MAPS students had a "GRIMM" afternoon for their after-school program on Monday.
The creators and executive producers of the NBC show came to the MAPS Media Institute as guest lecturers.
Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt shared the intricacies of producing, writing and directing a major television show, gave tips on getting into the film and television industry, and shared insight as to how the business works.
NBC’s “GRIMM” is a modern retelling of tales by the Brothers Grimm. Kouf and Greenwalt write the series, now in its fourth season. It is about a homicide detective who discovers he is a descendant of hunters who fight supernatural forces.
Kouf and Greenwalt, longtime friends of Peter Rosten, founder and CEO of MAPS Media Institute, said they were happy to share with the MAPS students.
“We love Montana and come here quite a bit,” said Kouf. “If kids have any interest in the creative arts, this is a great way for them to learn and find out how to get involved in the business. Peter has had a lot of experience in the business, and so he brings a lot of insight that these kids can benefit from.”
“We actually speak to students in a lot of places and we try to give back to the community,” said Greenwalt. “I think [MAPS] is a great program and a terrific way for students who want to explore that side of their personality. If you want to be an actor or filmmaker, you can’t just sit in your room and act or pretend you’re making film – get out and work.
“We are writers – that’s where it all begins with the story on the page. If you don’t have the story, no amount of special effects and movie stars will make it very much better.”
Kouf and Greenwalt will direct an episode of “GRIMM” this season.
“Now that we’re in our fourth year, we’re going to try to have that fun,” said Greenwalt.
“Or that nightmare,” said Kouf.
They both began writing at an early age and built their careers.
Kouf began in high school by making a film to replace a term paper assignment. He went on to college and received a degree in English with a history minor.
“I learned that I could write in college because I had a playwriting class and kept getting A’s – I seemed to be able to write dialogue well,” he said.
Kouf borrowed an old John Wayne script to examine the format and taught himself how to write a screenplay.
Greenwalt knew he wanted to be a writer. He went to college and then he got a job as a stand-in and learned that it all revolves around the script.
Years later, Kouf and Greenwalt teamed up, caught Disney’s attention and their careers as writers took off – with “GRIMM.”
“We are halfway between a play and a novel,” said Kouf. “We’re not limited by a stage and we don’t have as much freedom as a novel does. We’re pretty free now - with computer-generated abilities, we can go places we couldn’t previously go.”
Kouf and Greenwalt said getting a movie made is very complex. Script, schedules, actors, crew, money are all variables in an incredible process.
“A lot of things have to fall into place to get a movie made,” said Kouf. “It’s amazing that a movie does get made and it’s amazing that some even turn out well. There are so many people involved and so many opinions. You can have the greatest script in the world and all the money you want behind it, and if you get a bad cast the movie won’t play - it will just seem like an awful movie.
“Casablanca was first given to Ronald Regan who turned it down – just by luck Humphrey Bogart said yes. It would have been a whole different movie, so you never know.”
“Mostly, success comes from perspiration,” Greenwalt said.
Wendy Bauder, executive producer of MAPS, said they invited every student to attend this special class.
“How often do you get to have an executive producer from a popular TV show in the town of Hamilton?” asked Bauder. “We invited all students from all our fields of study because they use all aspects in their show.”
Christian Aackerman, MAPS film instructor, explained the show and advantages for students.
“This show is about a man who can see the souls of the men – as werewolf or beaver – it’s a supernatural show and a detective show where this guy sees creatures,” said Aackerman. “It combines with “GRIMM” forces.
“This class is awesome because the kids get the opportunity to talk with actual Hollywood writers, producers, directors – people who are actually in the business right now. The kids see their work on TV and this helps students feel closer to their goal. Students ask questions and the boundaries are broken down – to give them closer access and let them show off their skills.”
Caleb Hallahan, a teaching assistant for MAPS, was eager for the class.
“My favorite thing is directing and editing and being in charge of the shots and putting it all together in the post-production stage,” he said.
Isiah Kim commutes from Missoula to attend the afterschool program. He said he values the socialization and communication aspects of the program.
“I enjoy writing – specifically script writing – so I’m learning a lot at the class today,” said Kim.