Spec Spotlight: Cassie Daniels and Mark Bartosic Talk “Besties”

Aug 17, 2016 | Interviews

How did you two meet and begin writing together?

Mark: We met seven years ago at the classiest Beer Pong bar in Hollywood. It was my first day managing the place and it was insanely busy. I was running around like a crazy person, when some porn star at the bar throws this heavy shot glass at the bartender’s head. Luckily, the bartender ducked in time and the glass shattered behind her. After I escorted this maniac off the premises, I came back in and complimented the bartender, Cassie, on her cat-like reflexes.

Cassie: Coincidently, we had both just started writing and we would read each others script and give each other notes. Mark is incredible at breaking down the emotion of a story and giving notes. Crazy enough, though, it wasn’t until March of this year that we actually wrote a script together. Besties was our very first collaboration and Mark’s first time writing with a partner.

How did you get into the entertainment industry?

Mark: I came from a single parent household with a mother raising four kids by herself in City Housing. We had no money, so I spent a lot of time in my imagination and with my mom working two jobs, TV and film played a big part in my development. I learned a lot of life lessons from Danny Tanner and Mr. Belding. When I was nine years old my best friend parents bought a VHS camcorder and we started making movies immediately. I knew it was what I wanted to do in life. My brother has been a movie theater manager for twenty years. When I was a teenager I used to stay with him in the summer and I would watch every movie, sometimes the same one over ten times. I didn’t know it then, but story structure was kind of being beaten into my subconscious.

Cassie: As a kid, I loved watching movies. I was uncoordinated and not very athletic so I spent a lot of time watching TV. I was lucky because my parents let me watch anything regardless of rating. I was probably the only kid in my class who had seen Basic Instinct. In particular, I loved watching comedy. I always knew I wanted to do something in the entertainment industry, but it wasn’t until I moved to L.A. that I realized that something was writing.

How did you know writing was where you wanted to focus your energies?

Mark: I came out to LA with the aspirations of doing all of the above. Everyone told me how difficult it was going to be coming out to Hollywood, how much competition there would be, but coming from a sports background I was all for it. It took a few years to realize by competition, they meant the staggering odds of just getting a chance to have a chance. Everyone is looking for their ticket to get on the inside. I love writing and felt it was the one thing I could control and my best shot at breaking in.

Cassie: When I first moved to L.A. I started pursuing acting, but I quickly realized I was much more intrigued by creating the world of the story. So, I set out to teach myself everything I could about screenwriting. I fell in love with the process of storytelling.

What does your writing process look like? How do you divide the tasks of writing a script?

Mark: We basically sit at the desk with each other twelve hours a day until it’s done, living off Diet Coke, coffee, and Krispy Kreme.

How did the idea for “Besties” come about?

Cassie: Originally, I wanted to write a project about someone being stuck in their life. I threw around a couple ideas for my agent and he loved the idea of a road trip. When I started talking to Mark about the idea he turned to me and said, “What if she’s breaking up a wedding?” We developed Besties together from that point on.

Can you take us through the process of the sale?

Cassie: Our agents, David Boxerbaum and Valarie Phillips, sent it to the town on a Tuesday.

Mark: It’s an anxious time for a writer to say the least. You basically try to distract yourself, while you speculate all the reasons why your phone isn’t ringing.

Cassie: Then nine days later we got the call.

Mark: I have a bottle of Crown Royal XR that has been sitting on a shelf in front of my desk for years that I was waiting to open until I sold a script. Yeah, that got drank.

What films/TV shows/books inspired you when you were young and/or now?

Mark: Along with everyone else on the planet, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, LOTR. Comedies like The Jerk, Trading Places, The Room, pretty much everything Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell have ever done. I do have to admit, I am a huge Joe Versus the Volcanofan.

Cassie: I loved, and still do, 80s and 90s comedies. Troop Beverly Hills, Mannequin, Weekend at Bernie’s, Drop Dead Fred, The Burbs. I love fish out of water stories. I’m a HUGE fan of comedy with heart. I love laughing and having my heart warm and fuzzy all at once. Watching movies that I loved growing up always inspires me to keep writing. It reminds me why I started my journey.

Do you have any tricks to keep yourselves motivated and writing?

Mark: Reminding myself the chances of getting a script sold if you don’t write it in the first place.

Cassie:  A huge motivator for me is going to the movie theater. Seeing someone’s story come to life on the big screen. Leaving a good movie makes me can’t wait to go home and sit at the computer and write until my eyes burn.

What do you plan to work on next?

Cassie: Mark and I are working on two pilots, a comedy feature and an action comedy.  We are staying busy!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Mark: It all starts in believing what you’re trying to achieve. If you don’t, find a way to undoubtedly get yourself there. Work on your script to the point where you can’t wait to share it with someone. Then use whatever notes you receive to your fullest advantage. Look at things from every angle. And just know, not everyone is going to love your script. My friend’s dad hated Titanic.

Cassie: Keeping writing! Don’t stop writing! Every time you type on the computer is an opportunity to become a better writer. Read TONS of scripts. You can get just about every movie script online. You can learn so much by reading a great script. Also, find a trusted writer friend and be open to notes and honest opinions from them. It’s hard at first to hear your baby is ugly. But hearing objective feedback can help you make it great. As writers, we are lucky there are so many opportunities to get your work out there. Even if you don’t live in L.A.. Screenplay contests, online pitching, filming a web series. Create the opportunity for yourself and give everyone a reason to pay attention to what you are writing.