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Interview with David Pulido, screenwriter of“The fury of a patient man”

by Fermín P. Pina

David Pulido (Madrid, 1976) crowned himself last year with the writing of the script for his first feature film, The Fury of a Patient man, co-written with actor and director Raúl Arévalo.

As a vocational psychologist, as his first profession, he has a hard time calling himself a screenwriter, even though the prizes on the shelves of his dining room say the contrary: Goya for the Best Original Script, Feroz prize to the Best Script and the Medal of the Cinematographic Circle of Writers for an Original Script, amongst other achievements.

Few days before this years edition of the Goya’s (Spanish equivalent to the BAFTA’s, French César, or The Academy Awards), we interview David Pulido here, at Filmarket Hub, to get to know better his work as a screenwriter and his experience around his successful first film: the origin of the idea, techniques and writing methods, looking for producers… an interesting and inspiring point of view for any screenwriter.

Spanish poster for “The Fury of a Patient Man”

What’s your education as a screenwriter?

I studied screenwriting at La Factoría del Guión, in Madrid. Moreover, I’ve always been an avid reader of screenwriting blogs, following different writers, text analysts, scripts. All self-taught.

I work as a psychologist, job I love, which I consider my main foundation and which I don’t want to quit. I got interested in the world of screenwriting as a way out to my curiosity and love of cinema, but without anymore intention, than to get to know the industry better.

I consider vital to have specific formation, but it is also true that you can reach to tell stories through other media. Sometimes, it’s good to leave the academic medium, which tends to be very closed off, to avoid falling into vices or into too technical ways of working.

The best of the screenwriting courses, it isn’t so much the specific education you get, but the chance of exposing your work in public, to confront yourself with the blank paper, to write and comply with deadlines. Especially, to see how your ideas reach in the audience's mind. Plus, I think “Script” by Robert McKee should be the bible of any screenwriter.

What other screenplays did you write before The Fury of a Patient Man?

In my case it is about the first and only script I’ve written. In the case of Raúl Arévalo, he had written a short film previously.

How did the idea for The Fury of a Patient Man come up?

I met Raúl in 2007, through friends in common. In our first meeting, he was interested in my work as a psychologist and he asked me about it to latter apply it in one of the stories he had been working on. After seeing each other a few times, he told me he was writing something and if I was interested in co-writing with him.

Initially, we didn’t write with any pretense of any kind: it could’ve been a short film, a feature film or a simple exercise in creativity. It coincided with my course in screenwriting, but we both saw it as an excuse to talk about cinema and exchange ideas. In that previous phase, I was able to start to put into practice all those concepts that I was learning in the course, though we worked at another pace.

Raúl Arévalo, Director and co-writter

What was the initial premise for The Fury of a Patient Man?

Raúl had a very clear idea from the beginning of the type of story he wanted to tell; in spite of the many changes that the script experimented, the initial idea stayed the same: what would a regular person do if he found himself face to face with the people who destroyed his life.

The first draft, barely four pages, included some concepts that little by little were developed and maintained over time: two male main characters, a supporting female character who serves as a narrative vehicle to advance the story between the two men, and an “execution” of other people. The general structure of the film, even the atmosphere and the actors that we had in mind, were also locked from the beginning of the project.

What was the co-writing process? Techniques, meetings…

Raúl and I wrote with a Word template, without a specific screenwriting program. On the one hand, we would meet up every now and then: we’d debate, share ideas, clear up concepts…but that wasn’t enough. We needed to write each one, on its own, at home, and exchange texts to correct them and add notes to one another, until we were stuck, then we’d meet again to restart talking etc.

We worked without a calendar or schedule, without concrete dates. If you write on your own, you’d probably need to have some sort of schedule and method, but in our case, we pulled from each other to advance.

We’ve exchange countless emails, voice notes, which are very useful to record and get to know the impressions of each one without interferences, obliging us to listen to one another.

Possibly it isn’t the most practical way of working, or the most strategic, but it’s what worked for us.

What elements varied during the writing process, did they involve a lot of work?

During the writing process, we varied some ideas. At first we went for a more dramatic film, but in the end, we went for a more natural and organic storytelling style.

We worked a lot the information that the audience learned as the story advances. To give away ideas and details little by little, in a progressive manner until we unraveled the whole plot, a treat for the daring spectator who will think“I was expecting that”, but which will also attract and maintain the interest from an audience that lets itself be surprised. Giving away information in a scaled way worked very well: on the one hand, we avoid that the spectator feels “cheated” for the intentions and motivations of the main character, and on the other hand, it allowed us to introduce elements of violence and tension.

In the beginning, the film was set in the 90s, but the production style didn’t allow it. The part that most works entailed was the dialogues. To find the right language and the right tone, which would sound real and not too explicit was a whole challenge on its own.

How did you start shopping around the script?

Since we started writing until we had a first draft of the script to start showing to production companies, it took around two years.

Initially, we went to companies that Raúl worked with and who knew we were writing something that we wanted to turn into a first feature. That opened up a lot of doors.

Nevertheless, it coincided with a difficult time: on the one hand, the economic crisis affected notably the Spanish cinema: and on the other hand, the film didn’t respond to a style and genre that was being sought after in that time, when films that were being successful were lighter comedies and films. We got a lot of negative answers and suggestions to change substantial parts of the style of the film: more action, younger characters etc.

I spent a lot of time in meetings, moments we used to rewrite and revise our script. We were in that stage for five years and we wrote 10 versions of the script.

In 2013 Daniel Sanchez Arévalo and David Serrano gave us an important vote of confidence after reading the script, until Raúl worked on “La vida inesperada” (Jorge Torregrossa, 2014) and met producer Beatriz Bodegas.

Two more years passed by looking for financing, but we already had the trust of Beatriz and La Canica Films.

Antonio de la Torre & Luis Callejo as the two main characters

Nine years from when you started writing to the premiere of the film. It can be a little discouraging for a screenwriter…

It is true that it is a long time, but it also explains that the script worked well, because it had been worked on for such a long time.

We had the luck and luxury of not being economically dependant on it (Raúl works as an actor and I as a psychologist), which allowed us to mature the project, wait to be able to do it in our own terms. If the film would’ve found financing early on, it would’ve been worse, because during all those years it wasn’t just lying in a drawer, but it grew with us.

For a screenwriter, a project that takes a long time to make should be seen as an opportunity to make it better.

What was your involvement in the production of the film?

La Canica films allowed us to make the film a reality in a very respectful way, so we knew our original idea wasn’t in danger.

Raúl, as a director, had in his mind how he wanted to shoot the film until the last shot, but still, he would consult me on certain matters. It’s true that, the ideas that were left a bit more hanging in the air, he was the one to decide what was to be done. I’m very academic, I like following structures, doing things by the book. Raúl is more passionate and emotional, more instinctive. But precisely that need of mine of having to convince him of my criteria, made everything to be much more elaborate.

What I was able to do was attend the shoot. It is not usual that the screenwriter can come see how they shoot the film, but because of my friendship with Raúl and the treatment that La Canica Films gives to its screenwriters, I always had a preferential seat: I went to film festivals, I’ve presented the film…I’ve been very lucky.

It is true and it is not a myth that film shoots are, in general, boring. It is a lot of hours, a lot of repetitions, but it was an incredible experience, because, on top of that, the shoot went smoothly, without any complications.

The toughest part of the whole process was the editing (the film was shot in celluloid and was developed in Romania), I participated until the end, which also meant some changes and rewrites.

What are you working on at the moment? Has the success of The Fury of a Patient Man meant the doors of the film industry have opened for you?

We are writing our second script; another realistic type film, with regular characters in unusual atmospheres. This time, one of the main characters is female. Our method of work is being the same.

We have been offered projects. The doors have opened wide to me, something a bit unfair because the film is as good or as bad with or without the prizes it got. We have been offered advertisements, TV, adapting ideas…

At the moment, I have been offered to write my firs novel, which will be in the fantastic genre.

You have a few more hours left as last year’s winner for Best Original Screenplay at the Goya’s…

This year there’s an enormous array of quality works from the nominees, especially “Summer, 1993” (Carla Simón, 2017); a beautiful script, seen as the audience, as a screenwriter and as a psychologist.

This is the year of diversity, with nominations to films of different genres, in different languages…a good year.

Antonio de la Torre plays Jose, the Patient Man.

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