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Screen Writing 101

Q+A with Victor Miller.


Lewis Smith

Victor Miller was trained in Shakespearean theater but made it big writing soap operas and the 1980 horror classic Friday the 13th. We asked the Alameda resident about the formula for successful screenplays.

Q: How does one make a hit horror film?

A: You need three things: First, there needs to be some evil that happened in the past and now infuses the present. Then, you need a location where teens cannot be saved by the National Guard or their parents. We came up with a summer camp. Finally, you need randy teenagers. There is a strong Victorian code in horror films: If you are sexually active, there’s a good chance you’ll be killed.

Q: Friday the 13th cost $550,000, grossed $78 million, and spawned 11 sequels. Did you know you were making an iconic film?

A: No, not at all. The original title was Long Night at Camp Blood. If that title had stuck, you and I would not be talking right now.
I have not seen any of the sequels.

Q: You won three Emmy’s for writing soap operas. What was your favorite storyline?

A: I read about a real prostitute in Berlin who had twins: one was black and one was white because she had slept with two different men on the same night. I did not know it was biologically possible, but it was.

I thought it would be fun to have twins with two fathers, so I wrote that for Guiding Light. It went on the air, but a few months later, all the show’s writers were fired. The new staff rewrote the storyline and said the DNA test had been tampered with, and that there was only one father.

Victor Miller will introduce a showing of Friday the 13th at the New Rheem Theatre on May 13, caiff.org.

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