KC's path shows how you never truly realize where even the smallest opportunities can lead you toward success. Little did he know that participating in an innocent little logline contest on facebook would lead to him winning a free submission to the Script Summit Screenplay Contest. Which then resulted in him winning a coveted prize at said contest and being represented by a Hollywood Talent Manager at Krista Keller Talent! At first this may seem like chance but it isn't. KC was ready for it. He set himself up for success by creating a screenplay that was fantastic, original, and ripe for the pickings. His preparedness, defined talent, and bold risk at being open to new opportunities is why I am excited to introduce you to him.
This is KC Allen...
I never expected to be a screenwriter. After an 18 year career in radio, I’d started a video production company to write script for business clients, which is something I knew a lot about after writing commercial scripts for radio. This calling didn't begin in my youth but actually found me later in life. One day I was on set of an indie film and was told a story, and that changed everything.
I’ve written quite a few shorts. Some of them are sitting on the shelf because I merely wrote them for practice, but others were part of short screenwriting contests or have been produced and done well in festivals. I think one of my favorite practice exercises was when I went on social media and asked friends what kind of movie to write, and with which elements. I chose two, a ghost story and a psychological thriller, and wrote them both, naming the characters after the people who had made the genre suggestions. They went over well and were a ton of fun to write.
Up until this year I was still vacillating as to whether I wanted to be known as a writer or a director, but this year has solidified that for me. I am first and foremost a screenwriter, and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and still looking forward to whatever lies ahead.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
Stumble is a great way to describe my journey. I spent many years writing before I became a screenwriter. I was a drummer in several bands and wrote a lot of the original songs we performed, spent 18 years in radio and wrote thousands of commercials and many comedy bits for my morning show, and when I left radio to start my own video company, I wrote all of the scripts for our video clients in the corporate world, and still do. But in 2006 I had my first experience with movie making and while we were on set in an urgent care facility, an EMT who was our consultant told me a bone chilling story about a run he had to go on. I couldn’t get the visual out of my head, so I wrote my first screenplay, with that moment as a pivotable scene.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
My first screenplay was a fluke. After I finished it I didn’t write again for eight years. In 2014 I took my crew on a corporate job in Sterling, Virginia and during the long drive back, one of the crewmembers started talking about entering a local short film competition. I found myself volunteering to write the screenplay. They accepted, and I did it, and they loved the script, but unfortunately the team fell apart and the short was never produced. The next year, however, they came back and asked me to write another short and help produce the movie. I did, and we won awards. I was hooked.
Submit to the Script Summit
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
If this question were a Facebook profile metric about relationships, the answer would be, “it’s complicated”. Some of the people who support me now are people who showed little support in the past, while some who showed support in the past are people who I no longer get it from today.
Were I to really go deep into the question, the first show of support I had for my creative career would be my mother, who gave me an Emerson tape recorder and a few blank tapes for Christmas when I was eight years old. I was attached to that thing at the heart, roaming the neighborhoods getting interviews, recording sound effects like belches and toilet flushes (remind you, I was eight years old), and recreating Cheech & Chong routines from transcripts written word for word from recordings I had.
Professionally, there’s a filmmaker in Columbus by the name of T.J. Cooley, who was the person that really got me started in writing by allowing me to write that first screenplay for the local contest. He and I worked together the following year and won awards, and worked together a few more times before we split to do our own solo projects. Our collaboration was an unfortunate casualty in that evolution, but I’m grateful he dragged me in to help produce that award-winning short, and witness my words coming to life.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
It goes back to that first short. I didn’t know I could do it, and I didn’t know I was any good. When I wrote the script it was based on a childhood story a friend had told me and I remember it chilling me to the bone. When the filmmakers got excited about what I had written, I was encouraged. When the short wasn’t made, I decided I wanted to learn more and started entering short screenplay contests like NYC Midnight, so I could get feedback and learn the craft. I read books like Robert McGee’s “Story”, Syd Field’s “Screenplay” and Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat”. I read books on cinematography and directing. I wanted to learn subtext in writing more so I picked up Geoffrey Calhoun’s “The Guide For Every Screenwriter”. But mostly, I wrote. I’d write and ask friends to read. The more I wrote, the more confident I got.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I don’t know the definition of success. I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t think I have a vision of success because I’ll never be finished trying to achieve more, do better, and have more of an impact on the creative world around me.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
I’m a busy guy. I start my day editing around 8 o’clock in the morning, which is normally for a corporate video client or for a national niche television show. That’s how I pay the bills. Around noon I’ll eat something for the first time, usually something low carb like eggs and some kind of meat, and then I’ll edit until 5 o’clock in the evening or until I’m done.
In between all that, I have friends who invite me to shoot archery at our local archery club, and friends that want me to go fishing with them. Some friends want to bounce movie ideas off of me, or ask me to read their screenplays. Sometimes I get a new corporate video job and I need to fit that in. Additionally, I have a family to look after and to whom I try to give my best. My family tends to be a very strong inspiration in my writing, so making time for them is important to me.
A successful day is one that I got through without annoying anyone. That means I got my work done, my cooking didn’t make anyone sick, I made progress on my degree and gave myself and my writing a little me-time. If the dogs are cuddled at my feet in the evening, I’m satisfied with my day.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Honestly, I think the most important skill I’ve developed as a screenwriter is the ability to self edit as I write. So many screenwriters still rely on tactics like writing that a character ‘starts to’ do something, or writing camera angles and POVs, or even writing ‘we hear’ or ‘we see’ when trying to translate something visual or auditory to the reader. I hate when I do that, and I do still do that. So when I do it, there’s like an unseen boot to the back of my head that reminds me to knock it off. I’ve also written a lot of shorts, so when I’m writing a feature I tend to get to the good stuff way too fast rather than letting more of an escalation happen. I probably ought to outline more often, but outlining (to me) is very left brained, and I prefer just to let my right hemisphere out to play.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
All writing is challenging. You have to write something that people can’t put down, and whether it’s a horror script, a rom-com or an action thriller, it has to be something that is easy to read and entrances the reader in some way. My greatest challenge is to write something so good that even I enjoy it when I read it. I have a couple of screenplays like that, but I have a couple scripts I’ve written that could use some polish, and there is the challenge. If I had a second challenge, I have to say that getting fellow screenwriters to read my work and provide notes is tough. When I’m asked to read a screenplay, I read it within 24-48 hours and provide notes. I have some friends who requested to read my work six month ago, that I still haven’t gotten notes from. I don’t even know if they finished reading. That’s a huge blow to my confidence, and I don’t know if it’s because the scripts are that bad, or because they’re just not fulfilling their promises. It also slows me down. If I’m not getting notes back, I’m not refining the scripts and making them better. I’ve started two different private writers’ groups online looking to give and receive regular feedback, and both of them have petered out because of a lack of participation. It’s discouraging.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
So many screenwriters just want their work to be seen. They yearn for representation. They want someone, somewhere, to get their work in front of someone who can make decisions. I have that, thanks to Script Summit and Krista Keller Talent Management. I wrote a feature comedy, finishing the first draft in August of 2018 during a writing vacation in coastal Maine. I rewrote it eight times after that, but didn’t have any plans for it. Well, as fate would have it, I was on Facebook one day and was asked on the Script Summit Facebook page to write a character description. The winning entry would receive a free entry in the 2020 Script Summit screenwriting contest. I won. I had a bunch of screenplays I had written, but my favorite one (and the one that was best polished) was that comedy script I finished in that cabin in Kennebunkport. So I entered it. I won “Best Voice” (which to me is the best award I could ever receive) and I won representation from Krista Keller, who has been simply awesome! Her ideas are fantastic, her connections are awe-inspiring, and she and I have a lot of personal attributes in common. Once the pandemic finally releases its grip, I look forward to meeting her in person. But had I not stuck with it, had I gotten discouraged and stopped writing, or had I gotten scared and gotten a “real job”, I would not have achieved what I’ve earned so far.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
Part of the reason I can’t define success is because I know the learning never stops. I know there’s always something new to consider. The industry is changing, from aspects of representation, diversity and inclusion to the amount and types of content we’re asked to write. There is such a need for content right now, from video games to podcasts to series to features to web series and beyond, and tomorrow may look completely different.
I’ve taken classes through the ISA, purchased MasterClasses, and even taken a class through ScreenwritingU. In working with my peers and reading their scripts, seeing how people respond to their work in competitions and film festivals, and watching the trends (for instance, social change in horror, or whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea to write a Covid-based script, or whether comedy is poised for a post-pandemic comeback), I can learn from those around me.
I also find myself reading blogs, listening to podcasts and even attending the American Film Market (online in 2020) so I can watch pitch-fests, attend seminars with Pilar Alessandra and Lee Jessup, and engage with other screenwriters on various platforms. I’m a member of over a dozen groups and communities on social media, and I learn from those posts, too, even if I’m the one giving advice to my peers, which will either be agreed with (which means I’m on the right path) or disagreed with (which teaches me something, sometimes). There’s no end to learning.
I’ve never devoted myself to learning more in my life than I have devoted to screenwriting.
“In this world you're either growing or you're dying so get in motion and grow.” (Lou Holtz).
The Successful Screenwriter Podcast - (Episodes)
We Fix Your Script - (Free Consultation)
InkTip - (List your script)
International Screenwriting Association - (ISA Connect)
WriterDuet - (Screenwriting Software)
Bulletproof Screenwriting - (Script Coverage)
Indie Film Hustle Academy - (Screenwriting Courses)
Krista Keller Talent - (Management)
The Robb Company - (Management)