Arland DiGirolamo & Alana Wexler are both attorneys, both highly talented scribes, and together the Winners of Season 4 of our Pitch Now Screenplay competition for their dramatic period episodic "Dirty Bird". Since winning our competition they have had another one of their works, a one-location horror feature, accepted into development with Bold Soul Studios (congrats!). Some insight into the workings of a very prolific and talented writing team below...
1) How long have you both been writing?
Arland: I was an international trade attorney at a big law firm in Washington DC and a friend came to me with an entertainment contract. I was automatically drawn to it and started transitioning from trade to entertainment law. Suddenly I was not just negotiating and reviewing contracts but also consulting on the creative side. I must have read over a hundred scripts before I decided to give screenwriting a go about 10 years ago.
Alana: I’m fairly new to screenwriting. Working remotely from home during the pandemic gave me a chance to really sink my teeth in.
2) What screenwriting training have you each received?
Arland: As lawyers, we’re both trained to structure our thoughts and present information through that filter. We’ve deeply studied all the screenwriting classics and often refer back to our favorites like “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder, Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey,” and “Psychology for Screenwriters” by William Indick.
Alana: We’ve taken classes/webinars and spend hours debating the virtues of different plot twists. But we’ve learned the most by reading tons of screenplays and shooting scripts and critically analyzing them for pacing, tone, conflict, voice, and structure.
3) How long have you been writing together as a team? Is this your only co-authored work?
Alana: Sort of since our first date, but Dirty Bird is the first thing we worked on together as a writing team…and now we have drafts for two additional projects, so it seems like a good idea.
Arland: This is our first official collab, but I had a pilot for a kids’ show that was produced and aired on Amazon and Alana gave notes that made it into the shooting script. She was even an actor and did second unit camera work for the first short I co-wrote and directed for Sketchy, Yahoo’s comedy series.
4) What writing habits work for each of you? Do you write in short or long shifts, binge writing or scheduled sessions, together or passing the work back-and-forth?
Arland: We have note pads and pencils on each side of our bed in case inspiration strikes in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.
Alana: For us, writing flows through walking. Sometimes we’ll even record ourselves talking if we’re on a walk and can’t write it down. Then when we put it down on paper it’s usually in short shifts passing the work back and forth.
5) What genres do you each lean towards? Are all of your works TV/Drama?
Alana: I’ve always loved sci-fi like Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, Planet of the Apes, Ex Machina and shows like Twilight Zone and Black Mirror. Our works in progress span a number of genres.
Arland: I lean toward comedy but I find that most of my favorite films or shows aren’t straight comedies. Alana and I bonded over Diary of a Mad Housewife, Somewhere in Timeand Gattaca and one of my favorite movies is The Swimmer, adapted from a John Cheever short story, which I consider a horror film.
6) We loved "Dirty Bird", how would you describe the pilot and overall series to our readers?
Arland: Dirty Bird is a potato and hot dog salad of The Sopranos and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It’s the late 1940s and Bea Mansfield is a former lawyer who traded her briefcase for an apron and fills her days with housework and peeping on the neighbors for kicks. But when a mob boss wants to kill her husband for ratting him out, she taps into long dormant skills to save him. This awakens a part of her that casseroles could never fill. The mob boss, Gino, offers Bea an opportunity of a lifetime – and she can’t resist.
Alana: But Gino has major issues with control and as Bea gains credibility in her new role, his anxiety and justified paranoia that she’ll take over unsettles all the order in his life. Beagets tempted by the dark side of power and as she slowly becomes Gino’s equal, they become rivals secretly sabotaging each other.
Arland: And Bea will rub shoulders and lock horns with real life historical figures. Sometimes she’ll be on the right side of history, sometimes the wrong side. To keep misdeeds quiet, Bea invented the Non-Disclosure Agreement. Seemed like a good idea in 1948…just like potato and hot dog salad.
7) How did you come up with the premise behind Dirty Bird?
Alana: We were watching a special on The Godfather and Coppola was talking about the Corleone family consigliere, Tom Hagen, and how he was modeled on real-life figure, Sydney Korshak. So, I thought a great twist was to make the consigliere a woman. No one in 1948 would ever see that coming and that could make her even more powerful, being so underestimated and invisible.
Arland: Fixers are usually men, but recently we’ve seen some compelling female fixers like Olivia Pope from Scandal and Helen Pierce from Ozark. We thought it would be interesting if we created a character who operated in a time where it would have been even more challenging to get the job done.
Arland and Alana: What appealed to us from the start about this idea is what it can be. The late 1940s was the beginning of pop-culture and modern life issues affecting us today… sexism, racism, abortion, divisive McCarthyism, environmental carelessness. Bea will come face-to-face with these issues in their infancy, and we will watch her both shape events and be a casualty of circumstance.
8) Was the work flow/QC process different since this was a period piece?
Arland: This was my father’s era. He fought in World War II then came home and became a jazz musician. He would tell me about his experiences in clubs all over America that were controlled by the mob. Also, my mother’s uncle was on the front page of the Daily News in 1946, slumped over in the front seat of his car, shot and killed by the mob. Gino’s father and the circumstances surrounding his death are based on this true story.
Alana: I grew up working in my dad’s antique shop, surrounded by pop-culture artifacts and political memorabilia - newspapers, magazines, movie posters, jewelry, cigarette cases - everything to help you imagine how people lived throughout the decades. This treasure trove of period detail has been an incredible resource that we’ve drawn upon at every stage of planning the series.
9) What are you working on now? What do you plan on writing in the near future?
Arland: We’re in active development with Bold Soul Studios on a horror/thriller feature called Get Off My Lawn about a suburban couple terrorized by a group of entitled, deranged teenagers after confronting them for endless littering in front of their new dream home.
Alana: And we just completed a comedy feature about two former best friends turned mortal enemies who team up to stop their kids from getting married, The Never-In-Laws.We’re also working on a grounded sci-fi series and five other ideas we’re outlining.
10) Any advice for those about to write their first TV pilot?
Arland: Starting with the idea, you can think of nothing else. Only write down the thoughts you cannot forget. And if the idea dominates your life for two weeks, then dig in. Have a point of view and flesh out your world to the finest detail. Share the idea with people who will be brutally honest. Maybe someone shares your passion and can write it with you. A collaborator is great to have because you check each other when one of you gets sucked into a vacuum.
Alana: You can read a bunch of scripts in the same vein as your idea to be aware of form and pacing. Speak your dialogue out loud and make sure every character has a unique identity. After you complete your first draft, put it down. Then read it a week later. If you still like it, share it because you never know what might happen. When Dirty Bird was selected into The Tracking Board’s Launch Pad Recommends Program, Arland sent the news to the co-founder of Bold Soul Studios and now we’re in development with them on our horror feature.
Congratulations once again to Arland DiGirolamo & Alana Wexler, our Season 4 Pitch Now Winners. All contact requests for Arland & Alana will be forwarded to their attention.