Writing from within
By Kavishna Wijesinghe
Screenwriter Kim Krizan who penned the script for Richard Linklater’s 1994 romance drama Before Sunrise spoke to Junkyard Theory about her career and creative process.
Having dabbled in acting, she explained that a friend told her that there was a casting call for a student film. Hesitant at first, she later realised it was Linklater’s film Slacker. She recalled that it was then she was introduced to him and she was at the time working on her master’s thesis, which Linklater requested to read. Afterwards, she got a call from him asking whether she would like to write a screenplay with him. Having had no prior experience, she stated that she was unsure but dove right in and from there on, they came up with the story for Before Sunrise.
Travel and inspiration
Kim revealed that she travels a lot and her experience in public transport such as buses and trains meeting and talking to strangers was the basis for the premise in Before Sunrise. She added that she wrote her own experiences into Celine’s character.
When questioned about her process of writing, Kim stated that initially it was mostly an intuitive task but then as she went on, she learned more tips and tricks – essentially the technical knowledge in screenwriting. She also believes that humans intuitively understand storytelling, having grown up with all forms of story woven with culture and media. She compared storytelling as a character trying to achieve something, in essence someone trying to solve problems. And in the end, they hopefully achieve their goal and the story or film ends with a false ending.
Kim’s online course
Having taught classes at UCLA, Kim now has her own course on Patreon. She believes that everyone can be creative and also believes in stream of consciousness writing. She added that she gets her students to open up through various tricks such as writing in a journal that no one else is allowed to see. Kim stated that she believes writer’s block, which is a normal thing, comes from the fear of being judged. While she added that worrying what people think can have its social benefits, it hinders creativity. For her, writing is a balance of the two brain hemispheres and unplugging creativity is a prime focus in her creative writing classes.
Pandemic and writing
When questioned about the effect of the pandemic on her as a writer, Kim revealed that she spent more time going inside her own mind. For her, going outside, interacting with people and having social experiences would stimulate her writing and during the pandemic, that was a difficult task but it allowed for more gestation of previous experiences. Kim added that writing is also a process of getting to know oneself. Although one may not initially know where to take a story, once you put pen to paper, it sometimes takes on a life of its own and evolves with time. Kim’s writing style involves brainstorming via pen and paper as opposed to typing on a computer. As she explained, her ideation process involves a lot of books and paper spread out all over.
A vicious cycle
Additionally, Kim spoke about the vicious cycle of getting caught in a perfection trap. Some writers can become so entangled in their own web, trying to edit as they write and become fed up with the whole project. She encourages people to write everything out first without judging oneself and to then take some time away from it and return to look at it with fresh eyes. While an edit can also go on and on forever, she admits that one needs to know when to draw the line and move onto new pastures.
On getting feedback and how to incorporate it, Kim reiterated that one should first edit one’s own work and thereafter hand it over to trustworthy people to read and provide feedback. And given that their feedback is good, it would be wise to consider it. She added that if a reader finds a particular moment unclear in a screenplay and you internally feel that yes, you need to clarify that, make a small change to integrate the criticism. If some feedback doesn’t connect with you or your project, it might not be worth taking it on board. Kim believes that it is an organic thing and a writer would internally know which feedback is necessary for the project.
The full interview is now available on the Junkyard Theory YouTube channel. Scan the code below to watch it now.
Junkyard Theory is Sri Lanka’s first and only film education platform that brings on veteran filmmakers from Hollywood as guest speakers. Their webinars, hosted by Akash Sunethkumara, have been recognised on industry sites such as “No Film School”, and the team now runs film courses for upcoming filmmakers in the country.