Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist (Nilesh Yagnik)

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

  • Nilesh Yagnik

  • Rajkot India

  • Alpharetta GA

  • Hobbies include tennis and screenwriting.


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?

  • This is my first creative project. I have no training or experience with creative writing as I’m a corporate employee trained in business. The concept was born from a colleague and friend from the office that shared his combat experience for the first time in the 13 years of our relationship. Enthralled, I asked if I could write that story. I spent the first several months learning how to write a screenplay and researching the project. The pandemic and related shut down afforded the gift of time. It took about 2.5 years from the start to the submission of this winning draft, which is about the 4th major rewrite of the story. 

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

  • I had to learn how to write a screenplay and research the two major wars featured in the story. I don’t have a military background and have never even fired a gun, so there was much to learn about tanks, artillery, military ranks and communication, to name a few elements key to the story. My friend and the inspiration for the story was also a significant source of material, he shared his journal during his deployment and consulted with me as needed. 

  • Other actions included watching military themed movies while following along with the related screenplay. 

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

  • I fell in love with screenwriting as I started writing this story, my first project. I would love to pursue writing full time. 


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

  • My friend and writing mentor, is an award-winning screenwriter, and is a recipient of the Nicholls Fellowship. He is a source of positivity, offering boundless encouragement and sound advice that guided me on my first creative project. I would love to incorporate how he develops fast paced stories with witty dialogue and comical situations delivered by relatable, emphatic characters. 

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

  • Crash written by Paul Haggis is an inspiration. I love how multiple, seemingly unrelated characters come together in an emphatic and very human story. 

  • Babel was also an inspiration. Its interwoven stories spanning characters in multiple geographies influenced my approach to my script.  

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

  • In Saving Private Ryan, the knife fight between the released German soldier that pleaded for his freedom and the American that didn’t want to release him. The peacenik reporter responsible for freeing the German stood by and witnesses the death of the American and hears his chant, “Okay, Okay” as he dies was unnerving, chilling and powerful. It captures the horror of combat and the viewer is left emotionally wasted. A powerful moment and my favorite as a student of storytelling.

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

  • I love underdogs and their arch that requires them to overcome their fears and weakness to overcome and win, so those are my favorite characters which include, the Karate Kid, Rocky and Rudy. They are inspirational characters with optimistic stories that speak to all of us and motivate us to chase our dreams. 

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

  • Pivoting to my other passion, I would love to chat with UCONN Basketball’s legendary hall of fame coach, Jim Calhoun. Love to discuss players, opponents and big game situations.