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A Storyteller's Journey: Jay Wolpert

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Jay Wolpert


Richie Solomon

Profession: Writer/Producer

Credits: Peter and the Starcatchers, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Lot

Bio: Born in the Bronx, raised in Brooklyn and Queens. Went to Queens College at the time that Carol King and Paul Simon were there. I wrote the skits for my fraternity. Paul wrote the skits for his. He won, I lost...every year...What a surprise.

Became the 1969 Winner of the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions. Shortly afterwards, moved to California to work on a Game Show and eventually became one of the key developers of The Price Is Right and its first Producer. Also helped develop Match Game, Card Sharks, and Family Feud. Started my own Production Company, and did reasonably well creating, developing and selling both game shows and other types, both domestically and for foreign distribution. In 1992 I started my screenplay writing career, at the same time that I was still a TV producer...and when I started making enough to truly call myself a writer, I turned exclusively to it.

1) What were you doing before you "made it"?

You just read it.

2) What was your "big break" and how did you get it?

When I got the job at "Price", it was clear that as a multi-formatted show, supported by prizes, props, copy, etc, I would need someone at my right hand, who was smart, organized, and almost as important, because we would work so closely together...funny. I had some experienced applicants, but I chose a young woman who was virtually right out of college, because there was lightening in her eyes. That's how smart you could tell she was. We worked together and had a great time on "Price" for about a year-and-a-half...and then she moved on to try and get into film. Over the next twenty years, we may have seen each other, maybe ten times...and then, one day, at Art's Deli in the valley, I was eating lunch alone, with my head buried in the Sports Page, when I looked up to see her looking down at me, Almost virtually, the first words she said to me were:

"Why didn't you ever write?"

Her name was Nancy Meyers, who, with her then partner and later husband, Charles Shyer, had already written and produced Private Benjamin, Irreconcilable Differences, and Baby Boom. They, and especially Nancy wound up mentoring me through my first script. There were other breaks, and other people who gave me them...but my screenwriting career started with Nancy.

3) How does your career today stand up to your previous expectations?

I never dared dream of being a Screenwriter, so I never had any expectations.

4) What do you find most rewarding about your profession?

If by "my profession" you mean writing for the Movies, as opposed to, say TV series, it's this: With every project, I get to immerse myself in a different world, first for purposes of Research, and then for purposes of actually writing the script. I have not only been a prisoner for thirteen years in an Island Fortress, and a Seventeenth Century burnt out Pirate Captain...but I've also navigated a wounded B-24; escaped from a Confederate Prison, fought Captain Hook before he was Captain Hook; pulled a Sword from a Stone etc. Pretty cool.

5) What are the pitfalls of your profession and how do you deal with them?

Being re-written is hard on the soul, but it's the business for a lot of reasons too numerous to go into here. The best therapy: Another project...It's just like losing your boyfriend or girlfriend...it only hurts until you fall in love again.

6) What is your personal philosophy, method, or style toward your profession?

I love it to death. I get paid pretty good money to be the Star, Writer, Director and Owner of my own film...for twelve weeks...then it is handed off for the next phase. All I care about is did I give the people who hired me the best I had...If the answer is "Yes" and I'm satisfied that I haven't screwed up my part of the process...then, no matter what ultimately happens to the movie, I whisper to myself "Victory!" That is how success must be defined by we screenwriters. There are just too many reasons why pictures don't get made, which have nothing to do whatever, with the merits of our work.

7) What advice would you give to someone trying to "break in" to your profession?

Before you try to market your first script, go to Film School, Business School or Law School. Take your pick. Then, assuming you have a good script, I'd enter it into some contests in order get an accolade or two that might coax an agent to read it...That's the key: Finding a way to get read and separating your stuff from the pack.

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About "A Storyteller's Journey" Series

There are many trails you can choose when you're determined to scale a mountain, but as long as you keep climbing, they will all reach the top.

"A Storyteller's Journey" maps the paths others have taken before you. Writers and filmmakers tell you in their own words what they were doing before their ascent, the obstacles they faced along the way, and what they discovered at the summit of their ambitions.

I hope their insights and experiences will educate, motivate, and inspire you with your own goals. Whether you follow their footsteps or forge your own way, just remember that no rules for success will work if you don't.