Eric Koenig, writer of “Matriarch”

Dec 4, 2014 | Interviews

Eric Koenig is a dentist in the Air Force, stationed at a remote desert base 45 minutes north of Palmdale, California. He is also a writer on the verge, having just sold his first spec script, Matriarch, in a major six-figure deal to Paramount Pictures and Red Wagon, a sale which took place, appropriately, on Veteran’s Day.

“It has been nuts,“ Eric says. “I’ve been very lucky. I know it doesn’t normally happen like that. It was just the right material at the right time.”

Eric attributes his big break to the Tracking Board features competition. Matriarch was a top 25 finalist, and as soon as the results were released, a producer got their hands on the script and took it to Paradigm and Benderspink, who are now Eric’s reps. The spec sold within a week and a half of being listed as a Tracking Board finalist, but although the script sold quickly, Eric himself has been writing for the past three years.

“I would love to say that Matriarch was the first draft of the first script I ever wrote, but it wasn’t. I’d written several scripts before and several drafts in different genres. The elevated thriller genre is what I like to write and like to see at the movies, but I’ve dabbled in other genres.”

Matriarch follows two powerful female characters going head to head as a prison psychologist has 48 hours to convince a serial killer to disclose the location of her final victim before she is executed. Eric cites films such as The Sixth Sense, The Silence of the Lambs and Seven as inspiration. Eric was working full-time at least 50 hours a week at Edwards Air Base when he decided to delve into the world of screenwriting.

“I don’t have a background in film or in screenwriting. I’ve never written a novel and don’t have any blogs, but I’ve always enjoyed the writing process for the small school papers and college papers that I’ve done. I just woke up one morning with a one-paragraph idea for a cool, scary story, then it turned into a page, then three pages. I’d never read a screenplay before, so I Googled screenplays, read one, bought Final Draft, and wrote that first story into a screenplay. And it was terrible.”

Eric spent three years writing as much as possible while also trying to get a foot in the door of Hollywood.

“I knew no one in the business. It’s very disheartening when you’re trying to break in and get your foot in the door. I sent off query letters and emails and got a bunch of non-responses saying ‘we don’t take unsolicited scripts.’ I did get paid notes from services on the internet like The Black List. When the notes would come back and I’d been given the same note as another service gave me, that was a big sign that something in the script wasn’t working and I had to change it.”

Life has already changed for Eric. For one thing, he’s calling me not from the airbase, but from a studio lot, where he’s about to go into yet another pitch meeting that has resulted from his recent sale. He’s still a dentist, but now he’s on leave more and more as he takes advantage of all the opportunities his spec sale has offered him. So what do Eric’s colleagues at the Air Base have to say about this sudden turn of events?

“No one believes it, and it’s hard for me to believe. Some of the people at the dental clinic knew I was trying to break into screenwriting but the majority of my friends and colleagues did not. Everyone on base knows now, and they’re surprised. They’re very congratulatory, but none of them knew I wrote, and now they all want to come to the premiere!”

Eric’s recent success is proof that determination and a dedication to the craft, along with a killer premise, can get you noticed by Hollywood.

“The most important thing is don’t give up. It can be a very long process, and there isn’t a defined finish line, and you never know if it’s going to happen or when and that’s so hard to deal with. It’s just a matter of plugging away. You have to keep writing. If you keep at it, the odds will turn in your favor.”