This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
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Next up: an interview with Mary Krell-Oishi, author of A Day at the Office, Going to the Top and Replanting
Mary Krell-Oishi spent the first part of her life at Sunny Hills High School as theater teacher in Orange County, CA. Winning multiple teaching awards, including Fullerton Teacher of the Year and Orange County Theater Teacher of the Year, she retired from teaching in 2010 to embark on her new career as a screenwriter.
In that time she went on to win and place with many writing awards. Industry Insider, Page Awards, Blue Cat Screenplay, Austin Film Festival, Final Draft Big Break, Action on Film Festival, Table Read Sundance, and the Industry Insider contest for both Film and Television.
Her most recent achievement in screenwriting occurred in 2014. The screenplay, THE ART OF SILENCE, based on the true story of Marcel Marceau’s time as a teenager in the French Resistance during WWII, was named as a TOP FIFTY placer in the prestigious ACADEMY NICHOLL SCREENWRITING FELLOWSHIP. This is quite an accomplishment given that over 7,600 screenplays are entered in this highly respected screenwriting event.
Ms. Krell-Oishi is featured as one of the TOP FIFTY INDY SCREENWRITERS in a book that will be published summer 2015.
Three of her award winning shorts have been produced. A DAY AT THE OFFICE, GOING TO THE TOP and REPLANTING are placing in various festivals throughout the country.
What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced?
The first screenplay I wrote that was produced was A DAY AT THE OFFICE. My writers group and I came up with a logline that we would all tackle in our own voices, and our parameters were that it could not be more than four pages and one location, and we had two weeks to bring in the finished product. It was a fun little self-imposed assignment, and lo and behold, I had a screenplay. Again, just for fun, I entered it in a couple of contests and it won some awards, not the least of which was Best Comedy with Action on Film!
- Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
It was picked up by a small production company that my son’s best friend owns, and through crowdfunding, we raised the money and filmed it in one day. This was my very first experience and it was like nothing I’d ever been part of in my life. I have been a stage director since college and I figured, “well, this can’t be that much different.” Whoa, was I wrong! What an intense, hot and sometimes tedious process. And for the director and the producer, just so much work. Not like the stage where you can stand back and see what the audience will see. Film is tons of different takes and angles. You don’t really know what the end product will be until after editing. Very strange for this director of live theater.
- Tell me a little bit about the experience of having the project come to completion.
Seeing my words come from truly talented actors was very exciting. Watching the filming was one thing, but seeing it on the screen was completely different. It was so compelling to me to see what the director and editor can do with the written word.
- What was the hardest obstacle to overcome in achieving that first project?
The hardest obstacle for me was to do what I was supposed to do…be the writer and let the director do his job. I learned, and this was incredibly hard, to step back and let the work happen. I am a control freak by nature with my work, and as a theater director, everything is my decision. Having to let go and let someone else take the reins was difficult but also rewarding. By doing so, I was able to watch the actors try new things that I never would have thought of and being, many times, happily surprised. It was fun to see the words and the characters LIVE.
- What have you learned about the industry when it comes to being a writer?
I have learned so much. We all hear all the time about how awful the business is and how it is filled with snakes. Yes, there are those. But, fortunately, my positive experiences far outweigh the negative. With three shorts filmed, each a completely different experience except for the fact that each production company was joyous, open and wonderful. My short, GOING TO THE TOP, was filmed in Michigan and flying there from California was not to be. But the director kept me very much in the loop. A DAY AT THE OFFICE and REPLANTING, were both filmed in SoCal, so I was able to be on set for the whole film experience.
A great thing I learned, and this came as a complete surprise to me, is that I have NO interest in directing. None. It is such hard work and you have to balance so much and the stress is so intense for these people. I came to admire them so much and learned so much. Happily I learned the best lesson. I want to write. Not direct. Not produce. I want to write. I want to be on set to watch the magic happen. And maybe be an extra just for fun. J
- What are you working on now?
Currently I am working on two levels. One, my representation has gotten me some incredible meetings so I am trying to get something picked up. Writing-wise I am working on a new TV pilot I’ve been toying with in my head for a while. Also, I was recently brought on to the new Sam Cooke bio-pic which is slated for production in 2016.
- What is your favorite movie or TV series?
My favorite movies and TV series change all the time. I’m a fickle sort. But currently, my favorite film is ABOUT TIME. I will watch it every single time it comes on and I cry with each showing. A beautiful film.
TV series are primarily sitcoms. Great little jolts of funny stuff that cleanse the palate of all the daily trials and tribulations. BIG BANG THEORY, VEEP and SILICON VALLEY are my current top three. Smart, fast and funny. And their characters are always put in the most horrific situations through their own missteps. Yet, you still love them. Smart writing!
- Where do you think the movie and television industry is heading? What do you think its future is?
It is my firm belief that the industry is going through a huge paradigm change. Traditional TV has already changed. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. are all creating original content. The lock the “big three” networks used to have is a thing of the past. Also, I think that films will follow this as well. Within the next couple years I think a film like STAR TREK will not only have a regular premier and theatrical run, but I think that they will be Pay-Per-View events. The film will open and you will be able to buy that premier event and stream it at home. Pay $100.00, invite your friends, get all dressed up (or not) and make an event of it.
The times, they are a’changing. I’m excited for it all!
- What parting advice do you have for writers?
Quit making excuses and write! And that’s not advice for other writers, it is something I have to remind myself of every single day. It’s quiet and solitary thing to write. It’s easy to be distracted, to decide to put it off till later, to flip on the TV and veg out. No one is watching, so why not? But you can’t allow yourself to falter. Write. Just sit down and do it. In fact, stop reading this and get to writing!!
- What do you do when you’re not writing? What do you do to get away from the industry?
I get all homey. I will bake cookies with my granddaughter or knit stuff. I love hanging out with my friends and family, none of whom are involved in this industry. They like hearing about my adventures, but then we talk about all kinds of fun stuff and have fun adventures. Zipline, Vegas, lunch and a movie. Good times!
- Tell us something about yourself that many people may not know.
Not everyone knows this, but I also ride my own motorcycle with my husband and we will take day trips. Don’t get too excited. He rides a real bike, a Goldwing. I ride my beautiful three wheel Can Am Spyder. But I look damn cool!
Another thing, but most people know this about me. I am so lucky to be married to a man who gives me 100 percent support as I go through this new adventure. He’s also learned to read a screenplay pretty well, too!
Stuart Creque, http://ow.ly/O1Ubu
P.J. McIlvaine, http://ow.ly/NIE74
Ken Lemm http://ow.ly/NoT9c
Jane Rosemont http://ow.ly/N6epJ
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