Aren X. Tulchinsky, the writer formerly known as Karen X. Tulchinsky, is an award-winning screenwriter, story editor, novelist and director. He’s the author of The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, winner of the One Book One Vancouver Prize in 2008, was a Toronto Book Award Finalist and was recently named one of the Top Ten Books about Toronto by the Toronto Star. He’s the author of Love Ruins Everything, Love and Other Ruins and In Her Nature, which won the Vancity Book Prize. He’s written seven feature screenplays, several in development, including I Shot the Sheriff for acclaimed director Clement Virgo (Book of Negroes). He’s story edited numerous screenplays, working with screenwriters from across Canada to develop their scripts. He has worked as story editor, writer and director on many television series, including The Guard, Robson Arms, Kink, The Bachelor Canada, Timber Kings and CBC’s The Nature of Things. He directed Ms. Thing, which has screened at over 50 film festivals internationally, including screenings in Paris, London, San Francisco, New York, Sicily, Hamburg and Mumbai. It won Audience Choice Award at Queerfruits Australia. He teaches screen and television writing at UBC’s Writing Centre and is a graduate of the prestigious Canadian Film Centre, the National Screen Institute, Praxis Centre for Screenwriters and Women in the Director’s Chair at the Banff Centre.
What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you have received?
Keep the hand moving. To write and publish a book, or write and produce a screenplay, requires two key attributes: discipline and tenacity. Writing as often as regularly as you can, keeps your writer’s mind sharp, your creativity flowing and your chops up.
What book, poem or movie has been most inspirational to you?
My all time favourite film is Moonstruck, written by playwright John Patrick Shanley and directed by Norman Jewison. The characters are unique, the dialogue is brilliant. It’s a classic romantic comedy, with all the requisite story beats of the genre.
What books do you recommend VMI participants read for additional advice?
Story, by Robert McKee, Screenplay by Syd Field and Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger.
What are you currently working on?
I recently wrote a feature screenplay, I Shot the Sheriff, which will soon be in production to be directed by Clement Virgo, who directed The Book of Negroes and I am currently writing a romantic comedy called My Sister’s Wedding and adapting my award winning novel The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky into a television movie.
What is the most valuable insight or skill that your VMI writers have learned from you?
Screenplays are about structure, structure, structure. A writer must create a solid structure to hang their story on. Without a solid foundation, a screenplay will crumble. Once the writer has crafted a workable structure, the story, characters and dialogue will flow.
What do you gain from the mentoring process?
Usually I remember what I need to practice in my own writing and I love the working relationship I have with emerging writers, as they learn and grow. I feel like I am doing important work in mentoring writers and guiding new talent.
What will VMI participants gain from the program?
Participants will be on a fast track to learn the art of screenwriting and to develop their own scripts and tell their stories. The intensity of the program and the one on one mentorship will carry participants leaps and bounds further in their process than they could get on their own. Participants will have the rare opportunity to learn tricks of the trade and valuable skills, techniques and resources from working writers.
What do you enjoy most about being a VMI mentor?
I love the opportunity to work with new and emerging writers. It’s always inspiring working closely with a writer as new ideas develop and I watch a writer take off with their stories. I love the process of working with a writer as they rewrite their screenplay. It teaches me what I need to remember for my own writing.
What do you wish you knew when writing your first manuscript/screenplay that you know now?
Write the first draft from the heart. Craft the rewrites from the head. This allows a writer to stay true to the passion and the emotional core of the story as they develop the script through the many rewrites it takes to make a good script great.