Thomas Kivney ’13 talks to NER intern Rachel Horowitz-Benoit ’21 about his work at a literary scouting agency and getting his MFA in screenwriting.
Rachel Horowitz-Benoit: When were you an intern at NER and what was a highlight (or anything you remember doing) of your experience?
Thomas Kivney: I interned at NER over winter term 2013 and it was a wonderful experience that I’m so thankful to have had. The people there were all an incredible mix of hyper intelligent and super welcoming and I remember the office having this warm, almost magical atmosphere—full of old NER volumes, lots of comfortable places to read, and there always seemed to be snow outside. I really looked forward to going into work every day. I especially loved the Friday meetings where we got to discuss some pieces that had been submitted to the journal and give our input. It was an informative peek into the editorial workings of the journal that taught me a lot about how to articulate and defend my opinions about what makes a story work.
RHB: What was one skill you developed as an undergraduate, either in school or any internships, that most benefits you today in your professional work?
TK: Middlebury and NER really taught me how to think critically about narrative while also opening my eyes to a wider world of stories out there. I like to think that I’m a more adventurous and more reflective reader and storyteller because of my time at Midd.
Thomas Kivney at Middlebury, where he double majored in English and film
RHB: Where are you now, geographically and professionally, and what were some of the steps in between?
TK: I’m in Los Angeles getting my MFA in Screenwriting at the American Film Institute Conservatory. Before that I spent six years in New York working in publishing. I started off at Macmillan in the audiobook department, which was just a fantastic crash course in the industry as a whole because it meant working with tons of people across multiple imprints and genres—literary, thriller, romance, sci-fi, YA, you name it. For anyone looking to get their start in publishing I can’t recommend audiobooks enough. From there, I transitioned over to a literary scouting agency for four years, which is where I started becoming more involved in film. It was a rewarding experience that meant getting to work closely alongside Warner Bros and Netflix, advising them on the acquisition of books for adaptation to TV and film.
RHB: What is the focus of your Master’s, and why did you decide to pursue this field?
TK: I’m getting my Master’s in Screenwriting. I’m just a massive movie nerd through and through.
RHB: What do you read for pleasure? Have you read anything good lately?
TK: Working at a scouting agency meant reading two or three books a week for work, and much of this past year has been about slowly rediscovering the love of reading for its own sake. I recently really enjoyed Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, which was a great little puzzlebox of a book. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jason Lutes’s epic but very entertaining three-part graphic novel Berlin was a behemoth I happily devoured while stuck inside this summer. And a little less recent—but the best thing I’ve read in years—remains Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. They’re just fantastic and the HBO adaptation is really good too.
RHB: Thanks for your time, Thomas, and the best of luck with your degree!