American Gem 2005 Short Screenplay Competition - A LETTER FROM AVRAM
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Tom Rossi

Seventh Place Winner

Tom Rossi
of Beverly Shores, IN

Tom Rossi was born in Rockford, Illinois and spent thirty-five years always doing the right thing. At thirty-six he woke up to find himself living in a suburb of Chicago and commuting to a boring corporate job every day. It was then that he received the best advice he has ever heard: "Find things that you love to do and do them as much as you can." Today, he is an experienced mountaineer, having summated over 50 peaks on 4 continents, a rated rock and ice climber and has completed six marathons.

He and his wife, Kim Montell own a marketing company that provides business-to-business communications and video production for clients across the country. Tom holds advanced degrees from the University of Illinois and Governors State University and has taught corporate video at Columbia College and lectured at Michigan State University. He lives in the middle of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.


I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter.......  

the first time I saw a television show. Everyone in the room stopped talking and stared at that black and white image. I saw the power and attention the visualized word had on them.

I know I've succeeded.......  

when the audience laughs at the right places.

My inspiration to write A LETTER FROM AVRAM.......

came as I sat in a synagogue, watching a Sabbath service. The congregation sang a song about physical and emotional healing and the story was there.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Tom Rossi: Actually, it was the lack of inspiration that led me to write. I grew up in a family that had died from a poverty of spirit. There was food on the table, but nothing that fed my life. It was an isolating, bleak scenario, bereft of joy. In short, a perfect environment for a writer. Luckily, the nuns at St. Mary's School taught me to read and I discovered life outside the empty shell of my family. I read everything I could find; cereal boxes to encyclopedias. Sitting in the public library, I flew to Mars; I journeyed to the center of the earth and 20,000 leagues under the sea. I learned theology, geology, Renaissance art and the art of war. It was a fantastic journey through someone else's imagination. And then it occurred to me that I could travel my own journey and pilot my own flight. All it took was putting the words on paper.

FilmMakers Magazine: How did you prepare yourself to write your first script? 

Tom Rossi: As I recall, I walked to school, made out with Lavonne Kennedy at her locker, got a detention for it and wrote my first screenplay while sitting it out in Study Hall. I was fifteen. The screenplay was awful.  

FilmMakers Magazine: This is not my first script (see the answer above.) It took about a month to write.

Tom Rossi: Usually, I take all twenty-six letters of the alphabet and spread them out on my desk and then I rearrange them into groups I call words. Sometimes, that takes forever! Just kidding. No, I write when I can.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?

Tom Rossi: Usually, I take all twenty-six letters of the alphabet and spread them out on my desk and then I rearrange them into groups I call words. Sometimes, that takes forever! Just kidding. No, I write when I can.  

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

Tom Rossi: Writing is, of course, a lonely activity. The only thing that keeps us tapping away at the keys is our dream, our vision and our self-confidence that our work just may be a real work of art. Often, that isn't enough. We need the validation a contest can provide just to keep going. 

FilmMakers Magazine:
What influenced you to enter the American Gem Short Script Competition?

Tom Rossi: I needed the exposure to people who might actually want to make this film a reality.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

Tom Rossi: "Blood Simple" by Joel & Ethan Coen because it is a masterpiece of plot twist, "The Victors" by Alexander Baron and Carl Foreman because it has magnificent juxtapositions and points of view on a single subject, and "What's Up Tiger Lily?" by Woody Allen et al, because it must have been a real challenge to write to a film that was already completed.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Tom Rossi: Mountain climbing. The need to separate oneself from humanity drives you up to the summit. The love of humanity sends you back down. On a mountain summit you realize that silence is the music of awareness. In that silence; in that unique awareness, you understand God just a little bit more clearly.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Tom Rossi: Joel & Ethan Coen have been consistently impressive in their control of each scene in every movie they have written.. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?

Tom Rossi: Joel Coen. He has a brilliant touch. Unlike the usual ham-fisted effects-heavy garbage that seems to garner the wows of pubescent gum-chompers, Coen's work garners something much more..respect. 

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

Tom Rossi: Danny Glover. This may be a strange pick but I think he is a truly under-rated actor and I believe he has a range that surpasses the roles he has been in so far. Besides, my next screenplay has a starring role that could be an Oscar-winner for him.

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Tom Rossi: Sure. Read. Learn proper grammar. Learn to spell. It's okay if your characters are too stupid to write a complete sentence in English, but it marks you as a sad, post-nineties text messager if you can't. Above all, write things that matter.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Tom Rossi: Five full-length screenplays in the works. First one to be completed in a few weeks.

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

Tom Rossi: Judging this contest.

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