YEM talks to Pretty Little Liars creator I Marlene King

[NEW YORK] The American Institute of Architects (AIA) fourth annual Film Challenge has gained one of TV’s strongest creative forces, I Marlene King, as a judge. I Marlene King is the creator, producer, and showrunner of several shows on Freeform, including Pretty Little Liars, Famous In Love, and the upcoming Pretty Little Liars spin-off, The Perfectionists.

The Film Challenge is a part of AIA’s “Blueprint for Better” campaign, an initiative that highlights the collaborative work of architects and civic leaders to solve some of the biggest issues facing cities today. King is currently adapting the Sara Shepard novel series “The Perfectionists” for TV at Freeform, which will begin airing in 2019. She also has several projects in development through her production company, Long Lake Media.

The AIA Film Challenge premiered in June with the organization’s new film, “Caño Martin Peña: A Blueprint for Better,” which depicts the rebuilding efforts of an architect and community leader in Puerto Rico following last year’s devastating Hurricane Maria that left more than three million people without power.

Similar to AIA’s film, participants in the Film Challenge should produce, shoot and edit a three to five-minute documentary to tell a story about architects working with civic and community leaders to make a positive impact on their cities and towns.

Young Entertainment Mag spoke with I Marlene King about The AIA Film Challenge and her hit Freeform shows.

Producer I. Marlene King attends the ABC Freeform 2017 Upfront at the Hudson Mercantile on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

YEM:How did you get involved in the AIA?

I. Marlene King:You know, they reached out to me sort of on a whim, maybe, and I have a love of both architecture and film. I saw one of their short films that they put out and sent over, and I thought that it was amazing, so I knew right away that it would be something really fun and interesting to do at the same time.

YEM:Do you have any architecture experience?

MK:I don’t, I’m just a fan! Two of my friends are architects, actually, but I am just a fan.

YEM:How are planning to judge someone with that kind of filmmaking talent in terms of documentary, because it’s a little different from a more scripted show?

MK:Yes, absolutely, I think that it’s really about the messaging and moving people. To me, documentaries are not unlike a scripted in a sense of that they really work when they reach you and connect with you, so I think that it’s very similar in that regard. So, I think we’re really all just looking for stories that help people connect to the material and what the organization is doing.

YEM:Does it work differently in a writer’s room, in terms of scripted or a documentary?

MK:I think so. I think for documentaries sometimes you have a template that you’re exploring something that’s real, that’s reality, whereas scripted is completely fictitious.

YEM:How does it work in a writer’s room that’s a little bit more fictitious?

MK:Every writer’s room is different to be honest with you. Mine are very collaborative places where there are no wrong ideas, only ideas. We share our thoughts and ideas, and stay on point and move the characters forward.

YEM:How does one go about getting a job in that field?

MK:It’s all about training. You can take classes, write scripts and just starting on the ground floor, being somebody’s assistant and then slowly working your way up into the room, maybe even becoming a staff writer someday.

YEM:When did you come across Pretty Little Liars? The book? The author? What was that experience like?

MK:I had a meeting with, what was at the time, ABC Family and they had the book, they gave it to me on my way out the door, I read it that night and I called them the next morning and said, “I really have to do this.”

YEM:Are you and Sara Shepard best friends now? You seem to have a lot of collaborative work.

MK:We do hang out when she’s in town, but I wouldn’t call us BFF’s. She’s a great person, though. I love her and I love her work.

YEM:How do you decide what to pick and choose from the show versus the book? What was that like?

MK:The first book really read like a TV pilot and the pilot is very true to that book in a lot of ways. There’s fans, so it was a very precious material and we wanted to stay true to characters and eventually come up with stories of our own so that the show remains a surprise to people.

(Photo by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images)

YEM:When did you decide to reveal who ‘A’ was?

MK:When we thought that people had hung in there long enough and were starting to get antsy.

YEM:What should people look forward to with the new series?

MK:It’s very similar, yet very different. We’ve got two characters from the original show: Mona and Ali are going to be joining us because they’re going to be bringing us to this new world of Beacon Heights, Oregon, also created by Sara Shepard. It’s a great launching point for a new show that’s filled with mystery and fun and scary and sexy and all the things at once.

YEM:Will we get to see any familiar faces from Rosewood besides Mona and Ali?

MK:I hope so!

YEM:Is Troian planning to do any directing?

MK:I think so. I don’t know this firsthand, but I think that she definitely wants to come and play with us.

YEM:You had a tweet the other day from Shiri Appleby the other day about also wanting to participate.

MK:Yeah, I think we’re talking to each other about that.

YEM:What’s your writing process like?

MK:My writing process just depends. I’m actually working on the next episode for the new show right now and it’s a lot of alone time like having homework. When you’re a writer, you always have homework and it never ends.

YEM:When is it most challenging?

MK: It’s always most challenging.

YEM:Can you tell a little more about the AIA short film, how you felt when watching that film and what your feelings were on that?

MK:I was very moved by it, which is what grabbed my attention regarding this whole challenge. How much we don’t know about other cultures, predicaments and things that are happening around the world. Just the idea of educating people by entertaining them through film and connecting with them and the local community to a national stage—international stage—was a brilliant idea.

YEM:What are you most excited to be seeing coming up through the process?

MK:I hope I learn, I hope learn about a lot of communities that I’m not aware of and ways that architects are bringing people together and bringing communities together to solve problems, whether it’s homelessness or so many of the other issues for us to shine a light on. I’m really just excited to see these movies and learn about places and people that I don’t know about.

YEM:Are there specific locations that you would want to see?

MK:I live in Los Angeles and homeless population here is just growing to a point where it just really needs to be addressed. I’m hoping that we’re going to see something shining a light on that and addressing the problem. Shuffling back to Pretty Little Liars in the finale, the character of Toby was going to go to Philadelphia, because he was a contractor and he was going to try to develop a way to help the homeless community in Philadelphia.

I Marlene King with Pretty Little Liars’ Toby, played by Keegan Allen

YEM:Growing up, what was your favorite childhood book?

MK:My favorite childhood book growing up…I loved the Hardy Boys, not Nancy Drew, but the Hardy Boys.

I Marlene King and Famous In Love star Bella Thorne 

Submissions for the Film Challenge—due by 8:59 p.m. EST on Monday, Aug. 27—will be subject to two rounds of judging. The first round of winners will be selected by a panel of jurors from the media, architecture and film industries. A second round will be open for public voting to choose the “People’s Choice Winner.” Last year’s People’s Choice competition yielded more than 268,000 votes.

Participants will have the chance to win a $5,000 grand prize that includes distribution of the film through a multitude of channels, including screenings at the Architecture and Design Film Festival on Oct. 16 in New York in addition to travel and accommodations. The “People’s Choice Winner” will receive a screening at the Chicago Ideas Festival. Other finalists will be awarded a $500 prize.

Complete details are available on AIA’s Film Challenge website here.