Sticking with my recent theme of featuring independent spirits in the world of entertainment, this week I welcome an aspiring screenwriter by the name of Kris Simonian. I had the pleasure of taking a few Writing classes with him in college and now he’s out in Los Angeles trying to live the dream. While he understands the enormous amount of competition in the industry, he still pushes on. He’s a tremendously talented writer and everything I’ve read of his, from short stories to scripts, have been top notch. Don’t forget the name of Kris Simonian because I predict one day you’ll be saying, “I remember when…” when talking about one of the great new shows on television.
He’s currently working on a television pilot about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid called Hole in the Wall. He, along with his director Ben Ross, are currently working with crowdfunding site Mobcaster to get the pilot funded. If you care about independent film, then consider chipping in a few bucks (or at least spreading the word).
1) Be honest, what’s the life of an aspiring screenwriter living in LA really like?
The life of an aspiring screenwriter in Los Angeles is a lot like being a waiter…namely because to make ends meet, you’re going to spend most of your time waiting tables. Or being a valet. Or working as a janitor. Something to occupy your daylight hours because this is a competitive town and writing jobs are hard to come by. I’d say, of the six million or so people in LA, about five and a half are aspiring writers, actors, directors or producers. The remaining five hundred thousand settle into porn (San Fernando Valley represent!). Seriously, walk into any Starbucks downtown and you should be able to count it as experience in a writer’s room. Open laptops as far as the eye can see and everyone in there slurping lattes has a story to tell. It can be distressing – especially if your Barista has a better take on a story you’re currently developing.
In a short amount of time I’ve experienced both highs and lows this industry has to offer. I’ve sharpened my skills under the wing of an Emmy award winning writer. I’ve brought a script out to pitch to different production companies (note to all aspiring writers: take public speaking and learn to feel comfortable in a room. I am not and it makes everything so. Much. Harder.). I’ve both hired and subsequently fired a manger. It’s been difficult and maddening at times but I’ve loved nearly every minute of it.
Plus I’ve gotten really great at waiting tables.
2) To this date, what are you most proud of?
In regards to the scripts I’ve written, that’s a tricky question. As you know, every writer goes through cycles where they love their piece one minute and hate it the next. It’s dumb but I feel we all do it – comes with the territory. There are three scripts that I’ve written that I have managed to escape this cycle of love/hate: “Straw Poll”, “Turncoat” and, my most recent, “Preach”. I won’t bore everyone with the synopsizes (synopsi?) here but if they were so inclined, they can check out my website to read up on them…and also boost my visitor numbers some. (www.krissimonian.com)
If it’s what I’m most proud of in life, I’d say it’s my marriage. My wife has been both a supporting supporter and a harsh critic and helped me become a better writer and person. Also, she’ll probably read this, so I better give her a solid shout out…especially this close to Valentine’s Day.
3) Tell me a little about Ghouls and your new web series. What kind of freedom comes with working on a web series?
“Ghouls” is a six part web-series about five classic movie monsters who have decided to mount a film comeback but find that modern horror movies and fans have passed them by. They struggle to find relevancy in a changing world. We had a blast filming it – we shot everything in three long days at limited locations – and worked with some top notch actors and crew members. It was a special experience.
Like most great ideas, Ghouls came to life when myself and co-creator Ben Ross were killing time. We were driving to Comic-Con in San Diego and happened to pass a sign that read “Batiquitos Lagoon” and one of us started riffing about how funny it’d be if The Creature from the Black Lagoon ran this classy resort at Batiquitos Lagoon and was constantly crowing about his resort’s safety record when compared to any other tourist destination. We cracked ourselves up for the remainder of the trip and when we got home we started writing up the series. In the true spirit of making anything on a low budget, we actually couldn’t afford to include The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the series but, like all monsters, he’s still close to our hearts. If anyone wants to check them out (gratuitous plug alert) you can watch them at: http://blip.tv/ghouls
Web-series are strange beasts. They are easy to make – just Google “web-series” and wade through page after page of results – but very few are actually good. I’m not saying we reached the pinnacle of the medium or anything, but I think “Ghouls” is a cut above most web-series I’ve seen. With anything creative results may vary from person to person, but if nothing else I know the look and sound of “Ghouls” is more professional than most shows.
As for the freedom of the medium, the web is great because you can literally do anything, throw it online and hope it finds an audience and I think that’s great. But there is a difference between taking the cinnamon challenge and creating an engaging show with a story to tell. I will say this though, as great as the web is and as fun as web-series can be, I think most people working on one would much rather be doing TV or film instead. In my opinion, the web is an incredible stepping stone where you can really hone your craft but I don’t know if it’s an ultimate end game for most people. I’m glad I did it and I would do it again but my attention for now is pushing into television.
Which dovetails perfectly into my new project. Ben and I are working on an independent TV pilot entitled “Hole-in-the-Wall: The Legend of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid”. We were approached by Mobcaster, a crowd-sourcing webpage that specializes in independent TV. They had seen “Ghouls”, liked it, and asked if we had any potential ideas for a TV pilot. Naturally we did and jumped at the chance to do it. It was kind of amazing because trying to get someone in the TV business to say “yes” to anything is like trying to get Republicans and Democrats to see eye to eye on anything. It’s just not going to happen. In the traditional TV world, executives climb the company ladder by not going out on a limb for potential new shows – it’s why you always see cop, lawyer, and doctor shows continually on the air. If it worked in the past, it’ll work again.
But the Mobcaster guys were really cool with everything. We said, “We wanna do a western about two infamous outlaws” and all they said was, “Sounds great. We’ll help make that happen” and left us to our own devices. It’s refreshing. But this is crowd-sourcing, so we need help from the public to make this thing happen. It’s an “all or nothing” deal – we raise the cash or we don’t get to make it. So (another gratuitous plug alert), if you want to see a western staring two classic outlaws, visit our site and drop a buck or two: http://mobcaster.com/fundraise/hole-in-the-wall/pilot
4) If you could choose any director to direct one of your scripts, who would it be and why?
I’ve actually been working on this. Deep in my underground lab, I have slowly been cobbling together spare parts from various machines to build the perfect robot director. They’ll have the perfectionist zeal of Kubrick, the slick styling of Spielberg and the eyebrows of Martin Scorsese and we’ll make hit after hit until either I die or its batteries die out. Seriously though, any one of those guys (even the corpse of Stanley Kubrick), David Fincher, the Coen Brothers and/or Paul Thomas Anderson. The why is as simple as I love their work. Whenever they release a new movie, it instantly becomes a must see for me. Even if they do miss on a film, it’ll never be boring or ugly. Plus, if they’re making a movie of mine, I can assume things are looking up for me professionally and that’s not too shabby.
5) What’s next for you?
I’m constantly writing. I just finished a one hour spec pilot entitled “Preach” about a family of “prosperity preachers” – guys like Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn – and I’ve been bombing every management and production company with query letters in the hopes I get a bite. Ben and I are also plugging away on the script for “Hole-in-theWall” and will finish it up by the end of the month. Also, I just picked up a few other shifts at TGIFriday’s, so that’s a boom too.