Screenwriter Justin DeCarlo on his creative process and writing “The Apartment”

Justin DeCarlo, Screenwriter

NY Elite: Congratulations on being an ISC finalist. What does it mean for your work to be selected at the International Screenwriting Competition in New York?

Justin DeCarlo: It’s so exciting to be a finalist! Alexis Karl, the co-author, and I are very proud of this script and it’s very inspiring to have the script resonate with people in any way.

NY Elite: Can you tell us about the work that you participated with at ISC? What is the story about?

Justin DeCarlo: The Apartment is based on a short story that I wrote about a man that lives a very small, repetitive life in the city. He only has a small circle of people that he’s not quite close enough with to call friends, a goldfish, and a landlord that has lost all patience with him. We get to know him through his daily routine, which is not much more than getting coffee at the corner store and some small-time gambling, and some disturbing dreams. Then after a near-violent encounter with his landlord, his apartment starts to slowly get taken over by a forest and his world becomes much bigger and much more uncertain.

NY Elite: Can you tell us yourself and your artistic talents?

Justin DeCarlo: I am mainly a fiction writer.

NY Elite: What scripts have you written so far?

Justin DeCarlo: This is my first one!

NY Elite: Top 3 favorite projects that you have been involved in?

Justin DeCarlo: I’m going to count writing the Apartment with Alexis as one. A short story called “Oh Brave Monster, Lead the Way” that I wrote and was published recently, and a five-minute stop-motion film about A clown that fights a bowl of man-eating peas that was sadly lost in a flood some years back.

NY Elite: What type of scripts do you want to write in your career?

Justin DeCarlo: I liked exploring how the seemingly mundane can be menacing and suffocating even before the more surreal aspects of the script come to light. Even though it’s obviously very different, I was thinking of Ackerman’s “Jeanne Dielman.” I read an interview where she said that when she banged the table and you thought that the milk might spill, it was just as dramatic as the seemingly more shocking ending. I am hoping the wild parts of our script feel just as natural as everything that had happened before it. I’d like to explore that idea more in the next script I think.

NY Elite: As a writer, what is the most important aspect of building a character?

Justin DeCarlo: For me, the most important thing is to never judge your own characters. Even if they are doing something questionable, if you don’t accept them for who they are, they are never going to act in a way that is perfectly natural for them, and then they will never be fully fleshed out. It drives me crazy when I feel like the writer is telling me how to feel about their characters. Good or bad, they have to be who they are.  Let everyone else judge them.

NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?

Justin DeCarlo: I’m always working on some short stories and am currently in the middle of a novel.

NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

Justin DeCarlo: Oh yeah, I’ve spread myself quite thin over the years. Oil painter, comic book artist, musician…but I’ve put most of that on the back burner the last several years for writing.

NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking/writing?

Justin DeCarlo: My advice would be to become friends with someone insanely talented and infinitely more disciplined than you are like Alexis Karl. Have them force you to focus on a project and see it through to the end and remind you that you don’t need anything like a huge budget or fancy equipment to make your vision become fully realized. So, basically, surround yourself with wonderful, talented people that show up for work every day, have fun, and inspire you to do the same.

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