Interview with writer Ahmad Marouf


Ahmad Marouf is a journalist, producer and screenwriter. He worked for Syrian television as a producer and wrote the first cartoon series produced by the station. He worked for Radio Canada International’s Arabic section. He then freelanced for CBC Radio One for two years. He wrote “I Was Once Told” a feature film that has been screened at the World Film Festival in Montreal. In 2012 he wrote “One Heart, Two Homes” a documentary that was screened on Omni TV. In 2011 Marouf won the Rainbow Caterpillar Children’s Literature in Mother Language Award, for his story “Sea of Pearls” which was published in the anthology, “The Best Of All Worlds”.

  • What is the first story you ever wrote?

The ideas and feelings were always floating in my mind, in the case that they found their way onto brown paper, they would create a sketch, a poem or a story. If I try to recall, I will say my first real story was about a tree that played the role of a mother to every human being around. What I can’t ever forget is the day when I read the story to a full house. It was my first public reading, and it was a tough experience.

  • Growing up, what movies or stories inspired your creative passion?

I follow emotional and visual waves from wherever they come. So, I watched and read the scripts of movies from all kinds of genres, cultures and cinematic eras. If you got the chance to watch the following movies, you’ll get a sense of what I’m saying: Cinema Paradiso, Burn After Reading, Caché, Scar Face and Al-Kompars.

  • For an unknown writer, what is the best way to get their screenplay seen?

I Think that getting involved with film production at any level helps to improve your writing skills and to introduce you to the local film community as a writer. Film festivals and screenplay competitions also provide solid feedback and considerable recognition that could draw industry attention to your work. 

  • What experiences from your life influence your characters?

Every interaction with people, places and subjects charges me mentally and emotionally. But the characters in my screenplays become more and more separated from the real-life trigger. The process of transforming the abstract ideas and concepts into a weaved screenplay follow  the collage effect. At the end it is hard to specify a person or an event as the main influence on the characters.

  • Can you explain your character development process?

It’s like making a sculpture from stone, concrete stone. It’s a long process that could start with the character’s name or an upsetting detail, Then, through reviewing and rewriting time and time again the characters grow organically, as they fight to occupy their full space in the story.

  • How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?

I try to keep enough space from my characters to be able to watch them and balance their emotional and logical development. Though, it’s not easy to resist the temptation to get closer to them. I think it’s a challenge that the writer needs to manage carefully.

  • What are your thoughts on structure?

I believe that there are no rules in art. At the same time structure is necessary to keep your work focused and moving while building an engaging story up until the end. For me any script can have its own creative structure if the writer has their own distinct voice.

  • Do you outline before you start writing?

It differs from one script to another. When I wrote my cartoon series, I outlined every episode before starting to write. However, writing the feature–length cartoon screenplay” Sea of Pearls” took a multi-level process. The characters grew in different directions and the visual treatment kept generating new ideas and scenes.

  • What is the most important aspect of building a great character?

Look them in the eyes and listen to their thoughts.