Skip to Main content

From Stage to Screen

Sep 3, 2008
by Liz Daube, '05

Alumnus Kevin Cramer takes his playwriting success to Hollywood

Kevin Cramer got lost in the Beartooth Mountains once in Montana. There were snowdrifts higher than his truck. A drugged-out girl opened his door, jumped in and tried to get him to camp with her friends. It kind of freaked him out.

Years later, that random excursion led Cramer to write a screenplay, which placed fourth in the 2007 Samuel Goldwyn Writing Awards Competition. He has now sold the script to an independent film company that signed William H. Macy for the lead role.

Cramer said the movie, “Zen Dog in the Clouds,” explores “what could’ve happened if I had stayed.” The plot follows a soldier who gets lost in Montana, stumbles into a heroin deal gone bad and winds up getting kidnapped by a psycho who takes him along as he kills all his rivals.

It’s one of many screenplays Cramer has written since he graduated from Flagler’s communication program in 1999. Back then, he took Barry Sand’s writing for television class and added a creative writing minor, but he never anticipated the success he’s had. In addition to “Zen Dog in the Clouds,” 24 of his plays have been on theater stages in California, Pennsylvania and London.

“It [Flagler] was kind of the place where I discovered I could write and that people liked what I could put out there,” he said. “I’m so much further than I ever thought I would get … but I’ve got a bigger name than my bank account would suggest.”

Cramer said the movie industry should, hopefully, prove more lucrative for him than plays have; his stage productions have brought him “like $600” in total. A financial perk originally brought him to California, though – he got a full playwriting fellowship to study for his master’s degree at the University of California Riverside.

He’s committed to making it in Hollywood now, even though he entered the industry at “the worst possible time.” Right after he won the Sam Goldwyn honor, he received a slew of requests for his script. Just a few days later, the writers’ strike began.

“It killed me,” Cramer said. “Hollywood is a place where people don’t remember what they had for lunch … most of the time you have to beg people to look at your stuff.

“By the time January rolled around, half the people I’d talked to weren’t even in their positions anymore.”

But with Macy – who was nominated for an Academy Award for his acting in “Fargo” – and about $10 million to $15 million tentatively slated for FilmDaDa’s production of “Zen Dog in the Clouds,” things are looking up for Cramer. He said he hopes to find commercial success so he can keep working on the screenplays he really loves on the side.

Tagged As