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Chicagoan of the Year in Film: Screenwriter Minhal Baig

Some years are easy. This year, the accomplishments of Rogers Park native and current Hyde Park resident Minhal Baig, rarely mentioned in interviews outside of Chicago, make Baig the Tribune’s Chicagoan of the Year in Film.

Let’s see, 2023… most importantly: Baig’s third full-length project, “We Have Grown Up Now” In 1992, a tender coming-of-age drama set in the Cabrini-Green projects premiered on the festival circuit. That tour also included the Toronto International Film Festival, where Sony Pictures Classics acquired “We Grown Now” for U.S. distribution in April 2024. Meanwhile, this month, Baig’s film received three nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards, including best feature film. “Past Lives” “American Fiction” “May December” “Passages” and “We Are All Strangers.”

Strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild, now resolved, have slowed business considerably this year. But about 10 seconds after the WGA signed an impressive contract following its 148-day strike, Baig was back to work.

That meant taking his place in the (virtual) writers room for “Criminal,” Amazon Studios’ upcoming eight-episode noir thriller based on the Ed Brubaker comic book series. It will go into production in a few months

“I’m lucky,” he said the other day at Build Coffee at 61st and Blackstone, one of Baig’s preferred writing spots. “Many shows were canceled during the strike. And we survived. Very meaty. And this is a genre I’ve never done before.

The Yale graduate, now 34, returned to New Haven, Connecticut, in early 2023 to teach screenwriting and film and media studies. According to Baig, this was a refreshing change, especially “right before the strike.” To remind myself why I do this for a living.”

Her husband, film production executive Michael Finfer, has lots of family here in Morton Grove and Evanston; Baig also has family in Rogers Park. In between holiday gatherings, Baig recently completed a script for Paramount based on The Verge writer Claire L. Evans’s 1980s story about hacker, “phreaker” and con artist Susan Headley. Scenario, like non-fiction account, It is titled “Looking for Susy Thunder.” It’s up to 2024 to decide where Baig’s script will go. In the meantime, he continued to work on his next untitled screenplay, which he hopes to shoot in 2025.

He said that unlike his previous feature films “Hala” and “We Grown Now” in 2019, this film reflects the perspective of an adult, not a child or teenager. It’s a mother/daughter story painted on a larger canvas than Baig has ever used before as a filmmaker. “During the writing process, I tended to write what I thought I could reasonably do. I was starting to move away from that with ‘We Grown Now’; “I wasn’t sure how to direct certain sequences while writing them.” (He figured that out beautifully when the time came.) “This next movie, there are all these parts — some of which are set abroad — that I have no idea how to execute.” Stop. “Yet.”

Baig, who is due to have a baby in a few months, likens writing to care. “I keep scanning the script like a cat. You know. Eliminate all knots.”

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

mjphillips@chicagotribune.com

excitement @phillipstribune



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