Alumni Profiles

Telling Tales Out of School

Court Crandall '87 has had a remarkable year. First, a script that he wrote in his spare time became the basis for the movie "Old School," which opened at number two on the box office charts this February. Then Crandall sold another script, one that will feature Peter Fonda in the lead role. And as if that weren't enough, Crandall's first children's book is due to be published in 2004.

But Crandall isn't much interested in talking about all that. Call him at Ground Zero, the Los Angeles advertising firm he co-founded, and once you get past his voice mail--which features his 7-year-old son's voice announcing "My daddy's out shooting commercials"—he's more interested in how the hockey team is doing.

Photo by Richard Foreman/TM & 2003 Dreamworks LLC

"It's the only thing I can do well," is all Crandall will say about his writing, which he does in the spare hours before bed each night. "I'm not really good at anything else."

Writing has always been at the center of Crandall's career. After he graduated from the UNH journalism program in 1987, he moved to Boston to work first as a sports writer and then in advertising, writing commercials. Moving to California to work for Team One Advertising, he opened Ground Zero with two business partners nine years ago.

Crandall says he was inspired to try writing movie scripts after friend Tim Kelleher had financial success with a screenplay of his own, the 1996 comedy "First Kid." Crandall says he "just sort of Forest-Gumped my way into it."

"Old School" is Crandall's fourth script and the first one to make it to the screen. It is the tale of a group of men in their 30s who try to hold onto their youthful freedom by forming a sort of equal-opportunity fraternity. The story was inspired by Crandall's experiences as a Phi Kappa Theta brother at UNH and by his role as a husband and father of two boys, Chase, 7, and Zane, 4. "I thought there was a funny dichotomy of guys my age trying to recapture their lost youth and doing it in a typically pathetic guy way," he says.

Crandall also finds inspiration for his writing in his family. His first children's book, Hugville, was inspired by son Chase. "He got to the age where he wasn't that excited about hugging Dad anymore," Crandall says. "So I came up with 'theme hugs'—the tyrannosaurus hug, the tornado hug—to make it fun for him."

Crandall's next film, "Perseverance," begins filming in New Zealand this summer. The story is about a Maine lobsterman who finds a moss in a lobster trap that turns out to be a miracle cure. Crandall says the idea for the film came from spending many summers in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

With all of this writing success, one might expect Crandall to give up his day job in advertising. But he has no such plans. "There's a freedom and strength that comes from not having to depend on Hollywood to put your kids through college," he says. So writing will continue to be a late-night pursuit. "I try to make myself write a little bit every day," he says. "It's therapeutic for me."

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