Diane Lake: Award winning Screenwriter & Associate Professor of Screenwriting at Emerson College

My NativeAdVantage:


In 1990 Diane Lake drove to Hollywood from New York [via Iowa where she grew up] with the dream of becoming a writer. She was so clueless she thought they MADE you write for TV before they let you write for film!! In other words, she had zero idea how to break in. Diane struggled for about 3 1/2 years before selling her first idea, then got a film optioned, then started doing writing assignments for studios and independent producers--working for Paramount, Columbia/Sony, Disney, NBC, Miramax... and pitching to everyone from Mel Gibson [great story] to Jennifer Garner. Finally, Diane's film Frida was made--winning 6 Academy Award nominations in 2003. It opened the Venice Film Festival and was named one of the 10 Best Films of the year by numerous top 10 lists, including the National Board of Review, and was named film of the year by the American Film Institute.

In addition to her success with Frida and her numerous writing assignments, her script Hemingway in Paris recently sold to French producer Phillippe Chausse. Current projects under option include Ada, a biopic of Lord Byron’s only legitimate daughter, and Hard-Boiled a film noir featuring Raymond Chandler as main character. Her script Monet is in development as a French/Australian co-production. Her short fiction has appeared in the Grey Sparrow Review and she is currently adapting Thomas H. Cook’s novel Instruments of Night for producer Tony Greenberg. In addition, her book The Screenwriter's Path will be published in the Fall of 2016 by Routledge. She is a member of the Wrtier's Guild of America where she also has served as an arbiter to determine feature film credits. She is represented by Paul Weitzman at AAA and attorney Mark Temple. Diane and her husband live part of the year in their home in France and part of the year in the US where she is an Associate Professor of Screenwriting at Emerson College in Boston.

What do you do best?

Contemplate the meaning of life. And I'm told I inspire people--love to speak at conferences/events and try to encourage people to follow their dreams, to strive to do their best. It can be hard sometimes to keep at a dream that doesn't seem to be panning out. I've done a lot of writing about the Impressionists--most of whom didn't live long enough to see any success--yet they never wavered from this *new* kind of painting. I think if we all did that, we'd be doing our best all the time, and that by itself would make us happier.

What makes you the best?

I'm my best when I'm doing what I love and when I'm surrounded by people I care about.

What are your aspirations?

One of my current aspirations is to perfect my French. We live in France much of the year and I'm almost fluent enough to get by at a dinner party but as hard as I try I fear I'll never be truly fluent. So it's a constant struggle!

I'd also like to learn to fly... but too busy at the moment.

I'd also like to be an astronaut... though that will NEVER happen. But hey, nice to dream!

Biggest aspiration? To meet people from other planets...preferably ones who've figured out this dying thing... but that, too, seems unlikely!!

Biggest Success?

Frida. Was it perfect? No. The third act was rewritten and weakened the film--took the politics out of it... I gather the aim was to make her Communist leanings more palatable to the American moviegoer. A shame, but that's the business!

My other success is interacting with aspiring screenwriters--students of all ages. It's nice to be able to pass on my experience in the business to those who are starting out. I figure I save them about 5 years of struggle by telling them all the stupid things I did so they can avoid them!

Most Challenging Moment?

When I was consulting for IBM in New York and had made the decision to try and write. It was a great gig, IBM--I could go in for a couple of days a month, give seminars on Interpersonal Communication, Time Management, Public Speaking, Writing, and earn $1,000 a day. A couple of days work a month (I lived very frugally) and I could spend the rest of the time writing. But then IBM had a few reversals and guess who was the first to go? The consultants. All of a sudden I had no money. I started making my own bread to save money and I don't even like bread that much. I remember one night when I went to the grocery store--I had a couple of dollars in change--enough for flour [to make that bread] and a jar of peanut butter. I was so demoralized. When I returned to my car I looked down just before opening the door and there was a five dollar bill on the pavement. I couldn't believe it. First thought was, maybe I should turn it in. But I decided that was ridiculous--who would know where they lost that five and the people in the store would laugh at me if I tried to turn it in. So I returned to the store, bought some bologna [cheapest meat I could get], cheese, eggs and--big splurge--the Sunday New York Times! I was in heaven.

Favorite Motto?

I'm not a big motto person.

Favorite People?

Katharine Hepburn was my role model growing up. She had affairs with all these interesting men but maintained her autonomy. She took on diverse, interesting roles and she fought to play roles that she wanted. She was the ultimate independent woman. I have great respect for writers and artists in general--it's a courageous decision to say you want to be an actor or writer or painter and I admire people who can take that leap.

Favorite Places?

Manhattan, Paris, SW France, Venice, London. Or anyplace my husband is! Because a place is only as good as the person you're sharing it with.

Favorite Products?

Weird, but interesting, question. All my technology, of course. And my KitchenAid. And does a pain au chocolat count as a product?

Current Passions?

First the writing assignment I'm doing at the moment for producer Tony Greenberg--adapting Thomas H. Cook's novel Instruments of Night for the screen. It's a psychological crime thriller of the first order--set in four different time periods--so it's a super challenge to adapt, which makes it SO much fun. Following that I'll be working on a script on Peggy Guggenheim, a TV series on the Anasazi [long shot anybody but me will care about it!], and finishing a literary sci-fi [is there such a category?] novel set in the world of physics.