How Writer Development Manager Ajit Samra Works With Contest Winners & Finalists

By: Laura Huie

 

 

Since 2023, Ajit Samra has led Shore Scripts’ Writer Development Program, working closely with our contest winners and finalists to help prepare them and their scripts before connecting them to our exclusive industry roster of 300+ agents, managers, producers, and directors. Ajit is a Creative Executive and Talent Development Executive who has held positions at HBO and PBS. 

 

We talked with Ajit to learn more about his approach and process of collaborating with writers in order to help develop their scripts and prepare to take them out to the industry.

 


 

Can you walk us through your approach to working with writers to develop their scripts? How do you typically initiate the collaboration and what key steps do you follow throughout the development process?

 

When working with a writer, I always start with their goal in mind. We will discuss whether this is a script they would like to see produced or to use as a sample. I will get an understanding of their current portfolio and how they would like to present themselves as a writer.

 

I always take a full read of the writer’s script and write down notes as I keep in mind the story elements, including structure, grammar, character development, premise, story, plot, voice/point of view, and marketability of the story in general.

 


From there, a genuine and honest conversation is built and generally revolves around why certain choices were made and whether some other choices might enhance the script.

 

“My goal is to have the writer have a project that reflects their unique sensibility as well have a story that is entertaining.”

 

In your experience, what are some common challenges you encounter when working with writers on script development, and how do you address them?

 

A common challenge that I usually face is when a writer hasn’t figured out the goal of their character or the story they are trying to tell. Other challenges can be the main character ending up being a passive character, or perhaps the stakes are not high enough for the character to act upon or incite conflict/change.



Another area of improvement I often see is the writer having not put time into figuring out the internal and external goals of the main character or building out the world in which the character lives.

To address these challenges I always take the writer back to the bare bones of what they want to convey. What journey do you want the reader/viewer to go on with your main character? What does the character need/want? What is the beginning, middle, and end of this story? How would this character act once they are presented with this conflict?

 

“To navigate and achieve a successful outcome, I’m a huge proponent of taking the writer back to step one and figuring out the bare necessities we need to know about this story and character then build on top of that.”

 

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How do you balance providing constructive feedback to writers while also respecting their artistic vision and creative autonomy?

 

I believe that writers have a vision for what they imagine their story to be and it is up to them to translate it into words for the reader to picture. When I give feedback, it is always to make sure their intention is clear. When it comes down to it, a story entails a beginning, middle, and end.

 

An audience wants to tune in because of a character we like or hate, or a world that is so interesting that it sucks us in. When it comes to artistic vision and creative autonomy, as long as a writer can translate their story into words and follow a structure/journey, then their stylistic or artistic vision shouldn’t overshadow the story.

 

“As someone who constantly works with writers, I never shy away from asking questions. If I do not understand a writer’s choice I always ask the reason for it and listen. From there we figure out if it is conducive to the story as a whole.”

 

Examples of How Ajit Collaborates With Writers

 

As a means of helping writers get a clearer picture of how Ajit collaborates with writers, we’re sharing a few brief clips of his development sessions.

 

Ajit talks about the importance of creating a portfolio with 2023 Feature Finalist Danny Wascou, writer of TONIGHT TONIGHT which tells the story of a tight-knit group of gay teens in the 1990s, who must band together to earn $750 in one night or risk one of them being outed to their conservative family. Forced to race against the clock in a series of high-stakes and outlandish schemes, they must raise the cash before the sun comes up.

 

 

Ajit discusses next steps with 2023 Feature Finalist Madi Stine. Madi placed with OUT OF WATER which tells the story of an aspiring mermaid performer who fights to join a group of famous mermaid influencers. But her obsession starts unraveling her life, forcing her to decide what her dreams are worth.

 

 

Ajit and 2023 Feature Finalist Timothy Kontje discuss the origins of ZERO LINE which tells the story of a hard-charging journalist who teams up with a cynical soldier of fortune and a timid archaeologist, as her investigation of ISIS antiquities trafficking takes her to the front lines of combat. Inspired by true events.

 

 


 

Learn More

 

Read more about Ajit and our Writer Development Program in our previous article. Interested in reading some of the Success Stories from our Writer Development Program? Click here!

 


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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