David Barbeschi. Interview
David Barbeschi is an Italian-Armenian screenwriter based in Burbank, CA. A graduate of the New York Film Academy, his credits include the internationally praised short film PAWNS (2017) which was selected in over 30 festivals and earned him multiple awards for both his writing and producing, the feature script White Crow, nominated in 14 screenplay competitions, and The Big Rant (2021), the Amazon Prime feature film which he co-produced and wrote the screenplay for. In 2023, three short films he wrote entered the festival circuit: the fantasy short YATRA: The Journey (2023), the Brazilian drama Lollie and the Australian-set thriller Paper Gloves.
I’ve read that you have both Italian and Armenian blood, correct?
That’s right, my Dad is Italian and my Mom is Armenian. I also grew up in France and spent a while in England, so whenever somebody asks me “where are you from?” My answer is usually “how much time you got?” (laughs)
Have you been interested in the cinema of the great Italian masters?
Yes. In addition to studying them when I was in university, I was particularly interested in Zeffirelli and Fellini, a passion that was passed down to me from my mother who was a huge fan of both.
When did obvious passion for cinema begin?
When I was a child I’d watch films then spend hours pretending I was the characters I saw on screen and imagining new stories. For example, I’d play as Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook who survived his death and now joined the ranks of Kiefer Sutherland’s Athos and Anthony Hopkins’ Zorro to help them against a monster of the week. Then I saw “Star Wars” and I started dreaming up more of those stories.
As I grew up, I understood that a way to see those stories come to life would be by becoming a filmmaker. This passion was only cemented when I started studying the works of George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Akira Kurosawa and Francis Ford Coppola, in late 2014.
Do you have any influence in general?
I was raised with swashbuckling movies, manga and comics. The values shown in those various works influence me and my personal projects to this day.
Where did you study cinema?
First at Southampton’s Solent University, in the United Kingdom, taking a hands-on BA course in Film Production. Once my thesis film “Pawns” was completed, I specialized in screenwriting with an MFA degree from the New York Film Academy (NYFA).
How did you meet Tyrees A. Lamptey?
He and I were classmates and Solent University, and I think we found a kindred spirit in each other. Many other students our year were just trying to get an easy degree whereas we’d be working our asses off, treating even simple camera exercises like bona fide short films that should be award-worthy. It’s thus no surprise that we ended up collaborating on two short films. I consider him a good friend to this day.
In your work, does the scriptwriter prevail or the producer?
It depends on the subject, it’s not as simple as it is in other industries, where there’s a pecking order and that’s the end of it. There needs to be some flexibility and mutual respect, a trust that the other person knows what they’re doing.
I’ve worn the producer hat before, so I know what the producers I’m writing for will be looking out for, so from the get-go I always try to write scenes and actions that I know can be shot for cheap. I also enjoy receiving feedback and incorporating notes, so that’s another thing.
The few times that there are impasses, well… I try to explain my perspective, I’ll push my ideas a couple of times, sometimes I’ll look for alternatives that keep both of us happy, but if the producer’s just not biting then, at the end of the day, what they say goes.
Are you more interested in art cinema or commercial?
I've always leaned towards the more commercially-viable projects than the esoteric ones. Obviously, is still needs to come from a place of truth and emotion, but for example, I'd rather my movies entertain first and foremost.
I've seen “Pawns” and it has a much defined aesthetic in photography and editing. Are you involved much in it as a producer or do you delegate it into the direction?
I was also the screenwriter, for “Pawns”. That’s the extent of my creative involvement in the short film. The rest of the time, I was making the movie happen as the producer and, as such, stayed in my own lane rather than imposing shots or cuts to the DP or Editor (who both did amazing work, if you ask me).
Is there any common denominator in your scripts?
Some themes echo each other. The theme of being a big brother and the bond with one’s younger siblings is a recurring one. There’s also the fact that most of my scripts have a multicultural and/or international touch to them, as I draw from my own background to give extra dimensions to the stories I write.
What was the job that gave you the most satisfaction?
For the longest time, it was “Pawns”, due to its script, production, success and the almost 2 million views it made on YouTube.
There’s also “The Big Rant”, which exposed me to the magic of writing a dialog scene with a specific actor in mind (in this case it was Keith Szarabajka from “Supernatural”) then seeing that same actor play the role in real life and delivering a glorious performance. But as of now, the job I’m the most proud of is the short film “Yatra: The Journey”, as it incorporates the satisfaction I received from both the previously mentioned films all in one. It is premiering at the FirstGlance Los Angeles Film Festival, on March 19th 2023.
Do you prefer American cinema or European?
American. To be clear: I think beautiful films can be found all around the world. One of my top five favorites of all time is Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” which should only ever be viewed in French.
But wherein cinema is treated like an art form in Europe, I think the film industry in the United States does it too, then takes it a step further; there’s no denying that more American films come out every year and that larger budgets are attributed to movies which, in turn, allows for more freedom and larger visions to see the light of day.
Because of this, despite being European, I’ve mostly been influenced by the mainstream films, which were constituted almost in their entirety by US productions.
Which project are you in?
Currently, I’m working on the feature project “Coming Home”, with Every Picture Films, and the feature adaptation of “Yatra: The Journey”, simply titled “Yatra”. There are other projects that I will be starting in April, but those are under NDA, for now.
Is there a goal you're aiming to?
If in five to ten years I will have managed to get a position in one of the various “Star Wars” shows writer’s rooms, I will consider it an accomplished career. Beyond that, just keep telling tales.