Having a writing partner raises a number of new issues for a screenwriter—being married to your writing partner presents an entirely different dynamic. So, what happens when your writing partner also happens to be your life partner? How do you handle writing space? Disagreements? Pitching?
Mark and Anna Casadei became writing partners in 2008. Mark had written and directed a couple of shorts and corporate commercials. Anna had written a few scripts, was AD on an indie feature, and went to UCLA for their Professional Programs in Screenwriting. In 2013, they married, and have been writing together ever since. Their screenplay, The Benefactor, was recently picked up by Center Mass Studios and will star Malcolm McDowell, and will be directed by David Carson, who worked with McDowell in the movie Star Trek: Generations. They are also working with Producer Robert Lawrence (Die Hard/Clueless) on a new horror film and have 2 romantic comedies in development with MPCA.
Script Magazine’s Dan Goforth talked with Mark and Anna about how they make it work, both professionally and personally.
Dan Goforth: Were you both screenwriters before you were married?
Mark and Anna Casadei: Yes. Mark had written and directed a couple of shorts and corporate commercials. Anna had written a few scripts, was AD on an indie feature, and went to UCLA for their Professional Programs in Screenwriting.
Dan: What are some of the advantages of being married to your screenwriting partner?
Mark and Anna: We get to eat at the same time! Seriously though, we get to enjoy the process of not only being a writing team but chasing after a dream together with your spouse is golden. There is also a huge advantage to knowing how your partner works. Anna gets insomnia at times, and if she gets up at 3AM to write, I certainly don't take that personally. You learn quickly each other's way of doing business, quirks, timelines and goals which all formulate into a master plan of action for us. The biggest advantage, we can knock out a story quickly, if requested. For example, we recently finished a feature comedy script on a quick nine-day deadline. That script was ultimately picked up and we are in development.
Mark and Anna: Anna drinks tea, Mark loves coffee. We can never decide which take out to get. Mark likes to have the TV on for background noise, and Anna prefers earbuds with music, which means separate writing spaces. Biggest disadvantage? Time. Wish we had met sooner.
Dan: What percentage of scripts have you written/ are writing that your partner is not a co-writer on?
Mark and Anna: We currently only shop one script that Anna is the sole writer. Which was a script she wrote as part of her UCLA program. The rest of the scripts we wrote together. Doing the math, 93% of those scripts were written together.
Dan: How do you handle disagreements about scenes?
Mark and Anna: We do the entire prewriting process together, so it’s rare that we disagree on a scene. When we do have disagreements, we’ll talk things out. The important thing to remember is that when you’re collaborating, you need to set your ego aside and remember that everyone wants to make the story better. There are times where we’ll both think we’re right on a line, and we’ll have to compromise. Mark gets this line, Anna gets that line. If it's just something we both feel strongly about we get other people's opinions: our manager, accomplished friends in the business and ultimately agree on a course of action. We never allow anything to stew or fester too long to cause a delay to our finished goal.
Dan: How do you decide which projects to work on?
Mark and Anna: We come up with a logline and a one-sheet for each project. If we’re really excited about the project, we might write a treatment for it with character and full story breakdowns.
We’ll then decide which story we’re in the mood to write. Maybe we’ve written a couple horror films in a row and want something lighter, so we choose to write a comedy. Or we’ve written a few romantic comedies and we want to write something a little darker.
Dan: Do you both have specific genres that you like working together on vs. genres you know the other hates?
Mark and Anna: We don’t write anything we hate! It would show on the page. We write mainly comedy/romcom and horror/thrillers and dabble in science fiction, and we both enjoy those genres.
Dan: Is giving feedback on pages easier or more difficult than it would be with someone you were not married to?
Mark and Anna: It's part of our process that we take very seriously, and since we both understand how we work and how we think, it has truly made it easier. We know not to take anything personally and we are on the same team to make that story the best it possibly can be.
Dan: How do you handle the dynamics of pitching? Does being a husband/wife team seem to generate more attention when you pitch?
Mark and Anna: In the early stages, Mark would do a lot of the pitching as Anna was deep in a script. We shifted that very shortly after and now pitch as a team. I don't think it generates more attention really but it does help to make people understand our team dynamics and how we approach our stories.
Dan: Favorite project(s) you've worked on?
Mark and Anna: Our current project, The Benefactor with Malcolm McDowell by far is one of our favorites along with a TV series, Death Takes a Holiday.
Dan: Favorite stories about your screenwriting career so far?
Mark and Anna: Gee... There are so many at this point. I think one of the coolest ones was when we were about to go to L.A. and take a meeting with Netflix. An exec called us from a different company when she saw a post on social media that we were headed to L.A. She heard we were going to pitch to Netflix a project we completed that she had read. She said, "Well, you can but tell them it's taken." I said,"Whaaaaaaaa" when she told us that she was going to surprise us in person when we arrived but since our lunch meeting with her was AFTER Netflix she wanted to tell us... "We're buying it!" That was our first official deal.
The funniest is when we did a Friday night pitch on a script that wasn't 100% completed. It may have not been 50% either. The exec asked if he could read it and we said "Suuuuuuuuure!" Everything blurred after that, but we got it to him on Monday morning. The good thing, he loved it and we went into development.
Follow Mark Casadei on Twitter at @markliterally
Follow Anna Casadei on Twitter at @annaliterally
And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the oft-tweeted furry members of the Casadei household: the twitter-friendly Thor, Peanut, Maple, Snowflake, and Cocoa.