EXPENDABELLES Writer Karen McCullah on how to take H’wood by Storm

Karen’s also one of LB’s first students, from back in the early ’90s and the only reason they aren’t pals right now is, well she still loves, loves, loves the showbiz, but our bossman – sigh – not so much. (In other words, he’s in Washington State and she’s in L.A. So it goes….)


That's the magical and vivacious Ms. McCullah on the right with a couple of other beautiful peeps.
That’s the magical and vivacious Ms. McCullah on the right with a couple of other beautiful peeps.

by Jameson Brown

We like to cover all genres when it comes to the writers we talk to. Lately, we have covered drama and sci-fi, but now we want to delve into the genre that makes us laugh (and cry), comedy. Karen McCullah (Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You) gives great insights into her screenwriting process, the first screenplay she (and writing partner Kirsten Smith) sold and what inspires her daily writing.

JB: Karen, would you mind giving me your full A-Z as a writer? Where did you start? What initially drew you into this medium of storytelling? 
KM: I started out in Marketing and PR for an investment firm in DC, then ended up living in Albuquerque where there were no jobs to be found. That’s when I started writing, which is what I’d always wanted to do anyway. I started with a novel, got bored, read a book called “How to Write for Film and TV” and decided that’s what I was supposed to do. I’ve always loved movies and it seemed like the best fit, but I’ve since gone on to write novels as well. As for what drew me – my friends from high school always remind me that I would spend most of class writing funny notes and stories to entertain myself and others, so I guess that’s where it all started.

JB: We’d love to hear how you (and writing partner Kirsten Smith) came up with 10 Things I Hate About You AND how you went about getting it seen / made. 
KM: We knew we wanted to write a teen movie and when Clueless came out, we thought Amy Heckerling was a genius for contemporizing a classic, so we decided to try that as well. We choseTaming of the Shrew and figured out which storylines we wanted to keep and update and how we’d go about it and then outlined all the characters and the story while we sat on a beach in Mexico. We wrote it on spec and our manager Seth Jaret got it into the hands of Andrew Lazar, the producer, who got it to Mark Vahradian who was then an exec at Touchstone. A few months later, it was greenlit.

JB: Do you think you gravitate towards a specific genre? Or do you enjoy writing all genres of screenwriting/movies?
KM: I definitely gravitate toward comedy, but I’ve expanded that to include action comedy as well. I just worked on a Jackie Chan movie and it was a lot of fun. And Kirsten and I wrote The Expendabelles, the female version of The Expendables franchise.

JB: What does the day-to-day writing process look like for you?
KM: A lot of sitting in a chair staring at the computer, or lying in bed reading my script, or floating in the pool while I run the movie in my head, or sitting in the sun editing. When I write with Kirsten, we’re usually outside by the pool. And on Fridays we drink tequila.

Read it all at SSN Insider