Living in the script

Screenwriter talks shop

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  • | 11:53 a.m. June 1, 2011
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Filmmaker Art D'Alessandro poses in front of a wall of posters from movies he's written and directed.
Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Filmmaker Art D'Alessandro poses in front of a wall of posters from movies he's written and directed.
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In a dimly lit office, surrounded by a wall of VHS movies and newspaper clippings, Art D’Alessandro taps away at his 50th screenplay.

And when the Rollins College alumnus gets to working, there’s no dragging him away from his desk.

“I’m like a bulldog — I’ll stay at the computer for days,” D’Alessandro said.

“He’s not in this world,” wife Lisa Maile said.

And not being in “this world” might be the key to D’Alessandro’s writing success. The Maitland resident steeps himself in the worlds he creates, his thoughts dancing back and forth inside his characters’ heads. Sometimes he finds it hard to have a conversation outside the story he’s creating.

“I live in that world and stay in that world to make it authentic,” he said.

Actor to writer

D’Alessandro has been in the movie business since the 1970s as an actor, and, with his wife, opened and ran The Maile School, a talent training facility in Winter Park, from 1982 until they sold the business in 2004. But while the school satisfied his need to be in the “business,” D’Alessandro still had the writing itch from his college days. Now, he’s a successful writer, with four of his screenplays already produced. “She Drives Me Crazy,” a story based on the road trips his mother took with her sister, just won a Gemini Award, the Canadian equivalent to an Emmy.

D’Alessandro said he loves the creative process of writing, but nothing compares to driving up to a movie set on the first day.

“All these people are working because you had an idea that started on a blank page,” he said. “It’s the biggest high.”

“Driving up to set, it was such an incredible feeling of pride knowing that Art had started the process,” Maile said.

Talent and modesty

When you look at D’Alessandro’s projects, it’s hard to tell what he likes to write about because they’re so different. But when you get the details, every story is focused on character development. There are no big explosions or ticking time bombs. In his screenplays, the characters change and grow, and his story is something that “ruminates” in your mind, he said. Those that work with him attest to that. Richard Halpern, producer and director of “Zzyzx,” said that’s what he loves about D’Alessandro’s writing.

“He creates characters you want to connect to,” he said.

“I’d work with him again in a minute,” said Alex Pires, director, producer and co-writer of the film “Mayor Cupcake” with D’Alessandro. “He’s talented and modest, which is a very rare combination.”

Persistence pays

D’Alessandro has seen success with his writing; his films have won awards at festivals and feature famous actors — Lea Thompson and Sean Astin to name a couple — but it hasn’t always been easy. In an industry where saying no — or more often, nothing — is far easier than producing a movie, he’s learned to not take it personally, and credits persistence for some of his accomplishments. “She Drives Me Crazy,” for example, took 14 years, 30 rewrites and its characters’ ages going from 70 to 30 to get produced.

“You take all your little victories, remember them and let them be more powerful than your defeats,” D’Alessandro said. “You just persist, and amazingly, something might happen.”

Learn more

For more information about Art D’Alessandro and his movies, visit


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