Anatomy of a Decision

Decisions in the Writer’s Room

Dustin Lance Black

Academy Award® winning screenwriter and creator of ABC’s When We Rise Dustin Lance Black explains his writing process, his advice to screenwriters, and the art of crafting stories with “specificity that makes the unusual universal.” He is interviewed by Richard Socarides, GLG’s Head of Public Affairs.


“If you want to tell a story that draws emotion in a universal way, the way you do that isn’t by making it general, you make it really, really specific.”

“Tell a good story that changes people.”


About Dustin Lance Black

Dustin Lance Black is a screenwriter, filmmaker, and social activist. He has won the Academy Award® and two WGA Awards for Best Original Screenplay for Milk, the biopic of the late civil rights activist Harvey Milk. Black began his career as an art director, quickly transitioning to directing documentaries and commercials. He was a writer and co-producer on HBO’s Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominated Big Love, earned a “10 Best of the Year” award from the American Film Institute for his screenplay for J Edgar. Most recently, Black was the creator and writer of ABC’s When We Rise. Black has served on the board of the Trevor Project and is a co-founder of the Uprising of Love Coalition, which seeks to raise awareness of violence and discrimination committed against LGBTI people in the international community. He is also a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER). Black is an honors graduate of UCLA’s School of Film and Television and has taught MFA screenwriting at UCLA. He regularly appears on MSNBC and CNN and is often named one of the 50 most powerful LGBT people in America today.


Read more:

‘When We Rise’: Stories Behind the Pain and Pride of Gay Rights, The New York Times
Dustin Lance Black, the Screenwriter Behind “Milk” and “When We Rise,” on Coming Out as a Gay Activist, The New Yorker
Screenwriting Advice from Dustin Lance Black, VICE
Dustin Lance Black, Inspired By Harvey Milk, NPR