I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........
as soon as I realized I wanted to
make movies. I wanted to write a screenplay for the kind of movie I’d like to
I know I've succeeded........
when I’ve finish reading one of the drafts and
it flows without any glitches or moments that take me out of the story.
My inspiration to write THE BLACK CAT.......
came out the relatively small, but in
fact, misguided decisions people make all the time. You enter the lobby of a
building. Someone is walking in front of you and they drop a five dollar bill.
You have time to say something but you don’t. You pick up the bill and they
step into an elevator. The next thing you know, you’ve justified keeping the
money because the elevator doors closed before you could give it back. It’s
those kinds of actions, heightened into larger, overwhelming scenarios that
What inspired you to write?
Mark Penberthy: I’ve always loved pictures told in visual form.
I wanted to direct some short, three minute films with my wife. We
would discuss some themes and situations and then I’d write a script.
FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?
I really didn’t have any specific conscious preparation. It was more
of an evolution from the above silent short film scripts, which were
more like a shot list, to short scripts with dialogue. After a number
of these it just seemed inevitable to write a feature length
FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?
This is my third screenplay. The first two have interesting ideas, but
frankly, need more work. This script is the first one that, at least
for me, has a sense of completion. In terms of time, it took about a
year on a first draft and another six months on subsequent drafts.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?
I like to write first thing in the morning for at least three hours,
which is what my current schedule allows for. I’ve written in lots of
different places, but for this screenplay, much of it was written in
the back of a coffee house.
FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring
screenwriters and why?
I recently saw a “how to” screenwriting book wherein the author stated
he thought screenplay contests were a waste of time. While it’s true
there’s no guarantee a screenwriting contest will get a script sold,
it doesn’t therefore mean aspiring writers shouldn’t enter them. At
some point, it’s important for artists of all kinds to put their work
up for evaluation. Entry fees and tangible business contacts aside,
entering a screenplay contest is a moment when the writer is ready for
people that are outside his or her immediate circle to evaluate his or
her screenplay in a competitive environment. This takes some courage
and I believe it strengthens the writer.
FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the
FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards?
The contest is a dedicated screenwriting contest. It’s not bundled
with a film festival. There were separate categories, for example,
drama, comedy, and horror. I like genres to be compared to and compete
with similar genres. The contest, being international, has a wide open
feel to it.
FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?
It’s tempting to say Robert Towne’s, “Chinatown” for its structure,
plot twists, and themes, but it’s so often discussed, that instead,
I’ll urge aspiring writers to read Woody Allen’s, “Broadway Danny
Rose.” While there are any number of excellent scripts adapted from
novels, short stories, and graphic novels, this was written directly
for the screen. Like a good Motown song, the script is tight and
polished. The characters are beautifully drawn. The plot is big and
anything but subtle. It’s funny, at times even goofy, but then
suddenly the end of the story just crushes you. “Broadway Danny Rose”
is an amazing example of an artist completely in control of his
FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?
I love to paint and have done so for many years. I’ve been deeply
inspired by Rembrandt’s self portraits, Van Gogh’s landscapes in
Arles, Edward Hopper’s urban scenes, and Lucien Freud’s figure
paintings. While obviously different from screenwriting, the artistic
goals in painting are similar. You’re trying to create something
worthwhile, something with strength to it. You keep looking at it,
evaluating it, changing it, until at one point you think it’s the best
it can be.
FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter
I have to put Ben Hecht at or near the top in terms of overall career.
He worked on or wrote over seventy screenplays, including such
classics as, “Scarface,” “A Star Is Born,” “The Prisoner Of Zenda,”
“Angels With Dirty Faces,” “Gunga Din,” “Stagecoach,” “Gone With The
Wind,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Some Like It Hot,” “Foreign
Correspondent,” “Spellbound,” “Gilda,” “Notorious,” and “Duel In The
Sun.” He could write in many different genres, adapt from novels, and
fix existing screenplays, earning him the nickname, “The Shakespeare
of Hollywood.” He claims to never have worked on a script for more
than eight weeks and could produce one in as little as two weeks.
FilmMakers Magazine: Name the director you would love to work with and why?
I would have loved the chance to work with Carol Reed. His three
films, “Odd Man Out,” “The Fallen Idol,” and “The Third Man” made
respectively in 1947, 1948, and 1949 are one of the great achievements
in filmmaking. The fact they were made in a three year period is even
more impressive. The actors’ performances are first rate, the set-ups,
lighting, and editing are seamless. Nothing gets in the way of the
storytelling. I can only imagine how much I would have learned by
watching him work.
Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?
I love film noir. Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and
Humphrey Bogart have all played significant roles in class film noir
movies. My favorite, however, is Sterling Hayden, and if I could, he
is the one actor I would love to work with. I think he has the
ultimate damaged tough guy demeanor that personifies the male
character being led to his doom by a femme fatale (preferably Linda
Darnell). Sterling Hayden is perfect in “The Killing,” “Crime Wave,”
and of course, “The Asphalt Jungle.”
FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?
I think one difficult aspect about any creative process is to know
when to be critical and when not to be critical. At times criticism
can be counterproductive and actually block or shut down the whole
creative process. At other times, objective and specific criticism can
stop a flawed concept or premise from ballooning into a lot of extra
work. Knowing when to relax and let the work flow versus taking a long
look at it is not always easy. Every artist has to find that balance.
FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?
Mark Penberthy: I’ve got a couple of script ideas that I’d like
to get going on. One is a rock and roll story about the nature of
talent. The other is about a guy whose obsession leads him to a third
world country. Also, I’ve done a series of desert landscapes in
watercolor and I’d like to do a dozen or so in oil.
FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?
Mark Penberthy: Hopefully continuing to be observant, creative,
and trying to put out the best work I can.