Within the past year, Chicago comedian and screenwriter Dale Zawada not only saw his film, A Big Love Story, get national recognition on the festival circuit and a DVD release, but lost approximately 100 lbs. Two feats most people can barely fathom accomplishing in their lifetime, Zawada did within a year.
It's also interesting to note that his award-winning film, A Big Love Story, now available on DVD, focuses on an overweight character seeking love.
How did you lose the weight?
How did you get the idea for the film?
A lot of the stuff I usually write is just usually based off of experiences that I have first hand that people may enjoy. This one, A Big Love Story, focuses around a group of friends who take [part] in this weight loss competition. That happened because I was trying to lose weight and I read an article where it was like, you should do just that, a weight loss competition with your friends.
It's fun, it gets the competitive juices going, and I was like, "That's pretty great, that's a nice idea. I don't have friends, so I will write them in a script and they will try to sabotage each other, have all these little shenanigans..."
What's the film about?
Like I said, it's a group of friends who take place in this weight loss competition and try to sabotage each other. We follow "Sam," who's a former football player who suffered an injury, so his life is kind of falling apart. But he's trying to turn it around, get his weight under control, and trying to find his place in the world, which includes maybe finding love.
He starts this weight loss journey and falls for his trainer, but she's not having it, because 1. he's a fat person and they're gross, and 2. it's against the rules, you can't date somebody training and what not. He really likes her so he tries anyway, and he really chips away at her. Kind of tries to win her over.
Have you enjoyed the success of the film?
This is the big wide release, we did the festival rounds, with the awards and stuff. This is for people to buy and see it. All these stores, Walmart, Target, and places should have it, which is nice. It's our big release and we're pretty excited about it.
What's more rewarding, the success of the film or your weight loss?
The movie. Having people see something that you've worked so hard on and that people like, like these critics and audiences like. That's more rewarding. Losing weight personally is great, it's important to take care of yourself and feel good. But there's that high of people liking the stuff that you put out there as an artist which is just really awesome.
Could you believe that the festivals and awards were happening?
I always thought it was possible, like I thought [with] my writing and how hard I work at it, that it was possible. But I didn't think that it really would happen, so I'm just very excited about it. I don't take it for granted. That's why whenever something good happens, like an award-winning film or a big DVD release, I don't settle. [I] just worry about the next one, wherever the next project is.
I have something in production for next year and eventually I'll move past that, worry about the next one after that, because it can stop, the well can run dry. It's important that you don't become stagnant as a writer and you just keep pushing forward.
But having something like that in stores, a real movie that won awards and that people can see and buy, put in their DVD players and eat popcorn and watch it and laugh and cry, it's a great feeling.
What advice do you have for people who want to write and sell a movie?
Just keep writing. Don't fall in love with any one idea. Because the first script, it might not be the one that sells. This was like the third one I have written.
People worry about that one idea so much that it almost paralyzes them and they work so hard on it and it might not end up being that great. It might not end up being what producers are looking for, you end up hurting yourself. Get that idea that's important to you out there, then get that next idea that's important to you because it'll come.
Who are your cinematic influences?
Shane Black is probably my biggest inspiration as a writer. He did the Lethal Weapon movies. He did Iron Man 3, which he wrote and directed. A lot of his stuff is across the board genre-wise, it's action, but it peppers in the humor, it has those dramatic moments...
And it keeps you on your toes and it keeps you invested, which these days you really have to do with modern audiences. You can't just be a pure comedy or a pure action, you have to deliver to the whole audience because that's what they expect. Shane Black, he was the trend setter for sure I think.
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