Five Questions with Screenwriting Expert and ISA Founder Craig James Pietrowiak
What’s the greatest screenplay ever? We have a very special guest here to offer their pick. The International Screenwriters’ Association champions screenwriters to agents, managers and producers seeking talent and provides essential resources to elevate your craft and career. The founder of the ISA is Chicago native Craig James Pietrowiak. Craig stopped by for a thoroughly entertaining round of Five Questions with SCREEN. Let’s get to it!
SCREEN: You’re the screenwriting expert so we have to ask… what is the most memorable screenplay you have ever read?
CRAIG: This is a great question because what I love about filmmaking in general is how the act of making movies really is all about collaboration. My favorite film of all time is The Shawshank Redemption, based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. After seeing the film approximately 1000 times (this may not be an exaggeration) I just had to compare Stephen’s original work to the script that Frank Darabont adapted it to. And what I learned was that much of the greatness of that final script, the iconic scenes and/or dialogue and story in general was developed by both artists. Stephen is obviously a genius but Frank’s contributions as a writer and then director elevated the original to a place that made the final film a masterpiece. So, I formed the opinion that although a story I write may be very personal to me, based on all the sweat and tears dedicated to perfecting it, I have to remain open to an outside perspective. If someone can elevate Stephen King’s work, who am I to think another set of eyes on my work would ever hurt. I can’t be too precious with what I create.
Enjoy this look at the iconic drama…
SCREEN: Worst job ever?
CRAIG: I once had a summer job in college at a paint thinner company. Most of the time I was on an assembly line that not only bored the heck out of me but I felt like I was burning all my brain cells inhaling fumes in that place. It was unpleasant.
SCREEN: If you could bring back any TV show in television history, what would it be?
CRAIG: Probably Cheers. There’s just something about that show that inspired me to want to be in the industry. I think a lot of it had to do with the writing and acting. There was just an honesty to all the comedy. It didn’t get too sitcom-y til the end, but during the first few years it just felt honest and sincere to what each of the characters was going through in that one location. The writers and actors found a way to keep the dramatic moments, yet make us laugh without making a punchline out of everything. I’m not sure a reboot would have the same magic but it sure would be fun to revisit.
Ok Craig, this is for you, here is a montage of some memorable moments from the iconic sitcom…
SCREEN: What is your most prized possession?
CRAIG: A few years before my gram passed away in 2008 at the age of 96, she gave me a fifty dollar bill from 1914, one of those oversized ones. There was a story behind the travels of this bill going across Europe through Nazi-occupied Poland then back to the United States where it finally landed in her hands. I never did verify the story. All I know for sure was that we had an incredible bond. She trusted me with this bill and she trusted me to be the last person by her side when she left this life. She was a special woman and I cherish her memory.
SCREEN: What is your go-to karoake song?
If I’m forced to sing, I’ll lean into Elton John songs, particularly and ironically YOUR SONG. So great!
SCREEN: If you could play any superhero in a major motion picture, who would it be?
CRAIG: You know what would be great? Bring back The Greatest American Hero! I was just a kid when that came out but there’s something about being a regular Joe who ends up with access to superhuman powers when he really wants nothing to do with it. That’s many superhero stories, I know. But for me, origin stories for all heroes are the most interesting aspect of their their journey. A hero who just doesn’t want to be a hero and doesn’t really have superhero powers unless he puts on this silly suit, is just the best kind of disaster. For some reason I find that both hilarious and fascinating at the same time.
Here it is… the very first episode ever of The Greatest American Hero…
SCREEN: Your greatest fear?
CRAIG: Sharks and alligators and anything that can eat me alive. This is why I stay out of the ocean, or rivers in Costa Rica.
SCREEN: Best advice you’ve ever been given?
CRAIG: It sounds cliche but “enjoy the journey”. I’m a big believer in being in the moment, the many lessons of author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. It’s not always an easy thing to do, living in the moment. Who wants to stand in line at the bank and enjoy that moment? But the deeper I go into that truth, the more I realize that all we ever really have is THIS moment in time. Yesterday is over, tomorrow’s not here so why weigh down this moment with anticipation, guilt, anxiety or regrets? Might as well enjoy right now, aka the journey, because yesterday is behind us and there is no tomorrow until we get through today. So, I just put a smile on my face and try to enjoy it all.
Thanks for playing, Craig! To get involved with the International Screenwriters’ Association, click right here.
Check back here at SCREEN for new rounds of Five Questions with SCREEN. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.