I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter
DAMILOLA (Dammy): The first time I saw A Few Good Men and Crimson Tide, I believe in ’92. In fact I remember shedding a tear when I saw Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman in the confrontational scene in the latter movie and my date going, “There’s nothing emotional to cry about in this scene.” But I wasn’t crying because I was emotional, but rather because the performance and the writing were so lavish, operatic and impeccable, that all I could do was weep to keep myself from jumping up in a dark room filled with over three hundred people and scream “Halleluiah!” And it was also the time I knew I had to be an actor. And I’ve been incurably possessed by both ever since. And then I watched Matt Damon and Ben Affleck receive their Oscar for Good Will Hunting and I knew it…this is the dream that must not die! That moment was the purview of what could be. It was the prophecy of what would be. And I’ve tied that dream to the reins of a tireless chariot ever since.
GABA: When no one wanted to hire me as an actor J Seriously, I’ve always wanted to be an actor, and since I was about fifteen, I’ve always been telling stories back in high school. So being a screenwriter seemed a natural transition.
I know I've succeeded........
DAMMY: The day I’m standing on that podium in the Kodak Theater, receiving, in the eyes of the world and with the blessings of God, that which has become the insignia and golden scepter of achievement in our business. Then, maybe then, I can trust myself to believe I have succeeded.
GABA: The day we completed our first screenplay, 3:32. And the day I received my first check on the movie, Best Man. I knew I was there. Or at least on my way there.
My inspiration to write PIANO IN THE DARK........
DAMMY: Writing has to come from a place of sacred and absolute belief, a place of destructive obsession or implacable inquisition…Piano in the Dark came from all three for me. My almost perverse obsession with the beauty and perfection of the piano. I heard it everywhere, saw it everywhere…it followed me everywhere. Then there was the big “What if?” that came even before that, because I soon became obsessed with beauty. The simple aesthetic perfection that is a woman. Then one day I thought what if I lost the ability to acknowledge or appreciate both? Or worse, had to give one up for the other? And that was the birth of the idea. And that is the romanticism and hell that drives the story.
What inspired you to write?
Damilola Olorunnisola: Fire
needs no more inspiration to consume than death does to annihilate.
For me, writing has also always been equally innate and inseparable.
And I’ve always done it as far back as I can remember. The word
itself is what inspires. The rest, story, genre, medium, are just
different clouds in the same sky.
People, situations, life, its faults and beauty, and watching other
What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
Olorunnisola: I became a
voracious reader! And I have possibly read everything, if not close,
ever written on the art, craft and business of screenwriting. Such
books like Linda Seger’s MAKING A GOOD SCRIPT GREAT to David
Trottier’s SCREENWRITER’S BIBLE and everything between. I read
books on structure, interviews given by professional readers and of
course, watched a sleuth of good and great movies. Some people advice
you to see bad movies so as to learn what NOT to do. But bad movies
suffocate me emotionally and murder me artistically. But the books are
a living, breathing, endless tutorial. I still read them today, even
the new ones. Though by now, it seems all the information is
redundant, but you just never know. And if nothing else, it keeps me
Research. I read other scripts and books on script writing. I think
the first script I read was Leaving Las Vegas.
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
This is, in fact, my second script. And from idea to first draft, about three months. And then I walked away for a few months and came back to it. Then I tore the temple down and rebuilt it in ten days.
Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
Damilola Olorunnisola: When I worked for a financial firm, I would log in at 9:00am. And from that moment till I left at 5:00pm, I was in my own world with my characters, writing away. Then I would go to college at night (taking 15 credits a semester) and come home, do homework, then sit up till 3 or 4am writing, then go back to work with puffy red eyes later. Weekends were my Holy Grail. It was 11am to 11pm at Barnes and Nobles. And it felt like only an hour. Now, fortunately and unfortunately, I am not employed (I think they finally realized they were paying me with benefits to write screenplays and not tend to their clients as they had hoped). And if I have a looming deadline, then it’s every opportunity I get. And I love B&N because I love people and life happening about me. The aroma of a brewing mocha, the fight of new lovers trying to be private in a public place, a woman pulling her hair from her face while she reads a romantic tome…what’s not to love! Though twelve hours at Barnes and Nobles are a bit harder now that I have my incredibly beautiful wife. She once suggested a library (I think because it’s around the corner from the house), but silence is simply too much noise for me.. But she understands.
First thing in the morning, about 4am, I write till about 9am. My mind is well relaxed and fresh at this point, so it’s when I usually do my best work. And sometimes in the evening. At home mostly and sometimes in a bookstore.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
Damilola Olorunnisola: I don’t only think screenplay contests are important to aspiring screenwriters, I think they are invaluable! While there seems to be a plethora of fly-by-night competitions popping out of the wood works, entering the genuinely good-intentioned, astute contests, submits one’s writing to scrutiny, not at the hands of your girlfriend, uncle or mom who are most likely going to like it and haven’t the slightest idea what the disciplines and intricacies of this craft requires, but in the hands of professionals who will not be glossed over by sloppy seconds. You can’t fool them. And if you can’t convince these guys, then you probably have little chance of convincing an agent or a studio. And that type of feedback is worth the price of admission. It gives the writer an honest sense of his place and readiness- creatively and emotionally. Because if you can’t handle disappointments in contests, you can’t handle the more devastating blows Hollywood is likely to deal you. And when you win one…if nothing else, it re-affirms your commitment to this pursuit. It tells you you’re not wasting your time. This is the game you should be playing even if you’re not yet in the big league. You’re probably only a few shots away from the NBA. But do your homework before you decide whether to enter a competition with your last fifty bucks or starve to death for the sake of the art. They are not all worth it.
I think it is not only important for the writer but also for the industry. It helps the writer understand the quality of his talent and how much more work he may or may not need and also helps the industry eliminate some of the garbage from unserious writers that create a problem for the others. It also gives Hollywood a chance to find and produce original stories, instead of recycling the same old thing. So it’s a win-win situation for both groups.
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
FilmMakers.com / The Radmin Company Screenwriting Competition?
This is one of the few verifiably good-intentioned, astute and rewarding competitions out here, where there is a genuine intention for the good and favor of the writer. It’s not about taking advantage of a generation of talentless dreamers with delusions of stardom and a generous allowance from mom and dad. There is a sincere commitment to see the committed writer succeed with the
FilmMakers.com & the Radmin company screenwriting contest. And at best they want to be your benefactor. And at worst, the conduit to your inevitable success. What more can one ask?
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
There are so many great scripts out there that no serious writer should fail to read. But on my writing space, you will find the following: Good Will Hunting, Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction, the Hours, The English Patient, Usual Suspects and Gladiator among others. And for TV, there is only the West Wing. God, what fantastic writing! Simply, find the top ten movies you love and even wish you wrote, and seek out the scripts to them and study them. Then when you think you’ve mastered them, do it all over again.
Definitely GLADIATOR. Because it demonstrates the entire gamut a script should fulfill.
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
Directing. It’s the courage behind every great performance, it’s the voice and limb inside every operatic and seamless scene, it’s the eye behind the opulence of light and landscapes, it’s the breath and pulse inside the sculpture of every writer’s work. Simply, it’s the canvass upon which all come to be. And I love it!
Gaba Ado: That would have to be acting. I simply love it!
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?
I’m not sure I have a favorite. Especially in a business where so many chefs play a part before the final chef d’oeuvre is served, it is so difficult to point to any one person. But a few whose work I really admire are Tom Stoppard, Aaron Sorkin, David Franzoni, David Curtis and Julian
Gaba Ado: Baz Lurhmann. I like his approach to writing. But there is a host of others I really enjoy.
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
Again, it is an area where one would be terribly difficult for me. But the top five I admire and would gladly work with on any project or trust to direct my projects are- Anthony Minghella, Baz Luhrmann, Francois Girard, Copola and of course, the veritable Spielberg. These are five amongst about a hundred I truly admire.
Gaba Ado: For me I would have to say Steven Spielberg and Francois Girard.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Nicole Kidman. She is an explosion of talent, emotion and grace; Al Pacino in anything; he’s the only man alive who can make reading the Yellow Pages sound like opening night at the Rose. Anthony Hopkins because he makes it all seem so bloody effortless! And Denzel because…well, he is Denzel. What can I say?
Gaba Ado: Anthony Hopkins. I simply love his body of work. And Al Pacino would be a close second.
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
confuse desire for talent. Never confuse intentions with actions. And
never confuse trying with succeeding. Whatever your dream is in the
business or in life for that matter…it will never happen unless you
become compulsively obsessed with working towards making it happen.
Write. Write. Write. And never believe that your dream or ambition is
impossible. It’s only impossible until one person does it. Then
it’s plausible, but incredibly difficult. Then the next person does
it and it isn’t even difficult anymore, but just incredible! To survive in this business, one need be equipped with four
weapons- tenacity, humility, temerity, and an implacable contention
with your failure. Some will argue talent, but if nothing else, the
last decade has proved that to be a serviceable non-factor.
In order to create a great screenplay, you have to have a love and
hate relationship with it, just like you would a child. Be able to
recognize and praise the good, and be ready to discipline out the bad.
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Damilola Olorunnisola: I’m currently finishing up a drama suspense thriller that is probably my best work thus far. I’m also completing a memoir that is already receiving rave reviews in literary circles. And of course, there’s the indie-feature I’m going to be directing this winter or early next year. And already I have a pending writing assignment I have to get to, pronto!
Working on a script that I’d like to direct and star in.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
Damilola Olorunnisola: If God still bothers with the prayers of mortals, published, produced, still writing and directing some of the actors I mentioned above in one of my screenplays.
Making great films, hopefully.