Prolific screenwriter returns to Chimacum


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PORT TOWNSEND – When prolific Hollywood screenwriter Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith tells her own story, she does it with a cast of characters straight out of real life.

Two women have lead roles: Sue Phillips, her English and creative writing teacher at Chimacum High School, and her mother, Katie Smith of Port Ludlow.

The two Smith women plan to appear on Saturday, one of three outdoor movie nights presented by the Port Townsend Film Festival this weekend.

Each evening will include a free film screening at 7:30 p.m. on Taylor Street downtown.

One of Kiwi’s blockbuster films will light up the giant screen on Saturday. It’s an image that has grossed over $ 141 million worldwide while making its lead actor, Reese Witherspoon, a huge star.

The Port Townsend Film Festival, however, is not allowed to print the title of the film in newspapers. The licensor, Swank Motion Pictures, does not allow the promotion that would compete with commercial theaters, although it does allow the festival to give details on its website, PTfilmfest.com.

Now for the true story: Kiwi and the Smith family moved to Port Ludlow in 1980, around the time “An Officer and a Gentleman” was being filmed in Port Townsend. There have been sightings of Richard Gere and Debra Winger at local restaurants, Kiwi recalls. The dream of cinematic storytelling took shape in her teenage mind.

After graduating from Chimacum High School, Kiwi moved to Los Angeles in 1988 to attend Occidental College – and continued to write the scripts for films including “Ten Things I Hate About You”, “She’s the Man”, “Ella Enchanted” and the blockbuster mentioned above.

She is also the author of “The Geography of Girlhood,” a novel set on the Olympic Peninsula, and “Trinkets,” another young adult book that has been adapted for series on Netflix.

Kiwi has worked with his writing partner, Karen McCullah, on numerous film projects.

“The stories on the screen have so many moving parts… it’s great to have a partner” to go through them, she said.

Today the screenwriter visits Chimacum High, meets students. She plans to talk about how she was a poet before she got into film – and how the two art forms mirror each other.

Making every line count, creating a punchy scene, writing precisely: these skills translate well from poetry to movie scripts, she said.

Kiwi also remembers that Phillips, now retired, was a driving force in his life.

“She encouraged me so much… she brought out the best stories in us – while being strict.”

Kiwi thanks her mom, not only for naming her after one of her favorite fruits, but also for showing a strong work ethic.

Her parents, Katie and the late Mel Smith, started a benefits consulting business, and Kiwi worked in the office as a daughter.

“They were amazing, hardworking and brilliant people,” she said.

On Saturday at the outdoor cinema, Kiwi will participate in the presidency of two competitions: best human costume and best canine costume, both inspired by his film screening that evening. You will find information about them on PTfilmfest.com, as well as details on the rest of the outdoor cinema offer.

Tonight’s free movie on the Taylor Street screen is “Lily Turns the World on top,” the true story of Lily Hevesh, an artist who builds and then knocks huge works of art out of dominoes.

Hevesh will be the guest speaker before the 7:30 p.m. screening.

Sunday’s final will be “A League Of Their Own”, starring Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks.

As with the rest of the outdoor movies, guests are encouraged to bring their own chairs and wear face masks when not eating or drinking at Taylor Street restaurants.

Rocky Friedman of the adjacent Rose Theater will sell popcorn.

Seeing the film festival – and the film industry – shine a light on stories created by and about women, Kiwi, 51, noticed the changes she has witnessed.

“It was a very cool trip to see stories about women come to the fore more,” she said.

“Now there are so many young women on the writing teams, so many creative women. The stories of strong women are the stories that I love.

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Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]


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