knew we wanted to be screenwriters........
I have a degree in playwriting, and as a student at NYU I'd taken some screenwriting classes as an undergrad and then as a grad student, but it didn't really click for me until I attended Moondance Film Festival after a short story I'd written was named a Finalist. At the Festival I sat in on some seminars and got really jazzed to go home and finish a script I'd started several years previous. That script ended up being named a semi-finalist for the Nicholl's as well as making it into the top fifty for Filmmakers the following year. After that initial encouragement, the stories just kept coming and couldn't be told on the stage or as a novel. They demand the screen and I just continue oblige them.
I know I've succeeded........
I've been fortunate to see my plays performed, but
screenwriting is a whole other thing. It seems like success
as a screenwriter only comes when your script is produced.
This is definitely a level of success, but since I've
continued to write screenplays without benefit of production
(yet!) I take a lot of pleasure in simply completing a
script. That's definitely a success when you think of all
the people who have "an idea" that dies on the vine before
ever coming to fruition. And every time I revise a script
and feel like it's a little bit closer to what I'm trying to
convey, that's a measure of success, too. I enter contests
and if I can get into the semi-finals or better I take that
as an affirmation that someone in the industry has read my
work and finds value in the story. When you're an unproduced
screenwriter with this movie playing in your head that you
can't show to anyone but your writing group or a few good
friends, getting that outside affirmation is a bit like the
tree falling in the forest -- yes, it did make a sound and
someone heard it.
My inspiration to write HIP HOP DADDY....
How does a white soccer mom write a script about an
African-American single dad? Well, I was at a wedding
reception, and my nephew who happens to be bi-racial was
there with his best friend, who's African-American. Here
were these two guys in their mid-twenties rocking newborn
babies on their hips, burping, changing diapers, mixing
bottles of formula in the midst of carrying on a
conversation. A generation before them, their own fathers
were said to "baby sit" their kids, but these men were
completely in charge of their sons. It was as second nature
to them as what society calls "maternal instinct". My
nephew's friend takes his son with him everywhere; in fact,
I've never met the baby's mother even though she's in the
picture. I thought about all the negative press
African-American men get for skipping out on their families.
There are "dead beat dads" within every race, and the single
black father gets no ink. Movies have celebrated white
stay-at-home dads (Mr. Mom, Tootsie, 3 Men and a Baby), but
it seems like the idea of an African-American man being a
hands-on single-dad doesn't exist on the big screen.
(Television has done a better job celebrating the
African-American father, however, to some degree -- thank
you Mr. Cosby.) I just thought I'd take a shot at leading
the applause for these guys who are doing the right thing.
inspired you to write?
Kathy C. King:
As the youngest child, I'm part family clown and part
observer. This combination was the natural makings for a kid
drawn to the page and theatre. By the time I was 15 I'd
written my first play, and I haven't stopped writing since.
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to
prepare yourself to write your first script?
Kathy C. King: While I know a good bit about
parenting, I knew nothing about the world my main character
inhabits. I knew I wanted to use a hookah bar as a location,
and I had to educate myself about the mechanics of that, as
well as immerse myself in hip hop music. Sometimes I'd have
this kind of out of body experience where I'd see myself,
proud owner of a mini van, singing along to 50 cent or Mos'
def and it just made me giggle.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script
and how long did it take you to complete?
Kathy C. King: I'm embarrassed to admit how many
scripts I've written. I read somewhere that the average
screenwriter has written 8 scripts before they sell their
first. So let's just say I am a late bloomer and leave it at
I'm one of those freaky writers who works from an outline,
so once I had that it took me about a week to complete the
first draft (I did it over spring break), but I've been
revising it now for over a year.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set
routine, place and time management for writing?
Kathy C. King:
teach so my life revolves around semesters and reading other
people's writing. So I build the script in my head over a
long period of time, developing a working outline as I go.
Then when it feels like I can't stand it any longer I'll
take a week and just hammer out a first draft, go back and
tinker with it on and off for awhile until it feels done.
But I've come to learn that a script can always stand
further revising. It's a bit like sculpting, I think. The
more you chip at it the clearer the form is revealed.
Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are
important for aspiring screenwriters and why?
Kathy C. King: I do. As I mentioned earlier, when
you're not selling your scripts or getting them produced, a
contest is a way to get some encouragement from people
beyond your circle that "yes" you are creating stories with
some value. Also, I have had some luck getting my work read
by different development people and I think it's often due
to success I've had in contests. It gives you a bit more
cred when you send out those cold queries, I think.
Magazine: What influenced you to enter the FilmMakers
International Screenwriting Awards
/ Screenplay Contest?
Kathy C. King: I had good luck with Filmmakers in the
past, and the first year I made it into the top 50 with my
first screenplay, I think I also received a discount to the
Screenwriters Expo. That was one of the best things I ever
did for my professional development. I learned more in that
weekend than I'd learned in the handful of screenwriting
classes I'd taken in college. I have to thank Filmmakers for
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you
urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Kathy C. King: Oh, gosh, there are so
many, aren't there? I guess I'd have to go with a classic
like Casablanca. Structure is essential to learn and is
beautifully illustrated in this script. However, sometimes a
more difficult thing to grasp is those character arcs. You
can have a beautifully structured piece but if the character
development isn't there, who really cares, you know? I think
the character arcs in Casablanca are a perfect example of
what can be done in a script.
Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate
about and why?
Kathy C. King: As I mentioned, I come to
screenwriting from the theatre. I love writing plays as much
as I love writing screenplays. I am involved with community
and college theatre, and founded the ND Playwrights Co-op as
a means for other writers in a huge, sparsely populated
state to engage in discussion about their scripts. I write a
lot of social issue plays mixed with gobs of humor so it
doesn't feel like I'm preaching. Actually, I try to write
about things that I'm not all together sure I have any
answers about. That gray area of life is the most fun to
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite
Screenwriter and Why?
Kathy C. King: I love, love, love Nora Ephron. She's
able to mix the poignant with the whacky and I find her
stories feel really relevant to my life.
Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with
Kathy C. King: Penny
Marshall. I grew up watching her on Laverne and Shirley; my
best friend and I used to argue about who got to be her when
we acted out scenes from the show. (I'm actually much more
like Shirley, though.) I think she'd be great to collaborate
with on one of my comedies.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and
Kathy C. King: Tom Hanks. I think you can see a
pattern here. Ephron, Marshall, and Hanks all have the
ability to draw us in with humor and then just when our
hearts are open -- they squeeze. I try to do that with my
writing, as well.
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things
learned along the way to pass on to others?
Kathy C. King: Revision is not the enemy! If you
think of it more as re-visioning, as Adrienne Rich called
it, then it's less of a chore and more of another creative
step in the process of uncovering the story you want to
Magazine: What's next for you?
Kathy C. King: I have no control over if and when
someone will buy a script, but nobody can stop me from
writing. Not even me! The damn stories keep filling up my
brain and if I don't get them out soon I'm going to be a
bear to live with. I have two scripts I've started and need
to finish. One is about a 3-legged dog, "Apu Gets Lucky,"
and the other, "Character Driven," is about a writer who
wants to give up after years of trying, only to discover
that quitting isn't that easy. Then there's this time travel
piece I want to work on, "Lola's Legacy" -- not so much
sci-fi -- more fantasy.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five
years from now?
Kathy C. King: Writing.