Creative Screenwriting Profile Of Aiko Hilkinger
Aiko Hilkinger is an award-winning, queer, screenwriter of color from Colombia. Her fantasy animated pilots have placed in numerous contests, most notably ScreenCraft, Filmmatic TV, and Fast Track Fellowship. They were also named one of Network ISA’s Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2021.
Hilkinger writes magical stories, blending the past and future, to create new worlds filled with diverse characters that children and teenagers can relate to and see themselves represented in. Most importantly, she believes that through her animation work she can connect with kids and teens to help teach healthy communication and normalize talking about things that might make us uncomfortable.
Do you consider screenwriter a calling or a career?
I think a little bit of both. I’ve always known I wanted a career in writing. It is something that has always come naturally, so I guess you could call it a “calling”. I work really hard at it, always trying to improve my style and my stories. Ultimately, I think that if you only see it as one or the other, you won’t make the most out of it. You should always be passionate about what you work on, as well as have the drive to sell it.
What types of stories do you write and what makes them so compelling?
I primarily write diverse fantasy animation for children and teens. I want to create magical worlds full of queer characters of color that reflect me and all the kids that didn’t grow up seeing themselves in their favorite shows. I think my writing is compelling because I like to write character and theme forward. I want to connect with my audience, allow them to build bonds and emotional connections with my characters and stories in order to learn lessons and reflect on their experiences.
What aspects of your life experience feed into your stories?
My unique intersectionality. I have a very culturally diverse background, and I think that my desire to showcase it feeds into my stories. I’ve also started writing stories deeply connected with my life experiences, that being heartbreak, my queerness, or the things I learn in therapy.
What is something few people know about you?
I honestly don’t know. I think I’m a pretty open book, which might come back to bite me in the future. But I like to think that if people follow my Twitter feed, they probably know a great deal about me. My favorite thing to bring up to someone that doesn’t know me, however, is that Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell on Game Of Thrones) follows me on Twitter. It’s a weird statement that catches people off guard, and I always find it hilarious.
Where do you source your story inspiration?
Everywhere. I’ll think of a broad concept that I want to write about, for example vampires or witches, and build around that. More often than I care to admit, I find something on Pinterest that will spark an idea. I also have a deep fascination and love for mythology, so the other side of my inspiration comes from a concept or a mythological story that I want to retell.
How do you decide if a story is worth telling?
I know a story is worth it when I’m excited to tell it. It’s a gut feeling first, and then I ask myself why I want to tell this story, and if the answer is strong enough, I will flesh it out. Other times it’ll be all about the characters, so I’ll build up to my why as I get further into the characters’ why. But at the end of the day, it’s all about excitement and feeling inspired to write this specific thing right now.
What is your writing process from idea to completed screenplay?
It is all over the place. I like to say that I’m super organized and keep track of it all very nicely, world build, create my characters, outline, etc., but I’ve found myself in this weird “I’ll fix it in post” mood where if an idea sparks, I’ll quickly work on characters and then immediately start writing my pilot. I do not recommend this, however. I think outlining is a great skill and step to go through, just so that you don’t waste that much time doing various drafts in order to find your story. But at this point, I’ve done it so many times that I can easily visualize what my script is going to look like, write out a “grocery store checklist” structure, and I’m off to write.
How do you define your writing voice and your brand?
My voice is a mixture of optimism and pessimism at the same time. I want my stories to feel like warm rays of sunshine with scary and strong thundering storms in the distance. I’m a Gemini moon, so this duality of emotions comes naturally to me, and while I want to be perceived as a kind and warm person, I won’t shy away from important and heavy topics. My brand on the other side is easily definined as “unyielding badass queer”, and I will fight for diversity and representation until I drop.
What aspects of the writing process do you find most challenging?
I truly love everything about the process. I think that my biggest challenge is letting go of an idea when it doesn’t work out. I was recently working on a project that felt set in stone, but when I tried to write the pilot, it just wasn’t working out. It took me a while to allow myself to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t bringing me joy anymore. Knowing when to stop working something and moving on is the hardest part for sure, it almost feels like a breakup. But you’ve got to learn to listen to yourself and let go of the stories that aren’t serving you.
How has your writing improved over the past year?
My writing has improved in every way imaginable. I’ve allowed myself to have more fun with my voice, and through reading so many scripts I’ve found out what and how I want to write. I’ve noticed an ease to my process that I didn’t have last year. Through my extensive trial and error, I have learned to trust my gut and knowledge of my writing process, so writing has become instinctual, almost second nature.
Where do you position yourself and your work in the industry?
I want to work for DreamWorks Animation so badly. I definitely position myself in the center of children’s animation. I want my stories to be consumed by children of color who dream of being the heroes of their favorite fantastical shows. I have recently dabbled in hour-long dramas and would love to work to diversify that space for young queer teens of color.
How would you like to be thought of around town?
I want to be seen as a kind and nurturing person. I’ve always been very vocal about sharing information and helping other writers grow, because if we’re all gatekeeping information and advice, then how can we expect to get far. I want to be this friendly figure that people can reach out to for advice and have the knowledge and power to help them how I wish a mentor figure could help me.
What recent film or TV show do you wish you could have written?
I am obsessed and will never stop raving about Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. It has everything I love: overwhelmingly positive protagonists, incredible thematic statements, diversity, and just an overall great premise. It truly is the blueprint for the shows that I want to write, with the energy and vibe that I want to put out into the world.