Kevin Meade Williamson (born March 14, 1965) is an American screenwriter, best known for the horror films Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty, as well as the popular television series Dawson's Creek and more recently The Vampire Diaries and The Following.
Williamson was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the younger son of Lillie Faye (née Pittman), a storyteller, and Ottis Wade Williamson, a fisherman. He lived in the neighboring coastal community of Oriental, but before he started school his family moved to Aransas Pass, Texas, later relocating to Fulton, Texas, both near Corpus Christi. Williamson's family returned to Oriental before Kevin's high school years. Obsessed from a young age with movies, especially those of Steven Spielberg, he applied to New York University's film school and was accepted but because he could not afford the tuition, he attended a school closer to home, East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where he took a B.A. in theatre arts. After graduation, he moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. Though he landed a part on the soap opera Another World in 1990, he moved to Los Angeles the next year where he had small parts on In Living Color, a Roger Corman film, Hard Run, and in music videos. While taking classes on screenwriting at UCLA he wrote his first script, Killing Mrs. Tingle which was bought by a production company in 1995 and put on the shelf.
Inspired by the March 9, 1994 episode of the newsmagazine Turning Point on a serial killer in Gainesville, Florida, who murdered college students, Williamson wrote a horror movie script, originally titled "Scary Movie". Its characters had seen many classic horror movies (e.g. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween) and knew all the clichés. Miramax bought it for their new Dimension Films label in the spring of 1995. Directed by Wes Craven, the film, renamed Scream, was a smash with critics, who praised its intelligent and witty script which would win Williamson the Saturn Award. Costing only $15.3 million to make, it sold $103 million in tickets in the U.S. Williamson's next film was also about high schoolers in peril. I Know What You Did Last Summer, based on a 1973 novel by Lois Duncan, had four friends accidentally running over a man, panicking, dumping the body, and going on with their lives, only to be punished one year later. Duncan was appalled at her novel being turned into a horror film and making sport of murder. The film's producers, Columbia Pictures, also annoyed Miramax by advertising it as "from the creator of Scream" so Miramax rushed into production Scream 2, also written by Williamson, and filed a lawsuit against Columbia. Scream 2 would also be a hit and would spawn a third film, Scream 3, as the end part of the Scream trilogy. Williamson wrote another in this genre, The Faculty, characterized as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Breakfast Club." Williamson has already begun working on a fourth Scream film, but a completion or release date has yet to be announced. Williamson has however already stated that a proposed fifth and sixth installments depends entirely on the critical reception of the fourth.He has also confirmed he will not be coming back for Scream 5
Paul Stupin, an executive at Columbia Tri-Star Television, read Scream after the bidding war for the script and was convinced Williamson was just the man to create a television series for his company. The result was Dawson's Creek, a semi-autobiographical tale set in a small coastal community not unlike Oriental. Williamson was the model for the title character, Dawson Leery, a dreamy romantic obsessed with movies--especially Spielberg's. Joey Potter, the girl who platonically shares Dawson's bed was based on a friend of his who had shared his bed. In December 1995, the show was pitched to the Fox Network, where Stupin had been an executive, but it was rejected. Stupin and Williamson then went to The WB in 1996, which bought the show. Williamson said "I pitched it as Some Kind of Wonderful, meets Pump Up the Volume, meets James at 15, meets My So-Called Life, meets Little House on the Prairie". Dawson's Creek premiered on The WB January 20, 1998, and was an immediate hit with its intended audience. Despite this (and his having told Entertainment Weekly that "I ain't never leaving Dawson's Creek"), Williamson left the show at the end of its second season to create a show for Miramax to air on ABC. The result, Wasteland, about twentysomethings in New York City was savaged by critics. The Hollywood Reporter said it was about "the most attractively vacuous, self-indulgent, and pretentious group ever assembled in prime-time." It aired only three episodes in October 1999 before ABC cancelled it. (Williamson would return to Dawson's Creek to write the two-part series finale in 2003.)
Drop in Popularity
Williamson's first script was only produced when Williamson himself got behind the camera to direct. Starring Dawson's Creek's Katie Holmes, Barry Watson, and Helen Mirren, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, as it was renamed after the Columbine High School Massacre, had two students getting even with their vindictive teacher. Despite the cast, which also included Molly Ringwald and Jeffrey Tambor, it was panned by critics and audiences alike. Entertainment Weekly said it was like Misery scripted by a witless John Hughes imitator" and the film, which cost $14 million to make, sold only $8.8 million in tickets in America. Williamson created a mid-season replacement for The WB network called Glory Days, set in a coastal community in Washington state, where very weird things were happening--shades of Twin Peaks, it seemed. It debuted as a mid-season replacement in January 2002; only ten episodes were produced.
Williamson wrote another script for Wes Craven, Cursed, which was released in 2005 and starred Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, and Shannon Elizabeth. The film suffered much script and scheduling difficulties during production. Consequently, it did not perform well at the box office. Cursed, like some other Williamson works, includes a gay sub-plot.
2005 saw the release of his newest horror film, Venom, about a group of teens stalked by a crazed killer in the bayous of Louisiana. Williamson is listed as a producer for Venom, but not as a writer.
Alongside writing a script for Scream 4, Williamson now has a new show premiering on The CW, called The Vampire Diaries, and is working on a remake of the thriller The Bedroom Window. Williamson wrote and produced this show for The CW. It was a coming-of-age drama about a troubled teen who moves with his mother and new stepfather to the gated community of Palm Springs where he uncovers some dark secrets. Hidden Palms was originally intended to be a midseason replacement set to air in March but Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll aired in its timeslot instead. The Pilot eventually premeried on May 30, 2007. Eight episodes were ordered by the network but due to low ratings the series was cancelled. The final episode aired on July 4, 2007.
He recently began work on a popluar TV show called The Following, which bears many similarities to Scream. The show was created by Williamson, and most of the episodes were written by him.