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Kevin Williamson failed. But at least he failed to the tune of $103 million at the box office when his script Scream became his first screenwriting credit in 1996. And that launched a career for the New Bern, North Carolina native who studied film and theater at East Carolina University. A career that includes being the creator of the Tv show Dawson’s Creek.

But once upon a time after acting gigs in New York didn’t pan out he moved to L.A. and took a screenwriting class at UCLA extension and began writing his first script. That script got optioned and paid enough to quit his day job. But the film never got made and he found himself unemployed and low on cash. He found inspiration for a new script in one of his favorite films, Halloween, and set out to to write a scary movie (which happened to be the original title). 

“I wanted to have a kick-ass opening, because I wanted to write one of the scariest movies ever. And then I thought, ‘Well, you know what? I may not be able to do that, but I may be able to write one scary scene.’ So I set out to write the opening telephone scene with the Drew Barrymore character. I knew that if I could capture just the terror of that situation—in an empty house with windows, a girl on the phone—right away you have the necessary ingredients. And then when I added the horror movie quiz game game on top of it, that brought the fun into it….But it’s a simple three act structure. The lead character is in peril. At the end of act one, she meets her attacker, who is trying to kill her; she barley escapes with her life, and then you’re thrust into the second act. It’s by-the-book, really. The only thing I did differently was I disclosed the conventions of the horror genre while doing it, and I let the breaking of the rules tell the story.”
                                                   Kevin Williamson
                                                   Creative Screenwriting magazine 
                                                   An Interview with: Kevin Williamson
                                                   by Laura Schiff 

So Williamson failed to write the scariest movie ever, but I think he wrote the funniest scary movie ever. By the way, that little twist Williamson gave the horror genre is called originality. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Just tweak it a little and make it yours. Or as Blake Snyder likes to say that what Hollywood is looking for is — “The same thing, only different.”

 

Scott W. Smith

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