Writer Gianmarco Maximilian Giacomelli’s Awesome Adventures in the Screen Trade
Nobody. Knows. Anything.
So said Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman who once very wryly commented, “Nobody knows anything…Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
But, screenwriter-producer Gianmarco Maximilian Giacomelli suggests there are educated tips one can apply. Giacomelli, who has a number of exciting screenplays in development including Two Kings and Valentina, is talking to us outside Musso & Frank, the iconic Hollywood restaurant location used in Swingers, Ocean’s 11, and Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He confesses, “For a Canadian kid who grew up on Hollywood movies, cozying up to the bar in Musso & Frank for the first time was a shot of adrenaline, that this place is actually real. I was immediately transported back in time to another era, but it didn’t click until later that night when I pieced together the waiters in tuxes, red leather banquettes, white table clothes and hard-to-forget cocktails.”
Indeed, Giacomelli arrived in Los Angeles after taking a crash course in film production at Ryerson University, screenwriting classes at the University of Toronto, and a few years working intensely in a burgeoning film and TV development industry in Toronto. It was after he was accepted into the MFA in screenwriting program at the world’s top rated film school, the AFI Conservatory, that he acquired some tremendous advice, recalling:
“I sat down with Scott Silver, writer of 8 Mile, and of two Oscar nominated screenplays, Joker and The Fighter. We had an intimate conversation about screenwriting tactics, how to construct a scene, and methods for outlining a story before writing the actual screenplay. One of the things he said has stuck with me to this day: a scene consists of three key elements — character, theme and plot. We want all three. We can live with two. But if the scene only has one, cut it.”
Secondly, at AFI, he also learned something about “team-work” recalling, “If there’s one thing AFI made sure we’d never forget it was ‘collaboration.’ That is, filmmaking is a collaborative process with a number of decision-makers and creative partners along the way.”
Consequently, he’s been applying that knowledge to the various projects he’s recently been working on, including: working with the creative team during the early stages of development of Magic: The Gathering, an animated series based on the fantasy card game Magic and overseen by the Russo brothers; and, writing storylines, while the design team was creating characters right in front of his eyes for Flamehawk Studios which is producing an upcoming fantasy-adventure video game called the Mechanical World of Dr Gearbox.
By the way, Magic: The Gathering is such a hot property, people believe that Netflix has found its Game of Thrones-like fantasy franchise.
Giacomelli also had a fascinating experience, working as a story analyst-reader at Captivate Entertainment, the company behind the blockbuster Jason Bourne franchise: “As I’m a huge fan of the books and movie series, getting to see behind the scenes as they prepped for the new TV series based on the books (Treadstone on USA Network) gave me tremendous insight into how original IPs like novels are adapted for the screen. Similarly, reading scripts for potential new projects to develop was extraordinarily helpful for my own writing, as I saw what works and what doesn’t.”
So, while he’s been learning on the job, another one of Hollywood’s inside tips has been further underscored to him. He initially studied Business Management at Dalhousie University in Canada, and got into finance after graduating, but soon realized that even though he was very good with “numbers,” he despised the work. He explains, “I realized that getting a job related to numbers and math could be lucrative, but tedious, and more a matter of who you know. The ‘who you know’ part was something that stuck with me, and I’ve found it applies to virtually every industry in the world, especially in Hollywood. At least here, I love every minute of what I’m doing.”
Indeed, through his growing collaborations, Giacomelli hopes to serve as showrunner on one of his own original TV series, and, eventually, to write and direct one of his own feature film scripts. In the process, he sees one of his strengths as the ability to see a story 10 steps ahead: “I often know where I want my characters (arc-transformation wise) to end up, which informs the choices I make to get them there.”
And, he also touts his ability to write snappy, tight dialog, and refers to Tarantino as one of his major influences, saying that writer-directors like Quentin and Martin McDonagh “use their dialog like weapons” to pull you into their stories. Giacomelli adds, “Dialog is there to reveal character and move the story forward — if it’s not doing one or both of those at the same time, it’s superfluous. One perfect example of this is the opening and closing scenes in Pulp Fiction, with two would-be-criminals Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and Pumpkin (Tim Roth), planning to rob a diner. Because of the film’s non-linear narrative, it’s actually the same brilliant scene told from differing perspectives. It’s just plain fun, full of banter and conflict, and also adds an extra layer to the character of Jules (Samuel L Jackson) that we didn’t see coming.”
Above all, Giacomelli says his take-away from reading classic scripts is — “To this day, I read the scripts for movies I love, then watch the film and I realize that screenwriting is like being an engineer or an architect. The script is a blueprint for the film; it’s not a Bible that needs to be followed religiously.” So, two of the many projects he has in play include: Two Kings has recently gotten A-list talent and an agency attached to the project and they’re currently going out to networks; and, Valentina, a historical dramas series, is with a big production company in Mexico City, one that co-produced Narcos and El Chapo for Netflix.
Even with these hot irons in the fire, Giacomelli hasn’t forgotten his Canadian roots. For example, his one-act play My Old Man, which he adapted for the screen, was directed by Ryan M. Andrews and accepted into the Canadian Film Fest and nominated for best short. Giacomelli adds, “If anything, my success in Hollywood has lit a fire for me to get back to my roots and focus on the Canadiana that I love, and which made me the writer I am. I believe there’s incredible Canadian stories to be told that can capture the international audience’s mind and that share universal truths which can be appreciated anywhere in the world.”
In the meantime, now that the COVID lockdown is over, and Hollywood is taking meetings again, screenwriter-producer Gianmarco Maximilian Giacomelli is burning the midnight oil, because “Seeing and hearing the words you’ve written appear on the big screen is just magical!”