Remembering Screenwriting Professor Guy Gallo, 1955-2015

January 15, 2015

Adjunct Professor Guy Gallo, who traught Screenwriting in the Film Program since 1987, died at the age of 59 on January 13. Gallo, who was born and raised in New Orleans, received an AB magna cum laude from Harvard College in History and Literature, and an MFA from The Yale School of Drama in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism.
 
A playwright, screenwriter and poet as well as essayist, Gallo is best known for his screenplay adaptation of Under the Volcano, based on the novel by Malcolm Lowry. Directed by John Huston, starring Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bisset, Under the Volcano was written by Gallo shortly after receiving his MFA. Released in 1984, Under the Volcano was a selection at the Cannes Film Festival.
 
Gallo’s first play, Failing (1977), won the Phyllis Anderson Prize for Playwriting and was produced by the Loeb Theatre Center. A one-act, Rain in Lent (1979), was given productions by Hunter College and The Double Image Theater. His non-musical stage adaptation of J. M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy was presented by the Yale Dramat (1982). For the next ten years or so, Gallo worked in the film industry, writing over a dozen screenplays for major studios and independent producers. His other produced screenplays include Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (American Playhouse) and The Enormous Radio (Tales from the Darkside). He returned to playwriting with The Shallow End, which was given a staged reading at The Jean Cocteau Rep (2000), and Antigone in Desire (1999), which he directed at The Lang Theater Center at The New School. His most recent plays are Passage(semi-finalist for the 2011 Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference), Still Life with Nude and God and Sex. His most recent film work includes The Last Christmas, a World War I story written in collaboration with his wife, Jeannine Dominy, currently being produced. 
 
Guy Gallo's courses at Columbia included Adaptation, Screenplay Revision and Advanced Screenwriting. At Barnard College, he offered Feature Screenwriting. A rigorous and nurturing mentor, he also taught at NYU's Department of Dramatic Writing. With a deep grounding in literature, philosophy, and the arts, he taught both undergraduate and graduate students. In the early 1990s, he also offered a course at Columbia on Dada and Surrealism in Film and Theatre.
 
A contributor to Bomb Magazine, Gallo wrote Letters to NOLA, about his native New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. The essay was given honorable mention by David Foster Wallace in Best American Essays 2007. His novels, Quarter Romance and Left Over Agnes, were also homages to New Orleans. His book, Screenwriter's Compass: Character as True North, was published to critical acclaim in 2012 by Focal Press: it was praised as a wise study of dramatic construction, informed by his vast experience as both screenwriter and professor. Terry Jones, screenwriter of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian wrote, "It's simply the best book about writing for the screen I've read."
 
Gallo also collaborated with British violinist Peter Sheppard-Skaerved on the series, The Great Violins (Athene/Divine Art), contributing poems on the Telemann violin Fantasies that drew on his lifelong love for classical music. The series will be dedicated to Gallo and will include recordings made at The Library of Congress, London and Italy.
 
Read more from The Columbia Spectator.
 
 
Update:
 
A memorial service celebrating the life of Guy Gallo will be held on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, from 5:30 - 7:30 pm, at the Diana Center, Event Oval,​ of Barnard College. Use the campus entrance on the west side of Broadway at 117 Street (one block north of the #1 subway), and follow the winding path towards 118 Street. A reception will follow the memorial.

The event will include a performance by violinist Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, with whom Guy Gallo collaborated on the series, The Great Violins (Athene/Divine Art), contributing poems on the Telemann violin Fantasies that drew on his lifelong love for classical music. The soon-to-be released series will be dedicated to Gallo.​

Those wishing to make a contribution in his memory are invited to donate to the Guy Gallo Memorial Fund in Film: an annual prize in his name will be awarded to a student in Screenwriting. Contributions can be made online—select "School of the Arts," then Designation "Other" from the drop-down menu; on the next page, write "Guy Gallo Memorial Fund in Film" in the Comments/Instructions Box. Checks can be mailed to Columbia University School of the Arts, 305 Dodge Hall, MC 1803, 2960 Broadway, New York, NY 10027; please write "Guy Gallo Memorial Fund in Film" in the memo line.
 
Questions can be directed to Annette Insdorf, [email protected].