2006 FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards - Interview - David Harris Kline


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David Harris Kline
19th Place Winner
David Harris Kline
Los Angeles, CA

Education- Tulane undergrad 94’’. UCLA Graduate film program 96’. Currently residing in Los Angeles.

Writer/Director of TARA REID: ROAD TO OSCAR- a docu-drama/satire about an actress’ quest for an Oscar as she tries to shed her tabloid reputation, and remake the melodrama “Butterfield 8” in which Elizabeth Taylor, won her first Oscar.

Currently, adapting story of Ugandan child soldier Kassim Ouma, based on the Esquire article, detailing his life as a child soldier in the Ugandan army, his escape and defection to the United States, and his quest to become the middleweight champion of the world.


I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........

when I read T. Coraghessan Boyle and realized I could never measure up as a novelist.

I know I've succeeded........ 

when I’ve finished a solid first draft. Completing a first draft is always a test of faith.

My inspiration to write THE BIG ORANGE.......

My under-grad writing teacher, poet Peter Cooley, is to this day the most demanding writing teacher I ever had… He fostered the importance of self-critique in writing.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

David Harris Kline: My under-grad writing teacher, poet Peter Cooley, is to this day the most demanding writing teacher I ever had… He fostered the importance of self-critique in writing.

FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?

David Harris Kline: My first script was called NEW ORLEANS ZEPHYR- a love story between a young writer and a much older woman set in the uptown district of New Orleans. I had written it as novel in college, so I didn’t do much outlining. I had some good professors in the UCLA film program who helped me with structure.

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?

David Harris Kline:
No, I’ve written several scripts. This script I wrote in three months- I then threw it in the garbage. It was a nice script, I just didn’t feel passionate about it. I wrote an entirely new script in about ten months. That’s about the average time it takes for me to finish a script.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?

David Harris Kline:
I write six days a week. I sublet an office from an architect on Beverly Blvd. in LA. I usually work from 9-4… No coffee, just a thermos of tea and a bag lunch… Beck’s last CD- GUERO- got me through the rough draft.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

David Harris Kline:
An accolade from a contest definitely helps. Agents and managers are difficult to contact- many of them don’t have the time to read scripts, unless it’s received awards. On the flip side, I think contests do promote writers’ passivity- writers have to do much more than simply sending their scripts off to contests. They need to connect with people in the industry.

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards?

David Harris Kline: This contest has a great reputation for recognizing material that is independent in nature- compelling stories, passionately written…

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

David Harris Kline: Robert Towne’s “Chinatown” is an obvious favorite- it works on many levels- it’s an ode to private eye fiction and a love story to Los Angeles as it evolved into a city under the corruption of water barons.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

David Harris Kline: I’m an avid gardener. I obsess over flowers- in Southern California you can grown anything.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

David Harris Kline: Robert Towne wrote modern movie dialogue that became the gold standard for writers- he could make words sound informal and slangy, but with a dramatic urgency to propel the narrative. His credited body of work is impressive, but there were so many films where his dialogue was spoken but he did not receive credit, “The Godfather”, “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Marathon Man”, “Reds”. His article “On Moving Pictures” is a classic study in the economy of screenwriting.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?

David Harris Kline:
Michael Haneke, Richard Linklater

Haneke because he plunges so deeply into the psychosis of his characters. However, I don’t think he is too keen on screenwriter collaboration. Richard Linklater. I love his curiosity and the broad range of his subjects. He’s also a shrewd writer with a great ear for dialogue.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

David Harris Kline: Morgan Freeman- I wrote the script for him- old black private detective taking one last shot at love- I don’t think he is sent many love stories. He’s done dozens of movies, and yet he’s never had a single love scene. His talent is so immense. I would hope some day he’d get the opportunity to go “method” in the way Nicholson did in “About Schmidt”. There just aren’t enough character-driven stories for black actors.

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

David Harris Kline: The old adage “write what you’re passionate about” to me is a bit disingenuous. Yes, write something that you’re passionate about- simply to prove that you can write passionately. But also write something that is more genre-based as calling card to the industry. I believe it’s a bit indulgent to think the industry is going to invest in your dream projects- film is too expensive- $10-15 million passionate projects are rare. Diversify.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

David Harris Kline: Two projects- both true story adaptations:

KASSIM THE DREAM- Ugandan child soldier/mercenary Kassim Ouma and his harrowing escape to the U.S. where he became middle-weight boxing champion of the world. I’m collaborating with a journalist who wrote on Kassim for Esquire Magazine.

MAGIC CARPET RIDE- adventure tale of an American pilot who rescued 40,000 refugees in a secret mission during the Arab/Israeli war. Collaboration with writer/director Chris Gorak, (RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR- LIONSGATE 2007.)

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

David Harris Kline: If I can hold onto my lease, I hope to still be writing in my office- thermos and brown bag lunch- trying to get it done…

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