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Stay with Me

Stay with me is about Lena, a Russian Jewish woman who is a graduate student who leaves her religious husband and travels from Seattle to Jerusalem in search of forgotten manuscripts of a Russian writer. She fortuitously finds the writer's daughter, and they become close friends. Lena's husband resists divorcing her, and she struggles with the ambiguity of her situation, especially after she meets and falls in love with someone who is unlike her husband. Eventually she is transformed by the atmosphere of Jerusalem where she finds her own passion and purpose. Irina Masinovsky, the writer of Stay with me, is a University of Washington graduate with a M.A in comparative literature and a certificate in screenwriting. She lives in Seattle and writes poetry and prose. It our pleasure to speak to her about the script of Stay with me and her work as a writer.

What draws you to writing scripts? - It's a genre that allows one a different form of expression - more concise than a novel, yet articulate through action; it allows for the multitudes of interpretations, both by actors and by its viewers. It takes me away from rumination and analysis, to which I am prone during prose writing. It also challenges me to exercise empathy and understanding of others, as only that can make a film resonate with real people. And, of course, while one should not be attached to the outcome when writing, if successful, it's a more direct form of validation and recognition.

How and when did you start studying screenwriting? - I took a university course in screenwriting in 2015 - 2016, when I came back to Seattle to take care of my rapidly declining parents. It was one of the most difficult periods in my life, and screenwriting allowed to keep a small part of myself "all mine" during that time.

What makes screenwriting stand out to you in the language of cinema? - Perhaps my first answer already contains the response to this question, however the latter makes me think more about the genre as a language. I suppose the biggest attraction, for me, is the challenge it presents in finding ways to convey feelings without explaining or verbalizing them. A challenge could be an attraction, and I am just now becoming aware of this while answering this question.

Do you ever plan to direct and produce one of your scripts? - Big smile. Planning is not my forte, I'd rather say "dreaming." I've noticed that some of the films I like best have been written, directed, and produced by the same person. Of course it's a dream at this stage, as I know nothing about directing or producing. I am willing to learn, and if there is someone who tells me my screenplay is screen-worthy, and they want to help me, I would be happy to immerse myself into that unknown, and it will all work out magically:).

Tell us more about your latest project and the inspiration behind the writing of your script. - Do you mean my next script, by the "latest?" It's work in progress, inspired by some people I met while living in Southern California. It's a story about one Mexican artist who has been in this country for fifteen years, yet is undocumented. He gets in trouble, and... It's a work in progress, as I mentioned:)

If this is a question about "Stay With Me," I have always wanted to tell a story of someone who is able to break away from the seemingly unending oppressive and complicated personal circumstances by moving to a different country and freeing oneself from one's own prison, both through internal work and with the help of an entirely different environment. I also wanted to convey, through my heroine, the feeling of a place, in this case - Jerusalem. I didn't have to do much research, as I had spent a year in Jerusalem, and was able to draw on that experience, although all the events and characters in the script are fictitious.

What were some of the challenges of writing your script and the research that went into it? - The main challenge was struggling with the ubiquitous notion that a protagonist was supposed to be always "active." What drove me to write a different story, where the heroine is driven by the internal, rather than external, conflict, was to show that the ordinary people, and, perhaps, the extraordinary people as well, don't live on the verge of new conflict every five minutes of their lives; that constant action is not the modus operandi of everyone; that what unites us and engages us is the very flow of life, one's search of meaning and purpose, which are impossible to find if one is in the constant state of survival.

What is your cinematic goal in life and what would you like to achieve as a writer? - I would like to have one of my screenplays produced, of course:) I also need to finish the novel I've been writing for too long now:)

What kind of impact would your work have in the world and why do you think these themes are important in your script? - I think everyone will derive their own meaning from my script, because it touches upon important needs of everyone - the need for a reciprocated (or not) love; the need to be freer in a marriage, or leave it if it makes one constantly unhappy; the need for self-actualization; the need to travel and see that other places, different from the familiar habitat, exist in the world. That not everything is about survival in this world. That one has to feel alive, and, when one doesn't, he or she has to become aware of that. Those are the needs at the top of Maslow's hierarchy, but they are vital for a person to thrive, and no less important than the needs at the bottom of that ladder, such as the bread and roof over one's head. It seems to me that even before the pandemic there has been a pervasive trend in this country to focus on survival needs, because of all the fear mongering by the media and other sources. We need to shift our focus to higher needs (and their fulfilment) that make us human. I certainly hope that such a motiff, perhaps not verbalized but articulated indirectly, will become transparent if my script is produced and sees the world.


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