Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter David Bertoni

An interview with screenwriter David Bertoni regarding the Blazing Quill Writing Competition.

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

A: My screenplay is called The Stunning Box, and it's about a gifted psychiatrist who begins to take seriously widespread beliefs that the world is about to transform. The story has evolved significantly since I finished a first draft last fall, thanks to the help of my writing teacher, Kyle Rankin, and astute comments from my family, friends, and members of my writing group. Along the way, it has done better and better in contests, my first evidence that my revisions haven't destroyed what started out as (hopefully) a pretty fresh idea.

For those who are interested, my story was inspired by the fact that science, religion, and mythology suggest that the human race is on the brink of some great, paradigm-altering event.

Of course, the fin de siécle thinking that typically surround the passage of one century to the next explains some of it, including all the talk of the Rapture by Christian groups. But this time around, we have more, including the ancient Mayan calendar that happens to end on December 21, 2012. The Mayan calendar has been right about a lot of things, including astronomical predictions that some believe could not have been made without modern science. The late, great Terence McKenna (http://deoxy.org/mckenna.htm) also calculated the likely date of the greatest consciousness expanding moment in human development: The Zero Point of McKenna's Time Wave. Care to guess the date on which it falls?

So, I asked myself a fairly straightforward question: Exactly what event is in the offing, and how might it explain the current psychological state of the human race?

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've tried to focus on contests that seemed to offer personal attention to entrants, as well as, where possible, notes or comments. My hope is that these contests will provide a good staging ground for some of the later, bigger competitions that pop up in the spring, including Nicholl, Final Draft, and Austin.

I've done as well as second place (and several finalist positions) with earlier drafts of The Stunning Box. This, however, is my first "first place" finish with the script -- in a version that is fairly close to a solid, marketable draft. At least I think ...

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: The administration of the contest was as promised, and they did meet their deadlines. The awards, I've been told, will be on their way in about a week.

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

A: Yes, but not in the kind of detail that helps with rewrites. Notes and feedback, however, were not part of this particular contest.

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

A: Not yet, but the results have only just come out.

My other contest placements have led to a number of requests for the script, and two companies have expressed interest in going further. One thrilling bit of news is that one of my favorite musicians from the band King Crimson has expressed interest in doing the soundtrack. How's that for putting the cart before the horse?

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

A: I'm a lawyer by day (and night). I've written a bunch of screenplays, but none as good as this one. I've promised myself that, one day, I'll go back and rewrite them. The ideas are solid, but the execution is far more amateurish. I've also written a novel about secret government experiments involving hallucinogenic drugs. The novel is essentially a first draft, and I've only had the heart to show it one person.

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

A: I live in Maine, which is a great place to raise kids and write horror stories and thrillers. (Who's to argue with Stephen King?) I like Los Angeles and get there quite a bit with my law practice, but the trout fishing there isn't so good.

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

A: Right now, I'm working on a comedy script with a member of my writing group. We spent a lot of time on the title and log-line (learning from past experience how awful it is coming up with these after you've written your first draft!), and are hard at work on getting the beats just right. It's a process that makes me feel like a screenwriter, and I'm already dying to make a pitch based upon what we have.

I've also written a short script for the Rod Serling Conference competition. If I had to pick one person who inspired me most, it would be Rod Serling. His spirit infuses all of my writing, and it was an honor just to submit a short Twilight Zone-style teleplay. The idea for it popped into my mind after hours of agonizing -- as if an angel was looking in and said, "I've watched you beat your head against the wall long enough. Here." It's called "What You Wish For," and it's a dark story about what people can rationalize doing to each other ... the victim becomes perpetrator, so to speak.

Thanks for another chance to talk about my script.

Posted Monday, April 3, 2006