Interview with May Diversity Initiative Winner - Vanar Jaddou
How long have you been writing and what made you want to write in the first place?
When my brothers and I were in elementary school, my mom wouldn’t let us outside unless we either drew or wrote a short story. We also didn’t have cable for a number of years, but my dad owned a small video store, and perhaps that’s where some of the initial seeds were planted. As I got older, I used to receive novels from my Godfather on Christmas and my birthday. Why I couldn’t just get a normal kid’s gift I could never understand, but now I do. In 6th grade, my friends and I wrote and performed a skit, which marked the beginning and end of my acting career. But the moment I really discovered that I could write, was when my 9th grade Creative Writing teacher accused me of plagiarism, and I had to stay after class and write a poem about Death to prove to him I was the mind behind the words. Since then, I’ve been writing for money in every capacity just to stay afloat. I didn’t take up screenwriting until after college. I’ve been doing it for about 9 years now, and I don’t intend to ever stop.What genre do you prefer to write in? What draws you to that genre?
I’m interested in good storytelling. It could be the type of adventure that’ll shake your world, frighten you, make you laugh, sad, create that knot in your stomach, cause you to question things, enliven all these different emotions that were dormant before you sat down to read this or watch that. A movie’s job is to move you. To build suspense. To expel emotions. To incite reflection. To force us to go to those unsettling places that sometimes we’re afraid to look. There are no safeguards out there on that ledge, and what we witness might belie any notion of human condition that we previously held. It should shake us. Stay with us. Linger after the credits roll, and when we go to sleep that night. My work isn’t filtered. It’s violent and explosive. Fast-paced in parts and slow-burning in others. The stakes are life and death, relationships are pushed to the brink, and characters are changed forever.Who are the writers that inspire you?
Cormac McCarthy, of course. His worlds are biblical and his words archaic and the devil looms on every one of his pages. He’s the Michael Jordan of literature. On the film side, you have Hitchcock, who once said you need three things to make a great film—the script, the script, and the script. Other greats include the Gilroys, Coens, Nolan, Kaufman, Nicole Perlman, Sheridan, Spike Lee, Scott Frank, Vince Gilligan, Francis Ford and Sophia Coppola, Lonergan—all of whom are dedicated to their craft. But really, anyone who is serious about their work and aspires to make their mark on the world and leave behind a legacy inspires me. It doesn’t matter if they’re a doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, salesman, designer, teacher, chef, or professional athlete. I’ve built thick skin over the years because I’ve surrounded myself with people who are difficult to please. That comes with downsides, but it’s also a blessing, because it encourages constant self-evaluation. Without self-evaluation, we’re dead as artists.Share three things you're currently digging.
If you’re a writer, watch the Haunting of Hill House. It’s one of the most inventive takes on a classic horror novel in film or TV history. I’ve watched it three times just to study the structure alone. If you’re a cinematographer, watch Overlord. It’s a masterclass in visual perspective. Very unique. Very bold. And if you’re an actor or actress, watch the Best Picture of the year, Green Book, and try to harness that vulnerability and humanity in your characters. If a script doesn’t present any transformative arc for the main characters, no one will care, so choose your roles wisely.What interested you about Roadmap's Diversity Initiative?
Understanding the prospect of authenticity. Aristotle once said that the secret to success is knowing something no one else knows. When I first started writing GOODBYE, IRAQ several years ago, I wanted to write something that encapsulated the paranoia and PTSD symptoms experienced by victimized Iraqi people during Saddam’s reign, but I didn’t want it to be political, because that would be too easy, not to mention uncinematic and uninspiring. It eventually became a story about a rebellious ex-soldier who tries to kill Saddam Hussein, and when he fails, he and his daughter must make this nightmarish trek from Iraq to the U.S. while they’re hunted by Saddam’s demonic executioner. There’s a lot of ethnic and nationalistic significance to the script, and it touches on a number of global issues that are still prevalent three decades later, but the heart of it is a love story between a traumatized father and his incorruptible daughter as they journey through this dark and violent expanse. As writers, the only way to realize Aristotle’s teaching is to write something that no one else can. That’s what diversity is all about. That’s what Roadmap caters to. And that’s why I had to submit my work to them.Where can we find you?
@vanarjaddou on Instagram.