Etta Devine & Gabriel Diani
screenwriters to watch
Gabriel Diani and Etta Devine are award-winning filmmakers, actors, and writers. Their first film, “The Selling,” premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival, played at over 30 film festivals, was in the Top 10 of About.com’s Best Horror Movies of 2012, and received rave reviews from The Huffington Post, Ain’t It Cool News, and Filmthreat. Written by Gabe, the duo both produced and starred in the feature.
They raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter for their second feature (and directorial debut) “Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse” and made waves when their Kickstarter campaign “Replacing the N-Word with Robot in Huckleberry Finn” and their short film “Girl’s Night Out” both went viral. Often compared to classic comedy duos like Nichols and May and Burns and Allen, they have also performed at comedy festivals across the country as the comedy duo “Diani & Devine.” They recently recorded voices for the popular cartoon “Bee and Puppycat.”
How did you break in?
GD: I had been writing sketch comedy and plays for years when a friend from college called me up and said, “I want to direct a movie and I want you to write and star in it.” That became our first feature “The Selling” which I wrote myself but also had help from Etta that I took all the credit for.
ED: I tried not to be a writer for a long time because I didn’t need another impossible career besides acting. I have a theatre background and had written plays and sketches forever and I guess improvising is writing adjacent too. Gabe and I had also written a few pilots. After we did “The Selling” we started writing scripts together as filmmakers and developed our process.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
GD: That as a writing team we’re probably better served dividing up the work than trying to do all of it together. It’s more time effective and by the time we’re done with a draft it’s basically been rewritten twice already. Also, the more the process can be broken down into smaller chunks (beat sheets, note cards, outlines, treatments, drafts) the easier the actual writing is.
ED: What Gabe said about breaking things down is important. Writing a first draft off a thirty page treatment with some dialogue already in it almost seems easy compared to doing it from an outline. I also marvel every time at Gabe’s skills at moving big chunks around late in the process.
GD: Oh, yeah? Well, I marvel at Etta’s attention to minute detail!
ED: I hate group work so it’s kind of bizarre everything I do requires collaboration but if you work with people who’s skills are different from yours everything is better.
What has been your hardest scene to write?
ED: They were all super easy.
GD: Screenwriting is super easy.
ED: We didn’t fight about this question at all.
GD: I don’t know that there’s been one major turning point but a series of minor ones that have over time led to us now almost being able to say we make a living from writing. Maybe this article will be the major turning point. COME ON, ARTICLE.
ED: I BELIEVE IN YOU, ARTICLE!
What are you working on right now?
At the moment I’m working on a pilot called Land of the Midnight Sun. It’s a dark comedy crime series set in Fairbanks, Alaska during the summertime, when there’s 22 hours of sun a day. The concept of that world intrigued me, as there’s no cover of darkness; the sun shines on every foul deed. It also takes a certain kind of person to live in Alaska, so it’s made for interesting characters.
What are your favorite movies?
ED: “The Fairy” by Dominique Abel and Diona Gordon, “Romancing The Stone,” “War Of The Roses,” “Labyrinth,” “All About Eve,” “My Man Godfrey,” “The Thin Man,” “The African Queen,” “A Fish Called Wanda,” “Willow,” “Dredd,” and “Africa United.”
GD: Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus,” “Gosford Park,” “Paper Moon,” “The In-Laws,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Children of Men,” “Raising Arizona,” “Babe,” “Postcards from the Edge,” and I am unapologetic in my love of criminally maligned films like “Ishtar,” “Popeye,” and “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.”
Who are your favorite screenwriters?
GD & ED: Elaine May. Carrie Fisher. Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright. The Coen Brothers.
What is your most memorable AFF moment?
GD: We premiered our second feature film “Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse” at Austin this past year and it was all a big happy breakfast taco-filled blur. Barbara Morgan and her staff have cultivated such a positive, joyful atmosphere at the festival and I want to bottle it up and bring it to Los Angeles with me. Also, did I mention the breakfast tacos?
ED: The AFF staff were all very cool. I had to remind myself to go meet other writers and not just talk to them. A lot of our team was able to come out with us and after whirlwind days at the festival meeting amazing people we’d find ourselves alone in the wee hours on the streets of Austin, starving. Unlike all the fall down drunk college students in high heels we could walk to the great open food trucks and have a nice stand up meal, decompress and watch the chaos. This felt very homey and relaxing to me because I’m from Chico, CA where students burn couches in the street to celebrate America’s pioneer spirit.