Alumni in Features | Dan Benamor & Initiation

By: Laura Huie

 

Dan Benamor was a Semifinalist in Shore Scripts’ 2019 TV Pilot contest for his script ASH & BONE. Before placing, Dan and his cousin, Oren Benamor, co-wrote INITIATION which was ultimately distributed domestically by Gravitas Ventures. Since then, Dan has had his feature script THE WRONG TENANT released by Tubi. In 2016, he wrote the NGN Productions feature film STAGECOACH: THE TEXAS JACK STORY. 

 

In 2018-2019 he wrote episodes for the Netflix show ROMAN EMPIRE. He has also written the screenplay SUNRISE IN HEAVEN, and has written for several podcast series, including OTZI THE ICEMAN MUST DIE and MAHALO WITH A BULLET.

 

In this article, Dan shares what inspired him to become a writer, the resilience of working in this industry, and his advice for aspiring screenwriters.

 

The Beginning

 

Dan’s foray into the world of screenwriting was not born out of a desire to join the glitzy ranks of Hollywood but from a critical reaction to a film that failed to make its mark. Reflecting on this pivotal moment, Dan shared, “I was inspired to get into screenwriting specifically because I saw a movie I thought really didn’t work.

 

This moment of disillusionment led to an unexpected revelation when Dan later discovered that the film’s writer would become one of his favorite screenwriters, illustrating the complex journey from script to screen.

 

Dan’s initiation into screenwriting was as humble as it was determined: “One thing I was certain of, watching that film, as a cocky 18-year-old, was that I could write a better movie than that. This sort of blind irrational confidence is necessary to go into the foolhardy, Don Quixote quest that is screenwriting. I went and literally bought “Screenwriting For Dummies” and started writing screenplays. 20 years later, I’m still doing it, and I’m (though I’m not certain of this) hopefully slightly less of a dummy.”

 

Facing Rejection in the Industry

 

The screenwriting path is fraught with challenges, a reality Dan knows all too well. “The entire field is a challenge. It’s nonstop rejection,” he recounts, highlighting the personal and financial struggles inherent to the profession.

 

Despite the hardships, moments of affirmation have punctuated Dan’s journey, offering glimpses of success amidst the doubts.

 

“The only thing that has kept me going is that every couple of years, something happens that affirms I may have some skill at this. I win a contest, beating out a thousand or more other writers, or I get a film produced, or I get hired (and paid!) to write a film. I get to go on set, watch dailies, see the rough cut, and so on. Every time I’m about to walk away, like a degenerate gambler, I put it all on black one more time, and I hit. And that’s just enough to keep me going, at least so far.”

 

On the set of “Initiation”

 

Our contests have helped over 100 writers kickstart their screenwriting careers

See how our  Feature and TV Pilot Contests, Script Development Fund and Short Film Fund can help you break through as a screenwriter

 

The Balance of Art & Business

 

Over the years, Dan’s perspective on screenwriting has matured, shifting from a focus on originality to an appreciation for execution and marketability. “You start out as an Artist with a capital ‘A’,” Dan reflects, only to realize that “the art part of it is more in the execution of an idea.” He spoke about the importance of the business side of creating and selling a film:

 

“Marketing is everything – as soon as you make peace with that, your work as a screenwriter will become infinitely more producible. Your challenge is to demand the attention of a fickle, overserved consumer, who has thousands of (usually bigger budget) choices at their fingertips. What concept can make for a great title, poster, trailer, etc.?

This connects with selling a script – you’re basically writing the blueprint for a skyscraper. It has to be THAT professional, that carefully designed, for someone to invest millions of dollars into it. Part of that is a marketable premise, and the other part is iron-tight execution. Details matter. Every line of dialogue matters. It all matters. If you treat it with fanatical respect, occasionally, others will respond to that effort, and you’ll sell a script.”

 

Advice for Emerging Filmmakers

 

For those just beginning their creative journey, Dan offers some wise advice grounded in realism and quality. “Focus on quality over quantity,” he suggests, advocating for the value of exceptional work over prolific output.

 

“If you can make a stellar five-minute short, that’s better than a mediocre 85-minute feature film. If you can make a fantastic movie but you really need a 2.5 million dollar budget to make it, don’t try to make that film for 500K. Wait until you’re at a place in your career when you can get the money to do the movie properly or come up with a smaller film you CAN make properly today. Do everything you can to present a brand of consistent excellence, and you will keep leveling up.”

 

Dan also highlights the importance of kindness and professional relationships. “Be NICE,” he urges, pointing out the long-term benefits of treating colleagues with respect and consideration.

 

“You’re gonna look up in 15 years and realize a lot of people have disappeared along the way. The people who were walking this road with you are not all gonna make it. And in 15 years, so-and-so’s second assistant is now going to be the Head of Production at a big studio. And they will absolutely remember if you were kind and respectful, or not.”

 

On the set of “Initiation”

 

Keep Writing!

 

Dan’s journey is a testament to the resilience and passion required to succeed in screenwriting. He likens the experience to a memorable scene from “Men in Black,” saying, “There’s an internet meme from MEN IN BLACK where Will Smith asks Tommy Lee Jones if it’s worth it. Tommy replies, yes, it’s worth it, but then adds, if you’re strong enough.” This analogy encapsulates the essence of screenwriting and filmmaking—a challenging yet ultimately rewarding endeavor for those who possess the strength and dedication to persevere.

 

READ & DOWNLOAD THE SCRIPT FOR FREE: INITIATION

 

 

WATCH “INITATION” TRAILER

 

 

Start your journey into a career writing feature films!

 

Placing in a well-respected screenwriting contest can increase the IP value of your screenplay. Now combine that with the support of our unique Writer Development Program, which works directly with our writers to develop and take your script to market. Position your script for the most suitable members of our 300+ Industry Roster of producers, production companies, agents, and managers. We will be awarding 5 Winners’ places in 2024 plus 20 Finalists.

 

The Feature contest has a proven track record of helping emerging writers achieve their goals of becoming full-time working screenwriters. Writers through our Feature contest have gained representation, and gone on to write for Blumhouse, Netflix, Paramount, Film4, NBC, Hulu, & many others. FIND OUT MORE.

 


Laura Huie is a writer and editor involved in comedy-drama screenwriting, fiction editing, and full-time marketing copy. Laura is also a freelance article writer for Shore Scripts and has worked with Script Pipeline on their live Symposium series. She is one-half of the screenwriting duo, Bloom & Huie. Together, they have written multiple television series as well as a feature-length film. Their mission is to write honest and witty female stories wrapped up in unbelievable worlds.

 

Don’t miss a deadline. Download our Contest Calendar!

.