Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist – Dathan Paterno

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

Dathan Paterno. I was born and raised in John Hughes-land, where my wife and I raise three young adult children. My hobbies include gardening, film, and hiking.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

Over my thirty years practicing psychology, I’ve witnessed a nearly infinite array of stories. I know mental health consumers are curious about the lives of their psychotherapists, so I wanted to draw the curtain on the parallel world of the psychotherapist/psychologist. It took me approximately ten months from the beginning concept to its current iteration.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

I start with brainstorming big ideas, then let the leading idea percolate for a while I first imagine characters and their histories. The who comes before the what. Then I imagine the story lines. That’s the most enjoyable part of the process. The story naturally fits into three acts, which then helps me separate the story into scenes.

This is the first show script I’ve written, so I surprised myself by using a beat board. That helped organize a great deal.

Then comes writing scenes. One at a time. Because I’m a full-time psychologist, I don’t have much time to write. I tried to get one scene done per week until I had about half the scenes completed. After that, momentum took over and I tried to write a scene every day.

After that, I went through about 25 trillion rounds of edits. This may or not be hyperbole.

Then I did a couple rounds of edits high. This is generally when I “become” the characters. They speak to me. This is where the dialogue becomes much clearer and tighter.

One or two rounds of edits include cutting. I really enjoy overwriting to start, then cut.

I then engaged a couple professionals who gave me some outstanding advice and made those changes.

Finally, I entered some contests, like the Miami Screenwriting Awards! 

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

Wanted? When I saw “Conan The Barbarian” at 14. Decided? When I turned 50 three years ago. I needed to create and I loved film, so I thought I’d give it a whirl

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

It’s hard to say. I haven’t read any other scripts, but I’m an avid filmgoer/watcher.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

“Conan The Barbarian”, “Hanna”, “Last Kingdom”,  “Your Honor”, “The Americans”.

If I don’t get obsessed, it’s not worth watching. Film allows for healthy obsession.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

The end of “North by Northwest”. I wasn’t initially impressed with Cary Grant or the film until the crazy plot twists at the end proved to me that patience was indeed virtuous.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

Conan The Barbarian. Because he was driven by his trauma and stayed true to himself.

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?  

John Milius. I’d just want to pick his brain about how he became obsessed with storytelling.