We're pleased to be launching a series of guest posts by movers and shakers in the independent film industry. The team at speropictures recently interviewed their dynamic writing duo, Denise Churchill and Karen Aldridge. Denise and Karen are the writing team behind "Kitty's 9 Lives", a semi-romantic comedy short film now currently crowdfunding via Kickstarter.
speropictures: "We first came across the Kitty’s 9 Lives script in a film class at Harris Studios. Denise Churchill pitched the idea to us, and we instantly fell in love with it and knew we could do something special with it. Denise Churchill and her cowriter, Karen Aldridge quickly got to work, and a few months later, with commitaphobe Kitty’s story complete. We began putting our cast and crew together. We just recently finished production on Rough Neighborhood, a microshort written by Denise and Karen and they are currently writing our first feature, a Western comedy, scheduled to film next year. Grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair and join us as we introduce you to our writers, Denise Churchill and Karen Aldridge."
speropictures: How long have you been writing screenplays?
Karen: Though I’d dabbled in screenwriting for a while, it was 2010 when Denise asked me to write a screenplay with her. Since we were in a moving car at the time, it was say yes or jump (and I admit, part of this lone writer wanted to jump). But as soon I started writing with Denise, screenwriting became serious for me, and now writing without her would just be lonely.
Denise: I started writing screenplays in 2001 when I realized the novel I was working on really should be adapted as a movie. The strong visuals just wouldn’t leave me be. I abandoned the novel and a screenwriter was born. Asking Karen to cowrite with me was a bit like asking the alpha wolf to step aside and share her throne. You’d think I had asked her to give up her first-born child, because writing really is one of her “babies.” But that’s what I love about Karen; she cares about the work.
speropictures: How does co-writing enhance the stories you create?
Karen: Writing with a partner gives us the ability to approach a story from a variety of imaginative angles. We never get stuck on a concept for long because like in a relay race where one runner hands the baton off to another, one of us is always there to grab the idea and run with it. Where my imagination tends to fall flat, Denise is our idea guru and can always think us out of any corner. We truly keep each other’s minds stimulated, and when we are on a project, with two of us writing, we can pump out the initial story really fast. Revisions *cough* *cough* take a bit longer. We also just have a lot of fun, and a fun work environment seems to naturally feed our ideas for rich, vivid stories.
Denise: The old adage “two heads are better than one” is really true. Especially with screenwriting. We’ve been writing a lot of comedy scripts lately. Aside from making each other laugh a lot, because we can get pretty kooky during our writing sessions, we find that we often shore up each other’s weaknesses. Karen’s official title is the dialogue queen, which is my biggest weakness. And don’t even try to slip in anything close to a cliché. She’ll full on slap you silly. And I can say from experience it stings more than a little. A few times she left a mark. The biggest benefit of having a writing partner is when we’re stumped on a scene we can hand it off to the other person and tell them to fix the sucker. That’s a nice perk!
speropictures: How did you come up with the idea for Kitty’s 9 Lives?
Karen: Kitty was Denise’s brainchild. She just called me up and said, “We’re starting Kitty’s 9 Lives tomorrow. Clear your schedule!” I’ve learned over the years Denise’s wrath is not something to play with, so with trembling fingers, I jumped right in and started writing.
Denise: The premise came to me about six years ago. I’ve had it in the hopper to write as a feature. I was a little like Kitty, maybe a lot like her to be honest. So I could relate to her reluctance to jump into relationships. Having an aversion to risk along with a wild imagination, and that’s how Kitty was born. When Matt and Joy (speropictures) asked me to write a short script for them, Karen and I knew it was time to bring Kitty to life. She was really just a broad composite until we breathed life into her.
speropictures: What movies inspired you?
Karen: Raising Arizona would have to top my list. The Coen brothers have a style that can’t be replicated, but every time I see a Coen brothers’ flick, I feel like I need to sit down and attempt to write something great. I love simple stories with complex, tortured characters functioning under awkward circumstances: Moonstruck, Stranger Than Fiction, Ruby Sparks, Stuck in Love. Denise and I know if we can torture our characters and put them in awkward circumstances, and do it in a fresh way, we can take it outside of the realm of the typical comedy flick. I also admit to a guilty ‘80s pleasure: John Hughes movies. Light, whimsical fun sharply contrasted with the tortured teen mentality. It’s that distinct contrast that inspires me…well, that, and Duckie will forever be my ultimate teen crush.
Denise: As writers, we also look to other writers’ body of work. The Ephron sisters, all their work is inspiring. The Coen brothers have consistently produced high-concept art. We look to those successful writers out there, knowing they all started with two-sentence ideas that grew into classic movies with memorable one-liners.
speropictures: How did you two meet?
Karen: We met in Fiji. We’d both signed up to spend a week with the Sawau tribe competing as firewalkers. Denise, or as the natives called her “IronFoot,” was born to firewalk. The natives called me “KindlingFoot,” and I was quickly voted out of the tribe. Wait…no, the firewalkers are in Kitty’s 9 Lives. As a writer it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. Actually, I met Denise when she joined our writers’ organization in Middle Tennessee, Living Writers Collective. She joined on a great night—it was our annual firewriters’ competition (you think it’s hard to walk on hot coals…). No, wait…how did we meet, Denise?
Denise: As you can guess, fiction and reality gets a little blurred for us. But if you really want to know the truth, we met on Craigslist when Karen advertised as a published writer with cheap “plots” for sale. It wasn’t until I paid for said “plot” that she informed me it was a grave site in the local cemetery. She wouldn’t refund my money, so in lieu of jail, she agreed to help me write a screenplay. Thanks to Karen, after that project I had two plots (story and burial)! It was an important lesson on context that worked out well in the end. See Karen if you need a cheap plot. I think she may have a few extras lying around.
speropictures: How do you develop characters?
Karen: I’ll let Denise take this one. She explains it really well.
Denise: We divvy up our characters and develop them separately. Then we get together to fine tune them and put the final touches on their development. Our characters are composites of real and imagined people who are remarkable to us. By the time we begin writing the script, they are benevolent dictators living in our heads, walking around like they own the space between our ears and telling us what they want. We explore every aspect of their existence, recording much more information than makes it into the script.
We can’t wing it with a writing partner; we both have to be on the same page. We record their biographical history, education status, professional life, psychological makeup, negative and positive traits, appearance, mannerisms, dialogue style…and more. By doing this, you’ve basically given them their own fingerprint. We can’t know too much about our characters before we write pages. This is how we inoculate them from becoming one-dimensional clichés and boring stereotypes. We want them to be memorable and iconic. That is our ultimate goal.
speropictures: Why should people care if this project is made?
Karen: We are a screenwriting team that focuses on writing distinct and vivid comedy, emotion, drama (whatever the scene calls for), and we are writing for an amazing production team that not only complements our vision but takes it to the next level with their original style of filmmaking. We don’t write stories around ways to shock our viewers—we write stories around characters that viewers can lose themselves in, worlds they feel they’ve been transported to, and conflicts that keep them guessing. And we try to make them laugh a whole lot along the way. Comedy, and stories in general, doesn’t have to be stale, crude, recycled, or dumbed down; writers just have to step up, take a risk, and look for new ways to entertain people. We give our viewers credit. We know they want more in their comedy and their movies, and Kitty’s 9 Lives is a glimpse of how we plan to give it to them.
Denise: It’s a fun story that we can all relate to on some level. And who doesn’t love a good comedy? Karen and I want to keep giving our audiences great, feel-good stories that will make them laugh. When we write stories like Kitty’s 9 Lives, we give it our all. We want to elevate the story for the sake of you, our audience. It’s all about you. And we plan to keep writing films that you want to see!
speropictures: What other projects do you have in the works?
Karen: We are currently writing a Western comedy feature on assignment from speropictures that will be going into production next year. We have many screenplays, from features to microshorts, completed or in development, and information on many of them can be viewed on our Will Write for Popcorn website (www.willwriteforpopcorn.com). I’m also painting my bathroom UT orange, and creating a haunted house diorama out of the decomposing bugs in my garage.…Oh, you meant just writing projects?
Denise: Thankfully, our project board is loaded. We’re basically cave dwellers right now—hunched over our keyboards pumping out material. You can always spot the writer in the crowd. We’re the ones with pasty vampire skin because we rarely see sunlight. It’s not glamorous. I got my first spray-on tan this year so people would stop their attempts at repelling me with garlic.
speropictures: List four things about your screenwriting team that should make people want to support the Kitty’s 9 Lives Kickstarter campaign.
Karen & Denise:
- We have a never ending supply of screenplays in our arsenal, so there will be plenty more to see if you like Kitty (and we think you will).
- We believe our stories will make you think bigger. Our goal is to teach you a little something new about yourself and others in everything we write.
- We believe our stories will make you laugh harder. Our goal is to put you on a roller coaster of original, cutting edge comedy.
- We’ve partnered with speropictures because of their long-term vision to create quality films centered around stories that resonate with today’s audience, and this Kickstarter campaign will provide the necessary resources to support this vision.
speropictures: Please state why this project/film is important to you.
Karen: We love telling stories, and we love writing screenplays, and this is our inaugural project—the one we’ve toiled over and perfected so we can show our audience what we are capable of. Just having it filmed is a dream come true for us, but we know the potential for its success with speropictures. Its success means many more of our screenplays will be produced in the future. I love this Confucius quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Denise and I love writing screenplays.
Denise: As a writer, having our first film produced means everything to me. How lucky am I to have Karen as a writing partner and a production company of speropictures’ caliber producing our work? It’s life’s trifecta. Find your calling. Work with those who have like passions. Help each other’s dreams come true. Kitty’s 9 Lives is the first of many dreams coming true for all of us!
Visit Denise and Karen at www.willwriteforpopcorn.com to check out a list of their screenwriting projects and read more about them.
Make sure you check out www.speropictures.com to keep up with the latest news about Kitty's 9 Lives and other up-coming projects.
Want to help support Kitty's 9 Lives and make it a reality? You can contribute to the Kickstarter HERE.