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INTERVIEW: Jonathan Perera on Writing Miss Sloane

Roe Moore interviews screenwriter Jonathan Perera on the journey of 'Miss Sloane' from idea to screen.

Roe Moore's vast experience has taken her both in front of the camera and behind the scenes on familiar television shows like Lucha Underground and Wives with Knives as well as indie film favorites like Entertainment and The Escort. She’s worked as a script supervisor alongside many highly acclaimed directors. As founder and producer of PiePie Productions, she has produced multiple award-winning projects including short film Dark Specter and narrative web content for Funny-or-Die. Roe was recently awarded a women’s Filmmaker-in-Residence with Her Film Project. Twitter: @Roe_Moore

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On November 25th, screenwriter Jonathan Perera pulls back the political curtain in
his upcoming film Miss Sloane.

INTERVIEW: Jonathan Perera on Writing 'Miss Sloane' by Roe Moore | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

Jessica Chastain in 'Miss Sloane'

The political thriller Miss Sloane follows the steps of Elizabeth Sloane (played by Jessica Chastain) as the most sought-after Washington D.C. lobbyist when she joins a scrappy boutique firm to represent the backers for gun control. With a desire to win at all costs, Sloane finds herself on trial for her questionable tactics and techniques used during the campaigning.

In speaking with Mr. Perera, I had the opportunity to learn behind the scenes insight that brought the script to the big screen.

MISS SLOANE is the story a ruthless lobbyist (Jessica Chastain) who is notorious for her unparalleled talent and her desire to win at all costs, even when it puts her own career at risk. The thriller pulls back the curtain on how Capitol Hill games are played and won as Sloane faces off against the most influential powers in D.C.

The idea for the script came to Perera while watching a BBC interview with Jack Abramoff. Perera mentioned he had Abramoff's interview on in the background as he went about his daily routine. By the end of the interview, Abramoff was so compelling that Perera found himself glued to the screen.

Miss Sloane was Perera's passion project and very first screenplay ever written. Prior to writing the script, he was a lawyer. When he finished the first draft of the script, he put it away with every intention to never show the script to anyone until after having representation from other screenplays.

Miss Sloane found the light of day when Perera came across an article in Variety seeking screenplays about similar subject matters with a female protagonist. It set off alarm bells and with nothing to lose, he decided to share the first draft of the script through cold queries. He received representation and through his agent, the script was optioned by FilmNation. FilmNation immediately went to work on the script and attached director John Madden.

During Perera's meeting with Mr. Madden, it was obvious that Madden inherently understood the story and the characters and had no question the two could collaborate together. This allowed Perera to be the only writer on the script – practically unheard of in Hollywood! Through their collaboration, the script went through various revisions including law changes that had occurred since the first draft and character development.

Perera mentioned collaborating was easy because "... we were all working in service of the movie."

The film's environment and the Aaron Sorkin-esque style definitely plays to Perera's strengths in writing fast-paced dialogue and creating highly intellectual yet emotional characters. We've seen multiple films and television shows highlight the political offices, but very few films highlight the lobbyist and advocate perspective. Perera always wanted the film to be a lobbyist movie. And with writing a lobbyist film, one must have an issue front and center. To me, it was fascinating to learn that Perera considered a long list of subjects including same-sex marriages, abortion, and more before settling on gun control.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the story was the character development of Sloane. Miss Sloane has no personal connection to gun violence when she joins the boutique firm. Perera chose this direction because he believes "rationally, one doesn't need a personal connection to an issue in order to have a strong opinion on it." Even when Sloane has a personal experience where gun violence hits close to home in the film, he used the event to change Sloane's character in a different way. Instead of Sloane taking the event personally, the event allows Sloane to see how her relentless drive to win impacts upon the lives of others.

Miss Sloane opens nationwide in theaters on November 25th.

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