I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........
GRACE: In the early 80's, after
writing plays for the Theater. I gravitated first to the small screen, writing
many years for television. Then, with BLIND SPOT, I embarked on a first
screenplay with a partner. From the time I was a kid, however, I've written
stories and responded to the stories told in films...EAST OF EDEN and A MAN
FOR ALL SEASONS being two films which left lasting impressions on me.
MEEGHAN: when I realized that the
best way to tell the truth was through fiction. In a good movie, all the
trivia of life is stripped away and what's left is a truth that you can FEEL.
If a movie can make you feel for a character, maybe you can let go of your
prejudices for a moment and carry that new understanding into the rest of your
life. That seems like a good thing to me.
I know I've succeeded........
GRACE: Because we finished a working
draft of the screenplay! So many ideas remain just that. We've proven we can
stick with the discipline of the work to our mutual satisfaction. "Writing is
re-writing." A truer word about good stories was never said. We've returned
and returned to BLIND SPOT and remain as interested and involved in it as when
the first idea occurred to us...
MEEGHAN: when readers care what happens to the characters we've created.
My inspiration to write BLIND SPOT.......
GRACE: Without giving away details of
the plot, when Meeghan and I began talking about writing a thriller together,
we realized we each had parts of a terrific story in two ideas we had
separately been outlining, ruminating on. I've written a great deal but this
is my first thriller. As a big Ann Rule fan, I'm sure her writing was an
inspiration. But in the specific case of BLIND SPOT, meeting the correct
writing partner was the inspiration for the wholeness of the story. The pieces
just fit together...
MEEGHAN: my inspiration was a short story I wrote when I was 12 years old.
I've always liked stories with a twist.
What inspired you to write?
Grace McKeaney: Reading Shirley Jackson, Flannery O Conner and
Carson McCullers when I was young. Then, acting in plays. I wrote
skits in high school and moved onto writing plays at Northwestern
University. Acting in plays allowed me to encounter the interior
worlds of the great writers: Shakespeare, Chekhov, Beckett, Williams,
O'Neill...I wanted to create worlds of my own in which character's
destinies acted upon each other and eventually wrote plays which were
published and produced, starting at the Yale School Of Drama.
Meeghan Holaway: I've always had stories bubbling inside me.
When Grace first approached me with the idea of collaborating, I was
thrilled. Bouncing ideas back and forth with another person gives me
energy and brings the ideas in my head to life.
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
Grace McKeaney: I read other scripts. My first writing was done
in play form, so I read plays intensively for years. I tried to learn
from the best. In writing screenplays, I am always watching films in
the genre I am writing and often those that have nothing to do with
the genre. You never lose when you are surrounded by great cinematic
story-telling, whatever the genre.
Meeghan Holaway: We started BLIND SPOT with extensive character
bios. In order to create suspense, we felt that an audience would
really have to care about and be invested in the people who were in
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
BLIND SPOT is my first screenplay
written with a partner and the draft entered in this competition is
the result of approximately two years of work.
This is our first script as partners.
We took about two years to write it. We would do large chunks and then
have to let it sit for a while until we could get together again.
Though we might've initially wished to complete it faster I think the
necessity of letting it sit allowed us to come back to it with fresh
eyes each time.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
I try to write daily, from early in the morning until noon. When
Meeghan and I are partnering, we write in spurts...often writing for
long stretches, sometimes for periods of days. Then we allow time to
pass before reviewing the work towards a rewrite. We rarely if ever
let weeks elapse however. It's important to allow breathing room but
not to loose momentum.
We did not have a set routine. However, we tried to set aside a few
days at a time, to be together and really immerse ourselves in the
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
Grace McKeaney :
Absolutely. Screenwriting with a
partner affords two sets of eyes on the story, but the process of
writing itself is often isolating. Contests provide beacons of hope
for writers, that their hard work will be seen and given a meaningful
reading by professionals. Our standing in this contest has meant the
world to us.
I think screenplay contests are VERY important. As with all aspects of
the entertainment industry, it is difficult to get your foot in the
door. There is so much material that very talented people simply don't
have the opportunity to show what they can do. And, on the other side,
producers, agents etc, don't necessarily have the time to wade through
countless scripts to find the handful that are wonderful. I think
contests help both groups to find each other.
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards?
Grace McKeaney: We wanted to see if the script we had worked on
so long and the characters and story we'd loved, would speak to anyone
else. We wanted to see if the script could attract attention from and
be deemed worthy by professionals. We're currently unrepresented and
hope any standing we gain in the contest will help BLIND SPOT have
it's chance to be made as a movie one day.
Meeghan Holaway: We wanted to see if others would respond to
the script. We were hoping that a positive response might give us the
opportunity and momentum to find representation.
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
Grace McKeaney: There are so many good scripts to read and I
learn from them all. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID is terrific
for it's humor and revelation of character through dialogue. CHINATOWN
is an awesome feat of characterization, of building jeapardy, layering
of story. RAGING BULL, LA STRADA...all of Hitchcock. With the amazing
scripts available on-line to read, reading screenplays should simply
be a part of every aspiring screenwriter's day.
Meeghan Holaway: Wow. There are so many that thrill me with
their poetry, their execution, their ability to tap something
universal. I love THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. The characters are so
CHINATOWN is a perfect machine. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD functions on so
many levels. It examines social issues, family, growing up and it all
works beautifully as one story. I think BODY HEAT is a really
well-plotted thriller. TOOTSIE is a perfect comedy to me.
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Grace McKeaney: My family. The environment. Making love not
Meeghan Holaway: Acting. I've been an actor my whole life. It's
wonderful to have the opportunity to be other people and see the world
from their perspective. Nature. Animals. I am from the Northwest and
need to connect with nature whenever possible. It soothes the soul.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
The achievements of many
story-tellers have influenced me. Robert Towne, William Goldman,
Robert Bolt, Francis Ford Coppola. I am most intrigued by stories
which arise from the intricacy of character and these screenwriters
never make facile character choices.
I love William Goldman. ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN is a great political
thriller. I also love James Goldman. I think the language of THE LION
IN WINTER is perfection and the plotting is exquisite. I like writers
from other families as well. I like Lawrence Kasdan. I appreciate the
fact that he chose a genre, then wrote a perfect example. SILVERADO
for the western, BODY HEAT for film noir. Terrific.
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
I get to dream here? Okay, but I
can't name only one. I recently rewatched KNIFE IN THE WATER and was
newly amazed by Polanski's eye. Each time I watch either GODFATHER I
or II I am stunned by Coppola's full-bodied creation of the Corleone
world. Scorcese's work on RAGING BULL and more recently on THE AVIATOR
are two enormous favorites of mine. And of late, James Mangold's
direction of 3:10 TO YUMA and Craig Gillespie's work on LARS AND THE
REAL GIRL impressed me deeply...Always for me it is how carefully a
director tells the story as it emanates from character...
ANG LEE is my favorite. I think he combines visual images that are
like a series of paintings with storytelling that is absolutely
compelling. I also like George Clooney. He chooses projects he's
passionate about to direct, then really throws himself at them. He
makes bold choices. I respect that.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Both Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling
because each work from deeply authentic places and always touch me and
teach me things about being human.
I love David Strathairn. He's always complex and becomes the character
rather than making the character into himself. I have great respect
for Brad Pitt. He's an actor who has continued to challenge himself
rather than rest on the laurels of good looks and huge fame.
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
Never think the work on the script is
done. A script can always improve. Learn to take good notes anywhere
they come from and subordinate your ego to the life of the characters
and the story. How do you know a good note from a bad note? The good
notes are usually the ones that make you dig down a little deeper.
Sometimes they make you write the scene you were hesitating to write.
Never give up. It's been said a thousand times, but that's because
it's worth saying over and over. You hit snags. You think there's a
problem with the script that's unsolvable. Take a nap. Go for a walk.
But don't give up. It will untangle itself in time.
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Grace McKeaney: I have a few scripts of my own in stages of
completion and as partners, Meeghan and I have our second feature
script ready to roll! SANDY CROSS IS COMING TO TOWN. A complete
departure from BLIND SPOT, it's a comedy in the BAD SANTA vein and we
had a hilarious time writing it.
Meeghan Holaway: Another script. And another.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
Hopefully produced as a screenwriter.
And able to lend a hand to new writers trying to get a first
I hope to be produced as a screenwriter. I'll have had five years to
learn and get better at what I do. I hope to have the opportunity to
learn on the job. Work is always the best teacher.