Alison Pennells is a scriptwriter, playwright, novelist and script consultant from Leeds

As a female script consultant I like to celebrate great women scriptwriters – there are some great female UK scriptwriters – but Hollywood can sometimes be seen to be seen as a boy’s game.

One female scriptwriter, broke into the Hollywood boys club, at the time when the Movie Brats – Coppola, Scorsese, Lucas and Spielberg were at their most powerful – and she wrote many of the boys’ own great movies.

Melissa Mathison started her career as an assistant to Francis Ford Coppola on Apocalypse Now and the Godfather Part 2. These were tough jobs, but she used them to work her way up and get the ear of Coppola, who would turn two of her early scripts into very good films, during the time he was trying to launch his San Francisco based Zoetrope Studio.

Female Script Consultant UK

The Studio fizzled out in the end, but not before two of Mathisons screenplays had been made into films.

The Black Stallion and The Escape Artist – are both considered classic films today, and both came from the pen of Mathison. It’s interesting to note that both are essentially films aimed at children – but Mathison writes children well – and in ‘The Escape Artist’ especially – the children are fully rounded characters and can stand on their own two feet with the adults

Mathison’s gift for creating interesting and realistic children’s characters may have got her noticed by Steven Spielberg who had hired Paul Schrader – the movie Brats’ go-to screenwriter for his dream project about extra terrestrials visiting earth.

Schrader delivered a complex scripts that was filled with a kind of religious allegory – but Spielberg wanted something else – and he turned to Mathison, to write a film from a child’s perspective – he wanted to capture wonder and innocence – the script Mathison delivered was about a young boy, who meets, hides and protects an alien visitor.  That script was E.T.

Box office success – female script writer

‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ became a box office champion around the world and one of the most famous films of all time, thanks in large part to Mathison’s writing and her great work with children’s characters. The script captured everything Spielberg wanted for the film.

Mathison’s career developed further when she worked with another noted Movie Brat – Martin Scorsese – where her script about the Dali Lama helped Scorsese realise his long held dream project ‘Kundon’ – which reached the screen with the backing of Disney – again, Disney was aware that Mathison’s script would help capture the wonder and innocence of the Dali Lama.

Most recently Mathison has had a huge animated him with the screenplay of ‘The BFG’ – directed by her old friend Spielberg.

Mathison stands out amongst modern female scriptwriters as she was at the core of The Movie Brats and won their admiration and attention by delivering the type of scripts these guys wanted (and often couldn’t kind from other male scriptwriters).  Her excellent writing of child characters is right there from her early work. She had a sensitivity to children’s characters that was rare at the time.

Her name, as it was so vital to the success of these films – should sit alongside the Movie Brats proper.  

Alison Pennells is a scriptwriter, playwright, novelist, female script consultant and producer from Leeds. Alison was a core scriptwriter on Emmerdale and The Royal Today. Her short film ‘Me Head’s a Shed’ was winner of The Yorkshire Short film award. Her play ‘Dirty Laundry’ has been a huge success and raised much needed funds for cancer charities across the UK. In recent years Alison has worked as a female script consultant and producer on three feature films. Alison is married, has a daughter, three doggies and no cats (at the moment).

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