By Mary Louise Alu Curto
Merverville, New Jersey
MLAC: How did you learn to be a screenwriter?
MV: I’m self taught. I’ve read many books and taken a little from each one. Being an actor helps me as a writer and being a writer helps me as an actor.
MLAC: What’s your writing process? Do you start at the end and work back to the beginning?
MV: I have tried a lot of software that deals with story structure. They haven’t worked for me. I develop my ideas by brainstorming….I write any ideas associated with the story such as dialog, characters, etc. and that evolves into an outline. This is a seven page outline, not like a school outline but a series of scenes or story beats that I will break out into three acts…Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3. This ends up being about seven pages and from there I massage that outline which leads to story structure, plot and character development. A few pieces of dialog will find their way into the outline. Scene location is less important at this time. Once I have this completed outline, then I can start writing the screen play. I usually start at page one. Rarely do I write a scene out of sequence. Once I have the first draft completed, then the fun begins. I might have a story. The nuances, punch line and nailing character arcs are reserved for a second draft. I usually like the process of rewriting because that’s when I know that I have something that’s working. I’ll follow a similar path for a stage play. There also has to be a sense of marketability…I put that as part of my process because it requires some direct thinking.
MLAC: What’s your suggestion for learning the format of screenwriting?
MV: I’ve read my share of screen plays but I’ve learned more from watching screen plays. Being an observer of films helps me more than reading them…to write visually. I can get a better sense of visual writing. I will screen films that are in the same genre that I am writing…in the early stages of developing a script. Two books I recommend for everyone … The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler and Save the Cat! (Series) The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. There are many other good books that I’ve learned a lot from, but if I had to pick, those would be the two. You can apply the concepts in Writer’s Journey to any sort of story telling or writing.
MLAC: Any advice for screenwriters trying to get produced?
MV: My first piece of advice is to write something great. There’s no substitute other than to write something great. And you need to think about marketability. There’s a balance that has to be struck between creativity and originality, if you are going to have commercial success.
MLAC: What was your inspiration for writing Roebling:The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge?
…taken from Mark’s website (www.roeblingplay.com): “the new drama Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge is in development for a New York City professional production. Produced through special arrangement between the author Mark Violi and Theater To Go. Based on the true story of the Roebling Family who labored against all odds to conceive, design and finally build New York’s World-Famous Brooklyn Bridge. This play has been endorsed by the Roebling Museum and played to great acclaim in two past non-equity productions.”
MV: I was born in Trenton so I was always aware of the Roebling Family. One night I was watching the History Channel and they did a short piece on the Brooklyn Bridge and it was absolutely amazing. I had always wanted to be a writer and never had anything to write about. So this story really struck a chord with me. Someone should write to dramatize this… and I did it! The mechanization was already there…the plot, the characters were already there. It was a great thing for me to write first. I had to do a ton of research because I wanted it to be historically accurate and of course entertaining. The goal is to have a production in March 2013. We’re in the middle of the Indie Go Go Campaign and accepting Tax Deductible Donations with some cool perks of artifacts from the Roebling Factory.
MLAC: Can you tell us about another project you worked on?
MV: Riding the Comet was the second thing that I wrote. It was produced in October 2011 at the Actors Net of Bucks County and was named a top 5 production of 2011 by the Princeton Packet. That idea came to me in a dream. I had a dream about two American soldiers during World War II who were in France and met two sisters. Something made me hang onto that and I built this story around two soldiers and two sisters. That also required a lot of historical research because I wanted it to be accurate.
MLAC: You have a Writer’s Resource website…and you are the facilitator/instructor for the Screenwriters’ Critique Group at Barnes and Noble in Hamilton, NJ. So that makes you a Pay It Forward kind of guy. Can you speak to that?
MV: One thing I love about writers is that they are so willing to help each other out. We seem to love hashing out story lines, working on characters and navigating through the business end. That’s what we try to do with the writers group I facilitate. Writing can also be a very solitary exercise and we find great value in meeting once a month to talk about what we’re working on, discuss specific issues with our work and read some pages. I also keep a Writing Resource Page on my www.markvioli.com that has many websites and online materials that I have found useful and puts them in one place to help writers out. I think it is very vital to your success to help out others with their work. So in these ways I get to help others and encourage my colleagues to do the same.
MLAC: To visit Mark’s Blog and to find out about his experiences working as an actor in the new film Paranoia and many other projects go to www.markvioli.wordpress.com
(MaryLouise Alu Curto is a Special Education Language Arts Teacher and illustrator who have utilized her lesson plans and other original teaching materials to create picture books, workbooks, nonfiction and fiction articles and teacher’s guides for educational curriculum. She can be reached at www.marylouisealucurto.blogspot.com and My Interview Blog which contains interviews with all types of writers and illustrators.)