It’s a fact of the physical world that great pressure can produce beautiful things. Youssef Gouda stands as an example that this formula also applies to the art of writing. Though not quick to agree that his life has been one of oppressive situations, his early years growing up in Egypt during the time of the revolution instilled a heightened sense of observation in the young boy; a skill that would serve him well as a writer when his pursuits led him to America. Captivated from this early age by storytelling, Youssef began devouring every film he could get his hands on. Perhaps the most work intensive aspect of filmmaking, writing seems to be a highly cumbersome pathway to success in the industry. Gouda concedes, “Around age fifteen or so I wanted to make movies and I realized I had to write them without realizing how hard it would be to be a professional writer. I sort fell backwards into it.” What may have been a posterior direction into filmmaking has led to awards for his writing and award-winning films as well as a host of admirers within the Hollywood film community for Youssef.
Youssef wrote and directed the film Doris, a dark comedy which takes place in a trench on the frontlines of World War II. An Official Selection of the 2020 Beverly Hills Film Festival, Doris was lauded for its range which juxtaposes shocking moments of violence against absurdist humor. The film certainly hints at an influence from the UK’s Monty Python which illuminates the ridiculous of mankind’s pettiness with a comedic wink. Doris impressed audiences on a technical level but also in regards to how darkly funny they found it to be. Gouda remarks, “You can make something hopelessly dark and also hilarious, Doris is proof of that. We were so flattered to be an official selection for the Beverly Hills Film Festival, to debut a film at the Chinese Theatre, where Star Wars premiered was a pinch me moment that I’ll never forget.” A highly different comedic tone is found in Jurassic Punk, also written by Youssef. The tale of an elderly former Punk Rock singer who finds himself alienated from his family and his former band, Danny Brooklyn is a tragic character who still clings to a bit of the rebellious DNA that once defined him. Danny’s attempts to crash the reunion concert of his old band collides with his own potential reunion with his daughter, leaving the audience to watch him make decisions that will define the remaining years of his life. Just as with Doris, Mr. Gouda emphasizes how the mind of an individual chooses to frame their life experiences and drives them towards destruction or acceptance; this perspective of futility can bring levity or tragedy. The USC First Look Awards was bestowed upon Youssef’s screenplay for Jurassic Punk to recognize his exceptional writing of Danny Brooklyn and his world.
As the film industry leans in towards a return to business as usual (post pandemic), Mr. Gouda is at the forefront writing a number of new films. His adaptation of Mid West writer Jon Billman’s “Barnstormers” received both an enthusiastic approval from Billman and the honor of being a semi-finalist at the prestigious Flicker’s Rhode Island Screenwriting Competition. The story takes place in America during the Dustbowl of the early twentieth century. A period which nearly devastated much of America. Gouda’s portrayal of baseball meets Native Americans pitted against small town White communities offers drama, humor, and cultural insight. The fact that Youssef is a native of Egypt also allows him to offer a perspective untethered to American cultural roots. More unique historical insight is offered in Streetrville, a film for which Gouda has partnered with Antijinx Entertainment. While Antijinx Entertainment is mostly known for 1968 The Musical (Official Selection of the Golden Doors Film Festival, Dances with Films, and the Other Venice Film Festival), Streetrville is an antebellum comedy that investigates the roots of Chicago and the salacious events and people involved. Additionally, Youssef is working with Telly Award Winning Producer Samuel Skeen of Animal Victory Entertainment in writing Sadie Springs USA. The film revolves around a small town mining community whose internal and external conflict about the end of an industry will reveal the true character of all its residents. As someone who left his family a continent away to pursue his own future, Youssef confirms there is an element for all similar spirits in Sadie Springs USA.
Youssef Gouda eagerly states that he’s overwhelmed by the embrace he has received from the film community but also notes that the life of a writer is one which resides in uneasiness. He imparts, “It’s a long, painful, frustrating thing to love. My writing process is usually staring at a blank computer screen muttering to myself “Fuck, why am I doing this to myself? I’ll never figure this out, what did I get myself into?” And it ruins my day when I can’t write. When I don’t write in the mornings it really bothers me so you can imagine how frustrating it is when you are starting off as a writer and having to learn the pain and struggle you have to go through. Paul Thomas Anderson has a great saying ‘Writing is like boxing, you can dodge all you want but eventually you’re gonna get punched in the face’ and that’s what I spend every day doing, getting punched in the face. When all is said and done, I love it. The struggle itself sucks but every script is a part of you that you are trying to work out. If you really care about writing honestly, writing something that you care really deeply about, your body and mind will fight you every step of the way because we’re wired to defend ourselves. The act of writing requires you to be okay with that and okay with being vulnerable. I can’t say I enjoy it every day but it’s necessary when you’re having to write something honest and it’s something you can be very proud of.”
writer – Coleman Haan