Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Michael Kellner

An interview with screenwriter Michael Kellner regarding the Wildsound/TV Writing Competition.

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

A: My Rick and Morty spec script is called “Crime and Punishrick.” In it, Rick and Morty go head-to-head with a variety of space gangsters to raise the capital to build Rick's latest invention, the Interplanetary McGuffin. Each act sees them take on a different sub-genre of gangster film: first the underground gambling variety, then the Italian mobster type, and finally the heist film.

To balance the A plot’s look at gangster movies, the B plot deals with the mundane, scarring reality of crime in the real world. Jerry gets mugged at knife-point, and suffers a breakdown from the trauma of the event. Beth and Summer try to help him through it, but their efforts do more harm than good.

In the end, the two plot lines ram together in a hostage situation/shootout at the Smith residence.

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 the Wildsound Contest because I was intrigued by their table read concept. It set them apart from other contests. This script also won the gold prize in its category at the Hollywood Screenplay Contest.

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

A: Wildsound ran the contest smoothly. They met their deadlines, delivered what they promised, and kept in contact with me throughout the process.

Q: How long did it take you to write the script? Did you write an outline beforehand? How many drafts did you write?

A: All told I wrote five drafts, with two larger rewrites and two small polishes. I did outline the script before I began writing, and from nose to tail the process took around three months (while working on other projects at the same time).

Q: What kind of software did you use to write the script, if any? What other kinds of writing software do you use?

A: I use Final Draft 8, though I usually do one handwritten and one typed outline before I open the software.

Q: Do you write every day? How many hours per day?

A: I either write or do something related to screenwriting (reading about the form, studying scripts, etc.) for a few hours a day, with the occasional day off, of course.

I have a job in advertising, which provides its own opportunities to create and reach out to people through writing. I prefer screenwriting (I mean, who wouldn't), but I enjoy this work as well.

Q: Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you deal with that?

A: Pacing, mumbling, and handwritten brainstorming. I also have an editor who takes a couple passes at my scripts, and talking with him can help push through block.

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

A: I've always loved TV shows and movies, and I've wanted to write for them from the time I first realized it was a job people can have.

I was a psychology major in college, and I studied screenwriting too. When writing, I find myself revisiting psychology textbooks almost as often as I go back to the screenwriting literature. That focus on the human mind helps me when I need to add depth and layers to characters.

In terms of screenwriting background, I wrote two other scripts before my Rick and Morty episode. One was a short, and the other was a spec episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine which later became a finalist in the Acclaim TV Spec Competition.

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

A: I don’t live in LA yet, but I’ll be moving out there soon. Obviously, it’s the place to be for this industry, and I’m excited to make the move!

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

A: I have a couple projects in the works right now, but I’m focusing the majority of my energy on a pilot script. It’s a show within a show, with the outer show looking at a desperate, failing TV network recently taken over by a mysterious cultist woman. The inner show is a gold rush era dramedy where the actors keep breaking character. I’ve been enjoying the challenge of writing something so conceptual, and it’s exciting to see it start to come together.

Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2014