Writer/director Dan Gilroy on process, outlines and breaking the rules for Roman J. Israel, Esq.


Roman J. Israel, Esq. is set in the Los Angeles criminal court system, far from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Used to working in the shadows, Denzel Washington stars as a shy, idealistic defense attorney whose life turns upside down when his mentor, a civil rights icon, dies unexpectedly. But when do-gooder Roman is recruited to join a firm led by an ethically questionable lawyer, George Pierce (Colin Farrell), Roman is tempted to abandon his long fight for justice in favor of wealth and fame.

Writer/director Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Kong: Skull Island, The Bourne Legacy) sat down with us on camera to talk about breaking the rules of screenwriting, the importance of outlining your ideas and using the seedy parts of Los Angeles as a character. “It’s not about the answers you come up with,” says Gilroy, “It’s the questions you ask.” Gilroy also gives some of the best advice to up and coming screenwriters we’ve ever heard. Check out our video.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is currently playing in theaters.


Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards

6 Replies to "Writer/director Dan Gilroy on process, outlines and breaking the rules for Roman J. Israel, Esq."

  • comment-avatar
    Jaime Gallardo November 20, 2017 (12:01 pm)

    The best line to remember,
    Spend eleven months writing your outline, one month writing the screenplay.

    • comment-avatar
      Bb November 21, 2017 (2:22 pm)

      Fantastic. Perfect synopsis. thank uuuuuuuu

  • comment-avatar
    William Sommerwerck November 20, 2017 (2:14 pm)

    The writing process is itself a source of inspiration. But… thinking long and hard before your start writing usually makes better use of your time. I find that, whether I’m writing user documentation, a letter to a friend, or a screenplay, simply lying in bed and letting my mind wander produces all sorts of unexpected results — including tough plot-problem resolutions.

    J is a distinguished middle initial. Consider Bullwinkle J Moose and Homer J Simpson.

  • comment-avatar
    Hudson1 November 20, 2017 (5:40 pm)

    Gilroy’s film has an interesting, tragicomic character, a great actor, and a screenplay riddled with problems of plot, tone, and character that falls flat.

  • comment-avatar
    Jean-Marie MAZALEYRAT November 21, 2017 (12:11 pm)

    Great talk. However just like The Fall, Roman J. Israel, Esq. is not the kind of script that would make a hit in contests or pitch sessions IMO. Better write Real Steel. So if you’re not an insider already …

  • comment-avatar
    Mike November 25, 2017 (12:49 pm)

    The trailer is absolutely horrible. Even with talents assembled, I would never see this.

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