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Kathryn Knowlton of Creative Script Services

Interview: Kathryn Knowlton

by: Christopher Wehner


As the producer of Jacknife (Robert DeNiro) and Eye For An Eye with Academy Award winners John Schlesinger and Sally Field and many others, Kathryn Knowlton has developed many strong relationships and connections throughout Hollywood. She has also worked with or represented: Michael Schiffer - Crimson Time, Peacemaker, Robin Swicord - Little Women, Matilda Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver - The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and many, many others.


Please give us a little on your background? Why Hollywood?

I was born in Paris, France and grew up in New York City, and never ever considered a career in Show biz. I wasn't even a real movie buff until College when I took in a course in movie history and was fortunate enough to see a lot of the great old movies.

My first job was as a receptionist at CBS THEATRICAL FILMS in New York. I was extremely fortunate in that our President Joe Wizan would let anyone in the company sit in staff meetings if they where willing to do the "week-end " read. It was there that I learned how a studio functions and how studio executives make decisions and survive. I got my head handed to me a few times. I recommended a script called BLACK and WHITE and was very sternly told that CBS THEATRICAL FILMS did not make movies about racism. Well GEFFEN made the movie and called it TRADING PLACES . I was again strongly rebuked when I recomended RISKY BUSINESS, it seems that CBS THEATRICAL FILMS also didn't make movies about Prostitution. I did work on movie TABLE FOR FIVE with Jon Voight and it was during the making of that picture that I realized that the movie business was in LA and moved out here.

Who have you worked with, and can you share some interesting experiences or stories?

I started my Hollywood career working for RICHARD DREYFUSS, and my job was to find material for him to star in. We optioned several wonderful projects including WAR OF THE ROSES, which Columbia Pictures didn't make because they didn't believe in the concept. I then went on to work for JON VOIGHT and we optioned RANDOM HEARTS, which now finally being made by Sidney Pollock. At this point I knew I had a very good eye for commercial material and was tired of the constraints of working only for Actors. I could only look for material that would be right for that Actor and after a few years got bored and went to work as VP of Production for a Production company called MICHAEL LEVY ENTERPRISES which was based at METRO GOLDWYN MAYER. It was there that I really learned all the aspects of Producing, how to option a script or a book, how to sell to the studios, how to make a Writers deal, how to make a Directors deal, how to convince them to go forward with your project. I then went on to be an AGENT at THE ARTISTS AGENCY and later at DAVID SHAPIRA and Associates. I made the change because my attorney PETER DEKOM whom at the time also represented CASTLE ROCK PICTURES, RON HOWARD'S COMPANY as well as most top Executives in town convinced me that, that was where the power was.

I loved my first few years as an Agent and I loved finding and nurturing new talents, however after several years I found the politics and the need to sell talent I don't believe in to be extremely draining. I am presently a Literary Manager and Producer which for me is the best of both worlds. I can find a nurture new talent, which is why I started CREATIVE SCRIPT SERVICES and I was right, they are a lot of talented writers all over our country and the world. I'm very proud of the talent I have found through CREATIVE SCRIPT SERVICES. As a Manager, I also have the freedom to produce, so for me, this really is the best of both worlds.

You've been a producer, and now you're an agent, why the change? Do you seek to get yourself attached as a producer to a project you're representing?

I do not necessarily attach myself to my management companies scripts, I do what the client and I feel is best for the material. I have produce movies where I did not manage the writers, and I represent writers whose work has been produced by other producers.

I've heard your experience with JACKNIFE was intense, and perhaps typical of hollywood. Would you mind telling us the story? Did this experience change you or the way you deal with working in Hollywood?

The experience on JACKNIFE was pretty intense, and it's a very long story let me see if I can shorten it for you. I had been working on several projects at MGM and very much wanted to remake an old movie MARTY which they owned the rights to. I was sent the screenplay JACKNIFE to read as a writing sample. JACKNIFE was in my opinion an 80's version of MARTY and MGM agreed to buy the script for me to produce. In the meantime I sent it to CAA agency to help me get an Actor involved. Michael Ovitz who was then President of CAA loved the script and send it to Paul Newman and Robert Redford. MGM had a change of management, dropped the project and the Agent who represented the script to JACKNIFE, told me I was not important enough a Producer to keep the project and he would sell it elsewhere. He did they then went to CAA to try and get an Actor, CAA was wonderful and protected the fact that I had sent the script in first and thereby protected my involvement. I did however have to stop production on the movie for one day (which I did with the studios help) as my boss had conveniently forgotten my involvement, he very quickly remembered and I did get my credit and my fee. The story hopefully will give you a quick insight on how important personal relationships and integrity is in this business and how malicious people can be. PS: my ex-boss is now out of the business completely.

It didn't really change the way I work, If people are going to screw you they will find a way. I had a very legal contract possible and the studios backing and still didn't get my fee on another movie.

What was your biggest sale?

I'm not really sure about my biggest sale, In the early and mid-eighties it was pretty routine to make sales in the 250k. 500k and even with back-ends into the million dollar category. Today that is much rarer, there seems to be a backlog of unproduced screenplays at every company and sales are much harder. These days I really try and attach an element before I go out to the market place. The "deal" that stands out most in my mind and of which I the proudest involved a young writer/director who came to me with one very low budget @300k movie under his belt. He was working at 1-800 Dentist at the time,and we couldn't make any morning meetings because he had to be at work. Within two years to the month, that I signed him, we where at the Premiere of his movies POWDER that he had been paid 500k to write and direct. Talk about a change of circumstances.

Tell us about your company and what you're doing now?

I've just started a new company called CREATIVE SCRIPT SERVICES, which has been fueled by my love of helping aspiring writers and of Producing . You can find out more about us by calling me at 818-754-4779 or e-mailing me at info@thescript.com or visiting our web site at www.thescript.com.

The basic concept is this, we will read anyone's script, yes for a fee, we do need to cover our overhead, however if we feel we can sell it, we will either take you on as a client of KATHRYN KNOWLTON MANAGEMENT or we will act as producers.

The response has been fantastic and I have found some terrific material that we have optioned. We have gotten some writers Agents. William Morris is representing one of our scripts and CAA is helping us to package another.

I've really been thrilled with the quality of most of the material we've read.

Any advice for our writers reading this on the internet? Anything come to mind?

My advice is to write what you know, and to let nothing stand in your way. My friend CHUCK RUSSELL (THE MASK,ERASER) was a producer for years before he got his directing break. I first read DON ROOS (THE OPPOSITE OF SEX) in the mid-eighties. DICK DONNER (LETHAL WEAPON) directed episodic television for years, you can occasionally still find some of his Gilligan's Island episodes airing. If you are talented and you persist you will make it. "A diamond is just a piece of coal that did it's job for a long time."

Have you ever written a screenplay and was it any good?

Yes, I have tried to write a screenplay, and my partner and I fought about everything. The art of screenwriting is really an art. I have just been asked to do a re-write, I have not yet read the script so I don't know if I will or not, but may aspirations are to make other writers famous, not myself , I would prefer to continue to manage careers and produce.

Thanks!
Kathryn Knowlton
President
818-754-4779

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