Movie screenwriter offers advice to local students

by Mike Lesko | reporter Published:

Aurora -- Howie Klausner, a movie screenwriter whose scripts include "Space Cowboys," described himself as a "real wimpy kid" when he was a student.

"I flunked out of prep school, but one thing I could always do was write stories," he told about 60 students in grades 6-8 at Valley Christian Academy in Aurora Jan. 23. The school includes students from Aurora, Hudson, Macedonia, Streetsboro and Twinsburg.

As a student growing up in Nashville, Klausner once wrote a comic book about life at his school.

"It traveled around the school," he said. "Everybody -- about 700 kids -- read it. A teacher found it, and there was a picture of her in it."

Klausner said he was sent to the principal's office, was paddled five times and was suspended from school.

Klausner grew up, attended film school at the University of Southern California and achieved success. He issued "a challenge to the next generation of dreamers" to pursue their dreams and goals.

"Each of you already knows what you love to do," he told the students. "Each one of you has a dream. Whoever you are, it's going to come out. There are plans for every single one of you. Stick with your dream."

Klausner, a former middle school teacher for six years, said he loves talking to students.

"It's really my passion, even more so than movies, talking to, encouraging and challenging kids," he said.

He is writing a book called "Seven For Thirteen: A Field Manual for the Teenage Boy."

"Howie taught me to believe in my dreams," said VCA seventh-grader Emma Morgan from Streetsboro. "He also said to pick your own friends and to choose them wisely. He was awesome and really, really funny."

"Howie was very encouraging to me to follow my dreams," said Leah Bailey, a VCA eighth-grader from Streetsboro.

Klausner said he has had many jobs in his lifetime.

"I failed and failed, but you just keep going after it," he told the students, adding the only sure way to fail is to stop trying.

As a youngster, Klausner said he made movies in his backyard and was involved in school plays.

"I had a dream, and it never left me. Dreams actually come from God," he told the students. "God talks to us."

Klausner was an uncredited screenwriter on the movie, "Soul Surfer," based on the true story of a girl who had her left arm bitten off by a shark.

"She cried for a month because she wanted to be a world champion surfer," Klausner said. "But God told her she was not supposed to quit, and she won the world championship with one arm."

He said being an uncredited screenwriter is "how I actually make a more steady living, being a fix-it guy for movies. I do it all the time, and I'm doing one right now. I more or less rescued 'Soul Surfer' from what we call 'turnaround' in the studio world, which means Sony was about to dump the project. They green lit the movie after I wrote the youth group character played by Carrie Underwood and the whole Thailand sequence."

Recent Klausner film credits include "The Identical," "The Last Ride," "Reagan" and "The Grace Card."

Klausner's most famous movie likely is "Space Cowboys," which starred Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland.

"It is about four guys who thought they were supposed to go to the moon, but the chance was taken away from them," Klausner said. "Forty years later, they got to go on a space shuttle."

Klausner said the best part about being a movie screenwriter "is hearing that my work actually made someone smile or think. I also enjoy bringing an idea to life. Honestly, taking a thought and converting that to characters that come to life, and their actions and their words -- every now and then, that magical experience happens, when the characters start writing it for you -- is pretty amazing. I never tire of it, and I still get that tingle hearing actors bring life to words I wrote."

Klausner has a home just outside Nashville where he lives with wife Heather, and daughters Kate, 13, and twins Caroline and Camille, 11.

He visited Valley Christian Academy at the request of a friend, Chris Gentry, and his wife, Tammy Gentry, VCA marketing coordinator. Klausner and Chris Gentry became friends years ago when both lived in southern California.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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