Screenwriting: Interview with Richard Krevolin Author of "Screenwriting from the Soul"
March 11th, 2004
By: Christopher Wehner
Richard Krevolin is a playwright, screenwriter, poet, and professor. A graduate of Yale University, Richard went on to earn a Masters Degree in Screenwriting at UCLAs School of Cinema-Television, and a Master's of Professional Writing in Playwriting & Fiction from USC.
Richard, what was the inspiration for your book "Screenwriting from the Soul; Letters to an Aspiring Screenwriter"?
I was doing a lecture at Selling To Hollywood in Glendale two years ago and the woman who introduced me, Paula Munier Lee, happened to work as an editor at Prima Publishing. She told me she loved my lecture and asked if I'd ever considered writing a book. I shrugged, grunted, went home and started writing. I had lecture notes from years of teaching at USC and couldn't figure out how to put them together until I looked at my shelf and saw my favorite writing book, Rilke's "Letter's to A Young Poet". And so I began, and once I started writing the book in letter form, it just poured out of me and was great fun to write. In the end, Prima didn't publish it, but I was fortunate to find an editor, Jim Parish, and a publishing house, Renaissance books, that had the vision to try a different kind of screenwriting book.
Your writing style has a flare of humor, and this is refreshing for screenwriting books, does that reflect your personality?
I guess I'm a frustrated stand-up comedian. Basically, I love comedy and try to infuse all my lectures and classes with a light, jocular air that lends itself to creativity and open exchange of ideas. You see, I've bought practically every screenwriting book and they all have something important to offer, but I think they all take themselves a little too seriously. Writing movies is a pretty whacked-out thing to do for a living and this business is definitely very bizarre, so it was my goal to capture that feeling in my book and also offer something that would read more like a novel with characters. In essence, I didn't want to give my students an excuse not to read it. So, my book tricks them into reading by incorporating a story and then by the end, they realize they may have learned a few things.
Tell us about yourself. Why writing? How did you get to where you are now?
I was born in New Haven, CT and went to Yale where I studied History. My dad is a lawyer in New Haven and he went to Yale and Yale Law School and I was considering following in his footsteps. My senior year, though, I took a playwriting class and I got bit. BIG TIME! I knew I had to try writing as a career and so, I applied to film schools, got in to USC and UCLA and moved out to L.A. I've been here for eleven years now, writing, writing, writing... What is your screenwriting background? I attended UCLA Film school where I worked with some great teachers, Cynthia Whitcomb, Hal Ackerman, Richard Walter, Arnold Margolin, Sterling Silliphant, Edit Villareal, etc. and received an MFA. I also went to USC Master's of Professional Writing Program where I received a degree in Playwriting and Fiction and worked with John Rechy, James Ragan, Hubert Selby, etc. and learned a great deal. I've been writing movies ever since and have had a series of my scripts optioned, but unfortunately, I have yet to see any of them made. I hope this will change soon and my agent at ICM assures me that it will. We'll see. I think the frustration of being a screenwriter but not seeing any of my films on the screen was one of the key factors in the writing of my book.
What challenges you as a writer?
Getting up... Getting to the computer... Not answering email, and writing instead... I've been spending my summer arranging my book tour and not getting as much writing done as I would like and I think this is the greatest challenge we all face. FINDING THE TIME TO WORK! Also, trying not to second-guess myself. It's so tough when everyone is always telling you what to do and you are always trying to please them all.
Why do writers write, I mean if we are near the bottom of the food chain, why is it worth it?
I can't sing...
What advice can you give writers?
My motto is the Three P's. Patience, perseverance, and persistence... Keep writing. And switch genres. If your movie ain't selling, try writing it as a novel or stageplay.
What mistakes do you feel writers make most often?
I think we all submit our work to early and only realize it wasn't ready until it's too late. Also, I think we are also juggling the problem of critiques. In other words, how can we maintain the integrity of the piece while still allowing for growth and story development?
How can your book help the struggling writer?
It is really written for them. I, myself, have been struggling for the past eleven years here in Hollywood and the book emerged out of that struggle. It's a realistic book that still offers hope. Since my movies haven't been made yet, I have had to find a way to justify my existence, to explain what the hell I have been doing for the past 11 years and the book provides the answers. In essence, it proves that the act of writing is significant in and of itself. It shows that even if none of my films ever get made, if I have been open to my growth as an artist, then writing screenplays can help make me a better and happier person. It justifies the act of aspiring...
When should a writer give up? Is there a time when we need to realize that maybe writing is not our cup of tea?
There is nothing more pathetic than that waiter at Johnny Rocket's who is fifty-seven and still trying to make it as an actor after forty years. But, there is also something courageous in this stubborn refusal to take no for an answer. I've always believed that as a teacher my role is to inspire and stimulate growth, not deter. People grow and develop as artists in their own time and it would be presumptuous of anyone to judge what another should do with their lives, especially if that person is getting joy out of their artistic pursuit.
Who are your favorite screenwriters today?
I like Scott Rosenberg's monologues. I love this new small movie out right now called SAFE MEN, that was written and directed by John Hamburg. I've always been a big Preston Sturges fan. I basically love seeing movies where the writer clearly still cares about language.
What makes good screenwriting?
When you can tell the writer cares. When language is still important. When the formulas are all toyed with to the point that unexpected things happen. When audiences are treated like intelligent adults and their emotions are touched. Touch me and I'll care... And in the end, it is a visceral not a cerebral medium, so it is about heart and soul, not mind...
What's next for you?
Well, I have a bunch of screenplays out there, and I'm too superstitious to talk about them, but there are a few things that are definite. My book is coming out in Sept. I will be on book tour in Dallas, OKC, Las Vegas, Austin, San Diego, L.A., NY., Boston, New Haven, Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco this fall. My book is also available through my website At http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~krevolin, and anyone can find me there or at email@example.com. Also, I have a new play called "King Levine" which is being directed by Joe Bologna and starring Sammy Shore which is being produced this Winter in L.A. at the Tiffany Theater. And I'm looking forward to teaching at USC this fall.
Thank you for the interview, any closing thoughts?
Thank you and don't forget the three P's. Patience, perseverance and persistence, that is all...
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