Interview with screenwriter Diego Trovarelli

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

I think it was a terrible story written when I was 15, entirely set in a hotel where the customers’ sequence of events intersected together. I think I still have it somewhere, but I actually hope I don’t. It would be my embarrassing skeleton in the closet.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories inspired your creative passion?

How much time do you have? Joking aside, the list is actually very long. Maybe I can sum it up by saying that, most of all, I have a thing for personal redemption stories, the ones where the protagonist struggles through difficulties to find the place he/she deserves in the world. Underdogs, outsiders and humility stories.

  • For an unknown writer, what is the best way to get their screenplay seen?

Personally, I find that participating at festivals is a pretty good way. Unfortunately, not everyone has the chance to film what they wrote or to reach a producer and have them read the script. Therefore I think
that sending screenplays to film festivals is a good system to become known and gain visibility. In this way if somebody is interested they can start working on your story.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

Unconsciously, I think a lot. I throw myself headlong into the creation of the character without asking myself too many personal questions, but it’s funny how I realize, in the late stages of editing, that each one has something that moved me in one way or another. It’s always like that. It’s not necessarily a
personal experience but also something I witnessed, situations that struck me and that I ended up using it as part of my characters’ experiences, intentionally or not. The important thing is that at a certain point the characters stop using the screenwriter’s words and find their own voice.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

First of all, I always start spending a lot of hours staring at the wall, but I don’t consider it as a waste. It’s time I use to think when I’m struggling to get started. During those moments I examine and reject many
ideas, therefore something useful has still been done. And then I steal, inevitably. Each character we create has in themselves a characteristic of somebody we know well or not and that we think would suit them perfectly for what we need. Even if one day I would write about, I don’t know, an astronaut – who maybe is the furthest from my daily life and from what I know – I am sure I would think “Uhm, I would like them to be calm and meditative…I don’t know, like my plumber for example”.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

I should but I’m not that disciplined from this point of view. I’m also afraid that, in short films, this could be counter-productive. I know it may sound like an outrage, but it occurred to me that in short films which have a great abundance of information there was too much and it overloaded the story. The will of filling the life of the character with details, hidden behind an apparent need, may lead the story to move away from the essential, and I think that for a short film it’s very dangerous. Anyway, in general I
think it’s very useful to do because if you know perfectly your character, when you reach a deadlock where you don’t know how to go on, if your structure is solid and detailed, you will see that the character will react “on its own” and coherently.

  • How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?

At first I say to myself that I am just an ambassador of the story I am telling, that it is their story. I start in a cold way and I limit myself almost to report what is going on with them, but that’s just because I am still on the surface. When I dive deeper, one draft after another, it can happen that the emotional link with them amplifies considerably.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

It’s a guiding light, very useful especially after the first draft. Generally at the beginning I prefer writing without many constraints, in order not to prevent ideas that may be good. After the first draft the structure helps me to identify mistakes, weak and missing points in my story. Not using it would be like leaving for an unknown place without a map; you may get lost and give up. Concerning short films, the question is particular and rules are a bit different from a long storytelling. You have less time on screen,
that’s true, but this doesn’t mean that you have fewer chances.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

Here too, I should and I almost always do it. The problem is that when a good idea swirls around your head it takes a lot of self-control to keep it good until you outline it. Sometimes I let myself be lead by the enthusiasm and start writing without having made a good plan for the story first. Then I always end up apologizing in front of my whiteboard with Post-it notes.

  • What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

I think that every character’s goal is to try to get in touch with the audience through a crux. A good quality, a flaw, a passion, a mania, a weakness. I find these tools of great usefulness in order to create “plausible” characters, who can come out from the screen and make the audience think “I understand
you, sometimes I feel the same”. It is through the establishment of a bond like this that the character becomes a window to our story.