To Hollywood from Clarkston, via New York

‘I moved to LA in 2001 to pursue a career as a writer. Today, I took a significant step toward that goal.?
This past spring, friends and family of 1986 Clarkston High School graduate Karen Barna received that message via e-mail. Barna landed a job as a staff writer for the Warner Brothers studio. The show she has worked on is called The Mountain and airs on September 22.
‘Growing up in Clarkston I always wanted to be an actor. These days I prefer to work behind the scenes,? Barna said in a telephone interview. ‘I’m a ‘baby writer,? the low man on the totem pole in the grand writing scheme of things, but it’s a start.?
She was ‘discovered? by the folks at Warner Bros. after chosen to participate in a WB writing workshop. The workshops, she said, are a way for studios to find new writing talent — writers who may not have an agent or without lots of ‘connections? in the industry.
‘It’s exciting and at the same time terrifying,? Barna said of her new career.
She said the studio has signed up for 13 episodes of The Mountain. ‘That is par of the course these days. Studios don’t pickup shows for an entire season — they want to see how they do first.?
WB’s new show, The Mountian is about a young motocross racing lad who, when his grandpa unexpectedly dies, inherits a ski resort called Boundary Mountain. Quoting from the studio public relations department, ‘Free-spirited David Carver, Jr. (Oliver Hudson, Dawson’s Creek) left home years ago to pursue his dream of becoming a world-class motocross racer, while his older brother Will (Anson Mount, Tully, Crossroads), diligently attended business school with every expectation of taking over the family empire. No one, least of all the brothers themselves, expected David to inherit Boundary Mountain. David finds himself saddled with a responsibility he never wanted and a brother who rightly feels betrayed. On top of this, he is torn between two women and suddenly immersed in a power struggle with a neighboring family. David just wants to run, until he realizes his grandfather may have had bigger things in mind.?
The show is a production of Wonderland Sound and Vision in association with Warner Bros. Television Production Inc. Executive producers are McG (The O.C and the Charlie’s Angels blockbusters) Stephanie Savage (The O.C.) and Shaun Cassidy (American Gothic — yes the Shaun Cassidy of the ‘Hardy Boys? and 1970s teen girl flame fame). David Barrett (Fast Lane) directed.
The road to writing for a living was long and winding for Barna — a road that took her from her family in Michigan to the busy streets of New York and then to the sunshine and glitz of California.
‘I always wanted to be in film or TV and like I said, for a long time I wanted to be an actor. But, when I became a single parent I tabled that and went to law school.?
Barna’s daughter, Jordan, is now a sophomore attending high school in California.
In 1993, Karen graduated as a Presidential Scholar from the Univeristy of Detroit Mercy, with a bachelors degree in Political Science. Three years later she received her Jurist Doctorate from Univeristy of Michigan’s law school. She then moved to New York to practice law.
‘I love the city and I’d move back there in a heart beat. There’s just a certain vibe to the city, the energy the culture — I like public transet — and the people there are terrific. They leave you alone, but if you need help they are there for you.?
Barna stayed in New York, practicing law and writing scripts on the side, for five years. The scripts, she called ‘spec scripts? were written, ‘and then you hope somebody will buy them.? Writing wasn’t paying the bills and practicing law wasn’t where her heart was.
‘I decided I could only do it in Los Angeles,? she said.
In 2001 she packed up her bags and moved to California. To make ends meet, she got a job doing legal work for a film company. And, she kept writing scripts. ‘Last year I turned more to television writing. It’s more collaborative, you work with staffs of writers,? Barna said.
Of The Moutain, Barna said she can relate. ‘It’s very similar to life growing up near Pine Knob, horseback riding and motor cycles.?
Karen, the daughter of Dave and the late Vivian Barna grew up on Clarkston Road, between the curves of Clintonville Road and Walters Lake. While growing up, many of the area’s current subdivisions were undevleoped, open fields with plenty of paths used by horseback riders and motorcyclists alike.
The twists and turns of her life have helped her be a better writer. ‘I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been a really interesting journey. Everything I have done has led to the next,? she said.
Law school, for example, she said ‘squashes the creativity out of you.? But, it also teaches discipline. ‘It’s very structured writing. It trains you to be logical. And, once you’re out of it for a few years, get your creative juices flowing again, you have a wonderful blend of writing skills.?
Her advice for young writers: ‘Go to school and go out and live and do the things that excite you. It will bring perspective and maturity to your writing . . . learn the craft. You can’t just have some good software that makes your words look good. It’s more than just formatting. It’s very difficult . . . Write and rewrite and write some more. Set a specific time to write every day and write even if you don’t feel like it.?
For those wanting to write scripts, she said, LA is the place to be. ‘Remember, show business is just that, business. There is not a lot of room for premidonnas or flakiness. Once you’re here, remember this town is about relationships, so be nice. If you’re a jerk you won’t last long.?
Back on the homefront . . . Dave Barna still lives in the little white house on Clarkston Road where Karen grew up. The father of three (Karen has two brothers) is proud of his little girl. Scratch that: he is VERY proud of Karen and what she has been able to accomplish. He notes that after she moved to New York City, she passed the bar on the first try; and before landing the writing gig in LA, ‘worked three jobs just to make ends meet.?
Growing up, he said, Karen was somewhat of an anomoly. ‘She wasn’t what I would describe as a tomboy, but a unique combination that would let her go out and clean horse stalls during the day and then get dressed to the nines and mingle with Clarkton’s upper crust in the evening. She always made good grades in school and we expected nothing less.
‘It hasn’t been easy for her but she’s really a hard worker and has done so much to make her mother and I proud . . . When Karen said she was moving to New York I tried to talk her out of it because I absolutely can’t stand the place. But we stood behind her decision and provided whatever support we could. Then when she said she wanted to move to LA there was a collective sigh of releif at the Barna household. Karen has made a good life for her and Jordan so far.?
To check out The Mountain, tune in to WB20 out of Detroit on Sept. 22, starting at 9 p.m.