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Write On with 'Spiderhead' Co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

June 28, 2022
3 min read time

Based on George Saunders' short story Escape from Spiderhead, the Netflix adaptation follows inmates at a state-of-the-art penitentiary who volunteer as medical subjects to shorten their sentences. Paul Wernick describes the moment he and co-writer Rhett Reese were introduced to Saunders' story: "Jeremy Steckler was the executive [at The New Yorker] at the time. He put it in front of us when it first was printed about ten years ago, and we fell in love with it. We said, 'We're doing it. We have to write this.' We were so passionate about it... George had laid out what was the makings of a movie, but we had to expand it out."

When asked what advice he would give to his younger writer self, Reese muses, "I feel like a part of what you need to tap into is that naive, ignorant optimism where you just go, 'Look, the odds are against me, and they're against anyone, and I'm going to go write what I want to write... and commit to it with both halves of my brain, and do as great a job as I can, and then keep doing that over and over until I break through."

Spiderhead is now streaming on Netflix.

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