Shooting the Breeze with Screenwriter Lou Buttino

Written by Joel Finsel 
Published in Focus on the Coast 
Saturday, 23 March 2013

A quick look at Dr. Lou Buttino's curriculum vitae: twenty-three documentaries, three books, two produced plays, fifty-five articles, twenty awards, guest lectures at Harvard and Brown, the development of forty-six courses across three disciplines, while impressive, tells nothing of his warmth and easy laughter.

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photo by Jason Armond  

I met Lou while he still chaired the Film Studies Department at UNCW during a graduate screenwriting class and distinctly remember his syllabus. It reminded me how lucky I was to live in a country with access to educational opportunities and that I needed to take my scholarship seriously--as it was a privilege after all.

When I met with Lou recently, he was still recovering from four stints and an angioplasty when we sat down together in his garden. Lou had a quadruple bypass two years earlier, and was currently on medical leave, haunted by the occasional "phantom pain." 

How are things going with your new screenplay, Shadowboxing the Mob?
"I ended up changing the title to The Final Round, and so far its won ten screenplay competitions. Right now, I have it up on where producers go through your synopsis and lug line. So far I've had twenty hits but no bites. I've also started shopping around a project about Abraham Lincoln, how becoming a father changed him, and, therefore, changed America." 

Sounds like you're keeping busy. How have you been feeling?

"I'm doing okay, but it's a very humbling experience when you just don't know if you're going forward or backwards. At one point, when they stopped my heart, it felt like my soul left my body. Even though the cardiologist used a pump, I still felt this terrible estrangement. It compelled me to investigate Lazarus, Jesus's last miracle, which is also the only time in the Bible when Jesus wept. Lazarus was Jesus's good friend, but after Jesus resurrects him, we never hear about Lazarus again. You know people would have been asking him 'What happened on the other side?'" 

Click to read on about Dr. Buttino's near-death experience