Tag Archives: Writing

Varunn Pandya talks finding the right dream and pursuing it

XYZ_Headshot
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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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.

Ashley Bruzas is Veronika Stealz, Internet Sensation

Over the last decade, with the rise in presence and popularity of social media platforms, critics have begun to suggest that different means of online technology are working to isolate and hinder human beings on a social level. There has become a large push amongst parents to encourage their children to disconnect from their technological devices in order to properly connect with each other. What these critics often fail to take into consideration, however, is the emergence of online influencers who are taking the digital world by storm, using various online mediums to link together a generation of social media users. They create interest-based communities, and effectively unite the individuals within them. Take Ashley Bruzas, for instance. The Canadian Digital Writer and Content Producer uses the internet to bring together like-minded individuals and interact with them in such a way that transcends social constraints like distance, cultural differences, time zones, and more. Her modern-day adaptation of journalism allows her to share news in a widespread fashion, reaching audiences on a large scale and engaging with followers in an authentic way.

“What I enjoy most about working as a digital writer and content producer is my ability to interact with people. I am a storyteller and through this passion I am able to interact with interesting people, situations and events who are the basis of what I do. I have worked with some of the world’s most well-known and reputable brands and companies as well as some extremely interesting and respected individuals who have shaped me into the person I am today,” tells Bruzas.

Online, followers know her as Veronika Stealz, but in reality, Bruzas is an enthusiastic, talented Digital Writer and Content Producer with an online following that has amassed upward of 85,000 followers to date. Given that her Instagram page had gained a substantial following in the early days of social media use, expanding her personal brand and creating a blog felt like a natural next step in her budding career. Now, using that very blog, WhoIsVeronika.com, Bruzas shares information about different projects she works on, brands that she collaborates with, details about her personal life, captivating images, compelling articles, and much more. The idea for her blog developed in conjunction with the rising popularity of her online alias and when she realized that her followers and other aspiring bloggers could benefit from an in-depth, behind the scenes look at her lifestyle. As a result, she now expertly spearheads an extensive network of fellow bloggers, local influencers, content producers, and writers who engage with her content on a regular basis and communicate with each other accordingly.

As her online influence and popularity rose on social media, Bruzas started to receive requests from a variety of large-scale companies who felt that she was in touch with their target demographic and could help enhance their online exposure. Her expansive network of followers makes her a valuable asset to any company’s marketing strategy and by attending an event or featuring a campaign on her blog, Bruzas helps to adequately grow a company’s online presence and customer base. Since she began incorporating marketing collaborations into her blog, Bruzas has worked with many Canadian brands such as Peace Collective, Converse, Nike, Adidas, Moose Knuckles, and more. Beyond her reach at home, Bruzas has helped enhance the consumer market for international brands like Triangle and Bali Body.

“I have a large network of followers that I grew in Toronto, so attending an event or working on a campaign was valuable for Veronika Stealz to be associated with. I eventually created a media kit that I would pitch to brands, which included some of my past work, relationships, rates, statistics, etc. I would never work with a brand or agency that I do not support and I want my content to be unique and organic in order to keep my follower demographic interested and honest.” she notes

In addition to clothing and apparel companies, however, Bruzas also uses her background in journalism and passion for writing to work with creative agencies like Sweet Dreams Magazine. Marketing gurus within the companies and creative agencies that Bruzas works with are fortunate to foster working relationships with digital writers and content producers like herself as it allows them to appear before an audience they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach. Typically, they will contact Bruzas and request that she feature their products or services on her social media platforms. The exchange allows her to profit from her business ventures and in turn, allows them to engage with her network of followers. Along the way, she establishes strong business relationships and connections, such as the one she formed with PIQUE, a production studio and creative platform that preserves Canada’s young creative community. When working with PIQUE, founder Imad Elsheikh realized just how valuable Bruzas can be as a brand ambassador and digital writer.

WhoIsVeronika.com, and Ashley’s social alias, Veronika Stealz, have become a prominent source of knowledge within the world of digital writing in Toronto and she is often involved in producing original content for many of Canada’s fast-growing companies. Working with her is so wonderful not only because she is a social and articulate individual, but because she shows every sign of being able to take on any challenge thrown her way. From working with big name apparel companies, to providing popular event coverage in a way that speaks to a wide audience, she provides exceptional skills in digital writing and content production. Ashley has an impressive work ethic and her ability to create content from start to finish makes her an extremely valuable asset to the creative community in Canada and around the world,” remarks Elsheikh.

For Bruzas, the true joy of being a blogger sets in when she gets to work closely with and appear alongside creative minds like hers. Joining in and standing out within a community that creates and promotes consistently interesting, unique content reminds her that she is maximizing her potential as a writer and blogger. She is proving herself to be a force to be reckoned with in the online world and her sharp work ethic places her amongst some of the top Canadian business women of her generation. If you’re curious to see what this talented social media mogul and blogger has to offer, click here to find out: WhoIsVeronika.com.

 

Photo by Tyler Lord

Writer Victor Osorio took readers around the world with comic strip ‘Alienados’

When Victor Osorio was seven years old, he would sneak out of his room at night to watch television. When his parents caught him, they did not punish him, but rather made a deal: if he wanted to stay up at night, he had to read. Somehow, what seemed so awful at the time ended up becoming the guiding force in Osorio’s life, because he became an avid reader, which prompted his interest in writing. Soon after this, he began writing short stories and poems, and since that time, writing and creating stories has been his biggest passion.

Osorio is now an internationally celebrated writer. Originally from Barcelona, Spain, he rose to the top of his industry in his country quickly, largely due to his widely successful children’s book Cosas Que Nadie Sabe, published in both Spanish and Catalan, as well as German. He also wrote an episode for the award-winning web series Hollywood, and currently helps the company Origo Media writing short commercials and commercial videos. He is extremely versatile, and has even written software manuals for Ceinsa. His success truly began, however, when he began writing for the comic Alienados in the popular magazine Dibus!.

“Everyone at Norma Editorial, the publishing house behind Dibus! located in Barcelona, was very happy with my work. The magazine’s editors told me that they were very impressed with my skills and talent, especially since I was in my early twenties back then. and I’m so happy that I took the opportunity and did such a good job with it. I’ve always loved comic-books and when the people at Norma Editorial offered me the chance to write this comic strip for a comic-focused children’s magazine, I immediately jumped on it,” said Osorio.

The iconic comic strip tells the story of three funny and tiny aliens who crash-land on Earth and have to explore the planet with no knowledge whatsoever of the culture and traditions. In every issue, the aliens travel to a different part of the world and have comical adventures based on the fish-out-of-water cliché. The strip also teaches curiosities and traditions of the country visited to the children reading the magazine.

“Working on this was awesome. I always loved comic-books so being able to write a two-page comic strip for a famous and renowned national magazine was like a dream come true,” said Osorio.

Prior to working on Alienados, Osorio greatly impressed those at Norma while writing for their publisher’s blog. The Dibus! magazine editors quickly took note of what an exceptional writer he was, and invited him to become part of the comic. It wasn’t long afterwards when readers also began to become impressed with the writer’s talents.

“Victor is a very talented and flexible writer, able to produce a comedic comic for kids while also instilling a love for learning and travelling. He has a very clear writing style and a good eye for interesting and appealing subjects. His style is very unique and he is able to produce all sorts of content,” said Juan Avella, a fellow writer who enjoyed Osorio’s work on Alienados.

With each new issue, Osorio would begin by researching the region or country the magazine editors said the aliens were going to visit that month. During this time, he would figure out what the best thing to focus on would be to capture readers’ attention. Whether it was food, tourist attractions, famous people or locations, he always picked subjects that were not common knowledge, allowing for a more entertaining read.

“I remember using the Gauchos for the Patagonia because I could use it for a joke, and because it’s a fairly unknown, but very peculiar culture,” Osorio described.

Despite having no previous experience in writing comic strips, Osorio took the opportunity and soared. Working with just a two-page strip, he had to be very concise and effective, skills that he carries with him on every project, as they make the best style of writing.

He also was given the opportunity to work on the page design when creating the panels for the comic, which allowed him to see how his writing and the illustrator’s drawings worked seamlessly together.

“You need to take into account how the human eye reads a page and the shapes and colors that it feels attract to, the motion of the bodies in the page, fonts, and more. Learning to do all that while actually writing something that will be printed was difficult but very rewarding,” said Osorio.

Although this was Osorio’s first foray into comic-book writing, he loved every minute of the experience. He was given complete creative freedom, and was never told to make large changes, as the editors enjoyed his work so much.

“At the time, I didn’t value it as much as I do now, but doing that comic strip I got the opportunity to be entertaining and offer some knowledge at the same time for the first time in my career. The collaboration with illustrator Dani Cruz was also amazing. He would translate my words into pictures with great accuracy and he offered valuable advice and tips to solve some of the narrative challenges that I faced,” he described.

Without Osorio, the Alienados strip would not have seen the success that it did during his time at Dibus! and the experience provided the perfect learning experience for writing for children. We all know this is now something Osorio more than excels at, and we can definitely understand why.