Writing is more work than you can imagine. Don’t give up after Draft 30. It could take 70 or more. “Rocky” wasn’t written in a weekend. I found out from my dog trainer who knew Stallone, it took him years to develop that script, but an overnight success sure makes a good story.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sherry Klein, a writer and producer living in Los Angeles. She has worked in television as a writer for Star Trek Voyager and wrote two features for the popular Netflix franchise, “Ever After High.”
She found her passion in the thriller genre, co-writing the C. Thomas Howell thriller “Asylum Days” and most recently wrote and produced the psychological beach thriller “Paradise Cove,” starring Mena Suvari, Kristin Bauer van Straten and Todd Grinnell.
Sherry is represented by Roger Strull at Preferred Artists.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Westchester, New York, went to Hamilton College in upstate and onto University of Miami Law School because that’s what was expected and safe. That’s what my father and sister did. Being a lawyer is all about thriving and resolving conflict. I discovered it’s more fun to create fictional conflict than to resolve actual conflict, so I went on to film school for my M.F.A.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
People write because they have stories to tell and it drives them crazy not telling down. It’s a dream and a passion I had to pursue and couldn’t let go of, no matter what.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I learned in making indie films that not having a big budget inspires creativity. We couldn’t afford to rent a Mercedes, so we used a shot of the actress’ wedge heels walking down the stairs to announce that she was visiting. To show the audience what Bree did with Joan’s dead body, we added a shot of a lone wedge heel washing up onshore. We couldn’t get a police car for the day, so we used a shot of colored police lights in the truck’s rear-view mirror.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When you first get to Hollywood, you feel intimidated by people in the business, so it feels rude to ask them specific questions. I call this problem “What did they say?” versus “What did you hear?” One of my first champions promised me she could get me meetings with the big studios. I asked her what her job was and told me she worked in internal development at C.A.A. I did not question her answer at the time. So after being “repped” by her for over a year, I finally asked and found out that was a Reader. I think she left Hollywood and moved back home.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m currently working on a dark vampire comedy and a Zeitgiesty type thriller.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
It’s critical to represent society in not only how it is but how it could be. It’s not until all people can see people who look like them on screen do they realize the power they could have in society. It’s up to filmmakers to show the way.
In casting “Paradise Cove,” I made certain that all the actors who were people of color played people in authority: The contractor, the building inspector, the social worker, who had power over the white cast.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Listen to what people say, not what you want to hear. If you really want honest feedback ask for it, then absorb it and make the changes. Your baby may, in fact, be ugly.
- If two people say the same thing about your work, it’s probably true. Don’t bother defending it. Art is subjective, but good art is empirically good.
- Writing is more work than you can imagine. Don’t give up after Draft 30. It could take 70 or more. “Rocky” wasn’t written in a weekend. I found out from my dog trainer who knew Stallone, it took him years to develop that script, but an overnight success sure makes a good story.
- Don’t call in any favors in Hollywood until you do all the legwork. People in power like to help people who help themselves. We all admire self-starters.
- Films are all about feelings. Concepts are great but execution should make people feel something.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Don’t get discouraged. Rejections are constant because no one ever got fired for saying “No,” except maybe the publisher who turned down JK Rowling…. Big mistake.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Equality in casting. Make sure there are 50% women, show diversity, and show them in charge.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Professor Paul Foley, the head of U.S.C. Screenwriting Program believed in me and helped me develop my story into something marketable and shootable. I am forever grateful for his wisdom and belief in me and my work.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Actually, I have two:
Don’t hope for it, work for it.
No one can keep you from getting better, if you don’t quit.
I think these speak for themselves.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Corny as this sounds, I’d love to meet Oprah. I watched her show for so many years and she helped so many people by sharing their stories. Oprah is the ultimate story teller.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m on Facebook.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!