screenwriter to watch
Geeta Malik grew up in Aurora, Colorado, and received her BA in English from UC Irvine. She went on to UCLA’s graduate film program, where she received her MFA in directing. She wrote and directed the viral narrative short, Aunty Gs, which earned a College Television Award (a “student Emmy”) in comedy production from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Geeta is a recipient of the Edie and Lew Wasserman Film Production Award, the Coppel Screenwriting Award and the Jack Nicholson Distinguished Director Award.
Geeta’s first feature film, Troublemaker, premiered at the 2011 Cinequest Film Festival. In 2012, Geeta was a finalist for the ABC/Disney Directing Fellowship. She was a Film Independent Project Involve Fellow for 2013 – 2014. Her most recent short film, Shameless, has played at over 15 festivals, including the Sedona Film Festival, and won the jury award for best comedy at the Long Beach QFilm Festival.
Geeta is a winner of the 2016 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting for her latest feature script, “Dinner With Friends.” She is also the winner of the 2016 Austin Film Festival Feature Comedy Screenplay award, also for “Dinner With Friends.”
Credits: Shameless (Short, 2013), Troublemaker (Feature, 2011), Beast (Short, 2007), Apu’s Revenge (Short, 2005), Aunty Gs (Short, 2004)
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I started writing screenplays in my last year of college, when I took a class with a wonderful professor named Marie Cartier, who’s still a dear friend. I’d been writing plays, short stories, and poems for as long as I can remember, but that class really opened my eyes and got me excited about writing movies as a career. I went on to film school and wrote several more screenplays, one of which I ended up making into my first feature film.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that writing is WORK! Gone are the days of waiting for that inspirational moment to strike. I have kids, and time management is vital. I can’t wait around – I have to sit myself down and write, even if whatever I write is initially garbage. And once that script is done, then it’s time to revise, and get notes, and revise again and again and again, until it’s lean and mean and in fighting form. It’s work, and it’s a job, and it’s the best job in the world.
And another important lesson I’ve learned: that it’s better to write the story that just grabs you and won’t let go, no matter how many times you tell yourself that it’ll never sell, it’ll never get made, or it’s not commercial enough. I’ve tried writing things that I’m not passionate about, and they never turn out as well as the projects that I’m wholly immersed in. It’s important to stay true to your own voice.
What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
The hardest scene I’ve ever had to write was between two characters that was drawn from my own life. It was hard to be honest in that scene, both with myself and for my characters, because it was a painful memory. I’d either get overly emotional, or I’d try to joke my way out of it. I started and stopped many, many times, and finally just let myself over-write it in order to get to the core of what the scene was really about. I was able to edit it down from there. It ended up being a very cathartic experience!
What was a major turning point in your career?
Winning the Austin Film Festival Comedy screenplay award and the Nicholl Fellowship last year for my feature script, Dinner With Friends! Those two things really helped get me out into the industry.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on several projects: two TV pilots, my next feature script, and further development for Dinner With Friends with an eye towards production.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Too many! Monsoon Wedding, Coming to America, Bend it Like Beckham, Girlfight, Raising Arizona, Goodfellas, Thelma and Louise, Better Luck Tomorrow…I could go on for hours.
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
I love the Coen Brothers. Their style of blending dark comedy, drama, and even slapstick is amazing to behold. I also love Coppola and Scorsese – they’ve written some of the most iconic films ever.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival:
It was amazing to meet Paul Feig at the awards luncheon. He’s one of the few filmmakers out there who really puts his money where his mouth is as far as working with women, and he was so kind and encouraging in person. I also loved meeting all the staff, volunteers, and fellow attendees. I made a lot of new friends at AFF!