Screenwriter Spotlight: Proma Khosla

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

Hello! My name is Proma Khosla, I was born in Boston and grew up in Michigan. After seven lovely years in New York I found myself back home during the winter of our discontent (the pandemic) and will be hopping around this summer (once I get that sweet, sweet vaccine).

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

I came up with the idea during my sophomore year of college, probably within the same week that I joined a dance team. Didn’t start developing a script outline until 2013, finished a draft in 2015, and have been revising and rewriting ever since. The current draft was cracked in the spring of 2020.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

I had never written a screenplay nor had any idea of how to write a screenplay. Later I learned that I am terrible at script outlining but adore writing out scenes. On the other hand, I love writing dialogues, and found that that’s where I could really lean into my voice. Filmi has been through roughly 92349873 iterations of basic outline and scene arrangement, but some of the moments and lines I love best in it have stuck around for years.

This pilot was rarely something I could devote my full time to; the biggest breakthroughs have come on random weekends or days off work when I sat down, cleared my head, and just read through everything, letting the ideas flow freely. I lean into story breakthroughs and urges to write because those feelings don’t strike often.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

One of my editors at the college newspaper told me “Journalism is dead. You should write for TV.” I may have disagreed with the first part (especially given my subsequent career as an entertainment journalist), but I had to agree with the second. “I should write for TV,” I thought. It was his idea but it felt as right as if I had always known, and I never looked back.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

I worship at the altar of funny women. In my formative years it was Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling, now extended to the likes of Issa Rae and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. They and many of the other creators I admire have strong, confident storytelling voices. You can tell their sense of humor or joke style or acclimate to their balance of light and dark. Similarly, I want my work to have its own language.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

Gosh, everything always. I’m writing this a week after the end of WandaVision, so I feel that void pretty deeply. That was just an exceptional show (created by a woman) with such a knack for jumping between genre and style, ultimately telling a beautiful emotional story. I’m going to be thinking about it for a long time.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

This is an impossible question but the first thing that comes to mind and indeed a top contender for this is a scene from one of my favorite Bollywood movies, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The two leads take cover in a gazebo during a rainstorm and end up dancing a romantic duet together. In the script, it’s less than half a page of the sparest description I’ve ever seen; on-screen, it is an achievement of direction, choreography, chemistry, and everything else at play.

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

Another insanely tough question! One that stands out in recent memory is Erik Killmonger from Black Panther, played by Michael B. Jordan. It’s easy for superheroes and their villains to be two-dimensional, but Jordan and writer/director Ryan Coogler never let this happen. They create a character whose trauma and anger linger long after the credits roll, whose pain at once connects him to the film’s hero T’Challa but also divides them immeasurably. Jordan and Coogler both happen to be among the top talent of their filmmaking generation, a collaboration that has lasted for years and shown us the power of storytelling. 

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them? 

This is probably not the desired answer for this type of question, but it’s the same person who told me to pursue screenwriting, a college friend who passed away in 2016. He and I became fast friends in those early months, and he was the first person I ever told about Filmi, when it was nothing more than an idea.

We used to talk nonstop about TV, character developments, and movies and made each other laugh constantly. I’d like to do that again.