Keith Cunningham




screenwriter and consultant based in Chicago, Illinois USA, and Munich, Germany. He celebrates 25 years of leading screenwriting workshops, 20 years working in Europe.

Born and raised in the Unites States, Keith Cunningham graduated in Film from Northwestern University in 1974. Over the next 6 years, he cultivated a free-lance film career as a professional cameraman and gaffer. During this time, Mr. Cunningham met and/or worked with some decisively influential teachers and leaders, including mythologist Joseph Campbell, psychologist Jean Houston, philosopher Alan Watts, and writer Anaïs Nin. 

He developed an interest in bringing his creative work together with the psychology of creativity, and earned a Master’s Degree in Psychology in 1981, also at Northwestern University. Out of this training began Mr. Cunningham’s first seminars on enhancing creativity, managing creative relationships, and lifelong creativity. He consulted for individual clients and creative groups such as theater and dance companies.

A fortuitous meeting with Los Angeles screenwriter Tomas Schlesinger in 1980 led to a new synthesis of creativity and filmmaking. In 1982, Keith Cunningham took a full-time teaching position in the Columbia College Film and Video Department.  He became a Columbia College Professor of Film and Video and remained with the department for 9 years. Among his students was Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (“Schindler’s List”, etc.). Concurrently, in 1984, Mr. Cunningham began leading screenwriting and story development seminars worldwide with colleague Tom Schlesinger. Keith’s presentation of Joseph Campbell’s mythic perspective and its relevance for screenwriting at the American Film Institute, New York, in 1984, may be the first public joining together of mythmaking and screenwriting. Subsequent seminars for the AFI–Los Angeles, the Director’s Guild and Writer’s Guild of America (L.A.) led to the systematic elaboration of a new approach to screenwriting.  Other leaders in the screenwriting field, such as Linda Seger and Chris Vogler, attended their seminars during those years.

Mr. Cunningham’s renowned screenwriting seminars with his business partner expanded to Europe in 1989. Since that time he has conducted hundreds of seminars on five continents, ranging from the United States to Europe, to Morocco, the Middle East, and beyond. Clients and sponsors have included at the Bavaria Studios Munich, RAI Television Rome, and ARD/ZDF national television in Germany, among many others. The seminar offerings also have expanded to include all major genres and advanced levels of teaching, story development groups, and consulting.

Along the way, he has developed TV series and his own scripts for TV episodes and films have been produced by RTL-TV and PRO-7 television in Germany.

Keith Cunningham’s approach starts from within the writer’s creative experience and goes to the sources of man’s storytelling impulse. How do we get to the core of our story? How do we balance our concern for the created product with our own creative process? His seminars offer both experienced writers and newcomers, producers, directors, and other media professionals in-depth insight into screenwriting and story development. Cunningham’s engaging and productive teaching methods, stimulating creative exercises, and film analyses enrich and refine the participant’s own writing and understanding of stories in development. He illuminates the relationship between the creative process and the issues and emotions embedded in the story that often form a writer’s blind spot. With his unique background, Keith’s has helped many writers through their creative blocks and on to successfully finished screenplays. This more comprehensive approach that includes both the creative process and the created product prepares writers to meet the commercial needs of the film industry in fresh and authentic ways. Many writers return to Keith Cunningham’s workshops again and again, so rich do they find them for personal and professional growth.

The Soul of Screenwriting, Keith’s breakthrough book for writers based on his seminars, was published in 2008. His essays on myth, cinema and creativity have appeared in numerous journals and books.

Currently, he is co-creator, co-producer, and head writer of a TV series being shot in Morocco. He is at work on two screenplay projects, one in Germany and the other in Istanbul, and a half-dozen scripts in consultation. 2008 also found Keith running a screenplay development program at the Royal Film Commission in Amman, Jordan. Between projects, Keith is writing a book on his experiences teaching in Ramallah, Palestine.

His commitment to cross-cultural understanding through shared storytelling goes back many years. Among other initiatives, he created video festivals and gave workshops at the Parliaments of the World’s Religions (Chicago, 1993; Cape Town, 1999).