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  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, drama, 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 out.

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 most?

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 your imagination.

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 been before. 

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.

       
       
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