From Show Business To Banging On The Computer Keys: an interview with Tiffany Paulsen

The entertainment industry is overly competitive; therefore, some TV and movie celebrities retire from acting and move on to corporate occupations.  Several actors may also end up working behind the scenes, such as writing screenplays, directing, film producing and so on.  Tiffany Mari Paulsen went from acting to writing shortly after completing Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989).

After graduating from Cashmere High School in Cashmere, WA, Paulsen moved to Seattle to fulfill her dreams and acting was one of them.  “My dream was always to be an actress, writer, and director.  I started working in restaurants, took classes, and got hired after my first audition – a McDonald’s commercial.”

The legacy of bloody Camp Crystal Lake came into Paulsen’s life after three or four call backs and extensive driving to Vancouver, where Friday the 13th Part 8 was shot.  Her role as Suzi Donaldson in the film, directed by Robert Hedden, was her first big studio Paramount movie.


“I was incredibly excited!  Other than in indies, this was my first real film role.  I was nervous because it did require partial nudity, but my agent kept saying Jamie Lee Curtis!  They all do it! It was all memorable and just the fun and excitement of being on such a big set.  The cast and crew were lovely people and we all stayed in touch for many years.”

Paulsen recalled that the most challenging part in Friday the 13th Part 8 was portraying her death scene.  Her intense and horrific screaming needed more emphasis.  Paulsen stated, “They had to bring Kane Hodder (Jason) back in and literally have him scare the crap out of me so Rob got that huge, huge scream that he wanted!”

After acting in one other horror (B) movie where her character was coincidentally killed with a spear gun again, Paulsen was cast in various comedy, romance, drama, etc. films.  One popular movie was Runaway Bride, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.  “The best part was being directed by my idol Garry Marshall!  Richard Gere was lovely.  I never got to work with Julia.”

Although Runaway Bride was not an 80s slasher/horror movie, Paulsen still encountered some sad and excruciating moments when filming. “The worst part was freezing my ass off in Hale, Maryland – where we shot.  I was so cold, my shivering voice screwed up a couple of shots and I actually ended up being mostly cut out of the movie – though I had a lot more to start with!”

During the early 2000s, Paulsen moved to Chicago to do some independent films and started writing.  Turns out, it was time to take writing more seriously than acting.  “The original reason I started writing was to create my own projects so that I wasn’t dependent on someone else to hire me.”

Paulsen’s first script was a finalist for the Nicholl’s Fellowship, which was the Academy Award Competition Sponsors and her second writing project won the ABC/Disney writing fellowship.  Since then, she has been a professional writer since 2004.

Paulsen immensely enjoyed writing; however, she still faced the pros and cons of the arts industry where most lapsing and nonconformity occurs.  But she continued to fight through the rises and falls.  “Anything in the arts is challenging because you’re mostly at the mercy to have someone else hire you.  Writing you have more control, but it’s still up to someone else to decide to buy your work, or your vision, then make it.  If you can handle the rejection – and push through – I believe talent always wins!”

With much effort and consistency, Paulsen wrote the 2007 American comedy, mystery film Nancy Drew, which was based on the popular mystery novels about the eponymous teen detective.  The movie was directed by Andrew Fleming and starred Emma Roberts, Tate Donovan, and Rachael Leigh Cook.  “Warner Bros has the rights to Nancy Drew books and character.  They wanted an updated version of her story, so that’s why I went in the direction I did.”

Additionally, Paulsen screenplay Adventures in Babysitting (2016), the American adventure and comedy television film.  The movie was directed by John Schultz and was a remake of the 1987 film.  Paulsen said that “Adventures in Babysitting was originally supposed to be a big sequel to the original for Disney – which didn’t end up going – so Disney Channel bought it in turnaround.”

Paulsen recently finished writing the drama/comedy movie The Swan (2017).  The biggest accomplishment for the diligent writer was completing the story. “It was so much fun, learned a lot, and won a few competitions in the process!”  The Swan was released on September 9, 2017.

Paulsen is currently working on several pilot projects and in the Sony TV Diverse Directors Program/Fellowship.  She comments, “I’ll be shadowing on some Sony shows in the coming months as a director.”  Paulsen also just finished her first thriller spec and optioned her first book series to develop for TV.

The future awaits and the present continues for the ambitious writer (possibly director!) through conferences, writing panels, and even travel opportunities.  “I usually go to Austin Screenwriting conference and film festival every year.  I also try to mentor younger writers when I can – and judge competitions.  My dream trip is the Amalfi Coast in Italy – Positano – also Iceland!  Also hoping to get to Hawaii this year with my kiddo.”

Even though Paulsen previously acted in a few horror films, her favorite holiday is surprisingly not Halloween.  She exclaims, “Christmas!  Hands down!  The shows, the music, the decorations, the snow, the family and the love, and of course presents!”

When not hard at work, Paulsen does a lot of yoga and is a fan of painting.  However, when there is free time, she enjoys hanging out with her six-year-old Jett, whom she claims is “literally the coolest, most fun person I know!”

Paulsen and her son currently live in Sherman Oaks, CA with Ollie and Jovi, their two cats.  She and her son are big fans of the Disney Channel and she quotes “love love love The Descendants in our house.”  If Paulsen could be any villainous creature, she would be Uma (Ursula from The Little Mermaid’s daughter) from Descendants 2.

Best wishes to Tiffany Paulsen for continued success!!



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