Patience influences ‘Knowing’ screenwriter’s life, career

Juliet Snowden, a former film and media arts student, appreciates Philadelphia’s culture and uses it as a basis for her screenwriting career.

Rose Byrne and Nicholas Cage star in Knowing, a science-fiction movie co-written by former Temple student Juliet Snowden. The movie hit theaters nationwide last month (Courtesy Knowing).

On March 20, the film Knowing was released nationwide. A father, played by Nicholas Cage, and his son race to decode messages found in a time capsule. The messages hold information about disasters that occurred in the past and ones that will occur in the near future. It is up to them to find out when the disaster is going to occur and save the world before it’s too late.

Juliet Snowden, a former film and media arts student at Temple, co-wrote the screenplay. Her journey to Hollywood wasn’t easy, but the end result was rewarding.

After graduating from Louisiana State University in 1988, Snowden, then 22, moved to Philadelphia, uncertain about her career as a writer. A friend asked her what she wanted to do, and Snowden answered, “film.” Per her friend’s advice, Snowden began taking film classes at Temple.

“I loved it. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Snowden said. “I was writing my own shorts. I was directing them and then editing them. [It was] the first time in my life I felt really alive and excited about something.”

While at Temple, Snowden took three film courses. She said former professor Alan Powell was her favorite instructor.

“He really wanted each and every one of us to flourish as artists,” she said. “Too many professors enjoy putting down their students’ work…what they should be teaching is that it takes years and years to master your craft as a writer, painter, musician, dancer or whatever you aspire to be.”

Powell suggested Snowden move to Los Angeles if she was serious about making movies. Still, she said Philadelphia played an important role in her career.

Snowden said she loved to walk the streets and admire the architecture in Philadelphia and at Temple.
“The city oozes history,” she said. “I can’t wait to come back and show my 5-year-old son the old stomping grounds.”

Snowden said with the film Knowing, she has already made her contribution to the film industry.

“I write from my heart and soul, and if someone responds to that, [it’s] wonderful,” she said. “I feel like that has happened.”

Snowden said people have had strong reactions to her film. She recalled a blog post in which one person said the film made him want to be a better parent.

For Snowden, this is the reward of screenwriting.

Throughout her career, Snowden has written 10 screenplays, two of which have been produced. She said a career in media does not happen overnight.

“[My husband and I] spent two years writing a script [that] never got picked up,” she said. “We began working on another script for one year, which was eventually optioned by Wes Craven.”

Snowden’s career has been 15 years in the making, but she loves movies and writing. She said making money was never her main focus.

“You have to love the craft you are in,” she said.

Snowden and her husband, Stiles White, have worked as screenwriters for the past seven years. She also wrote  Boogeyman, which was released in 2005.

Snowden and White recently finished writing the remake of the Poltergeist, which is planned to be released in 2011. Snowden’s other projects include The Birds and a television pilot.

“Pursue something you love, and hopefully the money will follow,” she said.

She said aspiring media producers should know it’s important for screenwriters to be patient. Aspiring students get caught up in the glamour of the media industry and do not realize screenplays sometimes sit idle for years before they are produced as films.

The original screenplay of Knowing was written 10 years ago by Ryne Pearson. A few years later, Snowden and her husband took on the screenplay and worked on it for two years. It would be another three years before Knowing went into production.

Originally, the film included a time capsule and predictions. Snowden and White turned it into a science fiction film, adding disasters and changing the pay-off of the story.

Snowden also included some of her own experiences in Knowing. During the time she was writing the screenplay, Snowden gave birth to her first child.

“Although it was a blessing, giving birth was one of the difficulties of writing Knowing,” she said. “I was a new mother. [I was] sleep deprived, had raging hormones, yet I was supposed to be creative.”

But motherhood paid off for Snowden.

“Without being a mother, I don’t think I could’ve written such compelling and convincing scenes between a parent and a child.”

Alexandria Brown can be reached at

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