Ethan Nichtern – The Road Home – Ep. 65 – The Dharma of Screenwriting with AJ Marechal

Ethan welcomes screenwriter and Dharma practitioner AJ Marechal to talk about the dharma of screenwriting, writing characters from a dharmic perspective, and what it’s like to be Ethan’s student. 

AJ Marechal is a writer based in Los Angeles. Her work spans from TV and film writing, to playwriting and lyric essay. She has been staffed on series for Hulu, FX and USA, among other platforms. AJ has been meditating for ten years.
The Dharma of Screenwriting

Ethan welcomes his guest, AJ Marechal, who is a professional screenwriter and also a student in Ethan’s Dharma practitioner training program. They discuss AJ’s origin stories for both meditating and screenwriting, and what it’s like to be in a writers room for a television series. AJ shares how dharma practice has helped her career in screenwriting.

“I’m a really firm believer that the ultimate character study that you could be doing is journaling in writing. The more that you come to know yourself and your own psyche and your own mental processes, and bring a sort of radical honesty to the choices that you’re making, the better you’ll be in your character work as a fiction writer, because you’re more attuned to the range of human choices, and also just the complexity of someone’s inner world.” – AJ Marechal

Ethan Nichtern and Ruth Ozeki discuss the similarities between meditating and writing in The Road Home Ep. 58
Writing Characters from a Dharmic Perspective (25:05)

The conversation shifts to writing characters and character dynamics, especially from a dharmic perspective. AJ talks about the challenges of creating stakes and compelling stories when not using the low-hanging fruit of ‘amoral’ character choices. Ethan gets AJ’s take on Ted Lasso – a TV show about kindness – that comes with a spoiler warning for season two. 

“It’s actually quite challenging to create stakes and compelling story that has a real engine behind it when people are trying to ‘do good.’ Even though I actually think, as both a Dharma practitioner and a writer, that that’s far more complex to live by and write by.” – AJ Marechal

Accountability in Practice (41:45)

Ethan and AJ discuss their student-teacher relationship. AJ shares some of the best insights that Ethan has offered her, and talks about how having a teacher helps keep her accountable in her practice. They end the conversation by touching on working with trauma from a meditator’s perspective. 

“Meditation is a great practice for the things that can be unveiled with self-awareness, which is a lot for a lot of us, that we actually learn to trust our own intelligence… But we do need other relational formats to work with the parts of our mind where self-awareness cannot operate, cannot be uncovered, just through a meditative or contemplative process.” – Ethan Nichtern

Francesca Maximé and Dr. Colin Ross talk about healing trauma on ReRooted Rp. 59


Images via Seregam & AJ Marechal