Making It As A Screenwriter | Jasmine Aziz & Dan McNeil

By: Laura Huie

 

Jasmine Aziz and Dan McNeil are a husband-and-wife writing team based in Ottawa. They recently won our 2023 Half-Hour Television Pilot Grand Prize with their script HERE SHE COMES. The script tells the story of an introverted South Asian woman having the worst sex of her life and becomes an adult toy seller much to the chagrin of her eccentric but traditional Indian family.

 

Keep reading to learn more about Jasmine and Dan’s screenwriting journey, along with what they’ve been up to so far since winning the contest.

 

 

The Beginning

 

As Jasmine reflected on her journey into the world of writing, she recounted how it all began with a simple need for catharsis. “I started writing because it’s always my go-to place for catharsis,” she shared with a chuckle, “and it’s cheaper than therapy.”

 

Her writing journey took a significant turn after a particularly tough breakup. “I’d written a lot before then, but this breakup really motivated me to start writing,” she explained. “So, I started penning a huge novel, which was about 1400 pages long. So I definitely got my feelings out.”

 

After much refinement and editing, the novel was eventually published, marking a significant milestone in Jasmine’s writing career. The success of her novel opened doors to scriptwriting when she sold the option for the book.

 

As for Dan, his creative journey revolved around songwriting with his cousin. However, a sudden shift occurred which led to Dan coming up with an idea for his novel. With this story lingering in his mind for over a decade, Dan finally took the plunge into writing his first book, The Judas Apocalypse.

 

 

On Writing Together

 

The storytelling journey of the writing team took an unexpected turn when Jasmine encountered setbacks with the adaptation of “Sex and Samosas.” Undeterred by the challenge and wanting to execute their own collective vision, they decided to delve into screenwriting, starting with a class.

 

It was during this screenwriting class that they stumbled upon a source of inspiration that would shape their storytelling approach. “And that’s when it was actually in that class that we learned about ‘Breaking Bad.’ If you can believe it for the first time, we have an amazing teacher and he mentioned ‘Breaking Bad’ and I was like, Oh, what’s that show? Let’s watch it.”

 

Their immersion in the acclaimed series sparked a creative revelation. “That’s when it occurred to me. I’m like, you know what? My life story shouldn’t be a second book. It should be a TV show. And ‘Here She Comes’ was born from that.”

 

Their writing process involves early mornings spent editing together, followed by periods of reflection and refinement. “So we get up at four o’clock in the morning and we spend an hour and a half editing whatever we’re working on together and then percolate before coming back to it whenever we have free time,” they said.

 

 

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Finding Shore Scripts

 

Dan discussed how he meticulously researched the top contests to maximize their chances, driven by a desire to make the most of their screenwriting class. Recalling past successes in contests, particularly in songwriting, he suggested entering their screenplay into competitions.

 

“You know, you find sites and they list the top five, but I noticed that there was a number of contests that were in all of the top five. And that’s where Shore was. So that’s why we decided to give it a shot.”

 

 

How Shore Has Helped Their Progress

 

Since winning last year’s contest, they’ve been amazed by how much support the Shore team has shown. Plus, they’ve received guidance from Sean Charles, the Development & Production Manager at AMC Network, and Ajit Samra, our Writer Development Manager. The team has also created a short animated proof-of-concept for HERE SHE COMES, along with current work on a series bible and pitch deck.

 

 

Advice for Writers Looking to Enter Contests

 

They offered valuable advice for emerging writers, emphasizing the importance of seeking feedback before submitting work. Reflecting on personal experiences, they stressed the need for objectivity in evaluating one’s writing. “Because you think what you’re writing is absolute gold, but then you take a step back and all of a sudden it’s like, oh my god, that’s trash,” they explained.

 

Learning from past mistakes, they emphasized the significance of refining drafts to their utmost potential before submission. ” You have to have the absolute best version, the best draft. And then that’s when we submit. And because we’ve learned our lesson the hard way, it was an expensive lesson to learn when you’re not really ready,” they reflected.

 


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Laura Huie is a writer and editor involved in comedy-drama screenwriting, fiction editing, and full-time marketing copy. Laura is also a freelance article writer for Shore Scripts and has worked with Script Pipeline on their live Symposium series. She is one-half of the screenwriting duo, Bloom & Huie. Together, they have written multiple television series as well as a feature-length film. Their mission is to write honest and witty female stories wrapped up in unbelievable worlds.

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