Screenwriter Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith (10 Things I Hate About You, Legally Blonde, She’s The Man, Ella Enchanted, House Bunny and many more…) lives the life we all dream about having. She lives it, loves it, and worked her ass off to get it. Her journey did not go from point A to B. It went from point D to C up to B back to C, then B again and finally…an A! Kiwi’s path was a bumpy ride but she kept on going until things finally tied together. Like pieces to a puzzle, her journey consisted of many events including rejections, disappointments, unsold scripts and humbling moments that continuously built her up inside and made her strong, resilient and a woman who creates her characters based on the ride she took to achieve success in Hollywood.
Every single thing that happened in this amazingly talented screenwriter’s life was meant to be. Kiwi proves that if you don’t let go, no matter how you “think” the path is supposed to be…no matter how many hurdles you must overcome…it will happen for you if you keep moving forward.
We at Acted By applaud her! We are inspired by her and we hope that she can give those of you who are struggling, a little bit of hope. After writing poetry, which led to screenwriting, producing, and recently…directing, Kiwi continues to make a huge mark in Hollywood.
Along with Demi Moore, and Courtney Cox, Kiwi attached herself to Glamour magazine’s “Reel Moments” program, which is a contest where Glamour mag asked readers to tell a personal story about a time they felt empowered. The winning stories were presented to Hollywood’s best of the best and Kiwi selected The Spleenectomy. Choosing her girl, Anna Faris (who just starred in Kiwi’s House Bunny), they actually rocked Glamour’s house, proving that success grows and expands and just when you think your dreams couldn’t get any more surreal and unimaginable…they do.
Hi Kiwi! Thank you, thank you, thank you for talking with us. You wrote several scripts but not all of them panned out. How did you NOT let that discourage you or push you under the “giving up” rock?
I almost thrived on the rejection. Like, fuckit, I’ll keep going. I like having something to prove.
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers, actors, directors regarding rejection?
Rejection is a huge part of it — grow a thick skin, don’t take it personally. Re-read the love letters, not the mean ones. Keep writing new material. Don’t keep rewriting the same script over and over and over. The more work you do — the better you become. Keep a lot of different projects going to keep yourself inspired. Go see movies. Go see live music. Support the arts and make friends in the business.
What is the best part about writing a script? A moment? A feeling? A rush of some kind?
When a scene or a character surprises you with where it’s going and what it does. And it’s better than anything you could have consciously thought of.
You focus primarily on female-driven films. Why?
I like movies about girls, that’s what I want to see, so that’s what I want to write.
If you had to choose a profession OTHER than screenwriting, what would it be? (Yes, I’m stealing from James Lipton).
Music video director. Restaurant owner/waitress/bartender.
When your movies start selling, is it difficult to remain balanced? For example, if I was selling scripts left and right, I’d probably get a naughty little ego but ultimately, that always hurts an artist. So, how do you keep both feet on the ground? (which I can tell you do because of the characters you create).
I’m lucky as a writer, because I remain totally anonymous and just keep on doing my thing. It was only last year that I finally bought a house and admitted to myself that I was somewhat successful. I’d still prefer to think of myself as a scrappy underdog.
As far as success, could you tell me a little bit about your first sale? How did that feel? How did it happen? Were you embracing your triumph or afraid of it?
I embraced it, but also the day 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU sold, I got fired, because my boss at the time was a talent manager who was upset she didn’t sell the script herself. So, I learned in that first moment that there’s always something to shake you back to reality, which is where you really need to be all the time.
What’s the best attitude to have in this business? Meaning, what attitude do we need to make it? We’ve all watched The Secret, learned about positive attitudes, etc…Is that really TRUE or what?
I’m a little bit the opposite. My motto is to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised if something great happen.
Was there a time in your career that was disappointing or painful? Could you explain?
Oh, my gosh, so many. Any time scripts have gotten rewritten, projects taken away… etc.
As for the Glamour project, how did you get involved in it?
My friend Thom Harp emailed me about a grant they had for women in the business who were wanting to make the leap to directing. I applied and went in for the interview and won the grant. Yipeeee!
You directed The Spleenectomy? Did you specifically pick this story to direct? What was it about the story that attracted you to it?
I wanted to write something for Anna Faris, because I wanted her to star in it. When I won the grant, Glamour gave me a whole list of real life stories by their readers, and I drove over to Anna’s house with it and we went through the list. The story about a community theater actress jumped out to both of us, since it was a character that had a lot of comic potential.
Was this your first time directing?
What was directing like?
Thrilling, tiring, empowering, frustrating, joyful, hectic, exhilarating.
Which do you like better – writing or directing? What’s the difference between the two? Any different emotions that come from the two tasks? Rushes?
I like writing for its relaxing, solitary nature. I like directing because I get to see it come to life and experience that excitement.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
Procrastination more than actual block.
Do you always love writing or does it ever feel like a chore?
Definitely a chore. However, once I’m doing it, I think, “See? This is fun. Why did I prolong this?!”
Describe the craft of writing in three words:
Powerful, scary, limitless.
Who is your hero in Hollywood?
James Schamus. And of course, Madonna!
How do you come up with your story ideas?
From life and from constantly being connected to movies.
Do you ever struggle with fitting your story into the Three Act Structure?
No, it’s pretty much second nature by now. I embrace the structure.
When is it time to stop pursuing your dream? Or, is there ever a time to stop?
When you’re no longer inspired.
Honestly, is it fantastic to be living your dream? We want to know!!!!
It is lots and lots of fun and it’s wonderful to be thinking about movies all day long, since they are my favorite art form! It’s also wonderful to have respect from my peers, and to inspire young women to dream big and act sassy.
Kiwi Smith and her screenwriting partner-in-crime, Karen Lutz’s next flick, The Ugly Truth, starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler hits theatres in 2009 as well as her first non-writing flick (which she produced), Whip It!, starring Ellen Page and directed by Drew Barrymore.
Three cheers to Kiwi!