored series. A Parks And Recreation veteran from the very beginning, it was that show that brought Yang into television again in a big way. He had started on South Park in his early days, but had concentrated on selling film comedy scripts.

However, after becoming firm friends with Ansari on Parks And Rec, the two decided to hatch plans for their own show, and Master Of None was born. Now in a position of critical adulation, expect many of Yang’s projects to be put into production.

Rachel Bloom - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Proving that YouTube stars can make the leap into mainstream entertainment, Rachel Bloom (of F*ck Me Ray Bradbury fame) conjured up a hugely enjoyable, very funny, and unexpected debut series in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Ignore the ‘ironic’ title, the show is a half hour comedy with musical interludes not 100 miles away from Flight Of The Conchords. Bloom writes scripts and songs, proving that she’s a comedic talent to reckon with.

Jack Amiel and Michael Begler - The Knick

Years of writing incredible off-the-wall spec scripts (which only seemed to get them boring middle of the road writing work) finally paid off this duo when their script for The Knick, a series set in a hospital during the early 20th century, where a cocaine addicted but brilliant surgeon tries to improve the genuinely horrific standard of surgery at the time.

Directed and exec-produced by Steven Soderbergh, The Knick is a great example of writers paying their dues and finally having their original ideas trusted, with brilliant if gruesome results.

Cheo Hodari Coker - Luke Cage

Former journalist Coker will be the man to watch for many this year as he debuts as a show runner with Luke Cage, the next Marvel Netflix series after Daredevil and Jessica Jones. While living up to that pedigree might be daunting to some, Coker’s previous experience will stand him in excellent stead. He has been a co-executive producer on the brilliant Ray Donovan, as well as a producer on hard-edged cop tale Southland.

Previous writing experience includes the rap biopic Notorious, so its safe to say the next Netflix superhero series is in safe hands.

Gillian Flynn - UtopiaGone Girl

Already a famous author, and a BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated screenwriter for her adaption of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn may seem an odd choice for a TV writer to watch out for. But with her forthcoming work on adapting Channel 4’s Utopia (working with David Fincher again) we could be about to see the beginning of a long and successful TV career.

An accomplished novelist, it seems certain that Flynn’s strengths as a writer will be infinitely more suited to the long form narrative offered by television. With the audience’s desire for this sort of storytelling seemingly inexhaustible at the moment, Flynn is perfectly placed to make her mark on yet another medium.

Page 1 of 250 Brilliant Screenwriters to Watch Out For