2007 FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards - Interview - Grace McKeaney and Meeghan Holaway

Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards

| Interviews Loglines Synopsis | Scripts Winners |

Grace McKeaney
16th Place Winner
Grace McKeaney & Meeghan Holaway
of Los Angeles, CA

Grace McKeaney
Grace McKeaney is a graduate of Northwestern University and attended the Yale School Of Drama as an MFA candidate in playwriting. A recipient of Le Conte Du Nuoy Prize for contribution to the American Theater, she is the published author of ten nationally produced plays and has developed new works at both the Eugene O’Neill Conference and the Sundance Institute. A veteran of television, she has written and produced television shows (for all networks and many cable outlets) as varied as “Roseanne”, “St Elsewhere”, “The Client”, “The Hoop Life” and “The Education Of Max Bickford”. She has written movies for Lifetime, Wonderful World Of Disney and Hallmark Hall Of Fame, including “Grace and Glorie” with Gena Rowlands and Diane Lane, (winner of a Christopher Award). Grace has taught creative writing at all educational levels, initiating the WORD PLAY program at Baltimore’s Center Stage which took professional writers into the Maryland public school system. She is the author with Meeghan Holaway of two as yet unproduced feature screenplays, “Blind Spot” and “Sandy Cross Is Coming To Town”. Grace is a frequent online contributor to Traction Magazine (http://magazine.women-in-film.com/), a journal for and by women in the entertainment industry. Most significantly, she is the mother of two beloved daughters, Kate Deirdre and Hannah Guinevere.

Meeghan Holaway
Meeghan Holaway is from Seattle, Washington, but she has lived in Massachusetts, New York City and now Southern California. She is an actress working in theatre film and television.

Off-Broadway, she played Beth in the original production of Dinner With Friends. Her television credits include Desperate Housewives, Without A Trace, Cold Case, Law & Order, Everybody Loves Raymond and recurring roles on Showtime's The Hoop Life and Lifetime's Inspector Mom. She just finished a feature film called SERE and will be in Frank Miller's new movie, THE SPIRIT.

She shares an apartment with her two mini-dachshunds, Brutus and Wolfgang.


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.




FilmMakers Magazine: 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 danger.

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

Grace McKeaney:
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.

Meeghan Holaway: 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?

Grace McKeaney:
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.

Meeghan Holaway: 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 story.

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.

Meeghan Holaway: 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 beautifully drawn.
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 war.

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 and Why?

Grace McKeaney:
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.

Meeghan Holaway: 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?

Grace McKeaney:
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...

Meeghan Holaway: 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.

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

Grace McKeaney:
Both Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling because each work from deeply authentic places and always touch me and teach me things about being human.

Meeghan Holaway: 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?

Grace McKeaney:
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.

Meeghan Holaway: 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?

Grace McKeaney:
Hopefully produced as a screenwriter. And able to lend a hand to new writers trying to get a first screenplay produced.

Meeghan Holaway: 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.

| Interviews Loglines Synopsis | Scripts Winners |

top of page

| Home Page | Contests | Indies | Features | News | Resource Links | Advertise With Us |

Important disclaimer

Copyright © 1999-2011 by FilmMakers.com.  All rights reserved.
 FilmMakers.com is a division of Media Pro Tech Inc.