The Reading: Devils at Play by James DiLapo
Featuring James DiLapo, Julia Dyer, Drew Wall, Chuck Huber, Carolyn Pfeiffer, and Nancy Sanders
The Reading was an annual program at Ballroom Marfa between 2011 and 2013 which offered a staged reading of a winning script from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ annual Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. The program aimed to bring the screenwriter together with an actual audience at an early point in the creative process and included performances at Marfa’s Crowley Theater, panel discussions with the screenwriter and others involved with the project. Presented as part of Ballroom Marfa’s year-round Film Program, the screenwriter of the winning script was selected from among five Nicholl Fellows by a committee of filmmakers.
Ballroom Marfa’s distinguished Filmmakers’ Selection Committee chose Academy Nicholl Fellow James DiLapo’s script Devils at Play for the 2013 production of The Reading.
Set in the Soviet Union circa 1937, Devils at Play centers on an officer of the secret police who finds a list of traitors that he believes could be his ticket out of the repressed existence he struggles with day to day. In addition to being selected for The Reading and awarded a coveted Academy Nicholl Fellowship, Devils at Play also made the 2012 Black List of the year’s top 10 unproduced screenplays.
Julia Dyer — director of 2012’s highly acclaimed The Playroom and festival darling Late Bloomers — helmed the staged performance of Devils at Play for The Reading. Chuck Huber played the lead role of Stepan. Award-winning Dallas actor Drew Wall returned to The Reading stage opposite Huber, in the role of Ilich. Veteran film producer Carolyn Pfeiffer and Ballroom Marfa board member Nancy Sanders returned as producers. Devils at Play was performed by actors with scripts in hand, full stage direction, and state-of-the-art lighting and sound.
2013’s esteemed Filmmakers’ Selection Committee was comprised of: 2012 Sundance winner for best director Ava DuVernay; Oscar® & Tony® Award-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden; Hitchcock director Sacha Gervasi; and returning committee chairman, pioneering producer Robert Shapiro.
JULIA DYER is an independent film director and producer based in Texas. Under the One Mind Productions banner, she developed and directed The Playroom, starring John Hawkes and Molly Parker, which premiered at Tribeca and was released in the U.S. in February 2013. Previously, she directed and co-produced the romantic comedy Late Bloomers, which premiered at Sundance and enjoyed a long run on HBO. Julia shared a vibrant, life-long creative partnership with her late sister, the screenwriter Gretchen Dyer, who penned both The Playroom and Late Bloomers. Together they founded One Mind with a mission to produce quality independent films from a strong regional artistic and community base. Their final venture together was One in 3, an original multimedia theatrical production that premiered to a sold-out run in Dallas in January 2009.
JAMES DiLAPO was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1989 and raised in Portland, Oregon. He attended New York University, graduating in 2011 with a major in Dramatic Writing and a minor in History. After graduation, he received the Writers Guild East Michael Collyer Memorial Fellowship. The screenplay that he wrote for that fellowship, Devils at Play, won a 2012 Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, and was included in the top 10 of the 2012 Black List. James DiLapo currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is writing a science fiction adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey for Warner Brothers.
AVA DuVERNAY won the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, and is a writer, producer, director and distributor of independent film. She made her feature directorial debut with the critically acclaimed 2008 hip-hop documentary, This is The Life. Winner of Audience Awards in Toronto, Los Angeles and Seattle, the film debuted on Showtime in April 2009. LA WEEKLY raved, “This is The Life vaults into the upper echelons of must-see hip-hop documentaries.” In 2010, she wrote, produced and directed the narrative feature, I Will Follow, starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield. Released theatrically in 2011, the family drama was hailed by critic Roger Ebert as “… one of the best films I’ve seen about the loss of a loved one.” DuVernay directed and produced three network music documentaries in 2010. My Mic Sounds Nice is a definitive history of female hip hop artists. Essence Music Festival 2010 is a two-hour concert film chronicling the nation’s largest annual African-American entertainment gathering. Faith Through The Storm is a documentary about black women Katrina survivors. Each film aired on BET and TV One respectively. Previously, DuVernay worked as a film marketer and publicist for more than 14 years, forming DVA Media + Marketing in 1999. Her award-winning firm provided strategy and execution for more than 120 film and television campaigns for acclaimed directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann and Bill Condon. A UCLA graduate, DuVernay is the founder of AFFRM, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement and a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. She is based in Los Angeles.
Marcia Gay Harden
MARCIA GAY HARDEN made her Broadway debut in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (Tony Award nomination; Drama Desk and Theatre World Awards). For God of Carnage, she garnered a Best Actress Tony Award and an Outer Circle Critics Award, as well as Drama Desk and Drama League nominations. Other Theatre: Sam Shepard’s Sympatico at the Public with Ed Harris; David Rabe’s Those the River Keeps; and Masha in The Seagull (director, Mike Nichols) with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. She received an Academy Award for Pollock and an Academy Award nomination for Mystic River. Her numerous film roles include The Spitfire Grill; Miller’s Crossing; The First Wives Club; Mona Lisa Smile; Used People; The Hoax; Whip It; Meet Joe Black; Into the Wild; Casa de los Babys; Space Cowboys; and The Mist. TV credits include Damages, Law and Order: SVU (Emmy nomination) and The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (Emmy nomination) and Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy. Harden was just cast in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom and is currently in production on Parkland, the Playtone produced film is based on Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 book, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Journalist Peter Landesman wrote the adapted screenplay and makes his directorial debut. Harden co-stars along with Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weaver, and Ron Livingston. Harden recently wrapped production on the film Elsa & Fred starring the legendary Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer, as well as the ABC pilot Trophy Club, which also stars Malin Ackerman and Bradley Whitford. Next up is the CBS Films Get a Job, which stars Bryan Cranston, Anna Kendrick, and John Cho; If I Were You co-starring Aidan Quinn, The Wine of Summer, and The Librarian, which she shot last summer in Costa Rica. Harden holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas and Master’s degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
SACHA GERVASI wrote and directed the acclaimed documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil in 2009, which The New Yorker critic Anthony Lane referred to as “the most stirring release of the year,” while The London Times called it “the greatest movie ever made about rock ‘n’ roll.” The story traces the influential career of the band Anvil, once hailed the demigods of the Canadian heavy metal scene, and their last-ditch quest for elusive fame and fortune. For Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Gervasi won Best Documentary at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards and was nominated by the DGA for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. The film also won the 2010 Emmy Award for “Outstanding Arts and Culture Program” as well as being shortlisted by many critics groups around the country as one of the best documentaries of the year. As a teenager in London in 1981, Gervasi had befriended Anvil when they played at the famed Marquee Club, and eventually became a roadie for the band on three tours. After being taught how to play the drums by Anvil’s Robb Reiner, Gervasi played with several London bands, and later became one of the founding members of the rock group Bush. After working for British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, Gervasi moved to Los Angeles in 1995 to attend the graduate screenwriting program at UCLA’s film school, where he twice won the BAFTA LA scholarship. While in the program, he supported himself by working as a journalist, writing for newspapers and magazines. He was later appointed the Hunter/Zakin screenwriting chair at UCLA and taught there in the spring of 2009. Gervasi got his start in film after penning The Big Tease, which he co-wrote with Craig Ferguson, and later went on to write The Terminal, which was directed by Steven Spielberg in 2004 and starring Tom Hanks. He also wrote and executive produced the film Henry’s Crime, starring Keanu Reeves, James Caan and Vera Farmiga. Gervasi is currently attached to write and direct a biopic about actor Hervé Villechaize, based on Gervasi’s own interviews with the diminutive Frenchman, conducted only days before the actor committed suicide in 1993. Gervasi most recently directed Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johansson.
ROBERT SHAPIRO began his show business career in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency, eventually becoming managing director of their London office and head of their International Motion Picture Department. After leaving William Morris, he became president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Theatrical Production Division. Some of the 50-plus films produced during his tenure at Warner Bros. include: the Superman films, The In-Laws, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Every Which Way But Loose and Chariots of Fire. He has produced over a dozen films and TV shows including Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Black Beauty, My Favorite Martian, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and was executive producer of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun. Films Shapiro is associated with have garnered several Academy Awards. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and has received the prestigious Christopher Award. This marks his third consecutive year as chairman of The Reading Filmmakers’ Selection Committee. Shapiro also serves on the Nicholl Fellowship Selection Committee.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting is considered by many as the world’s most esteemed screenwriting competition. Each year up to five $35,000 fellowships are awarded to writers who have previously earned less than $25,000 writing for film or television. The competition received a record 7,197 entries in 2012. Established with the intent of helping struggling screenwriters focus on improving their craft, the Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year. Previous winners have included Susannah Grant, who went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for her original screenplay Erin Brockovich; Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides; and Ehren Kruger, writer of Paramount Picture’s box office hit Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Special thanks to The Reading’s 2013 Filmmakers’ Selection Committee: Ava DuVernay, Marcia Gay Harden, Sacha Gervasi and Robert Shapiro.
With much gratitude to Anne Adkins; Greg Beal; Brice Beasley; Jennifer Bell; The Big Bend Sentinel; Adam Bork; Meliza Brandin; Jessica Brassler; Michael Camacho; Joe Cashiola; Rob Crowley; Tim Crowley; the Crowley Theater; Hilary duPont; Fat Lyle’s; Food Shark; JD Garcia; Ginger Griffice; Suzi Gruschkus; Eva Guevara; Rosario & Robert Halpern; Jennie Lyn Hamilton; Mike Livingston; Marfa Burrito; Alex Marks; Marfa Public Radio; Carri McClure & Darren Miller; Tom Michael; Pizza Foundation; Gory Smelley; the Thunderbird Hotel; Cory Van Dyke; Joan Wai; and Kelly Ramsey Webb.
The Reading has been made possible through the cooperation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. Generous support provided by The Horizon Foundation, Plano, TX and Ballroom Marfa members.