A mere two months after winning our first ever Launch Pad Competition, Kate Trefry has found herself with hot-on-the-rise manager Lee Stobby (Caliber Media Co.), taking meetings around town, and being coined the next Diablo Cody. We had a chance to sit down with Kate and Lee over a few drinks to discuss Kate’s winning script “Pure O,” find out what she’s working on next, and talk about how the contest along with their new writer/manager relationship has changed both of their lives.
AN INTERVIEW WITH KATE TREFY & LEE STOBBY – PART 4
TB: So you’ve been going to lots of meetings, no doubt being offered bottled water wherever you go, what have you learned most from the “meet and greet” process?
KATE: I’ve learned that you really have to stay on your toes in a meeting for when someone’s inevitably like “a lamp meets sci-fi, go!” and you’re just like okay, “Spacelamp!”
TB: Being put on the spot like that can be terrifying or exhilarating, or both, how do you deal with something that’s maybe outside your wheelhouse?
KATE: I try to look at it as a challenge. You go around thinking you have this style or wheelhouse that’s small black comedies, or female psychology, or whatever, then suddenly someone in a meeting is like “we have this war epic, what you can do with that?” So you write a pitch and before you know it you’re like “I could write the f*cking sh*t out of this war movie.”
TB: I was born to write this war movie!
KATE: Right? I mean a lot of people plague themselves with questions. Like, What does the world want, and how do I give them that? How do I anticipate what’s going to come next? How can I be the thing that everybody wants?
TB: Instead of wondering what story you would want to tell.
KATE: Exactly. And when you start to think that way, you cripple your ability to write honestly. One of my favorite quotes I’ve read recently was from the late Christopher Hitchens. He said “One should try to write as if posthumously.” Which to me means, write as if you’re already dead and none of this f*cking matters anymore. Write like this is what you’ll be remembered for. Think of the legacy you want to leave behind.
LEE: Not just that, but it’s always better to be passionate about what you’re doing. Often times when I’m helping a writer with a story, they’ll tell me (out of the blue) that they wrote this other script on the side and I’ll be like “oh my God, this is so much better” because it’s free of all that frustration of us trying to kind of guess what people would want.
TB: Much like waterfalls, it’s not really wise to go chasing trends.
LEE: (Laughs) Yea, you might say something like, “we should write something in this world because it’s what people are looking for, etc”, but it should still be about writing something from your heart. And sometimes after hitting our heads against the wall that thing they wrote on the side turns out to be in the same world because my constant jabbering has soaked through somehow. That’s what is exciting to me. That’s the kind of refocusing towards something better that I love.
TB: Do you find it’s common that, say, executives don’t know what they want?
LEE: Incredibly. Everyone will tell you what they really want is something like “Taken.” But I know no one actually wants “Taken” anymore. They say that want something like it, but what they really mean is–
TB: They want the success of “Taken.”
LEE: Exactly. If I send someone “Taken” after they’ve asked for it, they’ll look at me like I’m crazy. Then they’ll tell me it’s too much like “Taken.” I’ll be like that’s what you told me you wanted so I have to understand what they’re actually saying is they want the next Taken; they want what is the next thing. What is the next thing? Who knows, but I can tell you, you’re not going to find it by relentlessly pursuing the last thing.
TB: What do you do to stand out when everyone “wants” the same things?
LEE: I know everyone is always saying the business has changed, but it really has. You can’t just call Universal and say “do you want this idea” and they’re like “sure.” That doesn’t happen anymore. I’m in a different world than those people who have been around for a decade or two. At the same time my world is more interesting because I have to be scrappier, I have to be more interesting. I don’t believe in good enough for a story, it has to be awesome. I want it to be awesome because awesome will always sell. I can do something with awesome.
KATE: That’s my new motto. Always be awesome.
LEE: (Laughs) And it’s easy to spot when you’ve seen a lot of movies. I’ve seen so many movies that I bleed cinema. Yet, when I talk to some executives I’m always kind of flabbergasted when I bring up films, and they have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m always like “how do you have this job?” I like the executives that I can have a conversation with because they love movies too. I’m going to have the best traction because of what I’m trying to do is associate my clients with great people who are trying to make great films.
TB: Kate, you’ve gotten some great opportunities from this script but what would you say has been the most fulfilling?
KATE: The validation has really helped. Just knowing some stranger read something you wrote and thought it was worth the time is pretty rewarding. It’s helped give me the confidence to keep grinding and writing everyday. I used this metaphor the other day that I think kind of sums it up–that my ego is a cockroach: it only needs one drop of grease to survive 150 years and a nuclear winter. But without the drop of grease, the cockroach will die. So this contest was my drop of grease.
TB: Aww shucks, thank you. One would hope that’s the goal of every script competition. Making sure new voices are heard.
KATE: It’s true, LA is hard, man. If you want to know that you can make it, move to LA because this place will eat you up, one way or another; it‘s up to you to figure out how to make it to the other side. But yeah, it definitely helps to get a little outside validation from time to time.
TB: And until you get that validation what do you suggest aspiring writers do?
KATE: I think you just have to try to write what you love, and hope that other people are on the same page as you. Hopefully you’ll find people who love the same things and are willing to say, yeah, I’ll work 18-hour days for a 100 dollars because I love this project and I believe in it, let’s go. And I think it’s really important to surround yourself with good people. People who give you honest feedback, and know when to hold your hand a little bit and when to call you on your bullsh*t. Have people around you can trust, and remember they’re the ones you listen to.
TB: It’s all about how you approach people and situations.
KATE: Of course. When I talked to you on the phone it was like, regardless of whether I win the contest or not, this guy out of nowhere liked this creepy story I wrote. Because LA can be all gloss and shine and sharks, but there’s also real people you meet that you’ll end up crying with in meetings, which has happened. (Laughs) And I love that. It’s amazing to walk in a room and find you already have a short hand with somebody you’ve never met because they’ve read your script. And you feel like you know all this raw sh*t about me and now you’re giving me raw sh*t and suddenly it’s like, hey “let’s make art.” That’s cool, let’s do that.
STAY TUNED FOR PART 5 OF THIS 5-PART INTERVIEW WITH KATE & LEE, AS NEXT WE TACKLE: