Today’s Women Behind the Scenes spotlight is shone on writer, producer and series creator I. Marlene King.
From the time she was a young teen, Marlene knew she wanted to be involved in television or movies; but it was in college (Pepperdine University), when she was a sophomore, that a writing teacher inspired her to “embrace the process” and she knew she wanted to write movies. When she graduated she got a part-time job and spent a lot of time writing scripts. About three years later, she optioned her first script – a spec piece called Some Enchanted Evening – that she wrote with her writing partner at the time Roger Kumble – which was optioned by Disney. That project didn’t get made; but Marlene says that it was a great introduction to the business.
Over the next three years, she and Kumble optioned about ten projects together, which became “products of development hell” and never came to fruition, but they were kept gainfully employed and this experience helped them find their voices.
She then wrote a spec on her own called Now and Then, which became her first feature film and a big turning point in her career. The script ended up in the hands of actress Demi Moore, who fell in love with it and decided to produce it as well as star. Marlene went on to write several movies for Demi, creating a great collaboration with the actress for many years. One of those movies was the 1996 made-for-TV movie If These Walls Could Talk.
After her collaboration with Demi, Marlene had two children and focused on raising them for the next five years. It was around this time, though, that she decided to take a chance on television and was sent a book entitled Pretty Little Liars after a general meeting with executives at ABC Family.
As she states, she “fell in love with it,” reading it without putting it down, asking them to send over the next book in the series; and then met with them several days later. She had a meeting of the minds with the network, who hired her right off the bat and then she met with the producer and the studio. This is actually the back-door approach to getting on a show, but it worked.
Given her unique experience in the entertainment industry, Marlene provides this sage advice: “Never give up. I wrote ten screenplays before I made a penny on any of them. You continue to get better as you write something. Just write”.
Marlene hopes to work on another TV series with the folks at Alloy Entertainment, the production company behind Pretty Little Liars; but in the meantime she has been chosen as the writer of the screenplay for the upcoming film adaptation of City of Bones from The Mortal Instruments series of books by Cassandra Clare that is expected to be out in theatres sometime next year.