Academy Award Winner and When We Rise Creator Dustin Lance Black Discusses His Writing Process and Creating Stories for Hollywood


June 12, 2017

“Tell a Good Story That Changes People”

Interviewed in GLG’s Video Series, Anatomy of a Decision

New York, New York; June 12, 2017 — GLG (Gerson Lehrman Group, Inc.), today released a new video with Academy Award® winning screenwriter and filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, as part of its Anatomy of a Decision video series. Black explains how he approaches the writing process and how to make a project commercially viable in Hollywood, saying, “If you want to tell a story that draws emotion in a universal way, the way you do that isn’t by making it general, you make it really, really specific.” Black adds, “Tell a good story that changes people.”

Black won the Academy Award® for best original screenplay for his work on the motion picture Milk, and more recently created the eight hour ABC TV mini-series When We Rise, which chronicled key moments in the LGBT rights movement. Interviewed by GLG Head of Public Affairs Richard Socarides, Black discusses how to turn a passion project into something with commercial appeal, saying, “Specificity is what makes the unusual universal.”

Of When We Rise, Black says, “The idea of the film is that we are strongest when we march arm in arm with other people of diversity.” Black also shares what drives him to be a storyteller, “If we’re moving the needle each day with the story we’re telling, I’ve got a reason to get out of bed. And there are so many necessary stories; I don’t think I’ve slept in in 15 years.”

“Each of the videos in our series features an industry leader who has had to make tough decisions, and nowhere is that more true than in the creative process,” said Richard Socarides, Head of Public Affairs for GLG. “Black’s video continues to expand the breadth of topics and industries we explore.”

Black, best known for his work on Milk, and this year’s When We Rise, began his career directing documentaries and commercials. Then, he was a writer and co-producer on HBO’s Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominated Big Love, and later earned a “10 Best of the Year” award from the American Film Institute for his screenplay for J. Edgar. Black has served on the board of the Trevor Project, which works to prevent teen suicides, and is also a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER).

All of the videos in GLG’s Anatomy of a Decision series are available online without charge, including interviews with: Jill Abramson, former Executive Editor of The New York TimesJeff Kindler, former CEO of Pfizer and Chair of the GLG InstituteJake Sullivan, former Director of Policy Planning at the United States Department of State; and Michael Vickers, former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Tom Wheeler, former FCC Chairman, among others.

About GLG / Gerson Lehrman Group

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