Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter R L Kienbaum

An interview with screenwriter R L Kienbaum regarding the Screamfest Writing Competition.

Q: What's the title of the script you entered in this contest, and what's it about?

A: The script I’ve entered is a horror titled “The Unseen”. It’s the story of two estranged brothers who, while on a road trip through Canada, have an encounter with a creature of Native American legend.

After his brother is possessed by an ancient Indian spirit and escapes into the surrounding woods, Adrian, the protagonist, seeks the help of an outcast Shaman to save his bother’s soul and destroy the beast which is tracking them down.

Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Have you entered any other contests with this script? If so, how did you do?

A: I entered an original draft of this same script in the 2003 Screamfest LA’s screenwriting competition. I was attracted to the fact there was a contest aimed specifically at the horror genre. It came in second place that year – but I felt I could do better.

So I took another look at the script and made some cuts and edits, including an entirely new ending, and resubmitted it to the 2005 Screamfest LA competition as well as this year’s Script Magazine’s Thrills and Chills contest. I feel pretty good about this draft; it’s made the top 5 in this year’s Screamfest and will know exactly where I placed during the awards dinner in LA later this month. (The Thrills and Chills contest is still being judged)

Q: Were you satisfied with the adminstration of the contest? Did they meet their deadlines? Did you receive all the awards that were promised?

A: I have nothing but compliments towards Rachel and the staff of Screamfest. Any time I had a question or concern they were quick to respond either by phone or email. I would encourage anyone trying to get into the horror or thriller genre to check Screamfest out.

Q: Were you given any feedback on your script? If so, did you find the feedback helpful?

A: For my 2003 submission, I paid a little extra for coverage. What I received was actually quite detailed and extremely helpful.

Q: Has your success in this contest helped you market your script? Were you contacted by any agents, managers or producers?

A: Actually, I was. Shortly after my placing in the 2003 competition I was approached by a producer who was working on two other projects at the time. We’ve been working back and forth on this project while he’s been finishing up two other pre-existing projects. I’ve been able to use my upcoming trip to LA for this year’s Screamfest to schedule meetings with a couple of managers/agents. They always seem more interested when they know your work has placed in a contest or two.

Q: What's your background? Have you written any other screenplays or television scripts?

A: I’ve always had a passion for writing. Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, I often spent the days writing short stories that were never really intended to go anywhere – just as a vent for my overactive imagination. I wrote a few stories in High School that attracted some attention from teachers and peers, but never anything professional.

Before I got into feature-length screenplays, I tried my hand at freelance teleplays, but never really felt comfortable with the format. So I took a class in screenwriting in Portland, Oregon and discovered that I liked it! I’ve been writing off and on ever since.

I have two short screenplays written, with one produced as a student film in London, England. My friend, who was directing, managed to get a decent cast together, including British film actor Simon Dutton to play the lead antagonist. I was excited to know that this respected actor was reading my lines – and even more excited to know that he agreed to it solely on the fact that he loved the script. You really can’t ask for more of a compliment than that as a writer.

I have anther completed screenplay, a sci-fi drama which covers the life of a young man with the ability to foresee a person’s destined life, and what happens to him when he decides to try to change fate, and am currently working on a new project as well.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles? If not, do you have any plans to move there?

A: Currently I do not live in LA. My wife (also a writer) and I live in Vancouver, Washington and am about to move into Portland, Oregon within the new year. With the technology of today, an established writer can live outside of LA and continue to work but as a freelance writer trying to build a career, I really think living in the LA area would be beneficial (if you an afford it). On that note, it is our plan to move into the LA area when we can.

Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?

A: I am working on a sci-fi right now, trying to get a feel in different genres, and have a concept for a supernatural thriller waiting after that. It is my belief that, as a writer, you should always have more than just what you’re working on right now. Always have a few projects waiting in the wings. That way you’re never caught out when the producer, agent or manager asks you the all-important question “What else do you have?” You never want to be left floundering when sitting at a table discussing your ability to write when representation (or money) is involved. Always have something to pitch them.

I had heard that Mark Twain used to have several projects going on at once. If he ever became stuck or blocked in one, he’d put it aside and start or continue on another until he either became stuck in that one or he finally got the perfect idea for his initial story. I believe “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was written over a period of a year in this manner. I tend to follow the same philosophy with writing scripts – if I find myself blocked, I put it aside and work on something else until the fog lifts and that perfect idea comes.

Posted Friday, October 14, 2005