Sick co-writer Katelyn Crabb remembers the moment she realized that screenwriting was a career one could have. "I watched Gladiator when I was 14, and I was like, 'oh my God, it's really beautiful. The writing's really beautiful.' It was the first time that I liked the writing specifically, not just the movie."
Crabb's mom explained to the youngster that writing that beautiful script was somebody's job. And Crabb wanted that job. As an undergrad, she won a Super Bowl ad contest for Chevrolet, which then led to a marketing internship. But Crabb quickly realized that the wildly cutthroat world of advertising was not the career she wanted to pursue. So after five years of teaching ("the best thing I've ever done in my life. I miss the kids so much."), she made the perilous decision to enroll in grad school at USC, packed up her life and moved from Wisconsin to California. The journey paid off.
"I know there's a lot of people out there that don't believe in film school," Crabb says. "For people like me, it was really the only way to get me out here." At USC she met adjunct professor and producer Ben Fast, who just so happened to work for Scream creator Kevin Williamson. When Williamson had a job opening, Crabb became the assistant for both at their production shingle, Outerbanks Entertainment.
Now, reader, this is the part where it could get really extra exciting, and we all bust out our pom-poms for Katelyn, or it could be a little "well, that's cool, but it could have been so much cooler" if this were a movie moment. When asked whether Scream was a formative movie, the answer was…
"Scream was super foundational for me. All of those kind of late '90s, early aughts horror movies were super. I love every phase of them. Scream was my big introduction. It was the first screenplay in a book form that I bought, which is super serendipitous, I guess.
"The day that I got engaged, we went to a Scream marathon and did all four of them. I remember being hyper-aware of working with Kevin every day. It's super interesting to go back and watch it with that new perspective. I rewatched it as a fan but also as just as a person. Of course, Kevin's fingerprints are all over it because it's his. I never realized that until I had to write with him. This time I was like, 'Oh, I understand where this came from in his brain,' which is really cool."
Well, that's an answer that more than satisfies the "proof that dreams come true" energy we were hoping for from Crabb. The Williamson love doesn't end there, though. "At my wedding, my matron of honor gave a speech about Scream, and Kevin was sitting right there. I was like, 'Oh, that's so embarrassing. He has no idea how big of a fan I am.' That's kind of true to this day. The most embarrassing thing is when he found out I had watched every season of Vampire Diaries."
Seeing how the sausage is made can sometimes kill one's appetite, but from inside the factory, Crabb is pleased to report that "movies feel so big. When you're away from it, and when you start to inundate yourself a little bit in the industry, that mysticism kind of goes away, but your love for the work doesn't. That's such a weird transition. Kevin disproves the phrase 'never meet your heroes.' He's an absolutely wonderful boss in person."
From Scream fan to I’M WRITING A MOVIE WITH KEVIN WILLIAMSON, Crabb describes the Sick co-writing process as very organic. It started with a concept from Williamson. "We had talked about the concept for a while, and it kind of changed forms a little bit. We all had a conversation that we all had very strong anxieties and strong feelings, obviously, in 2020. It made sense to put that fear and anxiety into something. Kevin was like, 'It needs to be a slasher.' We talked and brainstormed, and then we kind of had an outline. Then we just started writing back and forth. I had this part in my brain. He had that part in his brain, and we just started writing pieces. Those pieces kind of came together, it was very organic. I can't pinpoint a process in which I was like, 'This was our exact process and how we broke it up,' because it was so of the moment we were experiencing that it started to be. I know that's not helpful for people who are like, 'How did you do this?'"
Opting to make the protagonists supportive of one another was important from the onset to both Crabb and Williamson. No surprise here when you think about one of the most iconic friendships in horror history, Sidney and Tatum (RIP). "I felt really strongly, and I know Kevin did too, but the one thing I fought for the entire movie was the relationship between the two women. To not make it catty, to ensure any conflict or disagreements came from love. The relationship between those two people, of 'that's my person, and I will make sure they get through this no matter what.' Making sure their relationship was super strong was crucial at script level and all the way through. I just wanted it to reflect my female friendships, which have also always been strong and always been the most important relationships in my life up to meeting my husband. I think that was the most important thing. The thing I'm most proud of is that female friendship.
"That doesn't mean that they see the world the same way, but it means that they respect each other enough to love each other. That love is more important. Those are the things that I'm most proud of when I look at the film. Beth [Million] and Gideon [Adlon] just have this effortless chemistry. You luck out when you have talent that can deliver on something so important to you."
In ten or twenty years down the line, I'm very curious to see what happens with Sick. Watching it during the pandemic hits a certain way, so much of it is very specific but very fresh. Audiences who lived through it will relive the early days and absolute uncertainty of covid. Audiences who did not live through it will be able to look at this time capsule in a way that acts as a period piece wrapped in a slasher package.
"We wrote it like a period piece for sure. We wanted to capture something that was kind of universal for all of us. For all the things that maybe are a little bit more of a cathartic release, I think we're also cognizant of how many lives it affected in so many dreadful ways. It's the balancing act of reflection that's catharsis but also reverence for the fact that so many peoples' lives were changed for the worst. It was a weird balancing act, but we really just wanted to reflect it accurately, and how it's hitting now is completely out of our control. That's kind of the gamble you make when you make a film like this that's so specific to a period of time.
"I think it definitely comes off as fun, like a slasher should be, but there's also that underlying fear of —that is what it was like. You had no idea when you opened a door, what was coming in. You didn't know. I feel like that's the other thing that we were trying to capture with the idea of the slasher. Hopefully, all of those layers translate in this period piece for people to look back on and just digest in whatever way that digests for them. The only thing you can do is be as truthful as your perspective allows you to be."
Sick is now streaming on Peacock.