What Our Members Do: Amanda Nelligan

Member Profile: Amanda Nelligan, Story Analyst

Where are you currently employed?

MGM Studios.

Current Project?

Anything MGM gives me! Whatever is in front of me is my top priority.

Describe Your Job.

Definitely a desk job! I’m at my computer all day. I read scripts submitted for consideration, providing a synopsis and my analysis of whether they are a good bet for the studio — the pros and cons of premise, character, storyline, dialogue, etc. I also do in-depth notes on our in-house projects, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the current script, with a focus on how to move forward with subsequent drafts.

The best part is a monthly Monday lunch meeting at the studio with all the creative executives, to discuss the status of their project slate. It’s a great opportunity to check in, get their feedback and feel a part of the bigger picture. The hard part is the isolation — although I’m so busy I barely notice.

How did you first become interested in this line of work?

I always loved movies, but attended Brown University, planning to go to med school. There I got involved with, and became president of, the Brown Film Society, which included other students who left college to make it in the movies in Los Angeles. I followed them and worked as an assistant to a literary agent, then as a creative executive at Disney/Touchstone, and as a vice president of development for Mark Johnson and Barry Levinson. I really like working with writers and working on story.

I left the business to get a masters degree in clinical psychology, but missed film. My husband’s a manager and I would give his clients notes. One client said I should start my own business, so I did! In 2011, I started ScriptGal.com, my own screenplay consultation and analysis business.

Who gave you your first break?

Literary agent Geoffrey Sanford, who hired an inexperienced college graduate to work in his office. More recently, my college friend Holly Sklar, who has been a story analyst for Warner Bros. for decades, alerted me to the MGM job.

What was your first union job?

My job at MGM is my very first as a union story analyst.

Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?

I was an associate producer on a movie called Sniper. Not a perfect film, but I worked for the producer, so I was there from development through production and, then, through post-production. I learned how to cut and splice actual film. It was an amazing experience that I will always be grateful for.

I started my current job in February, so it’s completely new! I love being able to apply my years of film expertise to MGM’s current projects. For example, the studio had a new project come in and the first draft wasn’t great. It was unnerving to give them bad news, but they agreed completely. My opinions, and years of thoughtful consideration and analysis of film, really pay off.

What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?

Proofreading is really hard. I’m trying to figure out a more foolproof way of not making dumb mistakes, mostly on the coverage. Another issue is time. I probably take more time with sentence structure and word flow than is needed, and MGM is on the high end in terms of requirements, 10 scripts per week, while other studios only ask for eight.

What was the most fun you’ve had at work?

Definitely the MGM lunch meetings. I love going into the offices and hanging out with all those Oscars. The execs are super smart, super nice and chic, plus that’s a reason to put on some lipstick and heels! I’ve also read some really fun books submitted to MGM that I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?

I would still like to be at MGM if the studio will have me. I find a lot of interesting projects are happening on “television” — meaning HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu… I hope MGM acquires a long-form outlet.

What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?

Biking, hiking, reading, New York Times crosswords, cooking, baking. My husband and I met in Los Angeles but discovered we grew up two towns away from each other in Massachusetts. We go to Cape Cod every June; it’s like going back in time to childhood. Now we have a newly rescued dog, a husky named Jake.

Favorite movie(s)? Why?

All of them?! The Godfather, The Philadelphia Story, Home for the Holidays, In the Loop, Marathon Man, Alien. Movies have shaped my entire life. I saw Jaws as a kid, then went to Martha’s Vineyard with my family and toured where the shark was. E.T. and Close Encounters spoke directly to me as a nerdy, awkward kid. I watched The Dirty Dozen and The Great Escape at my father’s knee, along with the first and second Dirty Harrys.

I like movies that achieve their objective, I don’t care how small; in fact, I applaud restraint. I love movies that have a clear filmmaker behind the camera. I love everything the Coen Brothers do. I love Tarantino — all of his films. I was gobsmacked to read he has a 10-movie plan and then he’ll be done. I hope not. I don’t like message movies. In terms of fun popcorn movies, I have watched Game Night a lot recently. It seems like a simple comedy but the themes and the film techniques are much deeper.

Favorite TV program(s)?  Why?

The Wire was amazing, except for Season 2. I grew up on M*A*S*H; it has yet to be surpassed in all of television; Hill Street Blues, as well. My husband and I were with everyone in terms of The Sopranos. I liked Dexter. I’m a huge fan of Better Things and think Pam Adlon has done better without Louis C.K. I love the dry archness of Veep. I never got into Game of Thrones, although I tried three times! I love all British crime/detective series.

Do you have an industry mentor?

No! I would love to have one.

What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?

Be prepared to work long hours alone. For some people the stay-at-home aspect is great. It certainly works for me. But, be forewarned, this is an intensive, focused job with little feedback. You need to be confident in your own opinions. And it’s great to have dog to walk to break up the day!

Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?

Yes. MGM only gives its employees a half-day off on Good Friday, but the Guild guarantees a full day off for that holiday. I consulted with my field rep, who confirmed that indeed I and the one other story analyst at MGM get the whole day off. I pointed that out to my MGM studio liaison and she concurred. She didn’t know, and it was satisfying to educate her about our guidelines.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?

I’m really new, but I’m so happy to be a part of this group. I have been alone and freelance for so long. Being part of a greater whole was literally inconceivable before February of this year. But here I am. I’m so thankful and ready to be part of this amazing community.

Compiled by Edward Landler        

Editor’s Note: To recommend a member (including yourself) to be featured on CineMontage.org, and the home page of the Editors Guild website, please contact edlandler@roadrunner.com


About Edward Landler 113 Articles
Edward Landler is a filmmaker, media educator and film historian. He made I Build the Tower, the definitive feature documentary on the Watts Towers, and is currently completing a cultural history of film. He can be reached at edlandler@roadrunner.com.