Sunday, June 17, 2001

Playwright poises pen for movie scripts

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kathryn Schultz Miller has been winning arts grants for 15 years to support her career writing for the stage.

        So when she decided to take a chance on writing for the movies, it was natural to turn to the same source for help.

        Long experience with the grant-seeking process paid off for the former artistic director for the ArtReach Touring Theatre this year, when she was awarded a $5,000 screenwriting fellowship by the Ohio Arts Council.

        “I wrote plays all my life,” the Oakley resident says. “I just got to a point where I realized writing for the theater is not easier and not any more fulfilling than something that could possibly make some money.”

        Ms. Miller is the author of, among other plays, Yearning to Breathe Free, Island Son, A Thousand Cranes and The Shining Moment, all of which earned play-writing fellowships from OAC. She also won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and honors from the Ohio Theatre Alliance and Cincinnati Post-Corbett Awards.

        The script that earned her OAC grant is a comedy called No Trespassing, about a character who becomes a hero defending older people against displacement.

        The idea, she says, came to her when she traveled with her husband to Tampa, Fla., to help move his nonagenarian mother from a house targeted by a highway project.

        “His family is just full of characters,” Ms. Miller says. “They can't see it, but I can. Those characters are all in there. At first I wrote it with their actual names, but he said, "Really, I just can't read it that way.”'

        For all her experience, Ms. Miller found the transition from writing for the stage to writing for the big screen required far more than switching formats.

        She attended screenwriting seminars and conferences and studied books by such experts as Linda Seger, Richard Walter and Syd Field.

        “There's so much information you can go crazy with it,” she says. “I think an ordinary moviegoer has no idea how structured movies are. There are very serious rules you have to go by. I found that interesting. I like that. ... If you can do anything you want, I don't think that's as fun as actually working within a structure.”

        She has an agent to represent No Trespassing, even as she continues to refine the script. Still, she is aware she faces a tough marketplace.

        “It's so hard to get to a producer because they're deluged with terrible stuff,” she says. “Everybody looks at movies and thinks, "I could do that.' Well, sit down and try.”

        For grant requirements and applications, contact the Ohio Arts Council, 727 E. Main Street, Columbus 43205-1796, (614) 466-2613,



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