Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter David Bertoni

An interview with screenwriter David Bertoni regarding the Moondance Writing Competition.

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

A: Well, this is interview number three about The Stunning Box ... which is fitting, I suppose, since the screenplay keeps changing and my results keep improving. Contests (with feedback and deadlines) have become a surrogate for formal screenwriting training, though I did take a wonderful screenwriting class last summer with Kyle Rankin. The Stunning Box grew out of that class, although it's changed quite a bit. So, you can skip the other interviews about The Stunning Box. This one is the Real McCoy -- at least for now!

The Stunning Box is about a young psychiatrist who helps others unlock and deal with painful memories -- memories that are hidden away, but which never stop causing pain and grief. Not surprisingly, Dr. James Danko has repressed memories of his own, but he has yet to turn the searchlight on his own subconscious mind. Until now.

As he finally delves into the dark recesses of his own mind, James discovers that, like him, friends and family are turning their attention to confronting their own demons -- convinced that the world lies on the brink of a spiritual transformation. It's up to James to learn the truth.

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 entered The Stunning Box in about a dozen contests -- each with a further evolved version of the story. I picked the contests based upon their reputation -- with a focus on those which provide feedback that can improve the screenplay. Moondance provided excellent feedback in the form of three pages of detailed notes -- which resulted, in my opinion, in an even better version of the story than the one which won this contest.

I've won first place in Blazing Quill and second place in Acclaim Film. I've been a finalist in several others, too. Luckily, I've managed to place in just about every contest I've entered, with a few still pending.

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: Very professional -- generally ahead of time on everything.

One slight wish. I was one of a large group of finalists, and I couldn't justify the cost of a trip to LA for the festival with the odds stacked against me. If they could've narrowed the list a bit ahead of time, I probably would have attended and been able to accept my award in person. Ah well.

I have yet to receive the award, but it's on the way ...

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

A: Yes, see above.

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

A: No contacts yet on Moondance, but it is fairly soon and the results haven't been widely circulated yet.

Fingers crossed.

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

A: I've written a number of screenplays, and one television pilot script. I've also written a novel (which remains in first draft form until I get the nerve to revisit it). I'm a lawyer by day (and night sometimes), with a passion for speculative fiction. My greatest inspiration is Rod Serling ... I love the energy and passion he brought to the task of telling stories that mean something. In some regards (structurally at least), The Stunning Box owes its inspiration to the original Planet of the Apes.

Which leads me to a bit of an artistic detour that may be worth sharing. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was so brilliantly realized that it almost made me quit ... just like Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest almost made me give up writing altogether. It's easy to wither in the face of genius, and to conclude that your stories will always be pale reflections in comparison. At that point, all you have left to cling to is whether you really love the writing process itself -- and whether it helps you live a better life and be a more reflective human being.

Since we're all pretty much rolling rocks uphill our entire lives, writing isn't a bad rock to be pushing.

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

A: I live in Maine. I can imagine living in LA, but presently have no plans to move (although after three weeks of rain, the prospect grows more appealing).

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

A: Working my tail off on a comedy, with a writing partner this time.

Right now, I've learned so much about writing through the dynamics of doing it as a team that I would highly recommend that everyone try it.

Posted Monday, June 19, 2006