Script brings you behind the scenes to get to know our family of contributors on a more personal level. Meet Mario O. Moreno, author of our column Screenwriter’s Guidepost.
Mario is a Story Specialist for The Writers Store by day, and a screenwriter by night. Since earning a bachelor’s degree in Film from Miami International University, where he won an Outstanding Filmmaker Award, Mario has written numerous feature film scripts, been an Academy Nicholl Fellowships Quarterfinalist, Final Draft’s Big Break Semifinalist and Austin Film Festival Finalist, co-authored The Pocket Screenwriting Guide: 120 Tips for Getting to FADE OUT, and has pitched to executives at Paramount, Warner Brothers, Fox, Disney, Universal and Sony. He also coached the first 3 winners of the Industry Insider Contest, including Tyler Marceca, whose “The Disciple Program” was acquired by Universal in a bidding war. Follow Mario on Twitter @MarioOMoreno37 @PktScreenGD
What was the first movie you ever remember seeing or the one that made the most impact on you as a child?
The impact for me came from the experience of watching films with my parents when I was young. I remember a montage of cinematic images streaming past me—images I was supposedly too young to see: Sonny getting gunned down in The Godfather; Mozart’s body unceremoniously tossed into a mass grave in Amadeus; Romeo and Juliet lying post-coital in Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation. All that good stuff. I don’t remember the order I saw these films in (and there were many others that come to memory), and I know I’d seen many things before; however, there was something about these images that felt forbidden, and that seemed to hold clues to the possibilities of life (good and bad) outside my limited understanding of it.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
It changes all the time now. Lately, I’d say Sunset Boulevard… but maybe that’s because I identify with the lead. You know, that whole I’m-a-screenwriter-floating-facedown-in-a-Hollywood-pool feeling? Network is the other touchstone for me at the moment. Chayefsky set a bar and we’re all reaching for it. Perhaps William Holden became my favorite actor without my knowing it. My previous top five favorite films: Annie Hall; A Clockwork Orange; Goodfellas; American Beauty; Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There are so many films to love.
What word or scenario do you never want to see in a screenplay again?
Sci-fi Frankenstein stories. That being said, I’ll probably have an idea for one now that I’ve said it. And then I’ll have to write it. I know a reader who had a qualm whenever the word “moist” was used in a script. I have no such pet peeve other than disliking careless writing.
What profession did your parents want you to have?
Perhaps President of the United States when I was very young. But they’ve always supported my goal of being a storyteller. I got lucky there.
What profession, other than your current one, would you like to try if you could have a do-over?
Computer science, graphic design, or psychology. Is it too late?
What drew you to the entertainment industry and specifically, why did you want to help writers?
If I were attempting a character breakdown, I’d guess that I crave acceptance and wrongly perceive it to be linked to my accomplishments. This, combined with the traumas of seeing my father go to prison (for a major white collar crime that involved congressmen, the Bronx mafia and the Reagan White House) on top of losing two of my brothers as infants and two others to mental illness, probably did a number on me. Together it created a sense of responsibility in me to change the narrative and pull a positive out of many negatives… like pulling one bunny out of several top hats.
Teaching runs in my blood. It’s tremendously satisfying to help writers have breakthroughs with their stories, and creative collaboration is addictive. Also, I like movies and writing.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I’m the writer and creator of LA Series (coming in 2016). The pilot is executive produced and co-directed by James Franco.
What do you wish you knew about the industry before you jumped in?
The industry is about relationships and opportunity and luck. The Golden Rule doesn’t necessarily apply. People will help you if it benefits them. Networking is a craft, and there’s no way to be too good at it. If you’re writing with a partner, you better trust them infinitely—still: get everything in writing.
If you could impart only one piece of knowledge onto writers, what would it be?
Step up your game. Work harder and faster and delve deeper into your material. The competition demands no less. It’s all about delivering an emotional experience, starting with what’s on the page for the reader. If you aren’t evoking and tracking and escalating emotion, save a tree.
If you could go back in time and talk to your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give?
Stop waiting for inspiration and write that movie! Get started and make your own path. Hollywood will only love you if others already do. Oh, and sleep with lots of women. Oh, and go to NYU.
If you have any other fun tidbits you want to add, go for it!
I’ve learned a lot the hard way. It boils down to this: value your connection to the work above all else.