Robert A. Braunstein MD, LISP Feature Screenplay Winner by LUO SHENTE
Can you please tell us about yourself?
I am a physician, currently Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Columbia University in New York, who has been treating patients for over forty years.
Is there a story behind your story?
Years of teaching in China has left me with a deep respect for the country and its people.
While reading an article about the history of Jewish people in China, I noted reference to a European Jewish doctor who became a General in Mao’s Revolutionary Army. Researching this extraordinary individual inspired me to write Luo Shente, a screenplay about the doctor and the events of this period.
When and how did you get into writing?
With no prior creative writing experience, apart from editing scientific articles for medical journals, I tried to find someone to write a story or screenplay about this doctor. Unable to find anyone, I decided to write it myself. After one year in film school and endless hours watching Aaron Sorkin Master Class teaching videos, I finished the screenplay.
How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine?
This is the first screenplay I have ever written and apart from texting to my grandchildren the first fictional scripting in over 50 years. I spent a year writing Luo Shente and another year editing it. I would usually sit before the computer late at night re-writing the dialogue.
How does it feel to have your work recognized?
An immense feeling of respectability.
Three years ago, when I told friends that I intended to enroll in film school because I wanted to write a screenplay, they shook their heads and asked if I was feeling OK. Fortunately, Luo Shente has received recognition in a number of prestigious contests and each email notifying me of a positive outcome is copied to my doubting friends.
What was the most challenging thing about writing the screenplay?
Week after week, in class, I was told that the protagonist needed more arc. Many evenings, I would retreat to an upstairs bedroom until one in the morning rewriting scenes. In the end, like Noah, the task was finished, and I was then advised to send it out to a few contests.
What is the best thing and most challenging thing about competitions?
The best thing is winning. The second best is being a finalist.
Mistakes were made when I submitted to a few competitions before the screenplay was truly ready. If I had not been in such a rush to get it out, I might have fared better. Don’t be tempted
by early submission discounts. Even now, when reviewing the script, I always manage to change a few words of the dialogue.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Screenplay Story?
Coming from someone who has only written one screenplay in his life, I am not sure how valuable my advice is, but here are some thoughts:
You must be committed to the story and to its characters. I was always able to visualize each scene and character. Find a comfortable place with no distractions where you can think about the story and the dialogue. Often, I would lie awake in bed at night planning a scene or misdirection to put into the screenplay. My most creative dialogue evolved during the extended time I spent in the morning shower. Reciting the dialogue out loud can be helpful but make sure no one is around when you are speaking or there could be consequences.
What influenced you to submit to LISP?
I was anxious to determine if there was universal appeal for Luo Shente’s subject matter and being a true Anglophile decided that LISP would be an ideal venue to test this hypothesis.
Part of my medical training was in the UK and I currently spend a portion of the year in London. Not only am I a Freeman of the City of London, I am also a Liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers. Not bad for a Yank?
The true value of a contest is the quality of its judges. The LISP has an international panel of judges from diverse backgrounds and various disciplines to evaluate each entry. That is what makes the London Independent Story Prize such an important competition.