I Refused to Let My Dream Die: How I Broke in After 30 Years With Dig Me No Grave | Script Revolution

I Refused to Let My Dream Die: How I Broke in After 30 Years With Dig Me No Grave


When I started Script Revolution, I had a dream that one day I'd get to see members option their material and go on a wonderful life-changing adventures, watching their words turned into reality during production and that production itself go on to wow an audience. Gary Piazza has had a dream too, one he's been keeping alive for three decades. In this blog he talks about how both our fantasies came true in the form of Dig Me No Grave and offers some helpful tips for writers still trying their hardest to break in - CJ

I made it. I can check this off as goal met...lifetime ambition realized. I had planned to check this box thirty years ago, so what happened? Like many of us starting out, I thought I had what it takes to break in and stun the world with my creativity. The drive was certainly there, but the skill set was not ready for prime time. I didn't realize that I had to actually get good at this before anyone would consider working with me as a writer or filmmaker. You’re gonna suck until you figure this out, I told myself.

While I did graduate with honors at a now defunct screenwriting institution, I had already spent many years behind the camera as a videographer/photographer. I started out doing weddings and portraits and music videos and product placement work while trying to figure out how I can tie those skills into my writing. This extracurricular work would prove to be valuable in understanding how the two crafts work with one another as I would eventually produce my own shorts and documentaries. More on that later.

It wasn't long after graduating that I made contact with my first real lead. I had written a sequel to John Carpenter's The Thing and sent it off to Carpenter's agent at ICM. Back then, fax machines were a thing, and Carpenter's agent sent a release form to my employer after showing interest in the script. It just so happened that our accountant saw the form and approached me, saying that her mom was an agent. I met up with said agent and I thought things were rolling rather quickly. Little did I know at the time that this would be one of many near hits that never see the light of day, and that ultimately become the most depressing part of my creative pursuit. She never was able to follow up with the agent at ICM and she pretty much disappeared without a trace. When I asked our accountant about it, she simply said her mom was a flake. Go figure.

Soon after, I answered an ad in a newspaper for a talent agent in Venice Beach looking for a writer. This was an established agency that was representing well-known talent in Hollywood. I not only brought some of their pitches to fruition in the form of saleable scripts, but I was also reading and screening submissions from wannabe writers. One of the scripts I completed during this period made it into the right hands at Universal and it looked as if everything was aligning, and my first piece of work was going to be made into an actual movie! It wasn’t to be. Hopes dashed once again. My agent called and said that her husband (who had controlling interest in the firm) wanted to get out of the entertainment industry and open a horse farm. Not only that, the person heading up the script activity at Universal had left that same week. I cried. A lot.

It was at this point that I decided to ditch pursuing another agent. I kept shooting, creating, writing, and working my regular job to support my family. The internet came along, and everything changed once again. Query letters became electronic. There were even more writers looking for work and representation than ever before. I watched as standard screenplay format evolved to allow things that were previously a no no, such as bold master scene headings or master scene headings without the proper spacing. People were harder to connect with, and it was hard to even receive a rejection letter. Contests became super abundant, the streaming giants had emerged, demand for content exploded, and then something really, really cool happened.

Writers and creatives were given places to showcase their work online. Many of us belong to a wide variety of platforms that let us connect with various tutors, executives, peers, and artists. Some of these platforms charge a pretty penny for the services, but many are free for members to join. Lord knows I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars over the past ten years alone in coverage, contests, pitch meetings, and workshops. Each time I opened my wallet, I was convinced that the right person would take notice of my work and champion it all the way to greenlight. It never happened.

I kept reading. I kept writing. I kept shooting. Most of all, I immersed myself in a craft that is tied together like a tightly bound book. Screenwriting, filmmaking. Both visual mediums where brevity is ever so important, and the hook is paramount to reeling in an audience. The little voice inside was telling me to never give up and I was still having a lot of fun spewing forth my thoughts onto paper. Creating something from nothing is the most cathartic experience for me, and I was addicted to the celebratory pat on the back after typing FADE OUT:

Script Revolution was a relatively new platform when I joined. I found the layout, the mission, and the message to be of great interest to me as a screenwriter because it was a platform for screenwriters first and foremost. To be honest, I did have my doubts. I saw other platforms and startups come and go, and I figured this one stood a good chance as well because these types of platforms are not easily managed or afforded by the creators. I’m glad I was wrong. I happily upgraded my status to Rockstar once I saw the platform growing and the forums fill up with conversation. Another thing that sealed it for me was the fact that CJ was the real deal. After reading his work and understanding his journey, it really was a no brainer. I met many of you on SR and have made some very close friends as a result. I read many of your scripts and I assist with feedback and pointers whenever I can. Some scripts are so good that I’d love to produce some of them myself! Which leads me to how I actually got my work recognized and produced.

Official poster, wrap part, and Gary showing of his operator skills.
Official poster, wrap party, and Gary showing off his operator skills.

Of all the platforms out there, it was Script Revolution. No, this isn’t a paid endorsement for the platform, and I’m not knocking the others. I give credit where credit is due—and I am forever grateful for Script Revolution. I was working on a vampire script called Red Scarlett (optioned soon after DMNG, but that’s another story!) and I was taking my sweet time writing it. For once, I had quite a bit of research that went into that story and it was just not writing itself. That’s when the idea for Dig Me No Grave popped up. I was having a chat with my uncle who is a hunter, and he was getting ready to go out by himself and try to bring home an elk. This after failing for the past four years and his age taking its toll on his body. I told him he might get stuck out there and never come back. That’s when the light went off and a story formed as I was chatting with him. I put Red Scarlett on pause and knocked Dig Me No Grave out in about six weeks. My goal with this was to write something that had a minimal cast and few locations and attract a studio or producer looking for something with a lower budget. Up to this point, many of my scripts were not low budget.

I edit as I write. That’s my process. I have a hard time spitting it all out and then going back to correct. Not the way I work, and everyone is different. I make a very brief Hook, Beginning, Middle, and End, but I don’t outline. I take notes and in Final Draft and add them throughout the story when those moments come into play. With Dig Me No Grave, I had to do very little as much of what I was writing was already scripted in my head. Upon finishing, I poured a glass of wine, patted myself on the back, and started on the synopsis. I already had my poster (I make one for each story at the beginning and it acts as a visualizer for me…a source of additional inspiration.) Once I had those items, I began uploading everything to Script Revolution. At the same time, I had joined a few contests (smaller horror/thriller contests) and the Page Awards. Awards and placement came in from all of them. With Page, and much to my surprise, I made it to quarters. From there it was a publishing deal with my winnings from 13Horror and one other as a semi-finalist. Then it got noticed on Script Revolution by a scout.

This person had asked me if his director friend could read the script. I said it’s up here for all to read. Go for it. The next day, he tells me that his director friend wants to option and direct it but would like a Skype call first. I agreed and we had our meeting. The director, Ranjeet S. Marwa of Rocket Sky High Pictures and his partner, Djonny Chen of Silent D Pictures, were ready to start filming in a few months if I agreed to their terms. I went over the contract and only had one change that needed to be made and they were okay with that.

The next few months were crazy, they had plans to film in the UK, then Covid screwed things up and it got pushed out from spring to late summer, then finally to the end of January, 2021. Having looked at my resume, my IMDB, and my tenure as a screenwriter and documentary filmmaker, I was asked to be on set. I was going to ask anyway, but they asked first, and I kindly accepted. Turns out they wanted me on board as a script consultant due to the difference in accents with the cast. They also asked if I’d like to film a behind the scenes documentary. Another big yes from me.

I loaded my gear, told my employer that I will be gone for three weeks, and left early enough to do some pre-planning and avoid any unforeseen delays. Kissed my wife and daughter goodbye and realized that I was adding a new chapter to my life. I did have a few issues along the way, but those were easily fixed, and I then found myself on set with a film crew and the actors. The shoot was fantastic. The cast said it was the best set experience for them so far. It was brutal, though. Twelve hour days, mainly outside in the cold, and I was having the time of my life. I lost eight pounds and ate more potatoes in two weeks than I had all year. The crew and cast took a few days to gel, but once things started flowing, it was like a well-oiled machine. We became close, like a family, and it was hard to say goodbye after we wrapped. I walked away with five credits on this picture, much to my surprise, and more work than I’ll be able to complete in a year. I actually got an acting credit for playing the CGI (mocap) bear in the story and I was able to gain a producer credit as well. But much more came from this experience, including films I may be directing. In fact, another story sprung from an improvisational session with the actors and the investors are waiting for the script! It’s one I may end up directing and if I can finish in the next month or so, may begin shooting in the summer sometime.

I’ve blathered enough about this experience, this long and sometimes tumultuous road can take its toll and you’ll feel like giving up. I know that crossed my mind over the years, but I kept at it.

I’d like to leave you with some parting words that may or may not help you break through the barriers.

  1. If this is your passion, truly and honestly your passion, then never quit.
  2. Don’t be a one trick pony. Learn all aspects of the craft of filmmaking. Your knowledge and skills may come in handy.
  3. Grab a camera. Practice telling stories that you’ve written. Even if you only want to be a writer. It will make my number 2 statement much easier. Remember me mentioning that extracurricular work?
  4. Read. Everything. Even unproduced scripts.
  5. Get your name out there. Build your resume. Any way you can.
  6. Don’t write thinking Hollywood will come knocking on your door. Look at writing for smaller productions. Indie films are a great launching point.
  7. When posting your scripts, make sure you take your time. For SR, all of those categories and boxes are super important. Make sure you post a synopsis! That’s what they read first!
  8. I see a lot of scripts that are written like novels. Stop that. Remember, brevity is ever so important.
  9. Consider a pitch deck. My contacts love them, but some don’t. I have them just in case.

Write small, expect small. Build from there. Get those doors open. Take all the time you need. For those interested, Dig Me No Grave is available for reading on SR and there are published copies on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. All proceeds go to the UNHCR in support of my Vietnamese friends who are showcased in my refugee story, Breakaway Heart. You can also follow the film’s progress on Instagram at @dmng_movie.

A huge, huge thank you to Mr. CJ Walley for providing this platform for us aspiring creatives. I can’t wait to hear your success stories! I owe you more than just a beer, mate!

Cheers, and I look forward to reading more of your scripts!

About The Author

Gary Piazza's picture
Real name: 

Gary Piazza is an award winning writer/producer/filmmaker residing in the Pacific Northwest. He began writing and shooting videos in high school back in the 80's and never looked back.

Graduated from the Hollywood Scriptwriting Institute in 1993 after completing 6 years in the Navy. An independent professional photographer/videographer/screenwriter with a passion for film, filmography, and the writing process with more than 30 years in the field. An award winning screenwriter,...Read more



Mike Underwood's picture

Well played Gary. Very well played! Wish you every success.

Eoin O'Sullivan's picture

Awesome resilence and tenacity

Andrea Zastrow's picture

This was a fantastic read! Thanks for sharing your journey and insights. Gratitude and authenticity are two of the qualities I respect most in a person. Wishing you continued success! (I edit as I write, too.)

John Hunter's picture


Jane Tumminello's picture

Congratulations and thanks so much for sharing your story. I'm inspired!

Ville Nummenpää's picture

This is as inspiring as it gets. So happy for you, congratulations!

Hanna Strauss's picture

Congrats, Gary. Your persistence and belief in yourself have finally rewarded you. But I'll be damned if it will take 30 years for my concept to launch. Hopefully it will take less time for me, because then it would be posthumous success in my case.

Jim Boston's picture

Gary, thanks so darn much for posting this...and all the VERY BEST to you!

Gary Piazza's picture

Thank you, all. Really appreciate the kind words. Good luck in your pursuits and let me know if you can recommend some great scripts to read. Always willing to check out the latest and greatest on SR.

Mark Laing's picture

Most excellent!

Kamil Murat Usun's picture

Nice to read, thanks for share. "Write small, expect small. Build from there", I loved that.


Much gratitude, Sir!