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INTERVIEW: Meaghan Jane Cleary (THE LATCHKEY KIDS)
The Writers Guild of America, East were proud to be a sponsor of SVA’s 26th annual Dusty Film & Animation Festival and Awards.
At the awards ceremony, WGAE member and Academy Award-winning writer Alexander Dinelaris (BIRDMAN) presenting the Outstanding Achievement in Screenwriting Award to Meaghan Jane Cleary for her script THE LATCHKEY KIDS.
WGAEast.org spoke with Meaghan about her award-winning script.
Congratulations on winning a Dusty Award.
Thank you! I registered my script with the Writers Guild of America, East.
Can you tell us about your screenplay for THE LATCHKEY KIDS?
It’s about this nine-year old boy, Shae Minardi, who’s a latchkey kid. He has all these babysitters, but they have a horrible habit of dying. His mom works a lot. His babysitter’s are old and he doesn’t like them very much. Shae finally gets a babysitter he likes named Aja and he fights to keep her. Aja is also dealing with her own set of issues. They’re both looking for a functional family life, whether they know it or not.
My first year at SVA I heard the term Latchkey kid and I thought, ‘That was me.’ I wrote a short screenplay about Shae. The story was about his Valentine’s Day crush. He was too smart for his own age. He was frustrated with his life. After I wrote the short, I had an assignment to do a romantic epic set in 18th century Ireland, but I had so much fun with this character Shae that I had to go back and tell more of his story.
The theme of wanting a family for the two main characters were there since the beginning. I wanted to work with the idea that people do need to help each other out.
What’s are you doing with your script?
I sold the script to Michael Perrone, a very talented friend, who will direct and produce the film. We have an investor lined up and got the green light to start production. It’s very exciting. They’ve started shopping the script around to actors. Hopefully we’ll be able to raise some more money. It’s still very early in the project and we’re still putting our lists together about what we need. I’ll also be doing the production design for the movie.
What lessons did you learn in your screenwriting classes that you applied to your script?
I had writing workshops each year of school and those were very helpful. I’ll miss them. We did things like writing exercises and character studies. We’d work on developing our characters. We’d spend a lot of time working on outlines. Sometimes we’d use Beat Sheets. Then we’d move onto first drafts, and then many drafts. We’d get feedback and criticism from the room at workshops.
What films or screenplays have inspired you?
I like scripts that make me laugh and cry at the same time. AMERICAN BEAUTY and LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE are two perfect scripts in my opinion. I read NEBRASKA last year and there is a conflict in every scene. It’s wonderful. It was definitely a good lesson for me. There’s this movie out now called WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, that’s co-written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waitit. It’s so funny. It’s mockumentary about four vampires who are roommates.
Do you have plans for what you want to next write?
I’m doing research for that romantic epic set in Ireland. I’m also working on a short, which I hope to turn into a feature, about Rapunzel as a very sheltered suburban girl.
If you could write for any character throughout film or television history, who would it be?
Without a doubt, it would be Buffy.