Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Joey Perotti

An interview with screenwriter Joey Perotti regarding the Cinequest Writing Competition.

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

A: Red Valley is about a former outlaw living out his days in anonymity; when his wife is murdered and his daughter is kidnapped, he must return to the life he gave up and confront the sins of his past.

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

A: Cinequest seemed very professional, if not prestigious. I have entered Red Valley into a few other contests, placing third at the Carmel Art & Film Festival.

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

A: Yes, yes, and yes.

Q: How long did it take you to write the script? Did you write an outline beforehand? How many drafts did you write?

A: Overall, I would say it took me about seven or eight months to finally get it to a version I liked. I did write an outline, but the first draft (written over the course of five consecutive nights) only amounted to 55 pages. Ultimately, I wrote three drafts, but took several months off between drafts and worked on other projects. It's almost impossible to go from one draft straight into the next; I need a palette cleanser.

Q: What kind of software did you use to write the script, if any? What other kinds of writing software do you use?

A: I used Celtx before transferring the script over to Final Draft. I now primarily use Final Draft to write and Scrivener to plot out beats, scenes and character development.

Q: Do you write every day? How many hours per day?

A: Red Valley was really my first feature, so I did not have a set routine. On the first draft, I drank a bottle of red wine each night, and when the bottle was finished, I was done for the night. I wrote consecutively for five nights, usually about two hours each night.

I spend a lot of time just thinking about the characters and how they talk, and what scenes should occur in what order. I'll think about the script and plot for months and months at a time, but when it comes to actually sitting down and writing, it usually comes out all at once over the course of a little over a week. When I'm in the midst of a draft, I write five days a week every night for about three to four hours and only stop when it really isn't flowing anymore. On average, I can usually get about 10 pages in a night. I try to relax and enjoy the weekends, but come Sunday night, I'm usually itching to jump back in.

Q: Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you deal with that?

A: I had really bad writer's block in college, not knowing what I wanted to write about, what I wanted to say, or trying to think of a subject that was cheap and doable.

The best advice is in "Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder. He encourages you to just be stubborn and sort of bulldoze your way through. It's never going to come out right in the first draft, but once it's down on paper (or screen), it's much easier to work with it and figure out why it doesn't work.

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

A: I've been writing since I could form sentences, from short stories to punk songs, to scripts. By now I have about six features completely written out (but only four that I'm actually proud of). I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and when it came time to choose a major, I chose filmmaking because I needed more schooling in that area.

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

A: Currently I live in South San Francisco but I do plan on making the move to the City of Angels within the next few months.

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

A: I just finished another feature length, an idea I've been mulling over for the last two years, and I'm really happy with it. I know a month from now when I go to read it I'll hate it and be totally discouraged, but that'll just motivate me to jump back in and clean it up.

Posted Thursday, May 15, 2014