Interviews | Screenwriting

A Dynamic Duo

1 Jun , 2008  

Written by Ellen Mills | Posted by:

Screenwriters Diana Dell and Carol Dingle of Malden, MA talk creativity, collaboration, and how they optioned yet another screenplay.

Dingle and Dell sounds like the name of a comedy team from
the old Catskills circuit, but Carol Dingle and Diana Dell write screenplays
together.  Their screenplays are the latest collaboration in a friendship that
began during the Vietnam War when both worked for the USO.  Along the way, they
ran an ad agency together for a decade.  Their script, My Name Is Anna Busch,
was optioned recently by Lamont T. Cain and Reserve Entertainment Group.  They
are currently finishing their 10th screenplay.
Ellen Mills:  Congratulations, I understand that one
of your screenplays, My Name Is Anna Busch has been optioned recently. 
Can you tell me how that happened? 
Diana Dell:  Well, let’s see, Carol and I have
written 9 and 4/5 screenplays.  We’ve been promoting all the screenplays.  I
have a massive database of production companies and we just email anybody.  The
less you know, the better it is.  I’m fearless, you know.  We have gotten so
many responses on all of the screenplays.  A couple of the deals have fallen
through — we were so close… So back to your question — I sent out tons of
emails.  I got a lot of people to read it.   
EM:  So, Lamont Cain and Reserve Entertainment Group
asked to read the script? 
Dell: Yes, they asked to read it.  When I got the
email it was one day before the writer’s strike.  We set up a meeting for two
days later.  I talked to Carol and we’re not members of The Writer’s Guild but
[we decided] we have to support them and even negotiating was verboten.  Lamont
was supportive.  We kept in touch for the whole strike.  When it was over he
said, “Ok, let’s talk.” 
EM:  Can you explain how the option works?   
Dell:  It’s a six-figure deal for us plus a
percentage.  They have one year to make it into a production and after that we
get the script back.  We’d really like to see it made into a film though.  One
of their partners is Will Smith’s company, so we’re hopeful. 
Carol Dingle:  We’d just love it to be done.  The
company is excited, but it would be an independent venture so they have to get
everything lined up.  
EM:  What is the story of My Name is Anna Busch
Dell:   About 10 years ago my sister and I went to
Poland because my nephew was teaching English there.  We looked up some Polish
relatives — my grandmother was Polish.  A couple of them told us stories of
World War II.   My great grandmother was killed in the Holocaust as a Jew, and I
grew up Catholic.  There were so many stories there.  I did massive research
about Polish Christians who aided Jews.  It’s loosely based on true events. 
Anna Busch was a real person.  That was her name, but we fictionalized the
story.  By the way, we’re urging Lamont to try to film in Massachusetts.  It
takes place on a farm, and Poland is the same as New England weather-wise, so it
would work. 
EM:  Do you have an agent?   
Dell:  Nope.  I’ve talked to a number of people
who’ve had their stuff made into movies, and they had more trouble finding an
agent then selling the movie.  My sister’s an attorney and she handles the
negotiating for us. 
EM:  How did you and Carol meet, and how did you
begin writing together? 
Dell:  Carol and I both worked overseas for the USO
(United Service Organizations).  I was in Vietnam, as a civilian, as director of
PR for the USO there.  I went there after my brother was killed there.  I wrote
a book about it called A Saigon Party.  Then after two years I went to
Germany with the USO, and that’s where I met Carol.    

Carol Dingle with her grandson, Adam. 

[Click to enlarge]

Dingle: I was working in the USO in Frankfurt and I
was waiting for an opening in Spain.  She came to replace me [but] Spain never
opened up and we worked together for a year.  I did go to Paris, which was
temporary assignment, and then I got transferred to Greece.  As a matter of
fact, when Diana left the USO in Germany, she came to Athens and wrote her first
book.  It was a book of poetry — A Lawnmower in the Snow.  When we
finished in Greece, we stayed in Spain for a while to enjoy the culture.  We did
some projects there; in fact that’s when we first collaborated.  We put together
brochures for Ferry companies that were just getting started in that area.  Then
we came back together to the Boston area, where I’m from, and we started our own
Dell:  Carol and I started an ad agency in
Arlington, [Massachusetts] for 10 years.  Then I got divorced and Carol got
Dingle:  [Laughs] I got married and we sold it. 
Well, I talked to Diana first and we both knew it was time to sell.  We invested
in property there in Arlington and became landlords.  We bought low and sold
EM:  How did you begin writing screenplays
Dell:  This is how it happened: about seven years
ago I went out to visit my friend Pamela Reed who’s an actress and a former
student of Carol’s.  She was pissing and moaning about how there weren’t any
good roles for older women and she wanted me to write a play.  I said I didn’t
know about a play but I could write a screenplay.  When I came back from the
visit, I said to Carol “Let’s write a screenplay.”  So we did and it’s called
Megan McShane
.  We were close to selling that one.  Two deals fell through. 
It happened so fast we got spoiled.  We were thinking about Pamela [when we
wrote it] then we forgot about Pamela and were just into writing screenplays.
[She laughs.] 
Dingle:  Diana sort of took the lead, but I forgot
that about Pamela.  No, that [Megan McShane] was not the first one, that
was That Year In Saigon.  I was the editor on that and the re-writer on
that.  Saigon is sarcastic and witty.  It’s really great.  
Dell:  It’s about three women and their love
interests.  It’s all based on real people — me and my two friends.  It’s my
favorite one, really.  All nine finished ones are being read by tons of people. 
EM:  It sounds like your scripts are based on true
Dell: Well, not all of them.  Saigon is and
Anna Busch is based on true events but we fictionalized them, and
Mel’s Boarding House.
  A couple of years ago my mother had her second heart
attack and while she was recuperating I told her I wanted her to collaborate on
screenplay.  I sat down with my mother and she told me all about when she was a
teenager living and working in a boarding house during the Depression.  She had
to quit high school and support her widowed mother and the other kids.  And from
that we wrote Mel’s Boardinghouse.  My mother has her WGA [Writer’s Guild
of America] certificate for Mel’s Boardinghouse hanging on her bedroom
Dingle:  Megan McShane is a murder mystery. 
That was optioned too.  The company was interested in doing it because they were
doing something else in the area so they could do ours at the same time, but
then the other deal fell through so ours did too. 
EM:  How do the ideas come to you?   
Dell:   Oh, I don’t know how ideas come to you. 
Sometimes it’s a movie I saw, maybe a murder mystery and I think we can make it
better so we start talking about the story and the only thing we keep is the
Dingle:  Both of us generate ideas.  We saw a play
— [asks Dell] Family Firm was King Lear, right?  We went to see a
Eugene O’Neill play and that kind of inspired us, but we also went to see
King Lear
.  The O’Neill was based on Lear, but we were inspired to
write our own version and so we did The Family Firm.   
Dell:  We want to do one on my book Memories are
Like Clouds
, which is really wonderful if I do say so myself.  There’s not
a baby boomer alive who doesn’t remember the 50s — there’s a great nostalgia
for that time. 
Dingle:  I get so nostalgic when I read it.  It’s
how growing up was back then.  It should be a movie.  
EM:  What is your writing process when you work
Dell:  That’s interesting.  We talk through the idea
with a tape recorder.  I mean talk through it for hours, and then Carol does a
complete outline.  I take the detailed outline and I do a rough draft.  The
first draft takes seven to ten days.  I do nothing else — I think of only that
screenplay.  I read it to her and we discuss the whole thing again.  Then I do
complete first draft and then she does the re-write.   
EM: So, you two are not sitting across a table from
each other and trying out lines back and forth? 
Dell:  Nooooo, no no.  I’m fast and quick on the
draw.  Carol is very methodical.  She doesn’t even like me to be around when
she’s doing re-writes. 
Dingle:  The final draft is kind of intense, that’s
when I’m doing the fine-tuning.  [Editing] the first draft is a lot of
elimination and changes.  I take a literary perspective from things I’ve read —
plot, character.  It’s something that has to be written and presented well. 
I’ve eliminated characters and stuff like that because it was just too much.  I
also do the grammar and just finding the right words. 
EM: How do you know when a script is finished? 
Dell:  Carol knows when it’s finished.   
Dingle:  Depending on the number of times we go
through the edits — we both know that it’s fine, because we’ve gone over and
over it. 
Dell:  She’s just an incredible writer and I tell
her all the time, “I couldn’t do this without you.”  And she says, of course you
could, but I know I couldn’t. 
EM:  Do you think either of you could write
screenplays on your own? 
Dell:  Well, I don’t think so because I’m really not
a finisher, I’m a starter and Carol really is the polisher.  I would know it
wasn’t as good as it could be.  No, I wouldn’t be writing screenplays without
Dingle: Not too many people have the same interest
in doing this.  Diana has her specific talents, abilities and interests and I
have my specific talents, abilities and interests and they kind of complement
each other.  I don’t know anyone else who can do what she can do.  It’s a good
fit.   I respect her and I like her. 
EM:  What are you working on now? 
Dell:  The tenth one that’s almost finished is
called Christmas Secrets and Surprises.  We have Pam Reed in mind for
this one.  It’s about a woman who comes back to Radcliffe — to Cambridge, after
she gave up a child for adoption, but not in the usual way.  Her best friend and
her fiancé agreed to take the baby so when she went into the hospital to have
the baby she used her best friend’s name, so nothing [about the adoption] was on
Dingle:  We’ve been working on it for a while, but
we’re finishing it up now.  Unless they contact us about Anna Busch, of
For more information about Diana Dell and Carol Dingle’s
screenplays, as well as their other work: or

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