Hello! I’m Michael Koehler.
I like to imagine us having this conversation in a rock climbing gym… Over a pint… After an especially competitive round of Overwatch… Or better yet, while walking out of a screening of Christopher Nolan’s latest film. My best professional relationships have sprung from shared experiences, common interests, and curiosity about each other’s lives. The magic’s not in soullessly trading business cards; for me, genuine connection is the spark that kindles a successful collaboration. That is where our story for the screen begins.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Film & Television. I’m now an award-winning screenwriter orbiting NYC, LA, and The Netherlands. My work has been recognized by venues like The Black List, The PAGE Awards, and Vimeo Staff Picks. Films I’ve written have featured in festivals worldwide, including Oscar-qualifying Cleveland Int’l FF and Palm Springs ShortFest, Nantucket, The Lower East Side FF, London Sci-Fi, FilmQuest, and Sonoma, where my existential AI thriller WATCH ROOM, for Gunpowder & Sky, starring Mamoudou Athie (JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION) and Jacob Batalon (SPIDER-MAN), won the Jury Award for best dramatic short. Taken together, my produced work has accumulated 1,000,000+ views to-date.
I also ran Lights Film School for many years, training 1000s of students from 87+ countries in the art and craft of cinema, before closing to the public in 2021 so that I could dive deeper into select projects one-on-one. Through Lights Film School’s online curriculum, feedback and script coverage service, and popular indie filmmaking blog averaging 50,000 visitors/month, I had the privilege of building a diverse international community of ambitious storytellers for the screen. As a result, I’ve reviewed literally hundreds of movies and scripts at every stage of development, guiding them toward the fullest possible expressions of themselves.
More than half my life has been spent abroad, living and traveling across 5 continents, so I’m drawn to stories that span cultures and engage with global issues. As a writer, I specialize in “grounded genre”. As a consultant and creative partner, I help you unlock the full potential of your characters and develop the stories only you can tell. As both, I believe in the power of making the movie you uniquely want to see.
Currently*, I’m co-developing one feature film screenplay. I limit the number of assignments I take on at any one time so that I can give each project the attention it deserves, but please feel free to reach out if you’re in need of a writer, story assistance, or even a committed collaborator. At the very least, we can compare movie notes! WTF are the philosophical implications of Tenet, anyway…?
*As of January 2023, this project is ongoing, but many of my responsibilities have wrapped - which means I now have more availability to help you!
Let me start by saying this: Michael is the best writer I know.
As a director myself, my work is only as strong as the stories and screenplays that serve as its foundation... which is why I've returned to Michael again and again for nearly a decade. He's written original screenplays (for which we've won awards), we've co-written feature films, he's provided indispensable notes, and has done some top notch copywriting for some of my commercial clients as well. There's little he's not capable of, and he's one of the nicest, most thoughtful and compassionate people to boot. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better collaborator out there.
My filmmaking skills have reached a completely different level... The feedback has been priceless!
Lights Film School student
I feel I’ve improved a lot because of the powerful combination of well-explained theory and insightful, practical feedback.
Lights Film School student
This changed my view, perspective, and vision toward the film industry. Now I feel blissfully proud and more confidence then before.
Lights Film School student
The script is extraordinarily clean. While nobody looks to specs to be 100% perfect, the higher the level of polish, the better the script serves as an example of craft. This one is definitely up to professional expectation. Great work.
PAGE International Screenwriting Awards,
Quarter-Finalist (top 10%)
This script is very well-written... The dialogue is fantastic and provides a specific nuance to each character which makes them jump off the page... The exposition captures wonderful details about the world... without overwhelming the narrative and almost seems like another character in the story - a technique that is very difficult to achieve, but this script does it flawlessly... The plot structure is masterfully executed. Overall, a terrific read that deserves to be made into a film one day.
The Black List ,
An "8" Evaluation (top 5%)
Michael is who I turn to when I am looking for honest, on point, and professional feedback on a script. He has helped me elevate my writing to levels I did not imagine I could reach. The standards are high, the feedback, honest and professionally delivered. Whether it comes to story structure, character development, audience, rhythm, or any other element of scriptwriting, he has helped me pinpoint the strengths and areas for improvement in my work. Self-critique and self-assessment have their limits and having that extra pair of eyes looking over my shoulder has helped me clearly establish where my project stands in terms of potential and strengths, as well as weaknesses and pitfalls to look out for. And of course, critiques always come with suggestions as to how shaky areas may be solidified.
So, if you are genuinely looking to hone your craft or want to pull off a script that you would be proud of, I would say you have come to the right place!
Fara Johana Rasoanindrai,
Contact me to request to read any script below in its entirety.
Also feel free to read this aggregation of writing samples from 5 different scripts (available individually below).
All materials are WGA-Registered. Please do not share without permission. Thank you and enjoy!
WATCH ROOM | Short Film
A DUST Exclusive. Winner of Best Dramatic Short at Sonoma International FF and Best Sci-Fi at FilmQuest. Official Selection of The Cleveland International FF & 11 others.
THE OFFERING | Short Film
Featured on ALTER, Short of the Week, and Film Shortage. Official Selection of 3 film festivals, including Palm Springs International ShortFest.
THEY CAME AT NIGHT | Short Film
A Vimeo Staff Pick. Winner of the Prix d’Or at The Lower East Side FF. Official Selection of The Santa Barbara International FF, Vancouver International FF, & 3 others.
A HISTORY OF GODS | Feature Film Screenplay | Quarter-Finalist in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards | From a remote research station in the Chilean desert, a ragtag team of experts develops an AI to accelerate the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. When their creation detects a message from deep space, they must reply in secret before another World War weaponizes their discovery and wipes out civilization. What the team brings to light tests their friendships - and what they think they know about themselves.
Read an Excerpt
THE WAY OUT | Feature Film Screenplay, Cowriter | Scored an "8" Evaluation on The Black List, Quarter-Finalist in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards | An ambitious international student from Singapore invites his parents to his graduation from NYU. When a disaster derails his plans for the future, Andy lies about his job - and about dating an American, afraid his parents will disapprove. As debts pile up and his visa runs out, Andy struggles to “make it” in New York City, all while navigating his family’s suspicions, his girlfriend’s frustrations, and his own expectations of himself.
LINEAGE | TV Pilot Script, Cowriter | Featured in The Black List's TV Writers Staffing Book, and a Second Rounder in The Austin Film Festival | A homeless woman carves out a life on the streets of New York City. When a mysterious stranger saves her from an assassination attempt, Kensley discovers that she's heir to the throne in a transdimensional version of New York City embroiled in civil war. As the last remaining member of the royal family, she must unite a fracturing underground resistance and rescue her brother, who may have found the key to preventing a cataclysmic quantum event.
Read an Excerpt
THE DIRTY OYSTER | Feature Film Screenplay, Cowriter (Work-in-Progress) | A jaded investigative journalist stumbles across a restaurant that claims to introduce people to their soulmates. When she bets a hopeful architect that the whole thing’s a sham, the two set out to find The Chef, who may or may not be a fraud preying on the desperate, a guru gifting patrons with true love, or something else entirely. To unravel the mystery of The Dirty Oyster, they must confront their deepest fears and dearest dreams.
Read an Excerpt
WAYLAID | Short Film Screenplay | Winner of Showtime’s Tony Cox Screenplay Competition at The Nantucket Film Festival, and a Semifinalist in The Scriptapalooza SHORTS Competition | Emily and her boyfriend spend the night stranded at a remote train station in southern France. When Emily meets Marion, a fellow waylaid traveler and kindred spirit, she must decide who and what she values before the next train arrives.
Read the Script
Over the years, I’ve come up with a very specific pre-writing process that unlocks the full potential of a screenplay’s characters while also informing story structure. It's not the only way to approach screenwriting, of course, but I find it helpful in ensuring an organic and compelling read that's anchored by characters who pop off the page.
I specialize in “grounded genre” but can adapt to almost any idea, assuming I find what I call my “way in”. I believe in writing from a place of authenticity and commit exclusively to projects I feel I can contribute to uniquely and meaningfully - which is why the first step in working together is a quick message from you about your project and what you need. This is an opportunity for you to share what you're working on, and for me to get a sense of whether or not I'm the right person to come alongside you and help.
Simply let me know what you're thinking and what you need help with, and we'll go from there!