10 Screenwriters to Watch

When Dave Kajganich thinks about his string of screenwriting successes so far, all he can do is shake his head with wonder. “I’ve had surreal luck,” he says. “No one has the right for it to be this easy.”

Kajganich picked up screenwriting almost by accident. After graduating from the Writers’ Workshop at the U. of Iowa, he was teaching English in Ohio and looking around for ways to strengthen his prose. “I decided to write a script, not with any serious intentions, just as an exercise in form and structure, but something clicked.”

He was still in Ohio when he got his first break. He snagged a $10,000 writing gig adapting Heinrich Boll’s “The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum.” While that didn’t work out, it did lead to the sale of his horror spec “Town Creek” in 2003 to Warner Bros. The studio, in turn, signed him to a second blind script commitment. That project became a remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Pic, starring Nicole Kidman and helmed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, is now titled “The Visiting” and is slated for a 2007 release.

“Dave has all the elements that define a great screenwriter,” says Warners’ production prexy Jeff Robinov. “He’s a terrific storyteller with a strong voice and excellent character development, and he likes to collaborate. He really delivered for us.”

Kajganich has since been kept busy by a raft of work. He tackled a Steven King remake for Par with “Pet Sematary”; is co-writing spooky family pic “Monkey’s Paw” for Sam Raimi and Mandate’s Ghost House Pictures; and is adapting Tim Gautreaux’s novel “The Clearing” — something outside the horror genre — for Kevin Misher.

Of his three-year streak in Hollywood, Kajganich marvels, “It wasn’t a little while back that I was still living in Ohio. Suddenly, I’m on a film set with Nicole Kidman saying lines that I’ve written. Astounding! The most frustrating part is that I don’t know who to thank. It’s like I owe the whole world a debt. It feels like a karmic trespass.”

VITAL STATS

Age: 36

Birthplace: Loraine, Ohio

Inspirations: “Really elevated genre films like ‘Klute,’ where the genre isn’t the subject matter but the structure.”

Favorite unproduced script: “Town Creek,” about the darker side of duty to family and country that borrows heavily from the Third Reich’s documented investigations into the occult.

Reps: Agents: Blair Belcher and Barbara Dreyfus (UTA); manager, Robyn Meisinger (Kustom Entertainment); attorney, Alan Wertheimer (Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum & Morris)

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