Jean Gross-Tolstikov is an American
Russian-speaking screenwriter and novelist, completed with diploma
the Screenwriting's Workshop at New York Film Academy, NY USA in
December of 2010. During the last 20+
years, he has written numerous novels in Russian in genre of the mystery,
romance, family, history, crime, war, action, sci-fi, and thriller,
but no horror. While his studying at Screenwriting's Workshop at NYFA and after that, Jean has written few short screenplays, and
re-written some of his novels in feature film's screenplay format.
When did you start writing novels and screenplays?
I have played around with a number of novel ideas for a few years
while I was in high-school and after my graduation, but so far I've
written not as many as I want to. I have continued to write after I
moved to USA in 1999. And only in 2010, I came up with the idea to
go to NYFA to
learn the format of proper film writing etiquette before starting
Why did you start writing screenplays?
For me I've always had these other worlds inside my head. For as long as I
have been writing a novel I immerse
myself in a story, together with my characters, or even being one of
those... mostly the main one. (laughing, becoming red)... If
seriously, I've always seen my story as watching film. Simply,
that's exactly why I went to learn how to write a screenplay to turn
my written stories into movies.
How many novels and screenplays have you finished?
So far I have something about 50 novels in Russian, but not many of
these are translated in English. What about screenwriting, I have
three short screenplays written from a scratch and completed. As
well as shorts in English, I have written numerous screenplays in
Russian, and a few of these had been re-written in English. However, I am
on the verge of completing a number of screenplays... depends on
what mood I wake up in.
How do you find time to write?
It's a struggle to find time to write just because of my little
daughter who keeps up my wife & I... almost non-stop. As you
probably know, children have a limitless supply of energy, but
sometimes even they need a little rest. So, I generally try and
write any possible time a day, but of course mostly it happen late
night. This way I get the quiet
and solitude I need.
What aspects of the writing process do you struggle with the
I should say it's the planning, the structure of acts, know the back-story of characters and understand what it
is you're trying to tell the audience, but let's skip it... When I
just start to write a screenplay and/or novel, I dive into a story and straight away I'm ready to write
the first 10-15 pages. My strategy is unless you take the time to
plan and etc., you'll hit a brick wall... what might be thicker than
What do you feel like you do well as a screenwriter?
I am certain I can be an asset to the film industry with creating
new worlds what engages an audience;
submerging people into a story that takes them to other places
and/or periods of time, or somewhere else they haven't
How does writing make you happy?
Writing for me is another side of my life, my mind, myself. Yes,
it's something that
provides massive highs and lows, that initial idea springing into
your head and driving you to write page after page... Personally, I
love and hate my characters, as well as I can make their fortune
myself: to be or not to be. (laughing). But not only process
of writing makes me happy. The personal sense of achievement at the
end, when people like what you tried to tell in writing, is incredible.
What do you think is the biggest problem with storytelling in
today's film industry?
The only problem I can notify in today's film industry is that there
is too tough way for newcomers... I mean, the beginners of
screenwriting to get in with their ideas, stories, screenplays, and
etc. Mostly, inveterate writers are depleted in their ideas, while
at the same time as newcomers just do not have the opportunity to
show their talents. On the market, production companies request for
screenwriter with professional experience, credits, links and
examples of previous works, and references. But no one is wondering
where and how they should start.
How can you improve in how you handle feedback?
Feedback is one of those strange things that every writer needs to
make their work better. I know this and actively ask people for it,
yet there is always that brief a minute period when you get
criticism where you immediately want to defend your work. I am
always open for receiving it in order to make something of what I
breath and love to do even better.
What are your greatest fears about writing?
Every time someone reads my work I fear that they will come back
with a generic "it's good" stamp. I want more detailed
conclusion, even it will have negative feedback... If I don't then I'm doing something wrong.
What is your highest writing goal for yourself?
Screen it! And then...
To sit in a packed cinema and experience an audience's reaction to
my work on screen. Hopefully it won't be awful... Oh, and the Oscar
Academy Award would be nice.
What do you do to achieve that goal?
I constantly continue to write.