Twilight Movie Biography: Melissa Rosenberg
Biography written by: Di
As you search the cast lists, you may wonder what part Melissa plays in the Twilight movie. Her task is a challenging one – that of the screenwriter for the movie.
Melissa’s Life Thus Far (Biography)
Melissa was born August 28 in Marin County, California. Her mother was a lawyer and her father was a dentist who became a psychologist. Melissa’s mom passed away when she was a teenager. After moving to Los Angeles, her father remarried. Her immediate and extended family members have some interesting similarities. As Melissa notes, “My sister is a dance therapist; my other sister is in graduate school to become a therapist. My husband’s parents are both shrinks. His uncle, two aunts and sister are shrinks. At our wedding, half the attendees were shrinks, the other half, their clients. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point.”1 Melissa is married to Lev L. Spiro, a well-known television and film director (Ugly Betty, Everyone Hates Chris, My Name Is Earl and others).
Melissa’s educational path wove from her large public high school in southern California to a stint with a small improvisational dance theatre group in New York City. After a couple of years with the troupe, she enrolled at Bennington College in Vermont. This was a marvelous time for Melissa; in an alumni publication, she states that “I walked into VAPA [the Visual and Performing Arts Building] and I lay on those sprung wood floors and just laughed with joy at how fantastic this incredible space was to create in. And I knew my entire job was to create and learn.”2 Melissa graduated from Bennington College in 1986, majoring in dance. Her original intention, to be a choreographer, changed once she returned to Los Angeles, but her mission of creating and learning did not. She went to graduate school, obtaining an MFA in film and television producing from the University of Southern California’s Peter Stark Producing Program.3
Melissa has been extremely busy, as both a producer and screenwriter, ever since she graduated with her MFA. She is the executive producer of Alyx and Dexter. She was nominated in 2008 for a Writers’ Guild of America award for her work on Dexter, a Showtime original television series popular with viewers and critics alike about a serial killer. Melissa has worked on other such shows as The O.C., Love Monkey, Birds of Prey, The Agency, Ally McBeal, Dark Skies, The Outer Limits, and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.4 She wrote the screenplay to Step Up (2006), a movie about two very different teens that defy the odds, fall in love, and realize their dreams.
Melissa loves her job. “Being a screenwriter is at times extraordinarily gratifying, at times extraordinarily frustrating. Like anything worthwhile in life. I wouldn’t choose do anything else. Of course, I don’t have any other skills so I’m kind of stuck with it.”5
Then Came Twilight
Melissa’s work on Step Up was the catalyst for her connection to Twilight. As she says:
“I became involved in Twilight through Summit Entertainment, (the studio that is producing Twilight). I had written Step Up for Summit so we’d worked together closely, and successfully, before. I was unavailable to write the Step Up sequel. When Eric Feig called (I think it was in July ’07) to see if I was interested in Twilight, he asked how I felt about teens and vampires and I said, “I’m in!” [That was] all I needed to hear. Then I read the book and was absolutely thrilled. I met with all the producers and Catherine Hardwicke (with whom I immediately fell in love), told them what I had in mind. It jibed with what they had in mind. And that was that. I started writing. It was a very fast process.”6
So what was it like? How did Melissa approach this task, knowing that there was a huge fan base devoted to the books and eagerly awaiting this movie? She says:
“Twilight was my first adaptation of a novel to feature film (Dexter began as a novel). Everyone has always said that adapting a book is as difficult as writing an original. I’ve always thought writers who said that were full of it. And I still think so. When you’re handed even a title or a character name, you’ve still got more than the blank page you face with an original. Which is why I always wanted to adapt a book.
Of course, I’m completely spoiled with Twilight, my first feature film adaptation. I was handed a wonderful, rich, complex, and intriguing book, with great characters and situations and emotional arcs all beautifully constructed for me. All I had to do was not screw it up. Easier said than done, of course.”7
And what does Stephenie think about Melissa’s work. In a discussion on another fan site, Stephenie says:
“I have read the script. I am very pleased with it. They tried to follow the spirit of the book (because there is no way to do the book exactly as it was written unless the BBC wanted to do a six-hour mini-series) and tried to keep everyone in character. I was able to offer some input on the script. Most of my suggestions were very minor. …Of course things had to be much shorter, but I thought Melissa Rosenberg did a great job hitting the key material. The thing that people (particularly hysteria-prone teens) need to remember is that the only thing that really matters is that the feeling of Twilight is there. There is no one line or one event that makes the book what it is. What matters is the magic between Edward and Bella–the innocence and the self-denial. I hope that there is a similar feeling when you finish the movie as when you finish the book.”8
"Melissa Rosenberg." The Internet Movie Database. 12 Apr. 2008
"Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg ’86 Crafts Sharp Characters for Film and TV." Bennington College 2007. 25 Apr. 2008
Slepak, Dan. "Melissa Rosenberg Information." Email to the author. 24 Apr. 2008.
"Stephenie Meyer Q&A Part 6." Twilight Moms. Jan. 2008. 13 Apr. 2008