Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Karl Williams

An interview with screenwriter Karl Williams regarding the Austin/Film Writing Competition.

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

A: I entered two scripts this year, both of them comedies. "Punctured" is a horror/sci-fi comedy about a horror novelist who falls for a beautiful college professor that turns out to be a vampire. It's Woody Allen or Wes Anderson in tone, mixed with a nice dash of John Landis. The other script is "Superego," which is about a psychologist recruited by the government to counsel a team of dysfunctional superheroes. I modeled it after "Analyze This" and then got to meet Harold Ramis at the AFF this weekend and see his new flick "The Ice Harvest," which was a total blast.

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 Austin because I liked the fact that it's a screenwriters' film festival. The only festivals that really fit that description are Austin and Nantucket, as far as I know. I also entered "Superego" in the UCLA Screenwriters Showcase Awards earlier this summer and I won that (I'm in the UCLA MFA Screenwriting program, I'm halfway through it). We read a scene at the WGA in June, it was a blast. And "Punctured" made the quarterfinals of the Nicholl this summer, so I'm getting a lot of calls and emails about it from that.

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: Totally satisfied, the AFF is non-profit so like any organization that meets that description, probably every person is doing the work of five people there. But they could not have been more helpful, friendly, engaging, passionate or smart about the business. They really encouraged us to network our tails off so I tried to do that, even though I am not the world's most outgoing guy (I think most writers aren't). Some festivals are really in love with and fawning over their celebrity panelists but they absolutely advocated for their writers and I felt like they were on our side. They did meet all their deadlines and I got everything I was promised - including three extremely heavy trophies. I really think Austin is already one of the major North American festivals, along with Sundance and Toronto (my other two favorites). And I think the industry is just now figuring that out.

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

A: Austin has a program where you can pay for coverage and I think a few years ago I would have done that - but I have already read coverage on both of these scripts so I didn't feel the need. I ran into several judges from the various categories however, and they told me about the judging process, what they thought about my work, and what some of the other judges said, so I got a good overall sense of why I won.

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

A: This happened literally about 72 hours ago so I haven't been contacted by many people yet - although I was approached personally by a lot of people at the fest, including the biggest talent agency in Hollywood, which was fantastic - fingers crossed, I hope they sign me. I have some experience in marketing myself and I'm going to do that aggressively. I think not tooting your own horn is the biggest mistake writers make and while it may make you look a little boorish (I'm always afraid of that), it just simply has to be done. If you're not an A-list writer yet, they're not coming to you unless you give them a reason, it's that simple. I already have a press release that I tried to make as funny as possible (I write comedy) and I'm faxing it to probably a hundred companies today.

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

A: These two scripts were my fourth and fifth screenplays, I would say I knew I was onto something by about my third, which placed in the top ten for the Diane Thomas Awards a few years ago and landed me my manager, Brian Flaherty. Before that I was a publishing executive in New Jersey for ten years and had some career success, but was pretty miserable. I was living a lie, I wanted to be a screenwriter. So I gave that up, sold everything I owned but books and clothes, and moved to L.A. to study at UCLA. Now I'm poorer but a whole lot happier.

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

A: I live just outside of L.A. in a little suburban town called Calabasas. Best of both worlds as far as I'm concerned. The commute sucks but I have satellite radio so Al Franken's show and a Starbucks coffee make it tolerable.

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

A: I'm in the UCLA MFA Screenwriting program, which makes you write very intensely and very hard - a new script every ten weeks - so I'm working like a squirrel on new stuff all the time. I'll have to pump out three features in the next nine months to graduate in '06, so yeah, I'm working on new stuff feverishly. Hopefully someday in the misty future I will live the cliche and direct.

Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2005