Hanna: Student Project-Turned-Hollywood Success

In 2004, Seth Lochhead came into the one-year Writing for Film & Television program at VFS with a sense of determination:

“I always had a plan. When I decided to go to VFS I said to myself.. ‘I’m going to write a script and sell it,’” he said in a recent interview with the Canadian Press. “I had a lot of faith that I had the talent to pull it off. And I know that’s really egotistical, but I had this belief and everything based on that belief fell into place.”

Seth began developing the concept for Hanna for his final project with Writing instructor Brian Casilio. By the time he graduated, he had laid the groundwork for an exciting fast-paced thriller that he would pitch to about 400 agents, producers, and managers in LA.

Only two responded. Luckily, as Seth recounts in a guest blog post he wrote for us in 2007, one of them was Circle of Confusion. The management company helped build a lot of buzz for Seth’s work, turning it into one of the most-liked unproduced screenplays in Hollywood – according to the 2006 Black List.

Shaping the Story

The story of Hanna took many turns in the development cycle, which were eventually reshaped by Joe Wright once he signed on to direct. Saoirse Ronan, the young Oscar nominee from Wright’s Atonement, initially sent the screenplay to him.

“It wasn’t until later that I read an earlier draft by Seth Lochhead – which was far more Lynchian than the draft that I first read, which had been reined into a more conventional thriller with more about the CIA,” Wright says in a promo interview for Focus Features.

It was around this point that one of Seth’s original dreams came true: when he originally wrote Hanna, he envisioned Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett starring as the driven CIA agent, Marissa. (Why not?) With Focus Features now on as a distributor, that far-off fantasy became a reality. “It was the most terrifying script I had ever read in my life,” says Blanchett in this video featurette.

Her fellow Aussie Eric Bana soon joined the cast as Hanna’s father, Erik. “The script reminded me of. nothing; I thought, ‘I haven’t seen this film before,’” said Bana.

The makings of a Hollywood hit were all in place. Production began, spanning the globe – from Finland to Germany to Morroco. (The Hanna website has a great map of the film’s production locations.) Meanwhile, Seth – his work as one of the two credited writers (alongside David Farr) complete – waited to see what would become of his first screenplay.

Critical Acclaim

We’re happy to report Hanna is “Certified Fresh” on RottenTomatoes.com! Here are a few of the great things critics have said about Seth’s first produced feature film:

Hanna is kinetic, vibrant, sometimes a completely insane adventure; one of the best times you’ll have at the movies this year.”
- Richard Roeper

Hanna is an exuberantly crafted chase thriller that pulses with energy from its adrenaline-pumping first minutes to its muted bang of a finish.”
- Justin Chang, Variety

“When compared to the last 10 years’ worth of action films, [Hanna] feels like a goddamn revolution.”
- Paul Constant, The Stranger

What’s next for Seth?

Well, for starters, he’s coming back to VFS later this month to visit with current students looking to follow the same path to success.

We’ve also heard Seth has two more screenplays in development. One of them is currently at Warner Bros with Michael Bay (yes, the Michael Bay) attached to produce.

Congratulations, Seth! We couldn’t be more proud!

Discover the story behind the script, from first draft to global premiere, at vfs.com/hanna.


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