Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter David Bertoni

An interview with screenwriter David Bertoni regarding the Acclaim Film Writing Competition.

Q: What's the title of the script you entered in this contest, and what's it about?

A: It's called The Stunning Box, and it's about a gifted psychiatrist's struggle to find a rational explanation for a radical change in his father's behavior. After running a slaughterhouse for 40 years, his father has suddenly freed all of the animals and has joined a group of people who believe the world lies on the brink of an incredible transformation.

That's the plot, anyway. What it's really about is that symbolic box, hidden away in the subconscious mind, where we keep the things we can't live with. In doing so, The Stunning Box tunnels into a world of repressed memories, psychotropic drugs, and apocalyptic mythology.

Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Have you entered any other contests with this script? If so, how did you do?

A: I had previously entered Acclaim's TV pilot competition, and received great notes and lots of encouragement. My entry was a script called "Patriots," which they suggested I develop into a feature film. It's about a future America in which the "war on terror" has turned the country into a technological police state.

Q: Were you satisfied with the adminstration of the contest? Did they meet their deadlines? Did you receive all the awards that were promised?

A: Haven't received the awards yet. But, the results have only just been announced.

Q: Were you given any feedback on your script? If so, did you find the feedback helpful?

A: No feedback yet. It's too early. But, in the Acclaim TV pilot contest, I received very helpful, concise notes, and words of encouragement about my idea that inspired me to keep writing. Some contests generate notes that are so "wonderful" that you'd have to be dope not to realize that they're meaningless. Getting unmitigated praise for a script that's full of problems, or is only partially realized, can be just as deflating as getting crushing criticisms that you know too well are true. The good contests provide notes that are both honest and find reasons for hope. This is one of them.

Q: Has your success in this contest helped you market your script? Were you contacted by any agents, managers or producers?

A: I've just received requests from five agents and managers based upon relentless querying. I still have no idea what goes into writing a solid query letter, so it's trial and error at this point. One of the biggest problems in marketing The Stunning Box is that it has a twist ending that I hate to give away. It's big and "splashy," and it might lead someone to think that the script lacks subtlety and suspense.

Q: What's your background? Have you written any other screenplays or television scripts?

A: I'm a lawyer. I worked at a big law firm in Washington, DC, but now practice at a great little firm in Maine representing wonderful clients like L.L. Bean. I've been writing since I was a kid, but only became serious about it five or six years ago when I started representing two young and highly creative filmmakers. I've now written a huge novel that isn't so bad and nine screenplays, four of which are fairly polished. The Stunning Box is by far the best thing I've written, though, like everything else, there are some days I love it and some days I have no clue about whether it's good or bad.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles? If not, do you have any plans to move there?

A: I don't live in LA, but I have clients that get me there quite often. I find Maine much more conducive to writing thrillers and horror scripts. Running into Stephen King at the bagel shop is very inspiring. If you are interested in writing horror, you should read Danse Macabre, his "textbook" on horror in film and literature. Frankly, it's amazing, although it doesn't mention my favorite horror film, The Wicker Man. I hear they're remaking The Wicker Man, by the way. I can't imagine them improving on the original, except, perhaps, with a better soundtrack.

Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?

A: I've just started a collaboration with another writer. We're in the brainstorming phase coming up with loglines and titles. (We're worshipping at the altar of a great new book on screenwriting called Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. It's absolutely fantastic.) I'm also part of a writers group in Maine that gives me a chance to read and give notes on other's screenplays. I've also got trials coming up in Louisiana, Hawaii, Maine, and Arizona. Those keep me busy, too. Thanks for the chance to blab!

Posted Friday, February 3, 2006