Screenwriter Spotlight: Winner Chelsea Kania

Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire

By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.


1. What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your  hobby?

Name: Chelsea Kania
Birthplace: Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin Residence: London
Hobby: Museums! The weirder, the better.


2. Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Winner in the screenplay  contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

In the Jungle is inspired by my father and uncle, who were born with profound hearing loss and eventually became deaf, but grew up attending schools for the hearing where they were often bullied. As a short film, the first draft was quick to write but one year later I’m still polishing aspects of it as we prepare for production!


3. From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

It’s never the same, but there are some common factors. I often walk around with an idea for a while (days or months) until I have a strong idea for a scene. I’ll write just that one scene, then set it aside. Then I write an outline or logline – something that will validate whether there’s a strong story to it before getting down to business.


4. When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

In the midst of a mid-career shake-up, I was applying to grad school for art history – but I frankly got bored doing the applications. So instead, I wrote a screenplay about the artist my application paper was based on. It was the most fun I’d had in years. I would never have guessed it would lead to becoming a screenwriter, but I’m so glad it did!


5. Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

I’m a massive fan of teams in general – this is how amazing work gets made in any industry. So I’m inspired by the crews of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. They all have their own distinct, offbeat but undeniably authentic visions which carry through to whatever themes they tackle in multiple ways – from

dialogue to set design and beyond. The viewing experience is so consuming as a result, which is something I try to emulate in my projects.


6. Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

Probably a decade after I first saw it, I’m still obsessed with The Piano. I think I keep watching it because I can’t quite figure out why? It speaks deeply to something in me, which is what great unforgettable films do – and I’m confident that one day, by cracking my obsession with it, I’ll learn something important about myself.


7. What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

Right now is an amazing time in cinema history. Earlier this year, CODA won the academy award for best film. I started writing In the Jungle a year before it was released, and its success really propelled me to believing my film could find its way into production. I’m so fortunate today to have an amazing team behind it – including award-winning director Ky Dickens, fiscal sponsor HEAR Wisconsin, and so many more production partners eager to bring it to life later this year.


8. Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

Keeping with my The Piano obsession: Ada McGrath! My father and uncle – the inspiration for In the Jungle – were born with profound hearing loss but grew up attending schools for the hearing where they were often bullied. I think it compels me that Ada McGrath opted into her mute experience as a form of self-expression, it’s an extreme character trait to create communications challenges for oneself with the world. Certainly keeps me thinking about it.


9. If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Frida Kahlo! Today your pain is meaningful beauty for so many people… but was he worth it? ; )

Spread the word