The Kandell brothers: writing 'a tightrope walk'
Aaron and Jordan Kandell’s creative talents developed at ‘Iolani and continued through colleg into the film industry. The twins were co-valedictorians from the Class of ‘01, sons of ‘Iolani, and are now writing partners.
Aaron and Jordan Kendall visited Ms. Lee Cataluna’s Creative Writing class on Sept. 12 to talk about their passion for writing. The brothers entered through the door with identical shoes, similar shirts, and matching smiles. When asked their names, they replied, “We would tell you, but you won’t remember!”
The Kandell brothers are both graduates of the USC Film School. They have written film shorts and recently sold their screenplay for the film Stranded to Paramount. Jordan described the story as “Castaway with a dog. Take out Tom Hanks and the volleyball, and you’re there.” The Kandell’s script is based on a true story of a dog that survived a sailing accident near the Australian coast and was found on an island by its owners years later.
The Kandells then gave the class a glimpse into the life of a screenwriter. “The thing about screenwriting is you have to take a picture and turn it into words. You have to take a visual image in your head and convey it to your reader. Being a screenwriter basically means you write pictures,” said Aaron.
The brothers continued to emphasize the necessity of the “Show, Don’t Tell” concept in screenwriting. Jordan commented, “You have to paint a picture using words. At ‘Iolani, when my English teachers would tell me, ‘Show, don’t tell!’ I never understood what they meant. As a screenwriter, you have to use it every day.”
While students at `Iolani, the twins founded the Slam Poetry Club. In college, they were originally interested in poetry, but soon came to realize that “it is a dying art” and that not many people read contemporary poetry anymore. So they took up film because it was more modern and more appealing. The twins described themselves as “entrepreneurial” and “like the people trying to sell their products in the show Shark Tank.” Aaron explained that in the media world, “you have to come up with an idea that is so appealing that agents want you.” The screenwriting world is extremely competitive, and a large part of it depends on your connections. “Whenever you go into a meeting, on every single producer’s desk, there is a pile, a huge pile, stacked with scripts. You have to be the one to get above the pile. You have to create something so good that someone takes notice,” Jordan said.
The Kandells write together, dividing a project between them and serving as each other’s editor. “We share a brain, you see,” Jordan joked. “We think the same way. Everything is collaborative, and we have the same voice.” When Ms. Cataluna asked if they fought frequently, they exchanged a glance and stated, “We prefer to call it egoless arguing.”
“Being a screenwriter is constantly a tightrope walk. You really have no control. The beautiful thing about being a writer, though, is that you become God of your world. You create your own world,” said Jordan. “In order to make it
in the media industry, you have to love it. Only do it if you are really passionate about it.” The brothers said their time at `Iolani School gave them the foundation for their creative work. “We were here for thirteen years, and it taught us time management and how to work together as ‘One Team’ and was ultimately the core of our success” Aaron said.
Having the class participate in a few creative writing exercises, Jordan dramatically threw his shoe on to the tile floor and directed the students to “describe the object.” As everyone’s creative description of the shoe was entirely different, Aaron observed, “You see, you can really go anywhere with a shoe.”