Making It As A Screenwriter | Kevin Noonan

By: Sarah Chaisson-Warner

Kevin Noonan won our One-Hour 2022 TV Pilot Contest with his script, THE BERLIN AGENT. Set in 1956 during the Cold War, a murder in East Berlin draws a disgraced British intelligence officer and a cynical German detective into a conspiracy of espionage, scientific discovery, and the future (and the past) of world history.

Kevin, a former journalist, writer, and performer originally from Kansas, has a love of and passion for the works of John Le Carre, Elmore Leonard, and Agatha Christie, as well as anything with a heist. Kevin previously wrote and performed at the Pack Theater in Los Angeles with house ensembles Very Famous and Nobody Yell at Me.

He has been a writer at heart his whole life, starting from when he was a schoolboy. “I remember always looking forward to projects that required some element of creative writing, especially if I could make myself laugh,” he says. He loved writing and movies, and grew up with older siblings who “introduced me to a far broader scope of film than they probably should have at my age.” (Kevin occasionally still gets nightmares about the opening credits of Se7en, but – in his words – “they’re cool nightmares.”)

As he grew older, he wrote for a variety of different mediums, including newspapers and magazines. In college, he read William Goldman’s books, opening his eyes to the idea of screenwriting as a craft and as a profession, and that made the idea of sitting down to write a screenplay feel like a much more tangible goal.  

“Now nothing gives me a rush of adrenaline and anxiety quite like staring at a blank Final Draft document and starting to craft a story.” – Kevin Noonan

In 2017, he took a comedy sketch writing class, which proved to be incredibly valuable in his journey to becoming a screenwriter. “It helped me convert my desire to write into functional, practical, and economical writing skills that I apply to everything I’ve written since,” he says.

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Since then, Kevin has written a number of TV pilots, including THE BERLIN AGENT. He began writing the script in the Summer of 2021, and “returned to it a few months later in earnest after thinking about it on the train every day for weeks.”

A friend recommended Shore Scripts’ coverage service, and when he went to the website, it happened to be right around the final deadline for the 2022 contest.

What inspired his contest-winning period piece? “I had a flash of a specific image that popped into my head fully formed, which became more or less the opening of the script,” he says.

“Reflecting on a decade spent working in journalism and the startup tech world, observing power struggles that seemed monumental in our bubble and often meaningless outside of it, watching colleagues and friends work themselves to the point of mental breakdown for a goal that could never be achieved or an authority figure who would never show them the recognition or support they needed, seeing the same cycles of ego and power rising and despair and desperation falling repeated over and over again to no apparent end goal beyond the obtaining and maintaining of power itself – I wanted to pour those feelings out of myself, but do it with spies.” – Kevin Noonan

Since winning the 2022 One-Hour TV Pilot Contest, Kevin has been working on several other new and exciting projects. The project he is most excited about is “a story that is truly just for my own entertainment, and may never leave the safety of my hard drive – an adaptation of a Mark Twain novel, a sort of Medieval ‘John Wick’ called ‘A Samurai in King Arthur’s Court.’”

Writing takes a lot of work, though, and the challenges that come with establishing yourself as a writer can be significant. “There are days when it feels like I have taken on a second full-time job – but no one knows I’m doing it, no one is paying me for it, no one is asking me to do it, and it exists in an imaginary world inside my head, which for me at least can make me question my confidence,” he says.

“And once you’ve written something, the feeling of sheer impossibility that anyone beyond my circle of close friends will ever be willing to read it, let alone read it and like it or see potential in it, can sometimes make this feel like a fool’s errand. But if it is, it’s still fun.”

As Kevin continues his own writing journey, he offers one nugget of advice to other budding writers. “Be kind to baristas or bartenders or whoever the people are who are working wherever you choose to write, and tip them. Or if you write in private, still do that.”

Want to learn more about Kevin? Watch his winner’s video below.

Want to know more about our 2023 TV pilot contest? Click here!

After 15 years of working in state and national politics, Sarah Chaisson-Warner is moving into the entertainment industry. As the former Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Athena Magazine for Girls, Sarah is now focusing her passion for creative arts through screenwriting. Many of her feature-length scripts focus on the often unseen experiences of gay women throughout American History, and she is also currently writing a sci-fi TV series and a family Christmas script. 

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