Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

picture of kat in a park


Today we are talking with Kat Trout-Baron, a third-year screenwriting and cinema student from Ocean City, New Jersey. Kat enjoys writing of all sorts-- they recently completed the first draft of a feature-length script, and before this have written shorts and plays. Kat also enjoys writing criticism and reviews-- they run a blog where they publish examinations on film, more specifically the progression of stars across their career. When Kat is not writing, they are helping run the Bijou Film Board as the Executive Director and the Student Video Productions as the Production Coordinator. 


1. Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the University of Iowa? 

I worked at a bookstore during the pandemic, and we had this rickety desktop monitor I would spend hours on. I did all my college research on this computer-- I wanted to get out of my hometown and experience somewhere new. I wanted to be challenged, walk a different path, and find out about various people. I come from the East Coast, and I just felt like I needed to keep moving. Iowa fascinated me because of its literary history, but also because of how much it emphasized community-based learning. I loved the promise of intensive workshops and specific classes that would demand creativity from me. I needed to be somewhere that I could find my voice as a writer-- I feel that Iowa gives me the space to experiment. I fall in the dirt with lots of my projects, then dust off my knees and get back to work. I love it. 

2. What is the inspiration for your work right now?

My work right now pulls from a wide variety of places. I am both inspired by other pieces of art as well as complicated feelings that fester inside of me. For physical pieces of art, I've been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen these last few months as I think about my hometown in New Jersey. His music is so emotional-- every song he writes has a story from beginning to end. I love how they feel like campfire tales. I also always carry with me a book of Keats poetry-- it always inspires me how fluidly he talks of love. In film, I've been watching a lot of Tom Cruise movies-- the wide arrange of genres and the devotion to earnest storytelling has made me re-examine my work. Seeing how one person can command so much space and give life to people's words-- it has taught me a lot about my screenwriting craft. There's also this Bukowski poem-- Throwing Away the Alarm Clock. I just wrote a feature-length script about a daughter and father, and I had that poem squeezed into my journal when I began writing. Finally, I've been listening to a piece of music from Giselle the ballet-- when she finds out her prince is engaged, she descends into madness before dying of heartbreak. The music and the movement of the dancer is so haunting-- I always want to capture that same sense of melancholy.  

3. Do you have a daily writing routine? 

For my writing, I always begin by journaling. I either write about myself and what I'm feeling, or I try to write from my character's perspectives. I'll ask random questions-- what are they thinking that day? Is there a shirt they've hung onto far beyond the expiration date? Do they enjoy bowling? What's a food they hate? Questions that may not make it into my work but give me an idea of the lives they live. I also turn on the score for the 1992 movie Far and Away-- I feel like I'm Pavlov's Dog, the way I immediately start to work when I hear that music. After I finish my journaling, I go onto the page and write. I try to write at least five pages a day-- but I don't force myself. I think every writer needs to learn to listen to their minds-- if you aren't feeling it, you aren't feeling it. 

4. What are you reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure? 

Right now, I'm reading Heavenly Bodies by Richard Dyer. It is a premiere book in the study of stars in Hollywood. Star Studies is my favorite topic within film, and I'm writing two papers on it currently. One is about the authenticity of star stunts, and the other is about how directors interact with the star personas of their actors.  It is both for research and pleasure-- the two are hand in hand for me! To be able to write about what I study is as much of a passion as writing creatively. I am always going to be a student of film no matter how experienced I become. 

5. Tell us about where you are from - what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?

I am from Ocean City, New Jersey. I am incredibly proud of being from New Jersey-- I think it is the wackiest, most jam-packed place I've ever been, and I adore it for that fact. I love the Pine Barrens-- I could spend hours sifting through the woods and coming across abandoned structures and quaint rivers. I love to get lost in there and sit and listen to nature. I also love our beaches-- one of my favorite parts of the day is when the sky begins to turn dark blue, and all the lights come on in the far-off buildings. On the beach by my house, you can see the entirety of Atlantic City on the horizon. I don't think the casinos are exactly glamorous, but they do look very beautiful from afar. I also love driving up to New York, when you can see the faint outline of the buildings. New York City is dear in my heart-- I spent a lot of time there as a kid, and I used to dream of living there. 





Thank you for talking with us today, Kat!