Get That in Writing 5

KC native Joe Boothe and his leading lady, Alexa Alemanni, open up about life as Hollywood’s top-listed screenwriters and the Kansas City treks that keep them connected to people of quiet dignity.

It wasn’t the cringeworthy bunny hop commercial auditions that enticed Joe Boothe to move from Leawood to Hollywood. He considers that his worst day ever in the biz. But it led him to his best day—last Christmas in Italy when Joe glanced up at Alexa, his wife of eight years, and realized he was living in it.

“We had been hired to write two movies,” Joe says. “We rented this little apartment in Milan and sat across from each other working on both projects simultaneously, and I thought, ‘This is literally a dream come true.’ And then I proceeded to get back to panicking about not being good enough.”

But this duo IS good enough—good enough to be a finalist last month at the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival in France for their original script, “The Morning After.” And good enough to be hired to write the film adaptation of the book Something Blue, the upcoming sequel to Something Borrowed starring Kate Hudson and John Krasinski.

They also earned a spot on the 2012 Young & Hungry List of Hollywood’s top screenwriters and were featured in the January 2016 issue of Variety for their “highly skilled” screenwriting abilities.

A highlight of their career will be later this year when their original film, “Grief Camp,” will enter production, crediting them as writers, producers, directors and actors. (Alexa has the starring role.)

Alexa is best known for her role as Allison in the television series “Mad Men” for which she won a shared Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. She has appeared on “West Wing” and “Criminal Minds” among other roles.

“I love how passionate, intelligent, and driven she is,” Joe says. “But I also wish people knew how silly she is. She’s very smart and knows everything —EVERYTHING—about history and politics and art. But she’s also a big, giant weirdo goofball dancing upside down in a fish costume. A glorious weirdo.”

Joe says a typical day at their Studio City home involves Alexa waking first and doing an hour’s worth of solid work before Joe opens his eyes. His punishment is to make the bed. He drinks two cups of coffee and checks the news.

“I swallow my depression about the Chiefs and start to write, then drink more coffee as needed, then work out, then write some more,” Joe says.

“Some days are easier than others,” Alexa adds, “but every day we practice the art of sitting—allowing ourselves the time and space to think creatively. Sometimes words come. Sometimes they don’t. But something magical always happens.”

That silver magic relies on rules they established early: “We never criticize without offering at least one idea how to fix it,” Alexa says. “We read everything all the way through before making changes to the other person’s work.”

And they’re always working on the next project before the current one is finished.

“I have a morbid analogy involving getting a puppy when your other dog is older, but you get the gist,” Joe says. “Our basic philosophy of writing is you have to be working.”

Alexa’s work includes being CEO of a cooperative of actors, so she attends board meetings and finance committees, teaches screenwriting classes—including helping underprivileged kids learn to write—and meets with other aspiring female writers.

Both Joe and Alexa grew up with strong and impassioned Italian mothers, so they respect a strong, compassionate female voice in their characters. One such voice also came from Joe’s third-grade teacher at Nall Hills Elementary, Ruth Stroble, who still stands tall in Joe’s heart. Joe often calls on her birthday, just to say thanks again for everything.  

Joe also credits his education at Cure’ of Ars Catholic School and Shawnee Mission South with his solid values.

“Kansas Citians just believe in being good people,” Joe says. “It’s not about politics or ideology; it’s about decency.  It’s a quiet dignity that doesn’t ask for celebration. In Kansas City, being a good person is its own reward.”

Alexa adds that Joe’s Midwest roots are evidenced in what she loves most about him: “His compassion, kindness, loyalty (even to the Chiefs) and his politeness. Although people in LA do look at him funny when he says hi to everyone on the street, but he still does it.”

Of late, Joe and Alexa have been more introspective about the challenge in their lives to keep it real.

“Look, Hollywood is great,” Joe says, “but you have to stay grounded, or there’s a very real chance that you start chasing the rabbit. Your friends are millionaires. Your old roommate is on the cover of magazines now. And you start wanting that gold. But I constantly try to remember that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So when Joe and Alexa trek back to KC, where do they hang out?

“My favorite place is Kauffman Stadium by right field where the big party deck is,” Joe says. “No matter where I sit, I’ll walk to that spot, put my Boulevard Tank 7 on the ledge and watch the game from above the warning track. I remember walking that track as a little leaguer, and it’s just a special place for me.”

For Alexa, it’s a visit to Arthur Bryant’s. She adds: “And I kinda deeply love shopping at Town Center.”