From Capitol Hill to Hollywood Pro: How Noushin Jahanian Beat the Odds to Success
Odds are you’ve been told the only way to break into The Business is to move to LA. Noushin Jahanian heard that too, but decided to break all the rules and forge her own path. As a full time DC lobbyist and mother of two children under 7, Noushin ignored the traditional advice and started writing.
A little backstory. Noushin’s screenwriting journey began as a bit of a fluke. On a whim, she agreed to go with a friend to a local screenwriting class where she hoped to have a bit of fun. Instead, she discovered a passion for screenwriting that changed her life.
Fast forward ten years. Noushin continued to write and enrolled in Tim’s UCLA Professional Program class where she wrote the first draft of her romcom THE START UP. Noushin’s talent and dedication was not to be ignored so after the class was over, Tim and Noushin continued to work together on rewrites of THE START UP. When it was ready, Tim shared the script with his producing partner and they were successful in selling it to eOne for a six figure sum. With the sale of the script, Noushin left her lobbying gig and is now writing full-time on several other exciting projects. As she rolled into negotiating with eOne, she also locked in a great manager to help guide her on the path.
Noushin shares her perspective on her unconventional journey to Hollywood success.
Congratulations on THE START UP! Can you tell us a bit about how the story came to be?
I was an in-house lobbyist for a tech company and have spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, so I decided to write something based on those experiences. THE START UP is about two female engineers who are trying to get funding for their startup, but they keep getting rejected. Finally, they decide that the only way they’ll be taken seriously is to pretend they have a male co-founder. So, they get their stoner buddy to pretend to be a co-founder, and they’re off to the races. It’s definitely a bit of a “Pretty Woman”/”Pygmalion” trope, and I wanted to play around with that idea and make it more relevant to today’s work environments.
What makes you excited to write every day?
The coolest thing in the world is to get paid to make shit up. I was a lawyer, so my entire career was based on my ability to write well and quickly, but it was definitely on the drier side. The good news is that I became very good at hitting deadlines. Now I still write to deadline, but I get to write whatever I want, and that is very fun.
How did working with Tim help improve your writing?
Working with Tim, I got great notes and feedback from the bottom up of a story. He starts with the building blocks, the pitch, the outline--a lot of the time you can work out most of your story problems in your outline. That’s a great place to start because those same structural problems you easily can fix in your outline are much harder to overcome once you begin writing your first draft. Tim is also incredibly encouraging, which is helpful in this business because it can feel so subjective. It's vital to have someone in your corner who can give you the hard notes but also encourage you to keep writing because they can help you see there’s something great trapped just beneath the surface.
What’s your best piece of advice for someone starting their own screenwriting journey?
First of all, you have to accept that you’re going to have some bad drafts. No one writes a perfect first draft. You have to see it as a process. You can’t get too emotionally attached to your stories and the things in your writing, because there’s always room to improve. THE START UP was my sixth script, and if I’d given up after one or two, I’d never have met Tim, and I wouldn’t be succeeding now. You have to be willing to put a lot of terrible drafts on paper. Tim is there to take writers to the next level, but you still have to put in the work and just write.
Second, you can’t focus on the obstacles. For instance, I don’t live in LA, and I’m a Mom. There are a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t do this. But, ultimately, if you want to be a writer you have to put all those extraneous things and niggling voices aside and go anyway. The obstacles won’t disappear, but if you change your mindset, you can figure out ways to go around them.