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INTERVIEW: Dorothy Pecoraro-Bertram on Screenwriting Contests & Being Optioned by Route One Entertainment

Dorothy Pecoraro-Bertram discusses winning Roadmap Writers and Route One Entertainment's 1st Annual Feature and TV Contest, gaining an 18-month option for 'Sabiya.'

Denny Schnulo began his writing career at age eleven with the release of his first collection of poems to the kids on the school playground. Believing that first hand reports are always best, he spent his early adult years living and working throughout the world. His writing today is informed by people he met and things they did together. Follow Denny on Twitter: @DennySchnulo

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Congratulations to Dorothy Pecoraro-Bertram on the winning the Grand Prize from Roadmap Writers and Route One Entertainment's 1st Annual Feature and TV Contest! Route One will take an 18-month option with a view to developing the winning entry, Sabiya. The story follows two young Yazidi women who struggle to survive after they are kidnapped by ISIS.

We caught up with Dorothy to talk about her arrival in the winners circle and her road to get there.

Script: Is this your first contest or are you a regular entrant?

DPB: This was my first contest for this particular script. I just completed it and was really excited about it. I considered the contest and after researching Route One Entertainment I really felt like the story would be a great fit for their development slate. I’ve entered other scripts in contests but this was the first for Sabiya.

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Script: What drew you to this particular contest?

DPB: The two organizations involved. RoadMap is a great organization that really does what they say. I think Joey Tuccio might be the Patron Saint of writers. He cares so much and it’s a trusted organization. Then Route One just seemed like a perfect fit for the script, and my voice, and I was hopeful they would see that as well.

Script: Tell me about the winning concept and the story it conveys.

DPB:Sabiya is about two Yazidi sisters that become enslaved by ISIS. It’s a story about survival, escape, and sisterhood.

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Script: Tell me a little about the trials and tribulations of your journey as a writer.

DPB: I, like many, have been writing or telling stories for as long as I can remember. I started writing specs on TV shows I liked. My first pilot was SPECIAL TREATMENT and it was a comedy pilot. From there I started writing features and really tried to find my voice. I think I used to be kind of confused about what that meant. I felt like I was diverse in terms of the types of scripts I could write. I started in comedy, moved to dramedy, and have since moved to drama.

When I was asked about my voice, my response was long-winded and just this overarching generic answer. I just really didn’t know what that meant. It wasn’t until about a year ago, that I finally figured out my voice. My husband travels to India for work a couple of times a year and I was able to go with him. After that trip I was moved by what was going on in the Punjab region of India related to opiate abuse. I researched it and create a fictionalized story against the backdrop of this current issue. It spoke to so many things inside of me: the desire to make a difference, use my talent to help give a voice to others, and in that space, I found my authentic voice.

Now, my stories are all fictionalized stories against current world issues. The intent is not to be preachy, or tell people how to think, I aim to expose them to something new and different and worth some attention.

Script:After all that how did it feel to win?

DPB: Amazing! Seriously, such an incredible feeling. The story has become so personal to me and I felt like it was such a personal win but also a win for the story and the women that inspired it. Really such an amazing, exciting, exhilarating feeling.

Script EXTRA: What's it really like to navigate Hollywood? Read advice you'll wish you had on day one.

Script: What are the strengths of this script that you feel propelled it to the winner’s circle?

DPB: I think the subject matter is very current. The characters are relatable, despite the odds. As I mentioned before, I created these women against this backdrop of current world issues and I didn’t want to let them down.

Script: What are the other primary influences on your work and this script in particular?

DPB: Current world issues. Something I feel is not getting a lot of attention but should and giving it a voice. That’s my wheelhouse.

Script: What’s one thing screenwriters should know about screenwriting contests?

DPB: I think contests are a great. I am thrilled about this contest, and it’s not just accolades. It really helps to move your career forward. I also recognize that you don’t enter and sit around and write your acceptance speech. You submit and forget. If you win, amazing, but start writing your next script in the interim.

Script: What’s next for Dorothy Pecoraro-Bertram?

DPB: I’m working on a new script that I’m excited about. Another hot topic I’d like to bring attention to. One of the themes in Sabiya is this idea that if everyone did what they could for the world, whatever that is, we would all be in a better place. So, I’m doing what I love and perhaps helping others in the meantime. What’s better than that?

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