screenwriter to watch
Stuti Malhotra was born in Bhopal, India and immigrated to America at the age of five. Stuti attended the NYU Stern School of Business and graduated with a double major in Finance and International Business. Before she left it all to pursue her dream of screenwriting, she was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, a venture capitalist, and a hedge fund investor. Her script Worth won the 2018 Austin Film Festival best Drama Teleplay Pilot Award and was a finalist in the 2018 Page Awards. Stuti has straddled two different cultures, two different religions, and two sides of the economic spectrum. Her writing reflects that experience. She writes about people seeking their place in the world, ambitious women, the dichotomies of wealth and privilege in America, the indignities of poverty, and about complicated families. Stuti is repped by Bellevue Management and Paradigm Talent Agency.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I wrote two YA novels and got them in front of publishers in NY, who thought their plotting needed to be tightened. They suggested I take some TV writing classes to help with that. I took those classes and everything seemed to click. Things went full speed ahead from there – I wrote a pilot that got some attention on The Black List and signed with a great manager and agent and then won the Austin Film Festival. And then I sold my apartment in NYC and moved to LA, and now I’m here, finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do!
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
That experience is the backbone of writing. Before I became a screenwriter, I spent a decade in a totally different industry and thought I was at a disadvantage for it. What I’ve realized is that those years were not wasted – they are, in fact, the reason I have something to say now. I sometimes feel like it took me forever to find my way to screenwriting, but everything that came before is in fact what helped get me here.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
I wrote a pilot loosely based on my life. It was deeply personal and so difficult to write because it left me totally exposed. I’d never really let myself be vulnerable in that way, but I knew that if I was going to write something true and honest, I’d have to mine my own pain and experiences to do it.
What was a major turning point in your career?
When The Blacklist featured my script and sent it out to their industry list – I got my manager from it, and then everything else started really accelerating. And of course winning the TV drama category at The Austin Film Festival!
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a pilot about two very different women who decide to start their own adult entertainment company – for women.
What are some of your favorite movies?
I, Tonya, Mean Girls, Slumdog Millionaire, Brokeback Mountain, The Dark Knight, Hook, Black Panther, The Danish Girl, Forrest Gump.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
TV: Shonda Rhimes because she is The Queen, Dan Fogelman/Elizabeth Berger/Isaac Aptaker because This is Us might be the most inclusive, poignant and quietly remarkable show of the last decade, Peter Berg because Friday Night Lights made me want to write for television, J.J. Abrams because he writes incredible women, Bruce Miller/Eric Tuchman/Kira Snyder because The Handmaid’s Tale is revelatory and I wished I’d had The 100 when I was in high school, Mindy Kaling because between The Office and The Mindy Project I’m convinced she’s the comic genius of our times and because she was the first person who looked like me on TV.
Movies: Dan Fogelman again, Steven Rogers because between I, Tonya, Hope Floats, and Stepmom he’s covered the entire emotional range of feelings, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler because Mean Girls is my gold standard for movies, Kumail Nanjiani/Emily Gordon because The Big Sick is what helped my family come around to my career change.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival.
The finalists in the TV Drama category all got together for an afternoon and got to know each other. The four of us living in LA started a writing group out here, so I’m so glad I met them at Austin!