INTERVIEW WITH SCREENWRITER ROSHNI “RUSH” BHATIA

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

It was a not so successful attempt at Dark Comedy – a 5 minute film about a crazy, obsessed girlfriend who decides to take revenge on her boyfriend by performing black magic and practicing voodoo… It doesn’t work.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories inspired your creative passion?

Growing up in Mumbai, I found myself obsessed with horror and psychological – thrillers. Movies like Requiem for a Dream, The Godfather, Aliens, etc., and books like The Shining by Stephen King heavily influenced my work. But it is the short stories of Richard Matheson that truly left me in awe. Seeing something so short and pithy adapted into a big screen movie led me to believe the endless possibilities for my passion of writing.

  • For an unknown writer, what is the best way to get their screenplay seen?

Other than submitting screenplays to competitions and impromptu opportunities with no guarantee of my work to be seen, the best way I found was through producing my own screenplays. Although pleasing visuals are important, if you have a solid story to tell, go out and tell it. I began directing what I wrote because I realized that to make either of those lines a lifelong career, there won’t be anybody waiting for me with a big break. Therefore, I’d say go out, shoot a film and tell your story your way.

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

There have been a few characters that were derived from my own experiences while growing up, but for the most part, it was my mother’s strength, perseverance and kindness that played a strong influence.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

I look for people I can find interesting and insert challenges that may be interesting enough to watch them solve. This could be a friend, a colleague or a person I saw while crossing the street. Usually, I find an interesting detail about someone and use that fragment to create a brand new character. From there on it’s all about adding layers and asking questions.

  • Do you write bios before you start writing?

In terms of bios for the film itself, I make it a point to at least have a log-line written. Before having a treatment or a first draft, I try my best to describe the character and the conflict through that one sentence. It’s almost a relief factor when you’re able to do that because that enables you to visualize your entire film before penning down the first word on that screenwriting software. From there on, if I feel the need to write a short bio for the film or fill in incomplete details about a scene or character I’ve been thinking about, I go for it. In most cases, once I have a solid outline, I start writing.

  • How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?

At first, between not at all to may be a little. My primary goal while writing my first draft is to nail down every beat and make sure to tell the story without looking at the page numbers and getting worried, haha! Truth is, once you begin writing the first draft you learn more about your characters as you go. When you have multiple characters, it can get harder as you’re trying to find their voice, but it is through this process where you start seeing the world from their point of view and add or change details if required.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

Structure helps tell a story. May it be plot or character based, in a film, having a structure means that you’re allowing your audience to be invested and follow your character’s story, their world, their ups and downs, etc. A basic structure is your beginning, middle and end. That being said, there are various structures and it all depends on how you want to tell your story.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

Yes. Having an outline has always been a pillar for me to lean on when I’m lost. It’s my blueprint that shows me the direction I need to go in with for my story. In my experience, this process has taken me the longest. It means going through multiple versions until you’re somewhat happy with it. To me this is the hardest and most rewarding part of the process.

  • What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

I think having a strong conflict becomes a stepping stone to building a great character upon. It’ll then help you navigate through their strengths, their weaknesses, etc. For example, if there are mistakes they’ve made that led up to this conflict, it must be important to dive into their life experiences, upbringing, etc., to find out what forced them to make that mistake. For a character, especially a protagonist, it’s all about making choices.