Where do you live (City, State, or Country)?
I live in Newton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.
Your script stood out among hundreds of others. What was the inspiration for your story and why did you write a script instead of a short story or a novel?
The screenplay, In My Brother’s Image, is based on my book of the same title (Viking/Penguin, 2000-01). The inspiration for the story was a historical family legacy about Jewish-born, devout Catholic, identical twin brothers whose relationship unraveled when one returned to his ancestral Jewish faith after surviving a Nazi concentration camp while the other was ordained a Catholic priest who survived the war under the wing of the recently canonized, mystical healer and seer, Padre Pio. With historical Jewish-Christian tensions inhabiting my family, I felt inspired to explore the degree of reconciliation that occurred between these brothers.
How long did it take you to write your script...and what is your writing process? Do you outline...use index cards...white board...or just start with FADE IN?
The first draft of the script was written by a co-writer in 2009-10. When he moved on to other projects, I disregarded the advice that, as the book’s author, I should never attempt to write the screenplay. So, I took over the writing and used the framework provided by that first draft to integrate more of the story from my book, the content and flow being already at my fingertips. My own draft was completed around 2014, with four or five drafts to follow since that time with the help of writing consultants and coverage from successive screenplay competitions.
What is your ultimate ambition as a writer?
My singular ambition is to have this story reach as wide an audience as possible. An interview I heard many years ago on an NPR Boston-affiliate radio station with F. Murray Abraham, who was in town to play King Lear at the American Repertory Theatre, succinctly captured what I have always wanted to achieve by getting my story out there. When the interviewer asked him, “What do you hope to accomplish by your portrayal of Lear?” Mr. Abraham paused for a moment and then responded, “I want to change people’s lives forever.”
Was your entry at The Wiki Screenplay Contest a full script or “the first ten pages”? Why did you make that choice?
My entry for Wiki was the full script that had been increasingly refined over several years.
What’s your all-time favorite movie or television show...and why?
My favorite movie is Cinema Paradiso, the 1990 Giuseppe Tornatore film (with glorious music by Ennio Morricone) about a filmmaker who becomes enraptured with film during his childhood through his friendship with a paternal projectionist at his Sicilian town’s local cinema. But his disappointment over his broken relationship with his teenage love hollows out an emptiness that follows him into a life of unfulfilling relationships that ironically only deepens his bittersweet love of romance in film. I was enthralled by the final scene of Salvatore viewing, with poignant nostalgia, fragments of filmstrips of lovers in romantic embrace that had once been censored by his town’s local priest. I imagine that in that moment, he remembered the gravely disappointed love of his youth, suggesting that his unfulfilled longing—perhaps like our own—had helped fuel his life’s impassioned calling.
What advice do you have for writers hoping to win a contest or place as a finalist as you have?
Aim to write a screenplay because it matters to you, whether because you feel passionate about the subject or you want to put your skill and imagination to work. Don’t join contests at the outset to win them, but rather to use them as tools to improve your writing. Take advantage of the coverage offered by the contests to improve the writing for the next competition. A rookie baseball player doesn’t come up to the plate planning on hitting a homerun. He just wants to make contact with the ball and learn something with every at bat.
What else are you working on that the world needs to know about?
Besides my book, the screenplay, In My Brother’s Image, is the only other work that I want the world to know about.