Interview with Winning Screenwriter Dan Tomasulo (AMERICAN SNAKE PIT)

 What is your screenplay about?

Based on a true story of a young doctor who takes over and attempts to save a group home comprised of the most troubled patients from Willowbrook, the worst asylum in American history.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Historical / Drama (Although it recently won the category for best comedy / drama)

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

American Snake Pit is in the vein of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The true story aspect makes this the first movie of its kind concerning the treatment of psychologically-disturbed patients coming from the infamous Willowbrook Institute, a hell on earth Bobby Kennedy called a “snake pit” in 1965. The movie is a heart-warming and surprisingly funny story of patients not just surviving, but flourishing for the first time in their lives, proving the resilience and hope of the human spirit.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Disturbingly hopeful.

What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

All of Me

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

One year—but the memoir it is based on—10 years.

How many stories have you written?

Over 50. A little over half of them have been published.

What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Born in the USA. I live in Jersey. I live in Asbury Park—You got a problem with that? J

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Moving from the book toward the screen required changes. I originally thought it would be more documentary style—but ends up it is more “inspired by” as these changes were introduced.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I am a psychologist and teach at UPenn in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program (MAPP) and designed and teach the Optimal Well-being program at Columbia’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute. My deep interest is the intersection of positive psychology and storytelling as an agent means.

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime

Young Doctor Dan is a stuck-in-graduate school, some-day-would-be psychologist with a failing marriage and dead-end job. Desperate to change his place in the world, he takes a job at Walden House. This group home recently took on violent patients from the notorious Willowbrook, the worst asylum in American history. Doctor Dan attends an employment seminar and discovers he’s the only one applying for the job. He accepts the offer with no clue what awaits him.


Mayor Billings: Daniel Cristofori
Gwennie: Kimberley Wells
Chief Willy: Ted Powers
Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Dr. Dan: John Marcucci
Taimi: Kesley Dann
Harold: Luke Robinson
Meredith: Brianna Riche



By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival


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