Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Daron Wiess

Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire

By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.

Who are you and where are you from? 

My name is Daron Weiss, I’ve lived my entire life in Chicago – around the neighborhoods of Old Town and Rogers Park.

Where and when did you come up with the idea for your screenplay?

I am a father of two boys, so stories of family conflict and resolution really appeal to me. The idea came to me ten years ago but I put it behind other ideas until I felt I was older and could more fully understand the family dynamic. 

Can you take us through your screenwriting process? 

Before I type a word, I spend the majority of the development writing notes and scratching out the overall story idea in broad outlines and then I obsessively work it down into acts, plot points, and then scenes.

What made you want to become a screenwriter?

My father took me to the movies every weekend for my entire childhood. Seeing so many movies fueled my love of writing creative stories of my own when I was in school.

Who are your biggest filmmaking influences? 

For overall craft, it would be Akira Kurosawa. I want to paint each scene I write with a visual style that I hope he would enjoy if he read the script.

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

At least once or twice a year I have to watch Crimes and Misdemeanors. The Academy Award for Best Screenplay was very well deserved. I became hooked on writing Dramedy after seeing this wonderful story combination of a murder-for-hire with the comedic life of a filmmaker.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? 

There is a quick silent flashback at the end of There Will be Blood that’s quite powerful for me. The son takes his father’s hat and won’t give it back. The father has to keep asking for it and when he’s finally given the hat back he makes an excuse for leaving and walks away. It’s a striking scene because the father was a bully to everyone for the entire movie, yet we see what we know, is that all anyone had to do was to stand up to the bully and he would’ve backed down. But in real life people just don’t stand up. That flash image is a glimpse of real life. 

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? 

Michael Dorsey in Tootsie. An entertaining full character arc. Michael’s resilient determination to earn the money to put on his roommate’s play leads to a crazy ride as a self-centered actor falls in love and transforms into a more compassionate person overall.

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

I would travel back to the 1980s to visit David Mamet. I am still just awestruck at the dialogue in About Last Night and Glengarry Glen Ross.  I would ask him what the make of the car was that crashed into his brain, for him to take gibberish words and phrases and work them so gorgeously into sentences that carry real meaning and rich flavor for characters.

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