I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter
as an aspiring
playwright and actor in college, I saw the film El Topo by Alexandro
Jodorowsky and realized that “stage” was the limiting past
and “film” was the unlimited future.
I know I've succeeded....
I’m reading through a draft of a script, or a
series of scenes, and I’ve forgotten that I was the one who wrote
My inspiration to write MILE ONE ELEVEN.......
came from several places.
First, from being a New Jersey to New York commuter who
traveled through the World Trade Center every workday morning at
approximately nine o’clock and happened to be early on the morning
of 9/11 by about twenty minutes. Also,
getting off my home bound train on that same day and being greeted by
emergency workers in protective gear.
It was like a nightmare I had imagined during my cold war
youth. Second, my
curiosity about the Mile 111 crossing on the
Third, the many rumors since 9/11 about terrorist plots
targeting the NYC area. And,
finally, the issues of religion and hate are important to me.
One of my rules as a writer is to write only about things that
are important to me.
Magazine: What inspired you to write?
Charles Valenza: My creative beginning was an actor in high
school and community theater. I
was fortunate enough to receive an acting scholarship, without which I
would not have been able to study theater as an undergraduate student.
My theater training was broad and I soon realized that I
didn’t want to confine myself to acting.
I had stories I wanted to tell and I had to chance to both
direct and write as part of my college program.
My first one-act play was produced as my senior year project.
Screenwriting came later, meeting an independent
producer/director who wanted a script.
FilmMakers Magazine: How did you prepare yourself to
write your first script?
Being an actor was truly my preparation for becoming a stage and
screenwriter. As far as
the technical script writing skills, I had a little book that showed
screenwriting format and I followed that.
My first film script, Egregious
Torso, was based on a dream a friend told me.
It was a low-budget 16mm B&W, the producer really liked
that I wrote it like a play, one location.
Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests
are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?
What influenced you to enter the
American Gem Short Script Competition?
Charles Valenza: I
know many writers who are “down” on the script competitions.
Some give you no feedback and, for us beginning writers,
feedback is important to learn the craft.
Fortunately, today there are new avenues to get valid
constructive criticism, online communities for example.
Others say that they got “nothing” in the way of furthering
their ambitions from winning a contest.
I believe the contests are important and can be used
effectively. My script Found
Money was only an Honorable Mention in the first American
Gem, but that little bit of credibility helped get it read by a
casting director and then professional NYC actors who eventually
signed on to make the film. Found
Money has now screened at four
film festivals, no small feat since there are now over 3,100
short films being considered in the circuit.
I intend to use any contest success I have with Mile
One Eleven the same way, using recognition to gain exposure.
was encouraged by Found Money to continue to tell a compelling story in the short
format, again using contest recognition to help get people to read the
script and start the production ball rolling.
Getting read is a huge challenge for a new writer.
Beside screenwriting what are you
passionate about and why?
Besides screenwriting, I get passionate about the truth.
Therefore, I’m passionate about science.
I’m also passionate in my opposition to intolerant dogma,
oppressive corruption and greed, and the unjust use of power.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
I don’t have a favorite screenwriter though, I admire many
scripts. I won’t make many friends by saying this, but currently
most screenwriters are filmmakers who sell themselves short.
You’ve made the film in your mind and put it on paper.
At that point you have two choices:
1) Hand it over to a production company, or 2) make the film
yourself. I realize film
is a collaborative process, but so is theater.
I will continue to insist that I be part of the production
FilmMakers Magazine: Name
the director you would love to work with and why?
There are plenty of directors whose work is outstanding.
But in order to name one, I would need a piece of information
I’m missing: which ones
work well with their screenwriters?
Those are the ones I want to work with.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
Charles Valenza: Geena Davis.
She hasn’t gotten the parts she deserves, especially lately.
I think she has extraordinary down-to-earth appeal that has
been under utilized by “
I like to see her achieve a gritty, strong “realism” that
would meld with her sharp insight
Magazine: Any tips and things learned along
the way to pass on to others?
Tip for my writer
a “exercise” that improved my writing 100%.
(You’re going to hate this, but trust me if you do it and the
light will go on.) Get a
book about film production and go to the part about breaking down the
script for shooting. Take
your best script and break it down as if you are the Producer and you
will have to shoot each and every shot.
I was forced to do this as the producer of Found
Money. It was a
lot of work, but when I was finished I felt I knew how to write a
script like I never had before.
What's next for you?
Charles Valenza: Writing and producing a low-budget feature to
be complete in early 2005.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from
Charles Valenza: I’ll be writing and
producing a new film every 18 months.