Writing In Purgatory – A Journey To Bring ‘STUCK IN THE MIDDLE’ To (After)Life



It started out as a challenge to myself. Could I actually write a script? Could I actually write a coherent, interesting, funny script? The only way to find out was to try, so I started to work on what at the time was a “wacky” sitcom about life in Purgatory and when I was finished…it was awful. Corny dialogue, forced jokes and one-dimensional characters throughout thirty-six pages. I was a hack. My only consolation was I had a beginning, middle and end of a story that could be salvaged. The foundation was laid, now I just needed the confidence to write a better script.
I began to take the old Writing 101 advice and write what I knew about, Catholic school and office life. It grounded the story in some realism to offset the fantastical image of Purgatory I created.  It was coming together. I’d bounce ideas off my friend John Summa, who would become a producer on the film. If someone said something funny in a conversation, I’d remember it and use it, sometimes creating whole scenes around one funny line. It became a feature-length script and it was better and edgier than the sitcom attempt. It just needed to be polished. I gave it to my brother, Billy who has an incredible talent for taking something simple and turning it upside down. He has a different view of the obvious. He made several terrific changes including turning a clichéd, alcoholic character into a Ronald Reagan-obsessed Human Resources director, complete with some of Reagan’s greatest quotes as dialogue. It worked. The script was done, but now what?



Despite having worked many years in television on various shoots, I had no idea how to put a movie together. That’s when the people who would make this a reality started to appear in my life. Purely by accident, I started working with Carlos Duhaime, a talented editor at my day job. We’d talk about films and his desire to shoot one. When I told him I had a script, the ball started to roll. Carlos and I would co-direct and he would shoot and edit. But still we had no idea how to start a production. Then a new neighbor moved in to my community who just so happened to be a movie producer. Fate seemed to be tapping me on the shoulder. I told Jeff Quinlan about my plan and his only response was “let’s make a movie.” Jeff secured locations for us and brought aboard a few great veteran actors to round out the young cast Carlos, Billy and I picked. The only thing left to worry about was how much this would cost. The answer – I had no idea.

Carlos Duhaime

I had worked on many shoots at my job with an extraordinary Production Manager, Carolynne Kish, who is an expert at budgets and scheduling. I asked her for help and she put the budget together, made the schedule and came down to the set to talk me off the ledge.  With the support of my wife Christine to put a chunk of our own money into the project and with help from Carlos and other backers, we were set to shoot a film.

The shoot lasted 12 days and for the most part went surprisingly smooth for a team making their first film. There were a few bumps in the road but the cast was patient, professional and every one of them put on an amazing performance. Stephen Fontana, Penelope Lagos, Eric Etebari, Jeanette Roxborough, Keith Collins, Cash Tilton and Jack Mulcahy along with great performances in every supporting role made this an unforgettable and rewarding experience.


So what started out as a personal challenge turned into a phenomenal collaboration with so many talented people. It was a miraculous journey that never would have happened if I quit after that first version and if I didn’t meet everyone who became involved in the process. The end result, Stuck in the Middle won Best Comedy Feature at the Downbeach Film Festival and landed a distribution deal with R-Squared Films and a Blu-Ray release on Amazon.


Joseph and Billy Pepitone are the writing team behind Stuck in the Middle. They have written two other films that are currently in Post-Production, The Meat Puppet and Gravedigger and are in pre-production of their latest comedy. The have also written the novel Soul of a Yankee.

Joseph is a two-time New York Emmy award winner and Billy is a retired decorated New York City Police Officer.