HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. — `I decided I was tired of playing all these academic games just for the luxury of living in Oklahoma,'' recalls Dave Congalton, who had worked as a communications professor at DePauw University in Indiana before moving to the University of Tulsa in 1986. All his life, he says, he had wanted to be a writer. ``People who've read my stuff always told me I could write, but I never believed them. So I decided it was now or never,'' he recalls. One person who encouraged him to develop his scriptwriting was film director Nicholas Meyer. Mr. Congalton had sent him an original sequel to the film classic ``Casablanca.'' ``I was floored when he actually took the time to write me back and say I had real talent,'' says Congalton.
To be nearer to Hollywood, Congalton accepted a visiting professorship at a college in San Luis Obispo for the academic year. While there, he entered a stand-up comedy contest and won. The boost this gave to his confidence led him to move to a one-bedroom flat off the boardwalk on Venice Beach, where he intended to pursue scriptwriting.
``I've made a few contacts and started writing, and I'm happier than I've ever been in my life,'' he says. One of those contacts was a Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer who had gone to high school with Congalton's sister-in-law. The lawyer knew the producers for ``L.A. Law,'' for which Congalton had tried writing two scripts.
The promise of those two scripts led Congalton to discussions with an agent, but there was a difference of opinion over where his scripts should go. ``She wanted me to rewrite my `L.A. Law' episodes for `Matlock,''' says Congalton. ``I said, `No way.''' Congalton then asked his roommate, who worked for Creative Artists, a Hollywood agency, to show his scripts to agents there. ``They said the scripts looked great, but dropped my cause when my roommate stopped working there,'' Congalton says.
He believes the scripts he has written so far prove to people that he is capable of writing for established TV shows. But writing feature films is his goal. ``What I'm struggling with now is writing my own material and characters and plots. I have good ideas, but I have to learn more about dialogue and characterization,'' he says.
Meanwhile he is working full time in a store while writing scripts in his off-hours. He expects that one more year of effort will open a career door for him.
Even so, it hasn't been easy. ``I've had calls where people have lied to me, led me on,'' he says. ``Everybody in Hollywood talks a good act. You've got to be able to see beyond the ruses. I was told early on, `You've got to be hungry and give it five years.' So I'm digging in.''