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Shane Salerno Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (1)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (5)  | Personal Quotes (45)

Overview (1)

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Mini Bio (1)

Shane Salerno is the co-screenwriter of the forthcoming Avatar 2 (2020), Avatar 3 (2021), Avatar 4 (2024), Avatar 5 (2025) produced and directed by Oscar winner James Cameron. He has been a professional screenwriter since the age of 19. In the years that have followed Detour Magazine has named Salerno as "one of Hollywood's true shapers of popular culture" and Fade In magazine selected him as one of the "100 people you need to know in Hollywood". His diverse screenwriting is distinguished by the quality of directors who have chosen him to write their films including Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Ron Howard, Oliver Stone, William Friedkin and Michael Bay among many others.

Salerno produced and directed the documentary film Salinger, a documentary on the mysterious life of Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger. The film was released theatrically and was also an American Masters television special. The film features interviews with friends, colleagues and members of Salinger's inner circle that have never spoken on the record before as well as film footage, photographs and other material that has never been seen.

Salerno is also a New York Times bestselling author. He co-wrote the biography Salinger about J.D. Salinger with David Shields. The book was a New York Times bestseller and a #1 national bestseller. The book also made bestseller list for NPR, Independent Booksellers, Barnes & Noble and The Los Angeles Times. It was also named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and received starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

He was born in Memphis, Tennessee and grew up in Memphis, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and San Diego. He attended ten schools in twelve years on both coasts of the United States.

His film debut happened when he was in high school. At 17 he wrote, produced and directed the award winning documentary film Sundown: The Future of Children and Drugs. The film debuted on Larry King Live in September 1991. Sundown won several notable "best documentary of the year" honors and was showcased on major talk shows and news programs around the world. Shane was also honored individually, in separate ceremonies, in both houses of Congress.

The critical acclaim Sundown received led nine-time Emmy winner Gregory Hoblit to invite a then 19 year old Shane to apprentice on the first season of NYPD Blue as a writer-director. Shane has credited the backstage pass to the brilliant, gritty series during a year when they were honored with a record 26 Emmy nominations as a front line film school.

Salerno is the co-writer and executive producer of Savages, directed by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone, based on the acclaimed crime novel by Don Winslow which the New York Times voted as one of the "top ten books of 2010". The all-star cast includes Taylor Kitsch, John Travolta, Blake Lively, Uma Thurman, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Aaron Johnson, Emile Hirsch and Mia Maestro. Universal Pictures will release the film in the fall of 2012.

Salerno one of the few screenwriters to have found success in both film and television: he's the co-writer of #1 blockbusters Armageddon and Shaft, and served as one of the writer/producers of Hawaii Five O during its Golden Globe-nominated first season.

Salerno is also one of the select screenwriters to have sold both pitches and spec scripts to studios for over $1 million.

By the age of 22 he was consistently writing the highest rated episodes of the hit Fox TV series New York Undercover. Shane's gritty, street wise episodes attracted the attention of film producers. At the end of the first season, Shane asked Universal television to be let out of his three-year contract in order to pursue the feature film opportunities that he was being offered.

The first feature screenwriting job Salerno accepted was the adaptation of the World War II submarine thriller Thunder Below for producer-director Steven Spielberg and the newly formed Dreamworks Pictures. Shane next sold the spec script A Season in Hell for $600,000 to Dino DeLaurentiis who also asked him to polish the screenplay of Breakdown starring Kurt Russell. Breakdown was released by Paramount Pictures to critical acclaim.

Salerno experienced his breakthrough at the age of 24 when director Michael Bay recruited Shane to rewrite the Jerry Bruckheimer produced Armageddon based on an original screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh. The blockbuster film debuted at #1 on July 1, 1998 and was the highest grossing film of the year, earning over $570 million worldwide.

In 1998, at the age of 25, Variety selected Shane as one of the "hottest new creatives on the film scene." Based on Thunder Below and Armageddon, John Singleton, the youngest director ever nominated for an Oscar, telephoned Shane and asked him to serve as his writing partner on "Shaft" which Paramount Pictures was mounting. The Singleton-Salerno collaboration (aided by novelist Richard Price) resulted in Shane's second #1 film when "Shaft" debuted at the top of the box office on June 16, 2000.

That year, Shane (now 27) returned to television by co-creating (with acclaimed novelist Don Winslow), executive producing and serving as show-runner, head writer, and music supervisor for the NBC television series UC: Undercover starring Vera Farmiga (Martin Scorsese's "The Departed"), Oded Fehr (Showtime's "Sleeper Cell") and Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames. The series won and was nominated for awards in acting, cinematography and sound.

Salerno is also the co-writer of the 3-D re-imagining of Fantastic Voyage, produced by James Cameron, Jon Landau and Rae Sanchini for Twentieth Century Fox.

On January 29, 2010, the website Deadline Hollywood broke an exclusive story and review of Salinger, a feature-length documentary about reclusive author J. D. Salinger that Salerno directed, produced and financed himself. The documentary was kept secret for five years. The film features interviews with 150 subjects including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny DeVito, John Guare, Martin Sheen, David Milch, Robert Towne, Tom Wolfe, E.L. Doctorow, Pulitzer Prize winners A. Scott Berg and Elizabeth Frank, Gore Vidal, and "many other fans, journalists, filmmakers, playwrights, and artists inspired by Salinger's work." Michael Fleming, the first journalist in the world to view the film, said Salerno's picture was "arrestingly powerful and exhaustively researched." Additionally, Fleming announced that Salerno had co-written a 700 page biography on Salinger with New York Times bestselling author David Shields. The Salinger film was profiled in Entertainment Weekly and Newsweek and is scheduled for release in 2012.

In 2010, Salerno joined the writing-producing team of Hawaii Five-0. In its first season, Hawaii Five-0 also won the "Favorite New TV Drama" at the 37th People's Choice Awards on January 5, 2011. Series star Scott Caan was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film for his role as Danny on Hawaii Five-0. In addition to his producing duties, Salerno was credited for writing the episode "Po'ipu" (Episode 9) on November 15, 2010, co-writing "El Malama" (Episode 16) on February 7, 2011 and "Ho'op'i" (Episode 20) on April 18, 2011 which featured a special guest appearance by Sean Combs.

In addition to his own writing, Salerno also runs The Story Factory a company that produces the work of screenwriters and authors. The company has had six New York Times bestsellers.

In 2004 Salerno became the youngest "Guest of Honor" speaker in the history of the Los Angeles Screenwriting Expo. He made follow up appearances in 2005, 2006 and 2011.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Joe Lee

Trivia (5)

In 1991, while still a senior in high school, he made the award-winning documentary "Sundown: The Future of Children and Drugs" which debuted internationally on "Larry King Live."
In 1997, at the age of 24, Shane was hired to rewrite "Armageddon." In the "Making of Armageddon" book director Michael Bay calls Shane's work on the script "brilliant"
In 2001 Fade In Magazine selected him as one of the "100 people you need to know in Hollywood"
In 2002 Detour Magazine voted him "One of the true shapers of pop culture" in their annual "hot thirty under thirty" issue.
In 2005 ShowBiz Data.com listed the average domestic gross (North America only) for a Shane Salerno action script at $117,394,118.

Personal Quotes (45)

On his yearlong apprenticeship on the set of NYPD Blue (1993): I didn't want to be anybody's assistant, and during that time I did something that people in this business don't do, which is I read every single thing I could get my hands on.
On Miami Vice (1984): I thought those were the two coolest guys, they made me believe Miami vice cops drove $350,000 Ferraris.
I went to my mom and said, words to the effect, if we don't go to L.A. now, I'm going to end up in San Diego making documentaries for PBS and I want to do more than that.
Herein lies something I've run up against, there is a real difference between arrogance and confidence. For me, if you don't get it right, I don't understand what the point is of doing it. The worst thing you can be is ordinary.
You certainly adapt differently to who you're working for. The way you work with one of those guys is not how you'd work for another. Also, it's not the way they'd want to work with you. You are constantly making adjustments and people have different worldviews, some keep Ozzy Osbourne hours, some keep banker's hours. I've worked with all kinds, but you do have to adapt to their different working styles.
It's so hard to get in the door...I don't know if I could do it today. There are also a lot of people who are taking money to read these scripts which I have a real problem with fundamentally. You have a lot of people who are working as waiters and waitresses and struggling and you have to pay $500 (to get a script read or analyzed). I remember what $500 was because I grew up with a single mom and we were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.
I just hope these people stay persistent because sometimes it's six or eight scripts before they have that great script. All the people they admire went through these things and had adversity. Oliver Stone wrote 10 scripts before he wrote "Platoon" which got him all of his first jobs which got him Midnight Express (1978) and then he waited 10 years to get Platoon (1986) made.
Unfortunately I think self-promotion is a big component. I think there are guys who are brilliant writers but are horrible in a room. You should not be judged by whether you can move 'em or wow 'em or move 'em in a room but it is a component of it and rather than dismiss it people have to become better in a room because there are a lot of these idiots who don't read and maybe you hook them on a pitch or meeting or something instead of having them read a whole script.
It's weird, you have to have an arrogance because when people tell you your work stinks and no one is ever to going to make this that's a really hard thing to hear all the time, So what I hope is that people stick with it and write unique stuff.
I do believe you have to be in Los Angeles when you start out.
I attended all these functions, the classes and the bookstores reading all the time. I have a 10,000-book library in my house from collecting books over the years. Young writers and beginning writers need to stay persistent and understand what the odds are against them succeeding.
If I was a writer starting out today, I might consider backing into screenwriting via another route. For instance, creating a comic book character or video game and getting it published, then selling that to Hollywood with yourself attached as the screenwriter. In the very least they would let you write the first draft. Sometimes the best way into the game is around it.
I once told director/executive producer, Gregory Hoblit, one of my first mentors, that an award winning episode of NYPD Blue that he had directed was "great!" He gave me this very serious look. "Don't say it's great," he said. "I have a lot more episodes to do this season. If this is already great, I don't have anything to reach for. After all Shane, what's after great?" I didn't have the answer to Hoblit's question.
I have not written a great script yet. I think I've written a few good ones, and certainly several that were very successful at the box office but successful and great are two very different things. I'm thirty-one and I think as a result of my "school years" with so many tremendous filmmakers and executives that I am coming to a place where I have a great script and hopefully great scripts in me. I'm excited about that. But great is a special word.
If I can climb over that wall, the guy or girl that is writing in a small room, in a small town with no resources or connections can do it too. And I hope that they will.
I'm not from a wealthy family, I didn't have any connections in Hollywood when I arrived here. I was the product of a hard working single mother, and because of the hard work she taught me, I was able to retire her and buy her a house before her fiftieth birthday, which was always a dream of mine.
This town survives on a diet of fresh minds and new ideas and it's always hungry. They need you and they need that great script you're afraid to show anyone. The worst thing that they can say is "No" and "No" is really like the word "action" on a set. It's just the start of the scene.
As far as managing the success, I certainly made mistakes. For instance, when my screenwriting career took off I was flooded with offers and I overbooked myself because it was impossible to say "No" to filmmakers that were my heroes growing up. As a result several really good projects suffered and didn't get made, one in particular that I had nurtured for a very long time.
I've worked with Michael Mann a few times and he's a huge hero of mine. I just worked with him again recently. That's a completely unique experience.
As a writer, what you're hoping to do is work with the same people over and over again. Getting rehired by those people, as a writer, is the great endorsement of the work that you do. Repeat business with a director, you know? I've tried to do that and I have with a few directors. I think that's important for writers coming up, to form relationships with people.
Growing up, there were only a few careers that interested me, they were architect, music producer, book dealer (I have a 10,000 book library) and filmmaker.
One minute I was in my journalism class in high school and the next I was a guest on Larry King Live, showing my little film to the world on CNN. When all that happened it really changed my life and refocused all of my energies. My choice became very clear. I believe that you're blessed if you know what you want to do when you're young.
When a project that you care about doesn't get made it's really like the girl that you love that got away. You always wonder "what if..."
With rare exception, film critics only mention the writer's name one time in the review while they mention the director ten or more times. Film is primarily a director's medium but I've never understood why film critics don't discuss the screenplay of a movie for a paragraph or two.
One of the best writers I ever worked with on this last TV series I hired was an AIDS counselor at Riker's Island who does not have the warmest personality for everybody but we got beyond that. You have to find an avenue. First you have to get your script truly read. Also find someone who is incentivized to help you.
As far as networking goes, I was raised by a single mom, I didn't go to college, I wrote documentaries and got right in when I was very young, didn't know anyone so there are a lot of examples where people have succeeded without knowing all the right people or aggressively marketing.
Someone told me recently there are more people in film programs today than in any other major in the United States so the numbers or overwhelming. They listen to 600 pitches, they buy 30 to 40 scripts and they make three to four pilots and they put two on the air. Those are real numbers I just gave you. Think about that. When you realize from that standpoint you have to have the confidence and find a way to break in and go around the system. You need an in.
The best thing you can do is put yourself in an environment to succeed. If you can get on a television show as a PA or as an extra you're going to learn something from that and maybe something will happen.
Most writers write six to ten scripts before they're discovered. That didn't happen with me. Those first six scripts I wrote were jobs for very well respected filmmakers and I had to learn on the job and learn quickly.
As I writer there is just the simple fact that I know more every year than I did prior. After ten years that knowledge really starts to add up. I have been doing this professionally ( getting paid) since I was sixteen. I'm 31 now. Even though I am relatively young, I have had quite an adventure.
The incredible opportunities that I won at a young age were a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I learned a tremendous amount from some of the best filmmakers in the world. On the other, I was a really young writer and while your skills as a writer will develop until the day you die, there was a core experience level that I didn't have and therefore there was a ceiling on what I could contribute to those early films. I don't feel that way today.
There have been some amazing moments and some equally powerful disappointments. I've made my fair share of mistakes. But I've learned from all of them. Ultimately, I consider myself privileged to be doing this, I know how many people are trying to break in and I try to remind myself every day that I'm here and that only good work will keep me here.
Having success at twenty-three or twenty-four sounds incredible, and it was. But it was also an incredible amount of pressure because great filmmakers have a way of forcing the best out of you and my best at the time was somewhat limited by my experience level, and the simple fact that I had only written a few scripts.
I have had the great privilege of working with Steven Spielberg, Michael Mann, Ron Howard, Michael Bay, Wolfgang Peterson, William Friedkin, John Singleton, Paul Anderson, among other directors. And I say privilege with great sincerity because every time I sat in a room with each of these men I learned something.
The senior vice president of Paramount is not incentivized to help you. He's supervising five movies that are in production and juggling $400 million dollars and has a lot of pressure on him. He's not interested in watching your screenwriting career.
I found my work habits to be very different from filmmaker to filmmaker. And to be honest, as great as some of those experiences were, I wish I was working for some of those filmmakers for the first time now because at twenty-three and twenty-four years old, there was a definite ceiling to what I could meaningfully contribute in terms of sheer craft.
One thing that has always bothered me is when an actor talks to me about how excited they are about this film, or television series, that they're about to start shooting and yet can't name the writer of the script. They can always name the director or executive producer (in TV) but when I say "Sounds great, who wrote it?" I always hear "Uh, I don't remember but so and so is directing", and I think that's unfortunate, that is one major thing I would like to see changed.
I don't think that writers get the respect they deserve. They are the only ones that start with nothing. Everyone else works from what they did.
It was important for me that I excel at what I did, and there was nothing at that time that pointed to my being able to do three of those four vocations, but filmmaking held a real possibility.
In high school I wrote, produced and directed this small documentary for public television in San Diego about teenage drug addicts. For whatever reason, this film made for $2,900 really took off. It was voted "Best Documentary" of the year by several newspapers, featured on almost every talk show in the country, honored in both houses of Congress, won awards, and reached a worldwide audience.
Anytime you get to see your work produced you will learn more than if it doesn't. I encourage young writers to do a reading of their scripts with friends or, if you can, with a group of actors.
Rewriting a movie in or near production is challenging work. There are times when you do a small amount of work. And there are times when you really make substantial changes to the structure, the characters, and the dialogue.
Shaft (2000) was a difficult script because the dialogue and attitudes of the characters were so culturally specific, and also because we went through three different leading men and had to make big swing changes to accommodate each actor.
I worked on Alien vs. Predator (2004) for six intense months. I finished its development, wrote the shooting script, stayed on for revisions for cast, final budget, and production notes and traveled to Prague to do on set work there. After that, I continued working on it back in Los Angeles when I returned. It was very exciting.
The thing that excites me is that I don't feel like I have accomplished anything truly significant yet. While I've been part of several very successful films, I have yet to make my films and deliver that signature great work.

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