Kieran Fitzgerald has a BA in English from Harvard University and a MFA in fiction and screenwriting from the Michener Center for Writers. He wrote and directed the feature documentary, The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández, which aired on PBS and was nominated for an Emmy in investigative journalism. With Tommy Lee Jones, he wrote The Homesman, starring Jones and Hilary Swank. He’s also written the upcoming Oliver Stone film Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting? I wrote a script while at the Michener Center for Writers that I managed to get into the hands of one of Chris Nolan’s agents. He wanted to see more, and when I’d finished my second spec script I sent it to him. He also represented Oliver Stone, who was looking for a writer at the time, and as luck would have it my spec script was about Cuban militants working for the CIA during
the Cold War. Needless-to-say, it struck his fancy. I was hired to adapt a novel for him called The Army of the Republic. The movie never happened, but the job launched my career.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a writer? Or what would be your advice to aspiring screenwriters? I’ve learned that when you go losing yourself in a project, it’s good to have some kind of life beyond movies in place for when you come out the other side. As far as advice…. I could speculate on what’s helped me: I think I try to imagine myself directing, editing, and then watching each scene as I write it. Because ultimately, the only thing that matters is the final product. If you can envision how it would feel to sit in a movie theater and watch the scene you’re writing, chances are you’ll hold yourself to a higher standard on the page.
What was a major turning point in your career? Getting hired to write the Oliver Stone movie about Edward Snowden.
Favorite AFF memory? The Halloween party at AFF 2015! And playing pool with Jon Stewart at Buffalo Billiards.