St. Mark’s Alum Turns Screenwriting Fantasies to Reality

Evan Daugherty’s road to becoming a Hollywood screenwriter began more than a decade ago in a NYU dorm room with a fantasy adventure and a fairy tale twist.

But it wasn’t until Snow White and the Huntsman became a box-office hit in 2012 that the St. Mark’s graduate knew his dream career had a legitimate future.

“It sat on my computer for a long time before we finally sold it years later,” Daugherty said of his first feature-length script. “Then it was kind of off to the races, and I’ve had a nice run of movies.”

The success of his debut has since led to writing screenplays for Divergent and the 2014 reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’s now working on a Tomb Raider remake set to star Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander. The film will be in production soon.

“My goal always is to do things that have an element of escapism or the fantastical,” Daugherty said. “That’s what really scratches a certain itch for me.”

Those big-budget blockbusters are a far cry from Daugherty’s days at St. Mark’s, where one of his short films was shown as part of the USA Film Festival’s KidFilm showcase in Dallas.

His collaborator on that project was Philip Schaeffer, a younger classmate who became a close friend when their parents worked at the Dallas Children’s Theater.

Years later, Schaeffer dressed in a troll costume to help Daugherty with his NYU undergraduate film, a 24-minute short called Rusty Forkblade. Schaeffer later moved to Hollywood to work alongside Daugherty.

When it came time for Schaeffer to make his debut as a screenwriter and director, his friend was happy to lend his support as an executive producer. The result was Witch-Hunt, a low-budget horror-comedy that premiered in Dallas this spring at the USA Film Festival.

“I was trying to conceive of a very small movie that could be done in one location,” Schaeffer said. “I really like board games, so that emerged as a way to frame it. They’re playing a board game based on witches, and then as the game goes on it seems one of them might actually be a witch.”

While the behind-the-scenes life of a screenwriter might not be glamorous, Daugherty said he considers himself fortunate to be doing what he loves.

“It’s really hard to break in. I tried to do it for five or six years and finally did,” Daugherty said. “I lived in the worst apartment in Hollywood that used to be a hotel. There was a lot of hitting brick walls trying to get a career going. I’ve paid my dues a little bit, but for some people it takes a lot longer, so I’m very lucky.”

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