John Gatins on Screenwriting – TSC041

John Gatins is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter. In this episode, John speaks about initially coming to Hollywood to be an actor, before landing a chance opportunity to re-write a high school football movie called Varsity Blues in 1999. The film’s success launched a screenwriting career that would place John as one of the most sought-after “script doctors” in Hollywood, working on films ranging from Behind Enemy Lines to Power Rangers to the forthcoming Aladdin 2. But it also enabled John to champion his passion project—a complex character study about an alcoholic commercial airline pilot called Flight, starring Denzel Washington, which garnered John an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 2013. John also describes growing up in New York, and how his mother landing a job in the advancement office at Vassar College changed the trajectory of his life. Due to Vassar providing tuition assistance to the admitted children of Vassar staff, John and his siblings were able to access a college experience they could never have afforded otherwise. John and his wife Ling, whom he met at Vassar and was also a financial aid recipient, credit Vassar with inspiring them to become Parent Chairs of Annual Giving at Harvard-Westlake—aiming to provide at Harvard-Westlake the same type of transformational educational opportunities that had been afforded to them in college. John references Pat Vrett of Arlington High School (NY), Elizabeth Socolow of Vassar College, and filmmaker Robert Zemeckis as profound life influences.