Category Archives: Screenwriter

Varunn Pandya talks finding the right dream and pursuing it

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Varunn Pandya, photo by Chaaritha Dheerasinghe

When Varunn Pandya, 21, was growing up, he watched all kinds of movies and found himself enamored by the different journeys they took him on and the different perspectives he felt towards the world. Today, he can proudly say that love for film has only flourished and he has since established a reputation as a talented, unique screenwriter and director. He finds the concept of writing down his thoughts and ideas to be cathartic and he has spent years attempting to learn as much as possible about the arts in order to better himself for the benefit of his eventual audiences. For Pandya, the true luxury that his profession affords him is the luxury of getting to explore different characters and different worlds. Not only is this what attracted him to writing in the first place, but it is also what keeps him coming back for more time and time again.

Throughout his career, Pandya has allowed himself to pour his heart and soul into a number of phenomenal scripts. He is his own toughest critic and his own strongest motivator, pushing himself to ensure that he only brings high quality content before his viewer’s screens. For Pandya, there is no room for slacking in screenwriting and he feels as though giving 99 per cent just simply doesn’t do justice to the tales he aims to tell. He is well known for stories like Dilemma and Homeless and he has made a prominent name for himself in the industry. He has even earned a number of competitive awards, including Best Short Screenplay at Five Continents International Film Festival and at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival in 2018. What the talented young man lacks in years of experience, he makes up for in sheer talent and so long as he has a pen and paper, he hopes to continue creating compelling stories to share with the world.

Later on in September of this year, Pandya earned himself even more recognition when his script XYZ was chosen as an Official Selection at the Trujillo International Independent Film festival and also when he won the award for Best Sci-Fi Short Screenplay at the Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition. When he sets his sights on a script, there is very little he won’t do to make it a success and these awards are a testament to that commitment.

Alongside his friend and colleague, Bader AlShuaib, Pandya developed a concept for XYZ and carefully but considerately determined how best to showcase it before the eyes of thousands. XYZ is about the human tendency to be inherently racist and biased towards people with a certain body type or complexion. In an uncertain future, it centers around Martha, a newly-wed African-American woman who convinces her husband to make her dream of having Caucasian children come true. To achieve this dream of hers, they undergo a special experimental procedure so as to be able to select each and every trait of their future children. Slowly, Martha realizes that in the process of making her dream come true, she ends up destroying everyone around her.

When AlShuaib and Pandya began brainstorming for the script, they pulled inspiration from films and shows like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Black Mirror. As both works have successfully done, AlShuaib and Pandya wanted to delve into the scientific fiction genre and determine a way to challenge the minds of their audiences with a thriller-like, psychological spin. Ultimately, they wanted to explore a deeply human story against a futuristic setting. It was unlike anything Pandya had done in the past and he was awoken by the enjoyment it brought him.

“Unlike my previous work such as The House, a futuristic setting was something I hadn’t ever tackled before. The novelty of this itself made this script an interesting challenge. Even my co-writer, Bader, had not written anything like this before and, hence, was equally passionate about diving into a new world and figuring it out. The writing process was very different to my previous projects. This was the first time I was collaborating with someone and it was important to make sure that I wasn’t curbing his creativity. In my opinion, our writing relationship was very smooth. I would write a draft and send it over to him. After a week or two, he’d tweak it and send it to me. This back and forth eventually resulted in the final script – one that we’re both very proud of” shared Pandya.

Writing XYZ and having it achieve such success in its early days served as a reminder that Pandya has what it takes to pave a change in the film industry. He considers himself fortunate to have found what he truly loves to do so early on in his career. To others out there aspiring to follow their dreams and do so with success, Pandya had the following advice to offer:

“To anyone looking to pursue a career in this industry, I would advise them to be ready to have sleepless nights, go a few months without decent work or pay, and face rejection. If they can accept this, theirs is going to be a smooth ride. I would also ask them to only pick this industry if there’s nothing else they would do even if it paid better. This industry demands that kind of a passion.”

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

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Writer Sonia Gumuchian Crafts Enthralling Stories for Film and TV

Poster for the new film “Home Entertainment”
Poster for the new film “Home Entertainment”

Every fiction contains at least a kernel of truth, but a great writer knows when not to let the truth get in the way of a good story. Taking inspiration from the people and experiences in her own life, Canadian writer Sonia Gumuchian is in a class of her own. With boundless curiosity, keen instincts and extraordinary perception, Gumuchian constantly watches and listens to the world around her, filtering everything she observes through the prism of her rich imagination.

Her most recent project, the film “Home Entertainment,” which Gumuchian wrote, co-directed, produced and edited, reveals her uncanny ability to translate real life experiences into laugh out loud stories that resonate with audiences. Told in three parts, the film takes place in a house that is rented out to temporary residents each weekend by its owner, who has a voyeuristic streak.

“Every story in this anthology, believe it or not, was heavily inspired by true stories- whether they were based off of our personal experiences or ignited with the help of a fascinating person that, at some point, crossed our path,” explain Gumuchian and her co-director Katherine Eaton in a Director’s Statement.

From a couple’s floundering romantic getaway to an unconventional sex-driven memorial and more, “Home Entertainment” follows a different set of house guests each weekend, all watched by the homeowner’s group of rich oddball dinner party guests through livestream security camera footage.

Eaton says, “Working alongside Sonia, it is evident that she is nothing short of an amazing writer, whose vision and leadership stands out beyond the norm. Apart from her great work ethic, she has this incredible creative ability to tell great stories, which are not only outrageously funny but also grabs and tugs at the hearts and minds of her audience — essentially getting people to think. I believe these elements make her an incredible asset in any film environment.”

Sonia Gumuchian

Gumuchian’s talent for creating captivating stories based, at least in part, on truths from her own experiences, was apparent even in her earliest work, and it’s one of the reasons her writing is so magnetic. Her vivid imagination proved invaluable when, as a young girl, Gumuchian was rarely surrounded by kids her own age. Aside from her parents and grandparents, her closest companions were often books, movies and TV. By the time she was a teenager, Gumuchian had taken to creating her own stories. During her first year of high school she met a strange boy with a bizarre hobby, and he quickly became her first muse.

“His name was Liam, and he told me stories of how he loved spending hours stalking people he barely knew, gathering intel on their lives, and even going as far as breaking into his school’s office and reading up on everyone’s medical history. Suffice to say, Liam and his strange addiction fascinated me,” Gumuchian said. “So one day, I sat down and wrote an entire novel from his point of view. It was through that experience that I found how exciting it was to spend hours escaping into someone else’s point of view.”

It was soon abundantly clear that the young Gumuchian was a bona fide prodigy. As soon as the ink was dry in her novel about Liam she focused her full attention on training with LEAP, a prestigious academy for promising young playwrights in Vancouver. By the time she finished high school she had already distinguished herself as the writer of two one-act plays, both of which were chosen to be produced and performed by the community of professional stage actors and writers at the Vancouver Arts Club Theatre Company.

The young writer’s remarkable abilities and accomplishments earned Gumuchian acceptance into the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, which was once again ranked by the Hollywood Reporter as the #1 film school in the country — where she studied Writing for Film and Television. Gumuchian was quickly tapped by networks, producers and prominent figures spanning every corner of the industry to contribute her skills much earlier than most writers. Though still in school, she began taking her first steps as a writer by learning from the brightest executives who oversaw shows on FOX, HBO, ABC, and virtually every network and studio from across the industry’s proverbial alphabet soup, such as “Big Little Lies,” “Barry,” “Silicon Valley, “Game of Thrones,” “Family Guy,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Black-ish,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and more.

“After working at TV and cable networks, at studios, and on independent films, I fell in love with the process of bringing stories to life,” said Gumuchian, recalling her early experiences as a writer in the industry. “From script to screen, my exposure to the inner workings of content creation taught me a lot about the craft and… shaped the industry professional I am today.”

Years working in creative development at many of the biggest networks in the world gave Gumuchian a staggering wealth of experience. XS Media Director of Development Julie Zhang, who worked alongside Gumuchian at HBO, says, “Sonia brings a contagious energy to the table that hooks you from minute one. Apart from amazing taste and her eye for good stories, she is a go-getter, and very determined to achieve the goals she sets for herself. In this business it’s sometimes more important to be perseverant than talented, so it’s good that she is both.”

As she grew in experience, so too did she grow in her determination to write and share with the world a story entirely of her own. With her 2017 script for the ambitious fantasy-comedy series “Loyal Royals” — which she created as well as wrote — that Gumuchian revealed once again that she is an imaginative and engaging writer in the modern era of television. The story is at once a whimsical and refreshing comedy, a farcical fantasy set in a world of knights and dragons and magic.

“Set in a medieval town, the recently divorced King Robert is forced to move into his daughter’s castle across the lands and aims to regain the little dignity he has left,” she explained. “Princess Lilian and Robert, her conservative dad, are at odds when he disapproves of her engagement to a frog, pisses off a local population of culturally sensitive unicorns, and continues causing ruckus in her kingdom.”

 

Her original pilot for “Loyal Royals” was exceptionally well received by critics and festival judges. Spotlighting Gumuchian’s talent on an international level, “Loyal Royals” earned First Place at the Hollywood Hills Screenplay Competition, Fifth Place at the London Film Awards, the Los Angeles Film and Script Festival’s Honorable Mention Award, the Jack Oakie Doubletake Award for Exceptional Achievement in Comedy, as well the award for Best Unproduced Script at the London Filmmaker Festival. “Loyal Royals” was also chosen an Official Finalist of the World Series of Screenwriting, a Semi-Finalist at the Screenplay Festival, as well an Official Selection of the Atlanta Comedy Film Festival. The success of the script proved once again that she is on par with the best writers in the industry, and it opened the door for her next project, the film “Home Entertainment.”

Ambitious and original, “Home Entertainment,” which Gumuchian marks as her biggest project to-date, stars Brock Ciarlelli (ABC’s “The Middle”) and features a soundtrack composed by guitarist Benjamin Sturley, known for his work with Noah Cyrus and Grammy-winner Selena Gomez. Hilarious and thoroughly unexpected, the film recently had its Los Angeles screening and is preparing to begin its festival run.

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Actor Brock Ciarlelli & Gumuchian on set of “Home Entertainment” (Photo by Penelope Eaton)

Perhaps Gumuchian’s greatest asset as a storyteller is an uncanny talent for identifying and appreciating the huge reserves of untapped narrative potential hidden in the most unexpected, overlooked and eschewed recesses of everyday life. Borne of her innate perception and indefatigable imagination, an endless stream of stories pour from Gumuchian’s mind — their impact compounded exponentially by the years she’s devoted to honing her already razor-sharp writing skills. Curiosity, imagination and an unrivaled mastery over the written word enabled Sonia Gumuchian to deftly ascend the ranks of cinematic academia, and she’s fully on her way to becoming one of the most sought-after writers in this burgeoning new golden age for film and television.

Shaan Memon writes of the harms of bullying in new film

Article05-pdsdocu02Shaan Memon believes a film is made three times. At first, it is the writers; they are responsible for visualizing the tale in their mind and creating the characters, personalities and setting. Then comes the actual filming process, which is at the hands of the directors; they see the script and turn words into worlds that will transport audiences from their seats to another reality. Finally, the editors have the responsibility to turn shots into a story; they put everything together in a way that flatters the actors, compliments the set, and captivates audiences. As a true film lover, when Shaan was choosing which path to take in filmmaking, these roles all spoke to him, and he decided to pursue all three. As a celebrated writer, director, and editor, Shaan is showing not just his home country of India, but also the rest of the world, what he is capable of.

No matter the medium or genre, Shaan’s understanding of filmmaking is outstanding. Whether making a commercial, like the ones he recently did for Dickens Fair, a documentary, such as Purpose Driven Study for Dharoi Canal Command Area, or films like his new drama Fitting In and the acclaimed The Unreal, Shaan’s talents are on full display. He is a consummate professional, consistently impressing audiences and peers.

“Unlike so many, Shaan knows what is important to the production of film. He listens to advice, eagerly pursues the best, and delivers. He’s quite professional. He’s definitely a man of his word. When he says he will get the job done, he gets it done,” said Doug Campbell, Director.

Article02-bullied02Last year, Campbell consulted Shaan while writing his film Bullied, a story of a gay teenage boy who is being bullied by a gang of older boys in his high-school and living with his single mother. He decides to take revenge by killing the leader of the gang. On the verge of executing his plan, he remembers his mother’s words of wisdom.

“Many that have been bullied commit suicide or go through a lot of mental stress and it affects their health and career hugely. This story teaches not to take revenge. It takes a lot of courage and many times we have to face huge losses. This movie teaches the path to redemption with being responsible, smart and courageous. I think this story is very important in today’s world,” said Shaan.

Shaan was inspired to write a story about bullying after experiencing it first hand in his first semester of University in India. He was brutally bullied by senior students who were politically very powerful. Under such circumstances, he had no one to turn to, as everyone was intimidated by such influential people. He struggled a lot, and experienced anxiety from the events for three more years. However, he did not let the experience break him, and he decided to write this script to encourage a positive outlook for victims, showing the value of life beyond bullying.

“It was a great experience sharing each other’s experiences and learning from this. I found out that the problem of bullying is much larger than we think, and a lot of people need help with this. Helping people and making positive changes in someone’s life gives me satisfaction, and that is what I liked about working on this project,” he said.

While writing the script, Shaan researched online, in books, and travelled to many schools to talk to students who had been bullied about their experiences. He also talked to teachers and staff to see what the repercussions and protocol were in such situations. He found that an overwhelming number of students in the LGBT community experienced bullying every day, and therefore wanted his protagonist to be homosexual to show the reality of what these students face. He wanted their stories to be heard and displayed as authentically as possible, so he rewrote his script dozens of times while consulting with various filmmakers and victims until it was perfect.

Article02-Bullied03“I wanted to convey my thoughts and tell these stories to the viewers as truthfully as possible, as I had imagined them in my mind. I never start a project until and unless I want to convey something through that. This script is near to my heart as I had struggled a lot for several years. I had a lot to show and say about my experience. I did a lot of research, writing and rewriting to create a powerful script with a good message. And I hope once this film is made, it will help a lot of people,” said Shaan.

Currently, Bullied is still just a script, but Shaan is looking at making it into a film in the near future. Despite this, however, the film has already received attention from many film festivals based on the story. It was an Official Selection at Oaxaca International Film Festival, Mexico, where it was nominated for Best Emerging Writers Award and Best Overall Script, an Official Selection at the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival, Atlanta, where it was nominated for Best Short Script Award, and a Semi-Finalist at the Oxford Film Festival where it has been nominated for Best Short Screenplay.

“It is incredibly satisfying that the script alone is receiving so much attention, because this is not just a film; it is my small effort to spread positivity in this world. I hope that once it is made, the film gets selected to more and more festivals and a huge number of people watch it, because my main goal in making it is to spread awareness. The medium of filmmaking itself is very powerful and it has magic to move people’s heart. If used properly, it can create wonders, and that is exactly what I am trying to do here,” he concluded.

Renowned Writer Camilla Sauer Talks Top Projects

Camilla Sauer is one of Germany’s most successful head writers. Over the past 20 years of her career, she’s been accredited for her remarkable work on over a dozen different TV series, produced by some of the biggest German and European TV and Film production companies.

Getting her start as a creative writer at the young age of 19, Sauer proved early on that she was destined to spend her life creating and telling stories. Just three years after her first professional gig, she went from intern to full-time storyliner on Germany’s second highest rated TV series, Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love). With numerous awards won and over 4,5000 episodes aired, Verbotene Liebe circles around the lives of young men and women in Germany, their friends, and their families, and has become well known for its positive representation of LGBT characters and its presentation of controversial issues. The show is produced by UFA Serial Drama (Metropolis and The Blue Angel), one of Germany’s oldest and most distinguished entertainment brands

Sauer worked on Verbotene Liebe for two of its 20 seasons. From there, she climbed the ranks and earned what would be her first of many head writer titles for a season on the crime series Einsatz für Ellrich, of the award-winning production company, Constantin Entertainment.

“Two years later I started working for Alles Was Zählt, where I continued to work for three years,” Sauer said. “I was there from day one and was fortunate enough to be able to create this TV drama with some of the most talented writers. We were all so different, but each and every one of us was passionate about the show. We were encouraged to tell fresh, new, and compelling stories. We all put 100% of our effort into the stories – and it paid off.”

In February of 2008, while Sauer was the head writer on the show, Alles Was Zählt was awarded Blu Magazine’s Best National TV Format award for its portrayal of the relationship between two of its characters, Deniz and Roman. Additionally, Guido Reinhardt, Chief Creative Officer of UFA and producer of the groundbreaking series, provided Sauer with the opportunity to work as a creative producer together with the producer of the TV series Unter Uns, ultimately trusting her to relaunch this show and work with a different team of writers, with a different broadcast station in the process. “Camilla is truly a writer of extraordinary merit and ability,” Reinhardt recently commented of his professional colleague of over 10 years. “She possesses a talent that is rare, and it is her unique combination of talent and experience that has resulted in her becoming one of Germany’s most successful head writers.”

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Camilla Sauer

Having aired in 2006 to the present, Alles Was Zählt is one of the longest running TV dramas in Germany.

While it’s obvious that creative talent is a must-have when it comes to being a successful writer, one of Sauer’s greatest strengths that Reinhardt pointed out: life experience, along with empathy and a sense of structure, are also qualities that mustn’t be overlooked. Sauer is well versed when it comes to all of these, her expansive success as a head writer in the entertainment industry serving as proof. Expanding upon what she’s learned regarding the importance of these assets, Sauer explained, “It takes empathy to create characters and to be able to connect with how they feel and act. Not because you would do so, but because your character with his background, culture, and personality would do so. It takes some life experience because life gives you the best inspiration every day, everywhere. The best stories I’ve ever heard stem from real life experiences. Lastly, structure is needed to be able to take your story to the next level; To create a plot, a script, a scene. I know a lot of writers who are either very creative, but have issues with creating structure, and vice versa. If you have both – you are considered one of the lucky ones.”

In addition to head writer, Sauer has also worked diligently as a creative producer and story consultant on numerous distinguished projects broadcasted on some of the most established networks throughout Europe such as, Soko Familie, Herzflimmern, Unter Uns, the award winning Dahoam is Dahoam, and Lena – Liebe Meines Lebens, the latter which she first began working on a few years post her work on Alles Was Zählt.

“A story consultant in Germany is probably considered a creative producer, or a co-showrunner in the US. It’s someone who works closely with the producer and/or show runner. Together they create the story concept, characters, and the long running plots of the TV series,” Sauer said of her job title. “This particular work is not so much focused on the details like scenes or dialogue, but more so of the development of the whole concept of the TV series. The staff writers break our ideas down into episodes, scenes, and scripts.”

In 2010, Sauer was hired by the academy award winning production company, Wiedemann & Berg (The Lives of Others, WhoAmI, Welcome to Germany, and Dark), to create Lena – Liebe Meines Lebens with showrunner Günter Overman (Storm of Love, Verschollen, and Hinter Gittern – Der Frauenknast). The series title translates to Lena – Love of My Life in English, and is an adaptation of the Argentine series Don Juan y Su Bella Dama, created by Claudio Villarruel and Bernarda Llorente.

It was on Lena – Liebe meines Lebens where Sauer first worked with co-founder and CEO of Wiedemann & Berg, Quirin Berg. Berg, who thinks quite of the writer’s talents, shared, “I have had the pleasure of working with Camilla Sauer and can without a doubt certify that she is an exceptionally talented head writer, and furthermore, one of the best head writers in Germany. Camilla is extremely unique in many aspects. She is outstandingly creative, a very fast thinker, she has a wonderful ability to express her ideas clearly, create deep and three-dimensional characters, and eventually bring them to life. Additionally, she can immediately identify specific problems in a story and articulate a solution to them.”

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Camilla Sauer

Since 2012, Sauer has been staffed as the head writer for Germany’s hit series Schicksale – und plötzlich ist alles anders (Fate – and suddenly everything is different). Produced by Constantin Entertainment, the TV series has been running for eight years, consists of twelve seasons, and was recently picked up for another (1 year).

In Camilla’s words, the idea behind Schicksale – und plötzlich ist alles anders is that, “Things are not happening to you, they are happening for you. Even if it looks like something bad is happening to you, it just creates a new opportunity for us to learn, to grow, and to eventually make better decisions that lead to a better life. ‘Fate’ is about that one single moment, that ‘accident’ that might look like some random situation, that completely changes your life.”

While working on such a long running show for an extended period of time has its challenges, Sauer has demonstrated that she is an expert when it comes to contributing fresh and exciting stories to an ongoing series, and in doing so has played a pivotal role in the success of Schicksale – und plötzlich ist alles anders. Former CEO of Constantin Entertainment Christoph Knechtel raved of the head writer, “Camilla is truly a head writer of extraordinary merit and ability. I was fortunate enough to witness her extraordinary talent in screenwriting when she served as writer, head writer, and showrunner on numerous television series like K-11-Kommissare im Einsatz, Einsatz für Ellrich, Schicksale, In Gefahr, Im Namen Der Gerechtigkeit, and Soko Familie for huge networks such as Sat. 1, RTL, VOX, and more. Her demonstrated skill and unparalleled creativity on these and other projects have earned Camilla widespread recognition and international acclaim as one of German television’s leading writers.”

Presently, Sauer is in development with the German TV production companies, UFA Serial Drama, Constantin Entertainment, and Bastei Media, on a few pilots and television series while continuing to write for Schicksale – und plötzlich ist alles anders.

 

For more information on Camilla Sauer, please visit: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4646044/?ref_=nv_sr_1
 

Article Written By: Ashley Bower

SHREEKRISHNA DOESN’T MIND IF YOU CALL HIM “LONGSHOT”

(By Kelly James)

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One of the most important lessons in dealing with life’s fortune and misfortune is that we can choose to laugh or cry, most often at the absurdity of it all. A malevolent storm destroys a neighborhood with the exception of one house, one of two twins receives fame and fortune while the other suffers constant defeat and humiliation, even a well-placed gambling debt can make or destroy a person. Life is fascinating when one considers the minute variations that lead to (seeming) happiness or tragedy. Writer Shreekrishna Padhye has always been fascinated by these situations. His self-declared love of dark comedy has led him to create a number of disturbing and yet laughable productions. Rather than showing us the real hero that each of us has the potential to become, Padhye finds amusement in showing us all how potentially sinister we can become…or possibly how wary we should be that those around us might become. His stories of the baser aspects of human nature exhibit proof that he has made peace with the self-centered facet of the members of society.

The pervasive sentiment in a large number of the stories which Shreekrishna writes is not judgmental, although the viewer might impose their own sense of right and wrong onto what they witness in them. It is Padhye’s contention that human motivation and action is a delicate precipice on which circumstance and emotions teeter. He concedes that while many of us wear the visage of ethics, we all are suspect until placed in situations that test our resolve. Padhye explains, “Humans are generally peaceful until they’re not and I’m fascinated by how little it can take to push someone over that line. It’s not easy to acknowledge the darkness that resides in every one of us and I feel that through humor you can ask these tough questions without making the audience defensive. I think people are inherently selfish. That isn’t a pessimistic statement, because we are all motivated by the same desire to survive. This also doesn’t mean people are bad. Being altruistic or bad is the result of our selfish motivations and the situation.

Shreekrishna’s “Longshot” is more a character study than simply a story. In the film, a mailman drops a package off at a residence as a man and wife are in their middle of their weekly ritual of watching the lottery drawing. During the delivery, the wife squints at the TV and erupts in excitement as she sees that they have won the lottery. They break open a special bottle of champagne and offer a drink to the mailman. The postman recognizes opportunity and before the couple can call the Lottery Board with their winning numbers, the mailman procures a knife from the kitchen and stabs them to death. With the couple dead and no obstacle between him and the fortune, the mailman picks up the ticket. It’s at this point that he notices the numbers all match…with the exception of one. He discovers the wife’s reading glasses…which were unused when she saw the winning numbers, he killed for nothing.

What is so interesting and such an important part of Padhye’s writing is that he lays some of the blame (thought not evenly) on both victim and perpetrator. In the film, the mailman tries to change what he feels is his miserable existence by stealing the lottery ticket and ends up killing the couple. The husband invites the mailman in to celebrate because sharing his happiness amplifies it. Both sides of this story are motivated by selfish reasons. The intersection that both sides of this equation share is greed. One may be more socially acceptable but the outcome for all involved parties is destruction. Shreekrishna reveals that he has always been suspicious of lotteries because they seem to amplify greed and selfishness, thereby creating a perfect setting for him to construct a tale of humanity’s shortcomings.

The plot itself is fairly simple, but this isn’t the source of what makes so many filmmakers and audience members fans of Padhye’s writing. The sense of knowing and relatability that he brings to his characters is palpable. They seem familiar in a way that is sometimes too close for comfort. The Mailman feels that life has not given him the proper opportunities and he must correct it through his own actions. The wife focuses her energy on this “get rich quick with luck” idea that she feels will ultimately allow her to have the things she desires. The husband feels that he serves at the behest of his wife and under the surface may resent this. He “goes along to get along.” It’s the source of the characters and their true motivations that make the story work. Padhye had discussions with each of the actors playing these three main roles about what their characters felt and truly thought versus what they exhibited on the surface. He relates, “One of the pitfalls a writer needs to avoid is molding the characters to fit a particular story. This will make them seem unrealistic, instead the better approach is to create conflicting characters in a tense situation and let them tell you how a something would play out.

In this case the comedy arises not necessarily from the quirky characters but from the situation that they find themselves in. It’s naturally funny to see people fall and make a fool of themselves. The mistakes the husband and wife make in this film are relatively benign (being overly friendly with their mailman) but because the circumstance is so unusual and there’s a lot at stake, this mistake ends up costing them their lives. The mailman’s character is funny and relatable because he is a rookie… at crime. We can laugh at his failure without him having to act in an exaggerated manner.”

Audiences were thrilled by the film but even more exuberant were the actors of “Longshot” who were given the chance to play such layered characters. Asdis Thorlaksdotti, the Icelandic actress who played the wife in the film describes, “Great writing like the kind Shreekrishna creates gives an actor the opportunity to think and discover. There are a number of ways to communicate this character and discussing them with him was an exercise in creativity…which doesn’t always happen for actors. He brilliantly explored the sinister impulses that lurk just beneath the surface of normal everyday life, and ended up creating something truly unique and refreshing. It was an immense pleasure to find the humor, the malevolent situations, and actions in this film.”

FLIPPING THE SCRIPT WITH ROBERTO SAIEH

Honesty is one of the scariest things in our lives. At the same time, there can be no growth without it. One cannot move forward until acceptance of reality has occurred. This is both the core of the story of the film Asia A as well as the reason that director Andrew Reid worked with screenwriter Roberto Saieh on the project. Saieh has a talent for delivering a realistic perspective rather than the typical sanguine escapism which much of the industry is known for. While there is a time and place for both, the blunt actuality of Asia A (the title is derived from the American Spinal Injury Association classification of “A” for a person with no motor or sensory function preserved in the sacral segments S4-S5) causes it to stand out. Reid shares a strong connection to the storyline of the main character Marquise which made the film very personal for him. This makes it even more impressive that the director credits Roberto with flipping the story upside down in their initial meeting, a sure sign to him that this was the perfect screenwriter to help him create the intensity and realism that he demanded.

Asia A is the story of Marquise (played by London Brown of HBO’s “Ballers”), an athlete who has recently suffered a spinal cord injury which has changed his life dramatically. Without knowing whether this will be a lifelong change or a temporary one, Marquise is forced to deal with the uncertainty of his future and what he thinks it will look like. While the core of the idea may not be completely unique, the way in which the story is told is not the norm. This is not a film about events but rather about the characters and how their relationships are affected. The main character’s interaction with his (recent ex) girlfriend [Camilla] and his older hospital roommate [Noah, played by Emmy winner Pruitt Taylor Vince] present him with the choices of letting the actions of others determine his future or doing so for himself, during a very vulnerable and painful part of his life. Reid explains why he pursued Saieh to write the script stating, “Roberto’s creativity is what makes him unique from other writers. His goal is to create truly authentic stories that resonate with audiences. Storytelling is art, entertainment, and emotion all wrapped into one package and Roberto is a true storyteller. What ensures his success is his creativity and work ethic, which are unparalleled. Talent will get you into the room but it’s hard work that keeps you there.”

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An extremely benevolent impact of Roberto’s work in the eyes of the film’s director is that he flipped many of the key relationships in the film and by doing so changed the emotional kaleidoscope of it. A few expertly made adjustments completely transformed the way that the audience and even Reid was witnessing the characters and events. While most writers would fixate on what happened to Marquise, this writer focused on his response to them and those around him. Saieh came to this perspective by an unexpected association as he tells, “It occurred to me that Marquise, the main character, had to grieve the life he once had in order to accept the one before him. Using that as a starting point, I loosely modeled his journey based on the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, & Acceptance; taking each as inspiration. It’s impossible for me to know what it feels like to be an Asia A patient but I have experienced different kinds of loss in my life. It is that sympathetic emotion that I overlaid onto the story and used to shape Marquise’s journey. I firmly believe that no matter what you’re writing about, as long as the emotional honesty is intact it will ring true.”

Although the injury happened directly to Marquise, the experience affects all of those around him and particularly those closest to him. In the original script, Noah is the hospital roommate of Marquise and becomes a protector to him. Wanting to present something with an inverse correlation to the norm, Roberto wrote Noah as crass and irreverent with an almost forced cheerfulness. Noah’s deceased wife pitied him and he used this as a crutch to combat the depression and anger of his situation. A diabetic, Noah is eating himself towards death and has already endured two leg amputations. Rather than a wise mentor, Noah becomes a textbook example of who Marquise does not want to become. Saieh describes, “To me, characterizing Noah this way seemed like a truer version of how people are lacking self-awareness and are self-victimizing while at the same time offering a harder-hitting narrative. I didn’t want to shy away from exploring the darker side of the themes. This isn’t the story of someone who successfully went through a similar experience and is now mentoring someone else through it. It’s the story of someone [Noah] who couldn’t do what life is asking of Marquise now.”

Further driving this point and doing so painfully for the film’s protagonist is the fact that his ex-girlfriend Camilla pursues what she believes to be the right thing in reuniting with Marquise. While the comfort of her support could be a band aid, Marquise is constantly confronted with the choices Noah has made and whether or not to face his difficulties alone but with honesty.

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Roberto began his writing career with Indie Dramas and desires to take this indie sensibility and attention to “character” that defined this early work to summer blockbusters and genre films. His fascination with romantic dramas comes from his belief that some of the worst wounds you can receive can be self-inflicted, which can seem even worse when they’re the right choice. This is perfectly stated in Asia A when Marquise rebukes Camilla’s offer in a self-aware understanding that her feelings resemble pity more than love. It’s a concept Roberto feels presents itself often in our lives. He remarks, “It’s a matter of digging into personal experience and those situations where you know a relationship is over but you also know it’s going to be up to you to end it because the other person, for whatever reason, isn’t willing to step up. Having the strength to self-inflict a necessary wound because it’s the only way to save yourself seems to be a recurring theme in some of my work; letting someone go, someone that you love to death, because they’re not right for you or because you know they will be your downfall. It wasn’t that much different writing Marquise in this situation, regardless of his status as a spinal cord injury patient.”

GORMAN LEE: THE DARK SIDE OF “I REALLY LIKE YOU”

A working relationship can be like a romantic relationship. Set aside the sexual politics and you are focused on whether or not your interaction with someone else makes you a happier and better person. It can also end you. Thankfully, the professional relationship between writers Jason Karman and Gorrman Lee (who also served as story editor) on the film “I Really Like You” was much more benevolent than the story’s two main characters Michael (played by Steve Bradley) and Brandt (Garrett Black). Michael’s pursuit of Brandt has fatal consequences, while Karman’s pursuit of Lee as a writing partner gave new life to this tale. The 2014 drama/thriller is one of the most frightening of the genre because of its believability. The darkness in each person has the potential to be exorcized or cultivated, and in the action of “I Really Like You” the two writers collaborated to display the fragility of that decision in the characters. Using a commonplace venue but presenting circumstances that become more twisted and the story unfolds, Lee and Karman peel back layer after deceptive layer until a surprise ending shouts to the audience that the only thing they can rely on is that they don’t know where the story will lead.

Jason Karman is a Vancouver-based screenwriter and director whose short films have screened at festivals in Brazil, Hong Kong, Australia, across Europe, United States and Canada. He has a very specific point of view, making films from both an LGBT voice as well as an Asian voice. Jason was already aware of Gorrman’s notoriety as a writer in Canada when the two met at an event put on by the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters in Vancouver. With an idea for a new film already brewing in his thoughts Karman states, “Having worked with Gorrman as a story editor on a previous film, I jumped at the opportunity to work with him again to develop the story of ‘I Really Like You’. His sharp insights, thoughtful notes, and natural instinct for story and structure allowed us to hone in on the themes and character arcs that I wanted to explore. The film would not have been the success that it was without having Gorrman hammering on the story with me.” Although Jason would see the film through its production and release, Gorrman’s hectic TV schedule would only allow his involvement in the writing process.

As with most positive relationships, our counterparts challenge us to become better, which is precisely why Karman persuaded Lee to join him in writing this script. He did not disappoint. Lee recalls, “I questioned everything about the scripts. I was beginning to fear that Jason thought I hated the project! It was a kind of tough love. I looked at everything with my own expertise and would tell him what wasn’t working, offered new ideas, a new structure, and told him where he should be focusing. It’s true with writers as with many professionals in production, you cannot exist without honesty. We had to be brutally up front with each other in order to create an exceptional script…and I feel that is exactly what we got. The plot of the film and the characters are very unique and fresh. Nothing is ever completely new in a film but your presentation of it and the motivations of the characters can be, and ours definitely were in this story. I’m very proud of it.”

“I Really Like You” follows Michael, a loveless and lonely man who runs a diner that’s known as a casual hook-up spot. As he begins closing up for the night, Michael finds himself drawn to a late customer, the handsome and innocent looking Brandt. There’s just something about Brandt that reminds Michael of a past love. As Michael and Brandt bond over food, Michael thinks back to how his past love, Colby, rejected him, and the outcome of that relationship. After Michael shows Brandt his shoe collection (in truth, a collection of shoes he’s taken from his past loves) they have a casual tryst in the bathroom. When Michael asks to see Brandt again and is rejected, all of his loneliness and anger begins to resurface. What happens next is unexpected and will require you to view the movie to find out.

The story depicted in the film is far from what was the original idea of the story, but the dark romantic tone was the essence which both writers were committed to retain. With the proper intent and drive written into a character, a writer can explore almost anything. Gorrman and Jason are certainly not violent people at all but concede that they have both experienced the pain that comes with unrequited love. This is what allowed them to access and explore the motivations and following actions of the characters in this story. For “I Really Like You” it all came down to identifying what Michael wanted, what hurt him, and how he wanted to fix that hurt; his drive and his intention. Once that was nailed down in an authentic way, it was safe for the writers to explore the darker and more violent impulses that drove him. If the writing is exceptional and done correctly, this should make it easier for an actor to channel the authenticity as well without having to go to a method acting place (a potentially dangerous and sometimes unreliable prospect for everyone).

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“I Really Like You” received tremendous accolades, but was lauded nowhere more than at numerous festivals which understood and reflected an aspect intrinsic to the storyline including: Boston LGBT Film Festival, Shanghai Pride Film Festival, Rio Festival Gay de Cinema, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Inside/Out Toronto Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, as well as many others. It’s worth mentioning that the film is at heart a very gripping action/drama. While Gorrman finds himself most comfortable with Science Fiction, he is an immense fan of the attributes of the action/thriller and the opportunities it affords a writer like himself. He notes, “The action/drama genre is certainly one of my favorites. There’s a latitude and broadness that the genre affords. ‘I Really Like You’ is rather character driven but still has the mystery and excitement of a more action-oriented thriller. What drew me to it, and what I bring to it as well, is the need to externalize the drama. That’s what good action/drama/thrillers should do: come up with a complex inner struggle and have interesting and compelling ways to externalize those conflicts. “I Really Like You” is all of these things and embodies the concept of “edge of your seat” viewing…all created courtesy of Gorrman Lee and Jason Karman’s clever writing.