Dale is an incredible artist of the rarest kind. She is a renaissance woman. A polymath of the truest form. Many believe that someone with such a broad range of talents is simply gifted with natural ability. That is simply not true. Dale has earned her skill set through hard work, perseverance, and an unending curiosity fueled by passion. You may ask yourself what drives a person to seek out such a variety of experiences. The answer is simple. Life. By honing her crafts, Dale is able to truly taste what life has to give. This allows Dale to infuse her work with a certain ‘truth’ or emotional authenticity. Which is why I am pleased to introduce you to her.
This is Dale Griffiths Stamos…
For as far back as I can remember, I have written. I had poems published when I was only 9 and I don’t think I’ve put the pen down since. Having an affinity for languages, in college I completed a BA in French and a Masters in Romance Linguistics and Literature. I taught French or Spanish for a number of years but was always writing at the same time.
In my early twenties, my focus was on poetry and songwriting (I also play piano and guitar), but in my mid-twenties I wrote my first play and discovered a passion that continues to this day. Through the years I have had a number of short plays and full-length plays produced. I have also received some awards and recognitions, including the Heideman Award from Actors Theatre of Louisville, a 1st prize in the Jewel Box Theatre Playwriting Competition, and named a two-time “Top Ten Winner” in the Writer’s Digest Stage Play Competition.
In 2013, at the suggestion of my play director at the time, I adapted one of my short plays into a short screenplay. She and I co-produced the film and it went on to screen at a number of film festivals, winning an Audience Award at the marvelous Sedona Film Festival.
That, and another of my directors moving into film, spurred me into writing more short films.
To date, I have written six produced shorts, the last three of which I also directed. They have gone to multiple film festivals and received such recognitions as two jury awards and two Awards of Excellence from Best Shorts Competition. In 2015, I moved into feature-length script writing and have completed three scripts, two of which have made the semi-finals in a number of established competitions.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
I really never thought I would move into screenwriting (even though I have been told that my plays often have the structure and “feel” of a screenplay). What happened is two of the directors of my plays in Los Angeles wanted to move into filmmaking and asked if I had short plays, I would adapt for them. So, the first I adapted was the screenplay version of my play “Matchmade” - which, on the stage, had starred the venerable Barbara Bain (from the original Mission Impossible television series) as a woman running a matchmaking service for people over 70. The resulting film, directed by Maggie Grant, went on to screen at multiple film festivals and won an Audience Award.
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I then wrote two more adaptations for director Deborah LaVine. Those both also screened at a number of film festivals and at one, won a Jury Award. Interestingly, after these three shorts, I felt inspired to move into directing (another thing I never thought I would do) and directed three more shorts I had adapted. Two have been doing well on the festival circuit and one has been recently submitted.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
As I said I was somewhat reluctantly brought into screenwriting by two of my directors but once there, I discovered the expansive aspects of writing for the screen that are not available to a stage writer. This was deepened even more when directing. There are so many elements that bring a script alive in film – the words, of course, but also the images, the cinematography, the editing, the music! I love being involved in every aspect, from casting through editing. It’s opened up a whole new creative world to me.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
I will name two people and two experiences. The first was my high school drama teacher. Even though it was for acting (something I wanted to do during high school and college), this was my first experience with a person of authority telling me I had talent. I had performed, for a class assignment, a monologue from “This Property is Condemned” by Tennessee Williams. My teacher took me aside at the end of the class and told me he would give me an ‘A’ under one condition. That I would come back after winter break and perform it for the class all over again – so he and they would have the pleasure of seeing it again. This told me, essentially, that I was an artist.
The second experience was when, early in my writing career I submitted my short play, “The Unintended Video,” to the prestigious Actors Theatre of Louisville National 10-Minute Play Contest. Before final results were in, the play was chosen to be performed by their apprentice actors in production there. My husband and I flew out to see it and they treated me like royalty (even though it was just a short play!), providing us a place to stay, taking us on a tour of the theatre, and inviting us to drinks with the cast and other personnel from ATL after the performance.
Michael Bigelow Dixon, the literary manager of the theatre, asked me to sit next to him and told me that the monologue that ended my play was one of the best he had ever read. I felt so deeply valued by him and by the theatre. But little did I know, more was to come. A month later, I got a call from Michael telling me I had co-won the Heideman award, (A $1000 prize to the top 10-minute play entered into the contest) with the established playwright Romulus Linney. This recognition was so instrumental for me as, like most writers starting out, I had been asking myself if I really had talent or was just fooling myself. Co-winning a major competition in which there had been over 1800 entries, told me that, yes, maybe I might just have what it took to pursue a career in writing.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
I think by the first experience with my first short film, I was hooked. Watching my work on a big screen, acted by exceptional actors, viewed by an appreciative film festival audience, was the impetus for me to continue writing for the screen! I have not stopped writing for stage, but they are two such very different experiences. One is the intimacy and immediacy of theatre, the other the immersive and multi-faceted nature of film.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I was once asked if, as long as writing brings you joy, does it need to be out there in the world? The answer to that is YES! The act of writing does bring me joy, but it is only half the equation. The act of sharing that writing is the other half. Writing is about connecting, communicating, reaching out from your mind to someone else’s mind, reaching out from your heart to someone else’s heart. So, success for me is my work getting out there in the world in both small and large ways. I also, by the way, teach writing and for me, working with writers to help them strengthen and clarify their work is absolutely another form of success for me.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life:
Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl? Neither, really. I’m usually asleep between 11PM and midnight.
When do you get up? Around 8:00 AM.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Coffee and breakfast (I make a mean smoothie!)
Do you have a morning routine or ritual? Get right to work!
What do you do during the day? Oh my! Every day varies, but all are chock-full. Besides writing, I may be working on a client’s manuscript, updating one of my websites, teaching a class, making both play and screenplay submissions, doing research for a new project, etc. When in production for a film, of course, the days revolve around whatever stage we’re in: pre, during, or post. When it comes to a mid-afternoon snack, it’s almost always string cheese and blue corn tortilla chips.
What do you do at night? By 5:30 I have stopped working (usually) and move into my exercise routine. I love to do dance workouts – especially Latin dance (You should see me salsa!), but also sometimes take 45- minute walks. 6:30 or so is dinner, prepared by my husband (yes, he is the cook in the family – you don’t want me in the kitchen!) Then around 8:00PM, we watch one show together. We’re both into British and Scandinavian mystery series so it’s usually an episode of one of those.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual? I like to play games on my iPad. My favorites are Sudoku and Rummitiles.
How do you define a successful day? I will admit I am a list maker! The more To-Do’s I can check off the list, the better I tend to feel.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting? Structure! When I first starting writing plays, structure was the hardest thing for me to grasp. So, I went to workshops, read books, did everything I could to conquer that beast! So much so… that I came to not only understand structure, but to help fellow writers in workshops I attended with their structure challenges until… ironically, I began teaching a structure workshop myself. I have been teaching some form of structure for all genres at writer’s conferences, city college classes, and privately ever since.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far? Hmmm… I will have to say, rejection. I have had lots of acceptances in my career and I am so grateful for those, but rejections, which of course still come, have not fully lost their sting. Especially if it is a particular theatre or film festival I was really hoping for. The competition, we all know as writers, is fierce, but you have to maintain a resiliency to keep going. Because, if you don’t submit your work, you may, yes, avoid that sting of rejection, but you also won’t get that joy of acceptance. In the end, I feel it’s a price worth paying!
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made? My greatest reward is that I do the work I love every day and I’ve been able to see that work touch others, like the times audience members have told me so after a play performance or a screening of one of my shorts.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers? I never want to stop growing as a screenwriter, both in craft and how to get work out there. A community of writers working toward these same goals is invaluable to me!