UI screenwriting alum returns to Iowa City for film premiere at FilmScene

David Kajganich, an alum of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, attended the premiere of “Bones and All,” starring Timothée Chalamet, at FilmScene last weekend — Kajganich wrote the film, and never expected to be a successful screenwriter.


David Kajganich contributed photo.

Madeleine Willis, News Reporter

When David Kajganich moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, he didn’t anticipate finding success.

Born and raised in Ohio, Kajganich always thought he would return to the Midwest. After achieving success as a screenwriter in LA, Kajganich placed his roots where he could pursue his career.

Kajganich is a product of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he studied from 1992 to 1994. When he first moved out to LA to work as a screenwriter in the film industry, he gave himself two to three years before returning home.

Despite planning for failure, Kajganich returned to Iowa City on Oct. 6 to premiere his film “Bones and All,” starring Timothée Chalamet, at the Refocus Film Festival at FilmScene.

The Refocus Film Festival was the first of its kind in Iowa City, and held a screening of “Bones and All,” directed by “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino, weeks before its scheduled theatrical release on Nov. 18.  The film debuted at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on Sept. 2.

Kajganich expected his career to be one of teaching and writing books, but instead it took a left turn into screenwriting.

“I was teaching in Ohio, and I suddenly had an agent and a manager and a screenplay that sold, and then I got a job writing another screenplay,” Kajganich said, “And my team finally said, ‘You should move to Los Angeles if you really want to give this career a shot.’”

Kajganich started his career with a bang — he sold his second screenplay to Warner Brothers.

“I got this call that Warner Brothers had bought this screenplay and I remember thinking that I didn’t know how any of it works, because I never expected to succeed at it,” he said.

Some of Kajganich’s other film credits include writing for the 2015 James Franco film “True Story,” as well as creator and producer of AMC’s

“I remember thinking that I didn’t know how any of it works because I never expected to succeed at it,” he said.

In an email to The Daily Iowan, executive director and co-founder of FilmScene Andrew Sherburne wrote the sold-out audience was amazing for both the film and the conversation.

“This festival offered a special opportunity for Dave and novelist Camille DeAngelis to discuss Dave’s process of adapting the novel to the big screen,” Sherburne wrote. “Our festival is framed around celebrating the art of adaptation, and this was a rare opportunity for artists to discuss this process connected to a major project.”

The event was meaningful to Kajganich because Iowa holds a special place in his heart. He said attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop was the best training he could imagine receiving for a career writing film and TV.

RELATED: FilmScene’s first Refocus Film Festival to take over Iowa City

Sherburne wrote he spotted plenty of young writers and artists in the audience who deeply valued the discussion of the artistic process.

Kagjanich said he was grateful to FilmScene for hosting the event, and he couldn’t be happier about coming back because he saw numerous movies there as a student.

“It was a wonderful first event for our first festival with a fitting connection to our special community,” Sherburne wrote. “It will be hard to top that event next year, but we hope to keep building on this success.”

Kagjanich is currently producing a film titled “The Writers,” which is another book adaptation, and he is also developing a Western-genre television series.