Exclusive Interview with Aija Mayrock

Aija Mayrock, 10th grader and screenwriter extraordinaire

Aija Mayrock, 10th grader and screenwriter extraordinaire

We sit down with Aija Mayrock, our resident film critic, to talk about her recent accomplishments…

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Aija Mayrock, 10th grader and screenwriter extraordinaire

Laguna tenth grader Aija Mayrock moved to Santa Barbara from New York in 2009 not knowing at the time that she loved to write, act, and direct. Last year on a whim, she entered her psychological thriller-themed screenplay about abortion and the paranormal and won the 10–10–10 Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) Screenwriting & Filmmaking Competition, becoming the youngest screenwriter ever to win the prestigious competition. Developed by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the competition brings together student filmmakers and industry professionals in an effort to encourage and assist the next generation of filmmakers.

Since then, Aija writes every chance she gets and has once again been selected as a finalist in the SBIFF Screenwriting Competition this year. We asked her a few questions this week so we could learn more about her process and inspiration.

FE: What exactly is the 10-10-10 Competition?
AM: The competition consists of 10 student finalist screenplays that are matched with appropriate student finalist filmmakers to create a 10-minute film during the 10 days of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

FE: Tell us about the screenplay you wrote for the film festival this year.
AM: The screenplay I entered into the film festival is about the everlasting bond between a father and a daughter—even through abandonment, war, and death.

FE: Where do you get your inspiration?
AM: I don’t force ideas upon myself. I wait for the ideas to come to me. I find that is the most natural way to birth a great story.

FE: Do you see your screenplays as films when you are writing them?
AM: As I write a screenplay, I am watching it as a movie in my head. The process is amazing as I create stories and admire those stories, almost as if they are occurring right in front of me.

FE: What are some of your favorite movies?
AM: I love The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Shutter Island, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Illusionist. I love dramas and psychological thrillers that seize my mind.

FE: Tell us about the process of turning a story or idea into a movie script.
AM: The process varies from writer to writer. Once I have an idea, I cover my bedroom walls with big pieces of blank paper. I make an outline that is very basic, but something I can go back to when I get stuck. The outlines are filled with drawings, scribbles, and quotes. They probably would be extremely confusing to anyone who saw them! Then, I write. Non-stop. I hate interrupting the process. It makes me feel like I have a remote control and I’m pausing someone’s life.

FE: What kind of subjects interest you most?
AM: I am attracted to social issues. I find myself being moved by the stories that are around us daily. I want to know more about women’s rights, war, relationships, teenage bullying and suicide—just to name a few.

FE: Have you ever considered entering the filmmaking component of the 10-10-10 competition?
AM: Yes! I directed my very first film and submitted it into the competition this year! I hope to be selected as a finalist in the filmmaking competition as well. I briefly explored directing this summer, and since then I have fallen in love with a whole new art form.

Earlier this month, all of the finalists for the screenwriting competition came together for a “Meet and Greet” with the competition organizers and assigned mentors. At the meeting, the finalists took part in a two-hour workshop with industry screenwriting professional Barry Kemp. Kemp has written for numerous TV shows throughout his career, but his two best known creations are Newhart, which lasted for eight seasons on CBS (1982–1990) and Coach, which lasted for nine seasons on ABC (1989–1997).  Aija reflects, “Being part of a workshop with Barry Kemp was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” She adds, “I learned so much in those two hours!”

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