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Posted by Zlatan Mustafica

Imagine a happy boy going to school, a straight A student, popular, loved by his peers and pretty much everyone around him. Even though he has an illness called Haemophilia (a blood-clothing disorder), he does not let it determine his existence and who he is. He works hard, he studies, he dreams and plans of becoming a doctor, so that he may help others, as people are helping him while he is constantly in and out of the hospital.

Then, the war in Bosnia comes. This boy was raised in a home where he learned solid human values. Honesty, hard work, responsibility... Suddenly, he was 'an enemy' and he didn´t really understand why. He ends up in a foreign country, grows up and finds himself lost. No more dreams, no more plans, no more friends... All the possibilities and opportunities vanish with a the cold whisper that is 'hate'. Bound to a wheelchair, there is no way ahead for the boy, but still he does not give up. Still he dreams.

So how did I start writing? A teacher graded one of my essays when I was 15 years old and wrote a simple comment next to an 'A'. She wrote "You should send this to Paramount, it would make a great movie." The rest is, as they say, history.

Life is funny that way. All of us make plans all the time and because of constant plan-making we don´t see the beautiful forest because of all the trees. I walked again, I even played basketball and tennis. I started writing and learning about the craft that would not only grow on me, but teach me about the world around me and most importantly - about myself. Writing would keep me sane and help me feel like I was not alone for many years to come. It is hard being a foreigner anywhere in the world. You are always judged and people like to assume, wrongly, most of the time but still, that does not stop them from having all these misconceptions about you.

For a long time I did not dare call myself a writer or a screenwriter. Whenever I told anyone what I loved to do, at those times when I was not working some menial job to pay the bills, people would laugh at me and tell me I was crazy. They even accused me of thinking that I was better than them or special somehow. The thought never crossed my mind, but still, they judged me just for loving something that obviously was beyond them.

"You will never make it". That is a well known phrase I have heard many times. Still, I believe. Not because of arrogance or ill advised confidence in my writing skills, but because I work hard to learn. I write, I read, I study, I observe and I get better with each script I write, but most importantly, I give it my all!

My Father, may he rest in peace, used to teach me how we have to take pride in what we do. He would say, "either do it wholeheartedly or don´t do it at all". I am 36 years old and my writing journey is still in its inception, but today I am a writer and proud of it.

All of us writers battle different craft-problems. Some have problems with structure, others with character development, whilst some battle the demon called dialogue. No one is perfect and in my own humble opinion, I believe there is no such thing as a perfectly written screenplay. Is a script ever really finished? Of course not! There is always something to fix and tweak and change and so on and so forth. The key as a writer, is being happy with the story and its 'final look'. It is then that you may want to submit your work to a contest and/or pitch it to producers. Still, it may not be perfect, but it has a chance, if you as a writer have been diligient in doing the work, if you are honest with yourself and you remain objective while assessing and analyzing it from all possible angles.

I am my own harshest critic. I write every day and most days I do okay, but some days I wish I could just slap myself in the face. Rewriting is true writing. When you as a writer start seeing things that don´t work in a script you wrote, that means you are learning and growing as writer. That is the greatest feeling of all. I never want to hear from anyone about how awesome and incredibly talented I am. Tell me where I am going wrong and what I can improve on so that my next script can be even better.

I believe that if you want to make it as a screenwriter in this industry, you have to be honest with yourself. You also have to be honest with those you aim to work with, whatever the project may be and in whatever capacity. To get something you have to give something and personally, I leave it all in my written work.

Even though I have seen and lived through injustice and prejudice, horrors of war and suffering and even if many will still view me the way they choose to view me, I will always be a writer and I will never stop loving and having hope.

I have met writers who only aim to sell that one script. They will never make it. I understand the hope of riches and fame, in a way, but if that is all that drives you as a writer...?

Again, I don´t presume to know everything or to be an expert that anyone should listen to. What I am trying to convey is that the best works come out of love. There is little love present around the world these days. Let´s not take it out of something that has given me and many others so much love back.

Look at people. Learn about them, take interest in someone else's life and you´ll find so much more than just a vessel for the soul. Great characters may emerge in your screenplay as a result of getting to know that one person. Choose to do the work and choose to love something and you´ll find the story that matters emerging from your heart. I heard this song once, late at night, sitting in my apartment and pondering on things. A SONG, a simple song and it inspired me so much, I wrote a script in less than a day. It moved me, yes, but that song embodied my thoughts on the subject of domestic abuse and suddenly, the story was clear to me. That is love.

No matter how much you love something or care, you as a writer can never forget that this is a business too. At the end of the day you have to be able to make money not only for yourself, but have strong material that others may make a living out of too. It is that simple. If as writers we are to be hired or optioned or have our scripts purchased, we have to take the notion of entitlement out of the picture and offer something to gain something. Nobody owes me anything for any reason. I owe it to myself to work hard, pursue my dreams, give it everything I have, to be open to criticism and suggestions from those more knowledgeable and more experienced than myself and most importantly, I have to write and be willing to learn.

Our material, as writers, is essential to start with, but our ability to work with others, remain open and willing to compromise is what will make us great and successful.

My journey is just beginning. Your journey may well be further along than mine. No matter, famous or aspiring writers have one thing in common. Their stories. Without stories there are no movies, but no one can do it alone. We all need a helping hand and that helping hand can come from the most unexpected place.

I don´t know where I´ll be tomorrow, or the next day, or how my career will turn out, but you know what? I´ll keep writing because I am a writer. Many years from now, successful or not, I know I will be fulfilled because I did it. I wrote. I tried and I loved every minute of it, every slug, every piece of dialogue and every cut... Love what you do and respect it and you´ll make it.

About Zlatan Mustafica

Zlatan is a writer from Sweden where he has lived since 1993 due to a war in his home country of Bosnia. He is a former film critic and a huge fan of Steven Spielberg's work and books by Arthur C, Clarke. Zlatan used to dream dreams that shattered under the banners of hate and he found new dreams in a land where he feels he is nothing more than foreigner. As a kid he was in a wheel chair for four years but he beat the odds and played basketball later in life. He was always underestimated and overlooked, but somehow he ended up on top. Writing is passion, a love interest and a reason to be alive and dream on.

Zlatan says, "There is a vital difference between a dream and a fantasy. Both are the same in that millisecond as they occur to us. A dream, a desire and aspiration towards one goal becomes a fantasy, when all we do is talk about it and never do anything to reach our objectives. I am a big fan of dreams. A dream is something you work hard to reach and you never give up no matter how often you hear people say that you are weird and strange and that you're not fitting in because you're different.


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