Matt DeGennaro is one of the greats. You’ve heard his dialogue spoken in big Hollywood films and TV shows since the 70’s. He’s a writer not used to being in the limelight. His work has kept him behind the scenes as a rewriter for some of Hollywoods biggest films. I’m very proud to feature him in the spotlight and introduce you to this unsung hero.
This is Matt DeGennaro…
In 1964, I returned to the New York Metropolitan area, my cousin Nick introduced me to Tony Conforti who ran a movie production company in Manhattan. He was looking for creative writers. I wrote several treatments for him one of which became a successful movie in the seventies.
I’ve been blessed with a great career and got to work on some amazing jobs such as: • 1966- freelance copywriting - Seagrams Seven Enjoy billboards. America’s Going Dry commercial for Canada Dry. • 1969-70 - wrote sports shows for Canadian Television. • Rewrite team for several big Hollywood films and a Broadway. • 1980-90 - worked for Larry Fallon on the George Burns TV specials and helped launch Natalie Cole’s music career. • 2005 my scenes were showcased on the Soprano’s Fifth Season • Script optioned (The Starter) Published two novels - one in America and one in England.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting? I studied English Expression at Brown University, wrote poetry, plays and short stories. I wrote articles for the Brown newspaper and interviewed Martin Luther King and Malcom X. Before I returned to New Jersey, I was introduced to Louis La Russo II who wrote plays, and movie scripts for Dino Di Laurentis. When I returned to the New York Metro area, he asked me to help him re-writes several screenplays which I did with great enthusiasm.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you? My older cousin, Nick Bari (Nicholas Azzolini), was a tremendous motivator and promoter. He was always there pushing me. He took me by the hand, introduced me to all the guys and girls he knew in the business and I went into the city a lot to hang with them.
Q: What was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter? The moment I read my first script (Saturday Night Fever) I realized that this was really something I could do with precision and clarity.
Q: How do you define success for yourself? Success for me is having the freedom to be myself and do exactly what I do. Of course, in my profession as a screenwriter, success comes when I complete a project to the point where it gets a “life of its own.”
Q: Give us a typical day in your life. I’m an early bird. I wake up, meditate over coffee and eat applesauce with cinnamon. After breakfast, I write for two hours. Then, I do tasks around the house and in the garden until Noon when I stop for lunch, a half sandwich on one white bread slice.
After lunch, my wife, Nancy and I go out for a couple hours enjoying the city and shopping for daily food. Mid-afternoon, on the return, I do more writing until dinner time. Sometimes I cook dinner. Afterward, I’ll watch some TV and continue working on projects. I go to sleep between one and two am.
Q: How do you define a successful day? To me, every day is successful even when it isn’t.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting? The most important skill I’ve learned is to clean scripts, especially my own.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far? Getting work made by a great producer is always a big challenge in this industry.
Q: What’s been your greatest reward in the choices you've made? It was when I had a script accepted by Martin Scorcese. Even though it was never made, it still felt great.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers? How to stay current in today world of screenwriting. It is constantly changing and I like to make sure I stay on top of it.