“Usually it’s about hiding whatever you wrote. The first time through people tend to tell each other what the scene is about, and in life we don’t really talk that way. We talk around things, at things, and about things, without ever overtly stating them. Life has a subtext. Most first drafts don’t.”
An interview with screenwriter and TV writer Kyle Killen:
You’ve spoken before about your approach to pilots. You said that the pilot of “Lone Star” would become clear to viewers in the final moments, but you wanted the pilot for “Awake” to have everything the viewer needed presented in the first ten minutes. How has that trajectory played out with “Influence”?
In network, I think it’s probably pretty important for people not to know everything, but if they understand what kind of show they’re watching before the first commercial break, then you’re probably [better off]. The thing is, all your rope is shorter in network. You’re not gonna get a season, you’re gonna get a certain number of episodes before you’ll get canceled. I would watch Twitter when the shows would premiere, and it’d be like “I watched ‘Lone Star’ for like 30 seconds, I wasn’t really feeling it, so I flipped over to ‘The Event.’” So I get 30 seconds?
You just have to know that people are investing in it differently. A lot of times with a cable show, they’ve made a decision to watch the show, not to sample the pilot briefly but to say, “I’m in for this until something happens that makes me decide I hate it.” People approach network TV differently. So yes, I’m still of the mind that the sooner you can communicate to people what it will be like to watch this show, the better off you are.
I have been following the career of Kyle Killen almost since the start of this blog, introduced to his writing with his original screenplay “The Beaver” which topped the 2008 Black List. Therefore I was quite pleased when Kyle agreed to do a GITS Q&A back in May of last year. Some background on Kyle:
Kyle Killen began as a fiction writer, winning the John Steinbeck Award For The Short Story in 2005 and going on to have his work featured in numerous publications including Salon.com, McSweeney’s, and The Mid-American Review.
His script, The Beaver landed on top of “The Black List”, a compilation of the years best liked screenplays and went on to become a Jodie Foster/Mel Gibson feature film. Previously, his series, Lone Star was named the best new series on television by the likes of USA Today, NPR, and Variety.
He is currently working on his new series, “Awake” for NBC. He lives in Austin, TX.
Another reminder that the new NBC 1-hour drama “Awake” debuts tonight at 10PM Eastern / Pacific. Here is a THR feature on series creator Kyle Killen. An excerpt:
Raised in a small town outside Dallas by a graphic artist mother and a stock broker-turned-photographer father, a young Killen fancied himself a movie junkie. He was as enthralled by such blockbusters as Back to the Future as he was by small-budget films like Before Sunrise. That his passion could double as a career only became apparent when Killen discovered USC’s film school. But after a series of Hollywood internships at such companies as Disney and Douglas Wick‘s Red Wagon — along with an overnight shift pulling newswire tape at a stock brokerage to pay the bills — Killen soured on Los Angeles and packed up his car.
“It was really hard to want to be a writer in Los Angeles, because every time you opened your laptop anywhere you were aware that every other laptop was potentially generating the world’s most brilliant screenplay,” he says. “You were face to face with your competition in a way that in Texas, or anywhere else, I was the only idiot writing a screenplay, so I just had to beat myself.”
On the advice of a professor, who told him, “Writing is like a heroin addiction — if you can quit, you totally should,” Killen tried to get out. He dabbled in everything from tech support to constructing prison laundry rooms, but with each new gig he’d find a way to write about it, a clear sign quitting wasn’t an option.
An early screenplay titled Taste of a Tuesday, about a severe sleepwalker who is anti-social by day and gifted by night, got him representation; trips to the major agencies disguised as a courier got the script read. (His reps at WME and Anonymous Content are still hopeful the film will get made. In addition to the buddy comedy Scenic Route, starring Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, other Killen films in the works include an untitled Daredevil reboot.) A well-received but ultimately passed-over TV pitch about a brilliant 16-year-old college student came next, but it was The Beaver script that in 2008 landed Killen on the industry’s coveted Black List, the annual collection of the best unproduced screenplays.
Here is an interview with Killen and “Awake” co-executive producer Howard Gordon (“24,” “Homeland”).
NBC’s “Awake” (premiering Thurs., Mar. 1, 10 p.m. EST) is the most ambitious new drama on any network. Even with a complex premise to set up, the pilot is a compelling, well-acted hour of television and HuffPost TV has the exclusive sneak peek at the show’s first seven minutes (and 55 seconds).
Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) is in a tragic car accident with his wife and son that fractures his life into two competing realities. In one, his wife is dead and he has to learn how to be a single father to his teenage son, Rex (Dylan Minnette); when he “wakes up” in what appears to be another reality, his son is dead and he and his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) are dealing with the aftermath.
Hit the link to catch the first nearly 8 minutes of the pilot episode.
The pilot script by Kyle Killen [@killen8] is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. The premise sounds like a fascinating way to bring new life to the rather stale arena of police procedurals.
Watch the video and see for yourself. And mark your calendars:
NBC has announced the premiere date for midseason entry Awake.
The dual reality drama starring Jason Isaacs will launch on Thursday, March 1 at 10 p.m., taking over for struggling series The Firm, it was announced Friday by Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment.
Be forewarned. I will be promoting “Awake” over the next month as it’s one of a handful of network pilots I’ve read in the few years that I really liked. In fact I’ve been following the progress of the series since Kyle Killen sold the pilot script he penned [originally titled "REM"], then picked up for series.
Thursdays at 10PM on NBC starting March 1. A tough time slot, so the series has a challenge on its hands. If you’re looking for entertaining TV with a smart premise and compelling characters, you should give “Awake” a shot.
For more of the Hollywood Reporter article, go here.
Today’s interview is for all you interested in TV writing. It is a roundtable discussion with: Dan Harmon (Community creator’s return engagement!); Kyle Killen (creator, Lone Star; co-creator Awake); Chris McKenna (Community; American Dad); Charles Murray (Castle; V; Criminal Minds). Recorded October 16, 2011. Presented by Nerdist Writers. You can access the podcast here.