Mumbai girl wins Writers Guild Award
Speaking from Los Angeles at Aminta Goyel is starkly honest when she talks about her time at Fort’s Cathedral School, where she studied in the ICSE board uptil Std X. “The only teachers who liked me were the ones who taught English. No one else recognised me,” she says. Now, perhaps, they will. Or at least pore through their year books to spot her face.
Goyel, a writer, recently won an award from the Writers Guild of America for Children Episodic for her work on an episode of the American show Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street — a show about three children living on a “magical” street.
On writing, she says, it was something she pursued as a passion while at school. “I’d write short stories, but never thought I could pursue it as a profession, unless you were writing a novel.” While in college at Cornell University she studied history and got interested in mythology and Greek drama, which culminated into an interest in theatre. In college she even directed plays. Never back here in school. “I’d be thrown out of plays,” she laughs. “Maybe, I acted as a tree.” Directing plays at college piqued her interest in story-telling, but she wanted to stay off stage. “It allows me to be in control. I am not good at acting, perhaps that’s why I was never cast in any play,” says the 25-year-old.
A course in filmmaking at the School of Cinematic Arts from the University of Southern California prepared her in the basic craft - writing, sound editing and directing. Later, she won the Nickelodeon fellowship that gave her a shot at working with Amazon Studio, which produces content for children’s shows. “But, I resisted that work for the longest time. I held back for a year, till this show came on my radar,” she says, explaining that she doesn't identify with most kids' show.
On watching the pilot episode of Gortimer Gibbon’s… however, she says, made her cry. “It’s like Wonder Years, but with magic in it,” she says, adding that she ended up binge-watching the first season, and then started working on the second season.
“There’s something dark about this show, which is perhaps why I related to it. I never had much fun as a kid. I was a grumpy, miserable child. This show is about the pains of growing up, of friendships falling apart and children dealing with adult issues,” she says. The award-winning episode that she co-wrote with Gretchen Enders, another writer on the show, is the last episode of the season. In fact, says Goyel, the show ends at the second season. “We felt that the kids who were acting on the show had grown up and so decided to end on a high note.” For now, Goyel — who directed Ira Dubey and Vivek Gumbhar (of Court fame) in Mumbai for a film school project — is working on some of her own projects.
Writing for television, she says, allows writers more control. “Writers have to be on the set. Sometimes the directors don’t work for the entire show, writers have to be around to ensure that the continuity remains. For instance, if a writer has put a line that refers to a previous episode, the director should be reminded to keep it. In film, however, once you have written the script, you’re done,” she says.