Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
For Maryna Gaidar, the second of those days came early in life, when she discovered her talent for writing as a child back in her native Ukraine.
“I started writing at school when I was around 10 or 12 and it was a big revelation to me when I finally got to know what I was good at…Ever since then, I’ve never stopped writing,” explained the soon-to-be graduate of Toronto Film School’s Writing for Film & Television program, who recently landed herself a job writing script reports for Raven Banner Entertainment.
That opportunity presented itself to Gaidar in her fourth term at TFS, when she found herself being taught by Michael Paszt, one of the company’s managing partners.
One day in his Distribution & Marketing course, Paszt challenged Gaidar and any of her interested classmates to write a report on one of the scripts submitted to him at Raven Banner, a distribution company that specializes in “innovative and compelling genre films from around the world.”
“I did it and I sent it in very quickly, so I think he was impressed,” Gaidar recalled of the assignment.
“He thought I did a good job, so he asked if I wanted to do some more reports for them. I was ready and I wanted this job, so I said yes. I love reading and I love analyzing things, so it was perfect.”
As a script reporter for Raven Banner, Gaidar is tasked with reading scripts and scoring them based on a number of different criteria.
“I also analyze the flaws and good sides of the work, and explain why it is marketable or not, which is probably the most important thing for production companies to know,” she explained.
“So, I had to learn a little bit more about that aspect of scripts to be more capable of giving a better report.”
Already an accomplished writer who’s written novels in both Ukrainian and English, Gaidar admitted that the knowledge she has gleaned on the job at Raven Banner has proven ‘invaluable’ to her adaptation of her own work for the screen.
“It’s definitely helped. When you are given the insight into story writing from the production company’s point of view, you learn not to waste time on something that will never be bought and will never be turned into a film,” she said.
“A script needs to keep in mind different aspects, like marketability, production value, how many actors will be needed, how many extras, and all these things.”
A big fan of period dramas and thrillers, Gaidar’s series of mystery novels called Cassandra’s Shadow is currently being considered by a publisher in Ukraine.
“The main character is a detective who’s possessed by a devil, but at the same time, she debunks different paranormal activity and phenomenon…So this is a very complicated woman,” she laughed, noting that the books were inspired by the television series Penny Dreadful.
“She comes from an upper-class family…but she has become this private detective at a time when women are not allowed to do anything but be married. This story is about her fight for the right to be herself, and about finding the truth behind all those paranormal things she encounters.”
While Gaidar’s ultimate goal is to bring Cassandra’s Shadow to the small screen one day, her short-term post-graduation plans involve getting as much on-set experience as possible, soaking up all the knowledge she possibly can, and using those new skills to propel her towards becoming a showrunner in the future.
“I’d love to try all hats on sets; to start with something small, like the assistant to the assistant, then work my way up to First AD and script supervisor. But to create my own TV show as a showrunner is the ultimate dream,” she said.
“I’d love to do that with (Cassandra’s Shadow), but it’s a period drama, which is a very big budget thing. And if you are still just an aspiring writer, like me, the chances are very slim that someone will buy this huge thing…but hopefully sometime in the future, when I’ve established myself, it will happen.”
Now on the cusp of graduating from the Writing for Film & TV program, Gaidar said her biggest piece of advice to incoming students – especially to those for whom English is a second language – is to stay motivated, work hard, and never stop chasing their dreams.
“You shouldn’t be discouraged by the fact that you don’t have any experience in the industry at the beginning, and you should also know how to deal with this imposter syndrome, which is a very common thing among writers and people just starting out their path in the industry,” she said.
“To international students, I wanted to say that you shouldn’t be scared by your lack of knowledge in English, because this is not a permanent thing. The more you communicate, the better you will get – it just takes a lot of work.”