Here's a different kind of success story. Screenwriter Allison Burnett, whose new movie Untraceable opens today, studied playwriting at Julliard, became a screenwriter to pay the bills and used his newfound financial stability to become a novelist. His first novel, Christopher: A Tale of Seduction (2003), was a finalist for the prestigious PEN award. His first movie, however, was supposed to be a realistic depiction of life in prison, until Roger Corman bought it and turned it into Part 3 in Don 'The Dragon' Wilson's Bloodfist series.

Nevertheless, movies are apparently in Burnett's blood and he persisted. His screenplay for
Autumn in New York became Joan Chen's much-despised 2000 weepie with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. And his two most recent works, Resurrecting the Champ and Feast of Love (both 2007), opened to tepid reviews and cool box office receptions. (Although both were decent films and both probably suffered mainly from marketing problems.) But Burnett directed his own low-budget film, Red Meat (1997), that remains a high point for him. When Cinematical spoke to him via phone the morning after the Untraceable premiere, he was very excited and hopeful.

CINEMATICAL: You're credited on Untraceable with two other writers, Robert Fyvolent and Mark Brinker. How did this partnership come about?

ALLISON BURNETT: They had written a script that was around for a long time, called Streaming Evil. It had many big names attached, but it never took off. And then Lakeshore came to me. At first I was supposed to work on Marsh's character [Jennifer Marsh, played by Diane Lane], do some character work and some dialogue work. Then I pitched them some ideas, and they began writing and I pitched them some more stuff. In their version, the killer really had no reason to kill people on the internet, and there was a randomness to it. It was a hideous carnival atmosphere. What I brought to it was, the more who watched, the faster the person dies. There was an MO to the killer: why he does it. We were going to go into arbitration over screen credits, but in the end we decided to be friends. I felt very good about that.