Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Dalton Berens

Chicago Screenplay Awards Questionnaire

By Chicago Screenplay Awards Dept.


  1. What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby? 

My name is Dalton Berens. I was born in Denver, Colorado and currently live here as well. My favorite hobby is watching or playing sports of any kind. I love to be active and watch any of my favorite professional teams play. 

  1. Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now? 

In 2019, I came up with the concept of Payment Plan while finishing my degree at Colorado Film School in the midst of NCAA athlete suppression and the rise of legal sports bookmaking in the United States. It’s taken roughly three years and about 15 drafts to develop where it is today. 

  1. From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process? 

The content in Payment Plan is generated from current real world events which include: the mistreatment of NCAA athletes and sports gambling. I’ve followed both issues for the last decade so really I’m just writing what I know most about. Generally, my ideas don’t come to me while at the computer writing the actual script. They come to me at random times, whether it’s working on something else, exercising, out with friends, or even sleeping. When an idea or thought about the story comes to me, I jot it down in my notes app and then I expand on it as much as I can in my script. 90-95% of these ideas are later sifted through and thrown out. The other 5-10% is left in, tweaked some more, then eventually you have about 60-70 pages worth of a Pilot.   

  1. When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

I realized I enjoyed screenwriting when I attended Colorado Film School. I had always loved movies and TV but I never knew how an actual story came together. I enjoyed the overall process of screenwriting because it combines fundamentals, technique, and creativeness. It’s extremely challenging but eventually rewarding. I learned quite a lot over the period of two years and when I started to come up with my own story ideas, the script writing process became a beloved hobby of mine.  

  1. Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?  

My biggest screenwriting influences are Aaron Sorkin and Taylor Sheridan. Sorkin is a master at captivating an audience with various genres and is done so effortlessly. Sheridan’s character development is unmatched whether in film or a TV series. I try my best to blend their style with mine (amongst others), and it’s a feeling of satisfaction when you can do so successfully.  

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

I’ve been obsessed with many movies and TV shows in my life so it’s hard to pick. If you ask any of my friends or family, they’ll tell you I’m constantly quoting movies or shows. In the past decade, I’ve been more of a fan of TV shows than movies so I would have to go with Breaking Bad or Yellowstone. Both shows have amazing character arcs and content that keeps you binging season after season. 

  1. What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why? 

There’s a plethora to choose from, it’s probably between Robin Williams’ monologue in Goodwill Hunting, the ending to The Truman Show, or the interrogation scene in The Dark Knight. All of them have amazing writing with hall of fame actors.    

  1. Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why? 

My favorite character in cinema history is Heath Ledger as The Joker. His unbelievable commitment to his character led to an Oscar performance and tragically his death before the movie was released. His character had layers of intelligence, despair, and lunacy that shined eloquently throughout the movie. Despite his actions, I always found myself rooting The Joker.    

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


I would talk to legendary comedian: Dave Chappelle. He always has an interesting point of view on a variety of difficult subjects in American society. He analyzes them with great insight and thoughtfulness. I would love to pick his brain and I’m sure the conversation would be full of laughs as well. 


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