Five Minutes With....emerging screenwriter Zaity Salman

26 March, 2024

Zaity Salman is a screenwriter living and working on Gadigal land in Sydney, Australia. In 2022, she was selected for the AWG First Break program and has since worked as a notetaker on television projects for Every Cloud Productions, Matchbox Productions, and SBS Digital original series, Appetite. 

Taking from her experiences growing up Black in rural Queensland and her endless wonder for her Nigerian heritage, Zaity’s body of work includes fantasy, comedy, sci-fi and period drama with a particular focus on projects for television. Zaity was recently shortlisted for the 2024 John Hinde Award for Excellence in Writing for Science-Fiction. 

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a novelist quite young, maybe 10 or 12. But I also thought (incorrectly) that novelists just dictated their books to assistants, which seemed like a sweet deal.
I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter at about 16, after I read the script for The Royal Tenenbaums. 
What inspires you?
Work from other writers, history books, podcasts, people watching, visual art, music, nature walks.

Why did you join the Guild?
I think I first joined so I could keep on top of AWG opportunities for emerging screenwriters. That’s what lead me to apply for First Break. 

Best moment of your writing career?
Getting chosen for First Break. I learned so much and got to know the other writers in my cohort who’ve just been so amazing.

Best advice you’ve received about writing?
If you’re struggling with a scene, go for a 30-minute walk. And to try writing with your eyes closed!

What is your best tip for writers?
For the last few years, I have been supported by so many emerging and established screenwriters who have been very generous and completely changed the way I approach my craft. If I were to give a tip, it’d be to come to AWG events, even if you feel nervous, because everyone is super friendly and welcoming. And there’s usually free food!

What are you working on now?
Oh a few things. I’m writing a mystery for the first time, which has taught me heaps about plotting and tension even for non-mystery stories. I’m also writing some spec pilots — a sports dramedy and a children’s pilot! 

What are you currently reading?
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew A. Smith. It’s about two best friends in a small American town who accidentally release these giant mutant grasshoppers that proceed to destroy the world. If you’re a fan of Edgar Wright films or the Zombieland franchise, this is for you.

What are you currently watching?
I’m going through a blitz of all the shows I wasn’t allowed to watch as a kid: Veep, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars etc! 

Find out more about Zaity and her work here.