Screenwriter Interviews

MovieBytes Interview:
Screenwriter Giancarlo Fusi

An interview with screenwriter Giancarlo Fusi regarding the Aura Screenwriter Awards Writing Competition.

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

A: Hell Hound: The Legend of Robert Johnson is a television pilot script inspired by true events in the life of the title character, a black sharecropper surviving during the Depression under brutal work conditions and crushing racism. It is no wonder then that, legend has it, Robert Johnson went down to a Mississippi crossroads and sold his soul to the Satan to become the greatest Blues guitarist who ever lived.

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 was drawn to it because it seemed like one of the few, if not the only, script competition that offers not just screenwriter awards but also filmmaker awards for the best short films making it feel more like a film festival than just a screenplay contest. Other than winning the Silver Award at the AURA Screenwriter Awards, Hell Hound also won 2nd Place at the Las Vegas Screenplay Contest. It is a Finalist at both the Acclaim TV Script Contest and the London Film Awards. And an Official Selection at the Haunted Horror International Film Festival. It's also an Official Selection at the 15th annual Ivy Film Festival at Brown University, the largest student run film festival in the world. As a nominee, I was invited to attend the Ivy Fest and they held a table read at a historic hall on the Brown campus of the "crossroads" scene where Robert Johnson makes his infamous deal with the Devil.

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, this contest has a lot of things going for it. First, it's not too expensive to enter like some other contests that can break the bank. Second, I entered around Thanksgiving and the winners were announced by New Year's Day, so it's not like other contests that make you wait for what seems like a lifetime to get the results. And third it's just super cool to be able to say that I won the Silver at the AURA Awards. But I'm sure whoever won the Gold Award is much cooler than I am.

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

A: Hell Hound was written in fits and starts over the course of a year in non-sequential order that I later pieced together chronologically. It probably took so long because I didn't work from an outline and I had never written a television pilot script before so I was just learning the form and finding out what worked and what didn't. The version that won the AURA was essentially a first draft. I've continued to tweak it and have a more recent draft that I think is even stronger than the one that won the Silver Award.

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 wrote it on Movie Magic Screenwriter. I have since switched over to writing with Final Draft. But whenever I work on Hell Hound, I open my old laptop and use Movie Magic cause I haven't transferred that script over to my MacBook and Final Draft yet. So I like to write with both of the big programs. I have no preference but one of them has become more of the industry standard so I was forced to switch.

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

A: I could lie and say that I write every day. But I don't. I tend to write in long binges when I'm inspired. But I don't wait for inspiration to strike so I try to find other ways to stay busy. The biggest lesson I learned in film school is that you must do at least one thing each and every day to further your career. So I try to take that to heart and every day I do at least one thing to get me closer to my goal whether it be reading and researching or expanding my network and knowledge.

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

A: If I didn't get writer's block then I would write every day. What I do is watch a great movie or TV show to get inspired again. Picasso said good artists copy and great artists steal. What he really meant is that you should draw inspiration from the best artists but not literally rip them off. So I like to watch the classics cause if you're going to steal, then steal from the gods.

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

A: I was born in Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere, but I grew up in New Jersey on a steady diet of American sitcoms and action movies. I wrote several short screenplays that I either directed or plan to direct. I recently worked on writing a television spec script for a class. I would like to try my hand at another spec script but I can't decide which show to pick from all the great series on TV now. And I'm working on a feature length script at the moment, a supernatural-dramedy based on my experiences growing up in the great state of New Jersey, the armpit of America. No kidding.

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

A: I do live in Los Angeles. I moved here in the 2012 after winning the inaugural UCLA Extension Writers' Program Scholarship. That's what brought me out here. I was one of ten nationwide winners and was awarded three full-length classes either online or on-campus. It had always been a dream to study screenwriting on the world famous UCLA campus. So I packed all my worldly belongings in my '95 VW Golf and made the cross-country journey from Jersey to LA in the middle of the hottest summer on record in a car with a broken air conditioner. I think I hallucinated from the sun during my drive through the desert cause I don't remember that part. I had a serious case of heat exhaustion by the time I got to Los Angeles and it took me a couple of days to cool off. But I'm still here.

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

A: I'm learning a lot interning as a development assistant at a literary agency and I'm finishing up a MFA in Film & Television degree from Mount Saint Mary's University at Hollywood Center Studios. I'm also going back to UCLA in a couple of months because I was accepted to the UCLA Film & Television Summer Institute for advanced training in TV writing where I'll be creating another original show pilot and series bible. So I continue to work hard and write harder because I graduate this Fall and have to start paying back those ginormous student loans to Uncle Sam soon. So if anyone is buying, I'm selling!

Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2016