Saturday, November 04, 2006

RIP: Leonard Schrader

Last week, a very special man passed away. Leonard Schrader was one of those really sweet people who you instantly fell in love with upon first meeting. Len was the head of the screenwriting department at AFI. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and has written and directed big films in the 70's and 80's like "The Yakuza" , "Mishima", and "Naked Tango". He also had a role in the development of his brother Paul's scripts for "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull".

But for me, Len played a very important part in the development of my own film, "Captain Abu Raed". I had had a couple of screenwriting structure one-day classes with Len, but never spoke with him one-on-one. Then one day, while waiting for someone in the halls of AFI, I had my sixth or seventh draft of my screenplay with me, and I saw Len sitting in his office, quietly reading the newspaper. I said to myself maybe he would read this. So I walked over and introduced myself and excitedly told him how I'd written and re-written my script so many times and was planning to film it in Jordan, and would love if he had a bit of time to read it and give me feedback. He looked at me for a while, then finally said "Let me see." I gave him the scipt. He looked at it, then looked up... "You know I get paid $1,000 a script," (Len was a highly respected script doctor) "but I'll read it if you promise me one thing." "Sure, anything." "Don't tell anyone because all the other fellows will be knocking on my door and I don't got time." Sure, Sure, I lied. I was so excited, Leonard Schrader would read my script. That was Friday.

Monday morning, he sent me an e-mail "I read your script. I'll be in my office tonight at 6:00pm" Wow. So I went up to his office. He smiled and put his finger down on the script. "You've got something special here. You do this right, and you've got yourself a Best Foreign Film nomination." Len was a member of the Academy. And then he continued... "But here's what you need to do...." And he spoke for half an hour as I took down notes and crazily scribbled all over my screenplay. Len elevated the quality of my writing with his wizdom. He was so enthusiastic and always excited to hear about my developments with this film.

Last week, Len passed away due to internal complications. I was shocked. He will be dearly missed. I am sad he will not be around to see the film he helped me rewrite.


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