Writer on Writer | Q&A with Swila Lead Elvira Shakirova


Fun Facts about Elvira: 

  1. In my lifetime, I’ve worked as a salesman, a waiter, a call center operator, an administrator, a bartender, a funeral ribbon maker, a graphic designer, a dog groomer, a tram driver, a sushi chef. My education is business trading but only at 31 did I realize I wanted to be a screenwriter!
  2. My second hometown is Hyderabad (India).
  3. I love Converse and Crocs.


Q: What is your favorite screenplay you’ve written? Or what are a few of your favorites? And why? 

A: It is very difficult to choose, because the more you write, the more you fall in love with your stories. I love big stories that create a whole new world. Therefore, I will highlight Dream Hackers (for the insane concept of lucid dreaming), Kupala Night (for magic and dramatically complex story), The last decision of humanity (for a frightening fantasy about the consequences of nuclear war), and Alyoshenka (a long-awaited concept about aliens based on real events ). I love these stories because they blew up my mind in the first place, and I was deeply impressed by them for several days or even weeks! This is the best feeling you can get from writing.

Q: Are there any characters that you developed in exercises that you have continued to write in other screenplays/personal projects?

A: At this stage, I’m working on a feature that started my journey to screenwriting. I am going through a difficult path of rewriting because this is my first full-length story. I’d say this is my personal film school! So I haven't continued my exercise stories yet. But I have so many cool concepts in my collection that I'm completely confident about what I'm going to write next. 

Q: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 

A: When I was ten or twelve years old, I tried to create my first detective book. I even drew illustrations for it myself, but, of course, I didn’t finish it, because I had no idea of the structure. I just wanted to see the final product - the book. I don’t remember how I came back to this idea years later, but after graduation, I still had a “stupid childhood” dream of writing something. I didn't know what to write about, much less where to start. Therefore, I thought that one day the perfect idea itself would come to me in a dream. NO! It didn’t. It turned out that I needed to work on creativity and discipline. 

Q: What is your earliest memory of writing being a means of expression for you?

A: I guess I won't be special. For me, as well as for other little girls in childhood, it was possible to express feelings in a diary. There I wrote about my heartbreaking experiences, but deep down I wanted someone to find this diary and read my thoughts. I think this is what I still want. It is still important for me to express myself, but only through my stories. 

Q: What novel’s/novelists have inspired your writing throughout your life?

A: I didn’t go to writing all my life. For me, this profession seemed unrealistic. As if it can only happen to other special people whom I will never meet because I live in a small town where no one reads books and where no one cares about the depth of films. I was never inspired by anyone until I myself began to look for this inspiration. Therefore, I can say that from childhood to this day, I love Alice in Wonderland, and Lewis Carroll is one of the most inspiring writers of all time. 

Q: What films/filmmakers have inspired your writing throughout your life? 

A: I confess right away ... I know very few names, I still have not found my favorite director and favorite screenwriter! I am inspired by various films and I am in the process of learning filmmaking. For now, I would single out Nolan for his crazy experiments and exciting stories. Also Tim Burton and Wes Anderson for creating an amazing atmosphere. These are the films that make me forget about time. 

Q: What are your personal writing goals? 

A: I want to create my own unique style and I want to be heard. I want to learn how to express my vision and convey all the passion through the text as I feel it in my heart. 

Q: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? 

A: I think I would do the same! Right now, I don't think about failure. I just enjoy writing, as well as learning and analyzing. I realized a very important thing for myself. Movies are so different, audiences are so different, so different tastes. Impossible to please everyone. Therefore, failure in art is a relative term. 

Q: What would you do if you knew you would fail? And what is worth it to you anyways? 

A: If I knew I’d fail it means I had psychic abilities! So I could influence the future by changing my approach in the present! Okay, okay, that would be cool though. Unfortunately or fortunately, I don’t know what will happen next, so I am doing what brings me happiness, which is writing screenplays. 

Q: What is your idea generating process? Do you like to have designated time to generate ideas or do you go about your life and have moments of transcendent inspiration, ideas for stories you HAVE to write? 

A: I use the brainstorming technique. I take constraints and then go through the options with the most unpredictable events because I like to come up with an unexpected ending. I usually get inspired by peoples’ real-life events. Life is generally the best writer! For the same reason, I love watching historical channels. There you can always learn interesting stories from the lives of great people. I also read parables, because they contain serious morality, which can serve as the basis for dramatic questions in a story. 

Q: Do you outline before you write? If so, do you use treatment style, screenplay format, long hand, something else entirely?

A: With some experience, I began to develop a short outline of the event sequence that I would need to describe. Then I try to find the right music for these scenes and I start to visualize them one by one. After a while, I turn off the music and start describing what I saw in my imagination. It raises required passion and the process moves faster. 

Q: What is your dream environment for writing (disregarding cost or any other prohibitors)? 

A: I think the most important thing is to be quiet and cool! Then you can sit in a comfortable chair on the terrace and look at the mountains or the forest. Light snow or rain may fall. But the most important thing is to have tea and snacks nearby! 

Q: How do you feel you have grown as a writer since your first exercise submission? 

A: I can see tremendous growth. Regular exercising developed my imagination and taste. I've learned to generate ideas in no time and be persuasive in a limited number of pages. I learned to analyze my work, as well as the work of the community members. I constantly interact with aspiring writers and get a dose of motivation and inspiration. I haven’t seen this on any other platform. No film school would give this, because it is free and sincere. I believe that Swila is creating something that, over time, will completely change the film industry. 

Q: In what ways do you want to continue to improve as a writer? 

A: If we talk about the minimum, then my weak point is dialogues. Besides, English is not my first language and I don't know slang. I want to learn how to write natural dialogues. Globally speaking, I need to work out my psychological state. I want to get rid of unnecessary doubts 

about whether I am good enough, whether I have any talent at all, and from the impostor syndrome, of course. I want to be less critical of myself and easier to accept criticism from others. 

Q: What are you proudest of in your writing achievements? 

A: I am proud that I have become more confident about what I’m doing. Now I know that I will succeed, which means that I can share my stories with others. I was so passionate about my writing to a friend that she too decided to start writing her first novel. Well, isn't that cool? 

Q: What do you want people to take away from your writing? 

A: I believe that cinema can make the world a better place. I want to entertain people with my stories so that people immerse themselves in the worlds I have created and forget about time and their problems. I want people to get thought-provoking or warmth from my stories. I want people to experience a diverse range of emotions from my stories, from joy to anger, from fear to tears. And I want people to be happier with my stories. Then I could claim that I, too, make the world a little better through my writing.

Follow Hannah on Instagram: @hannahwagner3932

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  • Seerat

    This interview beautifully captured what I call any creative sorry extremely creative writer thinks. I really hope you achieve great heights in this feild. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mau Luz

    Hey! you forgot “Why death needs a scythe?” awesome story!!

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