Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 2, Page 6
Three scripts for successful screenwriting

     Hollywood may be 3,000 miles away from the grassy Mall of
Delaware's campus, but some University graduates have found equally
green pastures among the glitz and glitter there.
     It's a small fraternity, but a handful of alumni are working as
writers and producers in the entertainment business. You've seen the
work of some of them on television; others hope you'll soon see their
work on the silver screen.
     Dennis Burgess, Delaware '71, was director of current programs at
ABC-TV for nine years and now writes full-length feature films. Parke
Perine, Delaware '51, wrote dozens of television scripts and produced
a number of well-known television shows before deciding to write
feature films. And, Jack Adams, Delaware '74, who wrote television
pilots for several studios, now writes feature films, works as a
script consultant and teaches seminars for budding screenwriters.
     Burgess, who moved to California 20 years ago, went to work for
ABC in 1982. While there, he ensured that the 39 hour-long dramas
under his jurisdiction were delivered the way the network wanted. The
programs he handled included Thirtysomething, Twin Peaks, Fall Guy and
Max Headroom.
     After a change in leadership prompted him to leave ABC four years
ago, Burgess started writing scripts for feature films. While his work
at the television network was with dramas, four of the five movie
scripts he's marketing are comedies. The other is science fiction.
     One of his comedy scripts is Cop Out, a buddy-action movie in
which a Las Vegas policeman goes undercover as Diana Ross to apprehend
a suspect who's a contestant in a Female Impersonator of the Year
show. Terrarium, the science fiction film he's written, is about an
entire universe that exists within a huge metal dome built 25,000
years ago. A team of researchers visit the terrarium after a space
shuttle detects a signal from the South American Andes.
     "I hadn't written before this. I had planned to be a writer, but
I was too busy working. When I worked at ABC, in the peak of the
season from July to October, I was getting four hours sleep a night,"
says Burgess. "I would love to sell all my scripts, but I'd settle for
selling one for a lot of money. One of the curses of free-lance
writing work is no steady paycheck."
     Perine is no stranger to the rigors of free-lance writing. During
much of his career, he opted to write television scripts as a free-
lancer so he could spend more time at home with his family. His
credits include The Rookies, Starsky and Hutch, Eight Is Enough,
Magnum P.I., Fame and Highway to Heaven. For the last four years, the
television veteran-who's also held staff positions with Knot's
Landing, Fame, Peaceable Kingdom and Our House-has been writing
feature films on a free-lance basis.
     "Feature films are more satisfying than television. You're not
restricted to developing characters as they exist in someone else's
head. These characters are all mine. I can make them do what I want if
it's within the parameters of the story line," he says.
     Perine's currently working on three projects: two relationship
films and one action film centered around a relationship. He's most
comfortable writing about relationships, he says, rather than cops and
     "That comes from the concepts you get at a small college
[Delaware had 1,500 undergraduate students the year he graduated], a
small town [he grew up in Lewes, Del.] and a small state. They never
felt little, just like microcosms of the better part of the world," he
     One of the relationship scripts, which he recently presented in
concept form to a production company, is about two, very different
brothers-one works in country western music, the other is a college
professor at an East Coast school-who get to know each other all over
again as adults. The other project, which has been completed, is about
two men who embark on a journey together and are forced to confront
their fears.
     Adams, who's written and produced situation-comedy pilots for
Universal, Columbia, Aaron Spelling and Loni Anderson, has branched
off into feature films. He currently has five projects out being read.
Most recently, he co-wrote an action-thriller about a parolee who
served 12 years for murdering his father and has been framed for
murdering his sister. His female parole agent is the only person who
can prove his innocence. The script attracted interest from a
producer, who is seeking funding for the project.
     Adams was kept busy this fall after one of his script-writing
clients was named one of nine finalists, out of a field of 3,900, for
the Nicholl Fellowship, a script-writing competition sponsored by the
Academy of Motion Pictures. The honor of being a finalist has opened
doors, with big names in the industry showing interest in the project,
Adams says. If enough enthusiasm is generated, Adams will be one of
the producers.
     Of his own writing projects, which range from comedy to action to
science fiction, he says:
     "I'm at the point where they haven't been filmed yet. Hollywood
is a town where you can be encouraged to death. These are projects
that, based on the feedback that's coming in, seem like they have a
good chance of getting shot. But, that's always a risky statement to
     Adams teaches three to four dozen writing seminars around the
country each year. Aimed at budding screenwriters who want to break
into the business, his seminars are motivational and provide advice on
how to write professionally and get scripts into the right hands.
     The words of encouragement he offers students are ones he follows
every day.
     "The people who make it are the people who keep going, who keep
getting better, despite any non-encouragement they receive," Adams
says. "It's a question of priorities. If you want to do it, you will."
                                         -Marylee Sauder, Delaware '83