Kristen McNaule’s documentary, “The Capital of Peace” was in the Short Film Corner at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. She is hopeful more opportunities will come in her screenwriting and film career. She loves making movies and watching them. “Basically every spare second I have is devoted to writing or producing or watching movies. Even my day job is working as a Production Coordinator. I can’t get enough of it.” McNaule says. Although, even though we are in the 21st century, it is difficult being a woman in the film industry and successful. Especially with so much gender inequality.
McNaule recalls several negative personal encounters where she found herself confronting sexism in the industry. From her interview responses: “At times people just obviously don’t take your work as seriously, to the point where they won’t even look at it to get a sense of the quality. By contrast, the same director will look at a man’s work instantly. That’s been challenging for me because I’ll work really hard on something and then it’s treated like it doesn’t even matter. It’s not even worth looking at.” People in the Ottawa film community who know McNaule and her work would be the first to say, it absolutely is worth investing time in her work.
A poignant point to make is that as a filmmaker it’s (being a woman) is a disadvantage in the industry. “As a screenwriter I think it is to a much lesser extent. The statistics certainly aren’t in the favour of female writers,” but, McNaule writes, “It’s a whole lot better than it is for female directors. I think there are avenues available to women in scriptwriting that help facilitate their integration. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a start.”
McNaule doesn’t recall the first book she ever read or what the title was because it was a book that was read to her by her dad when she was only 2 or 3. She references this as her first experience with the written word because she believes it had a great impact on her.
Her recollection is detail oriented and paints a vivid picture. “There was a worm in it, (the book) and a bird ate the worm I think, so I came up with the song, ‘Worms for breakfast, jumping up and down’ which I would just sing on repeat forever. Those were literally the only lyrics to the song.” McNaule recalls in her written interview responses. “I guess I liked the book because I was a big fan of jumping up and down while singing about eating worms,” she adds.
McNaule was Ottawa born and raised. She spent some time teaching English in South Korea, and a year living in Australia. She and her brother used to have a lot of creative endeavours together, “So I guess he was an influence.” She concedes in the interview. “Back in the old days we decided to start our own university where we had Jim Carey teaching facial contortions and Roberto Alomar teaching baseball. It was around 1994, so it was an enviable teaching staff for sure. I’ve been working on a zombie movie script with him and his wife in recent years.”
McNaule’s parents are really supportive of her ambitions and in her words, “have done everything they possibly can for me to pursue my dreams.”
As a high school student McNaule was really into biology and chemistry. “I used to be a competitive dancer, so I was always in physiotherapy; so I became fascinated by anatomy and physiology.” She explains. “I liked chemistry because I liked learning about all the different ways chemicals and materials can react with one another. It’s probably fitting that my all-time favourite television series is Breaking Bad.” English was a subject in which she felt she did well. “I think I felt like it was too obvious to be my favourite, so I went with something more random.”
You Can’t Do That on Television was a big influence on McNaule as a child. She recalls that her dad used to teach the actors Scottish Country Dancing “as part of a team building activity,” she writes in her online interview responses. “Which was the coolest thing ever to me.”
The first screenplay she read was Pulp Fiction. “I literally can’t go a single day without making a Pulp Fiction reference. It’s such a cool movie, and the dialogue is brilliant. It’s a movie that, in theory, never should have worked. But instead it became one of the most iconic films of all time. I think there’s something very special about that.” McNaule writes.
But the movie that made her decide to write screenplays was actually Good Will Hunting.
From her interview replies: I saw it when I was 16 or 17, and I thought “this is how movies are supposed to be!” Before that I thought Titanic was the only movie that existed, so Good Will Hunting was kind of a game changer for me. My tastes became more discerning and refined after that.
If McNaule was to think of any one person’s writing that served as a role model for the type of work she wants to write she says that Quentin Tarantino is her biggest influence.
“I love the literary style of his work,” she writes. “He really pulls you into his special unique little world with his scripts and it’s exciting to read. I aspire to write that way.”
In her interview responses McNaule adds,
I wrote my first script called “Generation Override” about two years ago. I haven’t sold it, nor do I plan to. It’s a personal project that I’d like to shoot myself one day. My first script for market purposes is still in the works. It’s called “The Liberation Front”. I finished the fourth draft last night, and submitted to Blacklist for evaluation. Hopefully if you ask me about whether or not I’ve sold it by the end of this year my answer will be yes.
McNaule writes scripts and novels. She loves, as she puts it, the freedom of, ‘getting into the psyche’ more in writing literature. She writes that she also enjoys, ‘strong lyrical styles of writing with poetic elements, and she adds that in her opinion, it’s a lot easier to do that in literature.’
McNaule’s political views influence the scripts she writes. She says she uses writing and filmmaking as a means of conveying her own ideas and opinions, “Things that are important to me tend to align with a left way of thinking. I do a lot of political issue stuff, but I’m also really into dark teen angst content, like My So Called Life or Ghost World. I try not to put a filter on myself because I think it steals away from the effectiveness of your message when you try to censor your own thoughts.”
McNaule likes that when she is writing screenplays her attention is focused on her, “Need to think of visual elements rather than having a character explain what they’re doing. She has to find imagery and metaphors and she really enjoys the creative process. She feels that sometimes the style of scriptwriting can get a little bogged down by rules, but she thinks that a great screenwriter can keep things moving nicely for in her words, “An entertaining read.”
“I don’t have a specific actor I feel like I need to work with,” McNaule writes when asked her thoughts about future projects. “But I do sometimes cast people for the characters I’ve created. I never have actor first, then role. The first step is always to come up with a compelling role and hopefully you can find a good actor to give life to it. I would really love to work with Dane Dehaan though.”
Other areas of the industry McNaule is involved in are Producing/ Production Management, Directing, and Editing. She’s currently running The Writers’ Room – Ottawa and this will be her second time judging the upcoming Digi60 script competition and providing feedback to competitors.
McNaule had a documentary in Digi60 last year as part of a Television Broadcasting Program she graduated from this year. Her short script, Moral Coding, came 3rd at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, and was a quarterfinalist in Screencraft’s shorts competition.
McNaule says her greatest life accomplishment was directing and producing a documentary in Sierra Leone. She say it was a combination of her many accomplishments. “I had just graduated with High Honours from Political Science – International Relations. There were many points in my life where graduating from High School, let alone university, didn’t seem particularly feasible. I worked really hard for it, so my grad was pretty important to me. I also planned the whole production and it was just me and one other girl from my program who went over. I hadn’t really travelled much on my own before that, so it was an ambitious adventure. I definitely learned more from that experience than I have from any other experience of my entire life.”
Like every adventure worth reading, watching and writing about McNaule’s pursuits in her screenwriting and film career is something other people are taking notice of in the film community. Here’s hoping she gets Liberation Front from script to screen and that her success not only as a woman but as a screenwriter and filmmaker has viewers everywhere taking notice of her as both a woman in the film industry who is a worthy competitor in the film industry and as a role model to young women and people everywhere considering a career in film.