The Art of Bringing Your Book to the Screen

Award-winning writer/producer Kirk Ellis won two Emmys, a Golden Globe, a Writers Guild of America Award, a Peabody award, and the Humanitas Prize for his work on “John Adams” starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. Ellis wrote and co-executive produced the seven-part HBO miniseries, which is based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography. The miniseries scored a record 23 nominations; second only to “Roots” in Emmy history, and won a record breaking 13 Emmys in total, as well as four Golden Globe awards.


Ellis made his feature film debut writing and co-producing “The Grass Harp,” based on the coming-of-age novel by Truman Capote. He has also collaborated on projects with such esteemed directors as Francis Ford Coppola, Roland Joffe, and William Friedkin. He received an Emmy nomination and won the Writers Guild of America and the Humanitas Prizes for the ABC miniseries “Anne Frank” which he wrote and co-produced. Additional credits include writing the award-winning ABC miniseries “The Beach Boys: An American Family”; co-executive producing “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows” (which earned him a Critics’ Choice Award); and writing “The Three Stooges” telefilm. Ellis will continue his association with McCullough and the American Revolution on his next project for HBO, “1776,”  produced with Tom Hanks’ Playtone Co.


For the big screen, Ellis has written "Escape," the true story of Carolyn Jessop, who escaped from a plural marriage in a fundamentalist Mormon compound under the leadership of Warren Jeffs. In addition, Ellis recently completed a rewrite of a big-screen version of the Lewis and Clark story. Other projects include a feature film based on A.E. Hotchner's memoir, "Papa Hemingway"; a miniseries for Robert Halmi and ABC depicting the true story of the Von Trapp Family made famous in "The Sound of Music";  "Black Gold: The Teapot Dome Scandal," based on the book by Laton McCartney about the notorious oil-for-votes scandal that rocked 1920s Washington; and a weekly HBO series about the agribusiness world, developed in association with George Clooney's Smokehouse Productions.


Ellis' collaboration with Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks brought Ellis the Western Writers of America’s Golden Spur Award for Best Drama Script for “Hell on Wheels,” an episode of the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated TNT/DreamWorks miniseries “Into the West,” on which Ellis served as supervising producer and writer. He also received the Wrangler Award for Best Television Feature from the National Western Heritage Museum for his work on the miniseries. Kirk will be speaking at 11:00 am on Sunday.