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Dimitri Devyatkin Unveils the Heart and Soul of 'Pharaoh' – Takes Home Best Drama Feature Screenplay

Dimitri Devyatkin invites us into the captivating world of 'Pharaoh,' crowned with the prestigious title of Best Drama Feature Screenplay. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the creative depths of Devyatkin's mind, unraveling the threads that weave the compelling narrative of 'Pharaoh.' Join us on a journey through inspiration, challenges, and unwavering dedication as we explore the artistry that breathes life into this exceptional screenplay.



American Dream Screen : Every screenplay has a unique journey from concept to completion. Can you take us through the moment or experience that ignited the spark for this story, and how it evolved into the screenplay we see today?


Dimitri Devyatkin : Yes, the moment that ignited this script came when I was very young, probably about 12 years old. My father, Paul Devyatkin, was a librarian, a classicist, a lover of myths and fairy tales and an incredible story teller. I am the oldest of four brothers. We grew up in the Inwood section of Upper Manhattan. My father loved to tell us stories while we walked through New York City, especially Fort Tryon Park. One of my very favorite stories is the source of my screenplay “Pharaoh.” The story is from the great Greek historian Herodotus, and his legendary book “The Histories.” We four boys were gripped by the story and requested it be told frequently. The original story is only about a third of a page, but my Dad expanded it considerably and made all the characters come alive. My idea in writing this screenplay was to make the story contemporary, as if it were happening right now. And in many ways, it is very analogous to the present times. It is based in the year 1177 BC, in Ancient Egypt, when the known world was in a state of collapse, the End of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, not unlike our current predicament.


American Dream Screen : Screenwriting allows for creative exploration. Can you share an instance where the narrative took an unexpected turn during the writing process, and how did this spontaneous development contribute to the depth of your screenplay?


Dimitri Devyatkin : A central event in the first quarter of the screenplay is the strike of workers building the Pharaoh’s Treasury. According to historical records, this was actually the first labor strike in history. Because of economic collapse, the workers were not fed or paid, and suffered abusive treatment. When a stone weighing 80 tons, swinging through the air during construction, injures several workers, the workers refuse to work and start chanting “Strike! Strike! Strike!” I put that event into the story to express the evolution of the hero. Kareem, from a rich boy, into a rebel.


American Dream Screen : Collaboration is integral in bringing a screenplay to life on screen. Could you share a memorable experience of working with a director, producer, or actor, and how their input influenced and enriched the script?


Dimitri Devyatkin : My greatest supporter throughout the writing was my wife, Olga Zubritskaya-Devyatkina. She kept telling me this was her favorite of my stories and she continually encouraged me to write it. She was a movie producer when I met her, at the mammoth film studio Mosfilm in Moscow.


American Dream Screen : Dialogue is a powerful tool in screenwriting. How did you craft the distinctive voices of your characters, and can you share a line or moment from your screenplay that you are particularly proud of?


Dimitri Devyatkin : The characters all speak directly, as if they are alive today. By conceiving each character’s distinctive traits, their voices all come out differently. Here is a turning point where the dialog becomes really dynamic.

ARCHITECT

There is a special stone in the

outside wall. You can open it with

the touch of a finger.


The Architect pulls out the papyrus and points to drawings of

the removable stone on the outside wall of the Treasury.


ARCHITECT

And it opens the same way from the

inside to get out.


INSERT: EXTERNAL IMAGES OF THE TREASURY SECRET ENTRANCE

The camera counts five rows up, nine stones across.


ARCHITECT (V.O.)

On the East wall, 5th row up,

the 9th stone across. Remember East

59.


INSERT: The architect’s white pencil ARROWS on the screen.


ARCHITECT (V.O.)

There is a tiny dimple on the lower

right corner.


CLOSE-UP OF A FINGER ON A DIMPLE IN THE CORNER OF THE STONE.


ARCHITECT

Touch it and the stone swings open.

There’s a similar dimple inside...


The brothers study the documents carefully.


ARCHITECT

Close your eyes. Remember East 59.


Both boys close their eyes and nod.


ARCHITECT

Now burn this.


Kareem holds it over a candle, till it burns to ashes. The

smoke swirls up into the ceiling.


OZZY

We will always worship Ma'at. Our

sacred work is to feed the poor.


KAREEM

We’ll serve the unfortunate, Papa.

Over time, morality and justice

will triumph.


The Architect looks at the boys earnestly, his eyes ablaze.

His words burn into their minds, like an incantation.


ARCHITECT

He Will Taste My Revenge.


He speaks like a Prophet.


ARCHITECT

Liberate his gold to feed the poor.

Take a tiny bit, and it will last

forever. Don’t be greedy.


The two boys nod, but they are already scheming.


American Dream Screen : The life of a screenwriter can be filled with highs and lows. Can you describe a moment of doubt or a challenging period during the writing process, and what strategies did you use to overcome these obstacles and keep your creative spirit alive?


Dimitri Devyatkin : Never had any doubts.


American Dream Screen : As you look back on your journey as an independent screenplay writer and the creation of this unique script, what do you feel is the most significant lesson or insight you've gained about the art of storytelling and filmmaking that you would like to share with aspiring writers and filmmakers?


Dimitri Devyatkin : Put yourself on auto. Just let your fingers touch the keys. If the story is inside you, it comes out smoothly.





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