Dito Montiel is the writer and director of the film adaptation of his memoir, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. He is the author of The Clapper, and his articles, interviews, and poetry have appeared in Vanity Fair, Interview, and numerous other magazines. He lives in Santa Monica, California.
Author biography courtesy of Thunder's Mouth Press.
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Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Montiel:
"I did everything from selling peanuts on 42nd street when I was 14, to walking dogs, to unloading trucks, to whatever! I wrote -- and write -- because I have to. Because I love it. My inspiration comes from everywhere, and everyone."
"I love reality TV. I know it's not cool , but Big Brother is the greatest TV show ever! I'm in Venice, Italy now. Our film just won the Critics' Choice Award. Sting and Trudie are waiting downstairs for us to all take a Gondola to a movie premiere, and all I can think is that I can not believe WILL GOT KICKED OUT AND LOST THE POWER OF VETO!"
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In the fall of 2006, Montiel took some time out to answer some of our questions:
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
I'm not much of a reader. I actually do things in reverse -- wait for the movie, unfortunately. I like Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree a lot, because, well, it has lots of pictures, and is beautiful. I had a book called The Book of Saints, which I guess touched a nerve somewhere -- because I still have it to this day.
Like I said, I'm really not a reader. The biggest influence on me was always Hardcore and Punk Rock music. Basically, don't listen to other people's songs -- write your own. I learned to play guitar on stage at CBGB and the A7 club -- I wrote songs, and performed them that night. I wrote a book in pen because I felt I had to, and went into movies the same way. I'm not saying it was all easy. I just felt like if noise is all I'll make, then I'll make noise.
What are your favorite books, and what makes them special to you?Allen Ginsberg's photography book. I love his style, and the simple things he writes under each photograph. I love his honesty and simplicity.
Allen Ginsberg's Howl -- Once again, the way he puts words together is very beautiful to me.
Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish -- Something very moving about it.
Allen Ginsberg's America Poem -- For me, it wasn't so much the words but how he put them together.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac -- I know it's played out, and I've honestly never even gotten entirely through it, but there's something magical about what it can do to a young person. More than the words to me.
The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger -- Once again, I've never finished it, but my friend calls It the "truth serum book." Leave it on a counter, and people's personalities come out as they walk by and comment on it. Try it, it's funny!
The Book of Saints -- It had a huge influence on me, but I don't know why.
The Giving Tree by Shel Sliverstein -- Boy, I'm about as cliché as they get, huh? Well, it's great!
American Hardcore by Steven Blush -- I was a huge fan of the scene, and like the book.
Dee Dee Ramone's Legend of a Rock Star -- I love the way he put his words and short sentences together.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?Carlito's Way -- I love that film sooo much. Not for all the violence, although Sean Penn is great! I love the love story in it, and the ending is very, very beautiful. I LOVE this film!
Cinema Paradiso -- Saddest ending in history!
Annie Hall -- For a million reasons, but mostly because of the line, "In art we try to make things perfect, because in life they so seldom are."
Once Upon A Time In America -- Because you can put it on at any moment, and shut it off at any moment, and it's beautiful.
Harold and Maude -- Because it is GREAT!
The King off Comedy -- RUPERT PUPKIN!
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I'm a talk radio fanatic. Although, I HATE most of the people I listen to, I HAVE TO KEEP LISTENING because I HATE to.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
The New York Post. Because I love the garbage!
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
Ones with fun pictures.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I talk out loud and walk around and try to do ANYTHING to avoid it -- but I love it.
What are you working on now?
The script for Eddie Krumble is The Clapper, because I HAVE to make the movie! Also, a book called Milk, and another script called Running.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
Allen Ginsberg said, "Don't follow Allen Ginsberg's path to extinction!" I LOVE THAT! I've failed at everything I've done, and I've succeeded as well. My mother used to take the train to Coney Island every Saturday morning and walk back to Queens. It's all about the trip. And in the trip, I feel incredibly blessed and lucky.
If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
Wow -- lots! My friend Ray Parada (www.themadparade.com). We've been friends since kindergarten, and he is the real deal. Also, E. J. Nervo out in Los Angeles. He is incredible, and is walking around with about 1,000 pages – handwritten -- that I hope we all will read one day.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
I hated hearing things like this, because to me everything was always urgent -- but what I learned from Hardcore and Punk is the most valuable lesson in art I've ever learned: Do It Yourself. Love what you do, and just put it out there. A lot of bands had no right to make albums according to what record companies thought -- the same with a lot of painters, writers, directors, etc. If you have to tell a story, there is NO good reason it won't be told. I really believe that, and if you stop caring whether or not it will make Oprah's list or have a real ISBN number, then you'll find freedom.
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