Kelley Sane

10 Screenwriters to Watch

Kelley Sane found a roundabout way into screenwriting. He studied economics, played professional tennis and worked as a photographer (he’s snapped Kevin Spacey, Charlize Theron and ads for Pepsi). He started in Paris; modeled in Japan; spent time in Vienna, London and Istanbul; and worked in Milan as a professional photographer for three years — where, he says, “I first started writing almost out of sheer boredom.”

In 1996, he directed his first script, a campy, low-budget musical comedy, “Francesca Page,” which played in the Midnight section of the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. “I wanted to do something funny and silly,” he explains.

But since then, he’s started writing about “more serious things,”such as stories about NSA eavesdropping, outsourcing and “Rendition,” a spec script about a Cairo-based CIA analyst that’s in pre-production at New Line.

“I think my travels helped me as a writer in that I got to experience other viewpoints,” Sane says. “If I just went at it from an American viewpoint, it wouldn’t be interesting, because the world is getting smaller, the audience is smarter, and you have to be smarter.”

Even though his first film (which featured drag queens and Broadway ambition aplenty) couldn’t be more different from his recent efforts (involving brutal interrogation and government conspiracies), Sane says his interest in the human condition has remained consistent.

“Rendition” director Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”) agrees. “He has that rare ability to weave a complex, clever plot around fully fleshed-out characters.”

Hood says he was drawn to the script “because it both entertained and challenged me. Kelley couched an important current debate in an exciting and well-paced story that resolves with a great twist.”

But intricate geopolitics wasn’t always Sane’s forte. “I think that as I grew older, I woke up to the politics of the world,” he says. “Even though I was interested in it all the way down the line, it didn’t galvanize until after 9/11” — which he watched unfold from the roof of his Lower East Side apartment.

“Because of our changing world,” he adds, “I’ve changed along with it. Now, the idea of writing a musical comedy would be impossible.”

VITAL STATS

Age: 38

Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA

Inspired by: “Chinatown” (“the way it takes a big issue and raps it around human stories, it’s incredible,” he says), “The Conversation,” “The Godfather” parts I and II, “The Man Who Would Be King” and Lina Wertmuller’s “Seven Beauties”

Favorite unproduced script: None yet. “I think all of the scripts that I’ve worked on have brought me to a place where I have been able to write ‘Rendition.’ ”

Reps: Agent, Cliff Roberts (WMA); manager, Keith Redmon (Anonymous Content); attorney, Alex Kohner (Barnes Morris Klein Mark Yorn Barnes & Levine)

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