Roads Taken

Told in reverse chronological order, ROADS TAKEN retraces the paths Sandy and Mercedes, Sandy's doppelgänger, take as they wrestle fate, bad luck, and bad decisions in an attempt to rise above their lot in life.

  • C.J. Palmisano
    Writer
  • Project Type:
    Screenplay
  • Number of Pages:
    114
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • First-time Screenwriter:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Cynosure Screenwriting Awards
    Los Angeles, CA
    December 1, 2010
    3rd place finalist
  • New York City Film & Television Festival
    New York, NY
    August 27, 2021
    quarterfinalist
Writer Biography - C.J. Palmisano

I've written since I could scribble ”no" on my mother's immaculate kitchen wall. I've never stopped writing--a few pages here, an entire story there--but for the majority of my adult life, writing couldn't be a priority. I raised a family and taught, something I did well (for what it's worth, in 2006 I was in Who's Who Among America's Teachers). In 2010, the moment to write full time arrived. I exchanged classroom for a tiny, poorly lit storage room destined to become a darkroom. I dragged boxes of STUFF to the garage, rolled in a desk and creaky office chair, and settled into a space with a window that natural light couldn't seem to find. I was determined to become a Real Writer.

My formal biography includes a B.A. in English and Art from University and an M.A. in English Lit from Middlebury College (1995). Under list of jobs you'll find university publications editor, admissions officer, and world and dramatic literature teacher. The résumé details my love of learning: classes and workshops in theater, film, art, writing, and animation. My passion for collaboration, exchanging ideas and working in community: film festivals and theater companies, as well as sixteen years as an information guru for the Sundance Film Festival.

As for accomplishments, to be honest I'm most proud of the fact that I rode Coney Island's Cyclone thirteen times in under an hour without vomiting, fainting, or disowning the sibling who goaded me into it. Yes, I can brag: I've been a quarter, a semi- or a finalist in a number of competitions and festivals. A few notables include: the Nicholls Academy Fellowship, Francis Coppola's American Zoetrope, and the New York Film & Screenwriting Festival. In 2021 one of my short stories was published in Stanford's fiction anthology.

Today I recognize I'm a Real Writer, one with a universal and a unique worldview who has something to say. I hope you're compelled to listen.

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Writer Statement

The primary focus of my writer's/artist's statement is one of my current screenplays, ROADS TAKEN. I believe this best shows who I am as an artist and writer.

My students and I had spent an afternoon discussing Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." Driving home, I reflected on the two vastly different paths my own journey had taken me. I wondered, what if I hadn't taken that first one?

In my late teens, I set out into the world and hit a roadblock. Rather quickly. The route I'd chosen was precarious; it ended in disaster and nearly ended me. But I patched myself up, doubled back and veered onto to the other road. To quote Frost, that detour "made all the difference."

ROADS TAKEN is not autobiographical. Sandy's/Mercedes's lives aren't mine, despite that I know the characters and the events in both journeys. Initially, I wrote the script as a play and an exercise to understand myself, others, and life in general. I finished the first draft, then set it aside. A couple years later, two things occurred. I saw a production of Harold Pinter's BETRAYAL, a play about the dissolution of a marriage which Pinter tells in reverse. BETRAYAL resonated with ROADS TAKEN, at the time called THE GRAND VIEW. As I thought about Pinter's contrary storytelling, I happened upon a quote by Soren Kierkegaard: "Life can only be understood backwards. But it must be lived forward." Slightly superstitious old me, interpreted that as a sign and I embraced the "backward" method of telling a tale. I transformed the play about two women whose decisions took them in opposing directions into a screenplay, one that Pinter and Kierkegaard had inspired me to unravel in reverse.

I’m reasonably content with how my life evolved, and accepting of where and who I am. Sometimes, though, I wonder how much further ahead I'd be had I taken that second road from the start. Would I be the actress my yearbook predicted? The professional playwright I'd always hoped to be? Or would I be the screenwriter I was destined to be the day I scribbled "no" on my mother's kitchen wall?

Not much of what I write is even remotely autobiographical, yet I know these stories well. Many are triggered by people, experiences and observations in my tiny bit of world. A lot come from the news. My stories revolve around those who inspire, frighten, fascinate, confound, and sometimes disgust me.

Why am I the best person to tell these stories? Aside from the fact that I'm a very good writer, it's simple: I know them by heart. And soul.