Why you should definitely apply to The Script Contest

6 February, 2020

The Script Contest is one of the few projects that I’ve seen growing right in front of my eyes, from the very first ideas and trust me when I say – it has grown beautifully into something amazing. It’s one of the few screenwriting contests in Romania and it responds to a true need identified on the market. Not only does it give you the chance to develop and improve your script, it also ensures the entire production for the big winner. Yes, you will have the chance to see your movie come true. And it doesn’t even matter if you are an experienced screenwriter or not – the contest is open to anyone who has a good story to put into words and share with the world.

The Script Contest has grown a lot from the first edition until it has now become, for its fourth edition, a true residence. And because I couldn’t find the proper words to describe this project to you, I asked Laura Mușat (project coordinator) and Andreea Toader (residence coordinator) to tell us about the course of the event and this year’s edition:

How did The Script Contest start? Was there a need for such projects in the industry?

Laura: The idea of a screenwriting contest for short films came in my mind when I was a student in London and, although I was watching Romanian films, I was quite sad about the lack of diversity in themes and genres. I was studying film production and I knew I wanted to go back home to work there. During my 2nd year, I thought about a short film screenwriting competition which would propose a different genre with each edition, and the winning script would be produced into a short film – obviously, by my production house, which will get the necessary funding and gather the right film crew. I wrote down this idea in my notebook, and in 2015, when I returned to Romania, I started putting more ideas on paper. TSC was the starting point of the ADFR association, since I needed a place to build up the project, an entity to take over the role of organizer.

Yes, I think there was a clear need for such projects – and for many others, and I believe there is still a need. There aren’t many such initiatives, they have started to appear in the last 3 years and I think their number is constantly increasing, which is a very good thing.

Can you think of some similar initiatives existing in the local and international industry, which you consider worth following?

Laura: Locally, FILM PLUS seems to be a very useful initiative in the industry, which has grown considerably since its launch and which offers real help. The several categories where the projects can be submitted in, and the outstanding team that selects them and provides guidance are their great strengths. Then, speaking of initiatives for feature films, Pustnik is a great project, much like ours, but much more advanced. And, at some point, there also were the screenwriting workshops held by the girls from CTRL + N , I don’t know if they still make them.

Andreea: I believe that more and more film festivals, including the Romanian ones, have started to integrate a screenwriting component into their program, whether it comes in the format of a competition, masterclass held by one of the invited filmmakers or a workshop. As examples, I can think of TIFF with The Pitch Stop, the LIM program, Torino Film Lab, the Pustnik residency, Write a Screenplay For organized by HBO in collaboration with different festivals, those at Super organize different programs for the youth, etc. As Laura said above, you notice that more and more such initiatives are emerging every year, which is very cool.

The Script Contest is currently at its 4th edition. How did it evolve and how did the first editions look like?

Laura: Personally, I feel there has been an evolution from 2016 and until now, which you can especially notice in the structure of the program, that has been developed with each edition.

In 2016 we started with a pilot edition where anyone could apply by sending their script via an e-mail to the official TSC address. The only basic rule was to follow one of two proposed movie genres: comedy or thriller. It was the edition with the most entries, but many of the submitted scripts were aberrations – either they weren’t written in the script format or the story didn’t make any sense. Then, there was no pre-selection team, but only one jury director who selected 20 scripts worth reading by the other jurors.

With the 2nd edition we realized that the movie genre thing doesn’t work very well, so Massi Nardulli (n. the director of the jury at the time) suggested to go with a theme – Portraits of a Disappearing World. The submission process was the same but we’ve perfected our selection rules.

Since edition #3 I realized that this project is extremely necessary and has potential for growing up. It coincided with the expansion and bonding of the ADFR team and a small internal reorganization. We started having brainstorming sessions and this is how we came to a concept similar to the present one – we reduced the jury to 3 members, but no director this time, we included a pre-selection team and a precise number of finalists and two new stages: one-on-one meetings with the jury where they receive feedback on their scripts, and the final stage, the PITCH.

At the end of the edition, we received great feedback from the finalists, but they all suggested that we extend the script rewriting period or include more meetings with professionals in the field. This is how the idea of a residency came up, and because AFCN has a call for creative residences every year and we felt that the next step would be to find financing to further develop the project, we decided that it’s time 🙂

Andreea: I first came into contact with the project on its second edition, just after joining the ADFR team. So I’ve watched its growth, as Laura talks about in detail above, and I believe that from year to year it turns into something really encouraging, useful and prolific for the participants.

I remember working on the project application for different national funding contests and, at one point, Laura told me that she thought about including a residency component with the next edition (the current 4th edition). From the very beginning, it seemed like a very good idea (I said ‘Damn, now I really want to apply myself!’ :)) ) because, really, there are not many projects to grant a longer period for working on the script and at the same time, feedback and support from some experienced people in the area. And I think this residency helps, in particular, screenwriters at their debut or those who want to write scripts, have interesting stories, but they don’t necessarily master the tools that make a screenplay a good, practical, suitable for production kind of screenplay.

What are the winning scripts of the first three editions and what’s their status?

Laura: Edition #1 had two winners, both screenplays were produced in short films and Vlad Ghinea’s film – Thirst, was selected in the international competition of the Curtas Villa do Conde festival, in 2018. On the 2nd edition, we had only one winner: Călătoria Urșilori Polari în Deșert (dir: Alexandra Suciu) is currently in post-production and will be ready for its festival adventure starting with March, and last year’s winner – A White Flamingo (dir: Dragoș Hanciu) enters production in two weeks, so we are getting ready for the shootings!

Tell me more about the TSC team, about your roles and those of your other colleagues?

Laura: Our team is small, we work mainly with collaborators, we’re mostly the same ones since edition #1. Besides me and Andreea, who are the coordinators of the project, we also have Alina Dima (PR), Andreea Surugiu (Social Media), Sabina Smeu (Digital Coordinator), Radu Mercaș (website developer) + the creative team, consisting of video ( Ioana Bodale), editing (Alex Țibu), graphics (Miruna Modîlcă-Belgun). What’s nice and exciting is that most of us make time for brainstorming meetings, which also helps a lot on our team-working.

Andreea: Initially, when I joined ADFR, I was the Social Media coordinator, so for editions #2 and #3 I was in charge of that, and now I am the residency coordinator. When the residency thing started to come about, I told Laura that I would like to get more involved in this project and, in the end, we decided that I will deal with the preparations and with what will happen during the residency, with her help of course.

Honestly, The Script Contest has pretty much become my favorite ADFR project (I hope I don’t get a lot of boo-hoos), but it comes from a personal angle, because that’s exactly the kind of event I dreamed to exist when I was in college, an opportunity for people who didn’t study film, who don’t work in film, who don’t know anyone in the industry, but who feed on stories and who would like to see them materialized. I’m saying this because I have a totally different background and I made the decisive step to enter the film world a little later in my life, even though the desire has existed since ancient times.

What will The Script Contest #4 look like and where will it take place?

Andreea: The stages are just as last year: submissions, pre-selection, one-on-one meetings with the jury members, the final pitch, only now comes in the creative residency, which will take place after the feedback sessions and before the final presentation. It will be held for 6 days, between March 23-29, in a quiet location, outside the city bustle, more specifically at the COBOR Farm in Brașov. The residency is dedicated to the authors of the 9 finalist scripts who will benefit from a constructive, balanced program, which will include writing and feedback sessions (besides the feedback between participants, we will also have some surprise guests;) ), short film screenings and a workshop on how to present your project to a jury.

Entries for the 4th edition are open until 12.02.2020. Who can apply for The Script Contest?

Andreea: In a nutshell and generally speaking, everyone over the age of 18 with a passion for film, writing or storytelling, who at least once in his life imagined how it would be if the story in his head would run on a movie screen, in front of an audience. Of course, there are some submission rules that must be respected and can be consulted on The Script Contest website.

Now, if I were to get into detail, the call is aimed at screenwriters, either students or at the start of their career, at people who work in film or similar fields, or at people who may have nothing to do with this world professionally speaking, but who can create stories worth putting on the paper and know how to outline them in a screenplay format. The main thing is to have something to say, to be captivating and to be right for production, we have to keep it real.

Last but not least, what would an ideal The Script Contest edition look like in the future, if there were no limitations whatsoever? Go wild.

Laura: I would like to develop the residency – extending its period, increasing the number of activities in the program. I look forward to bringing well-known filmmakers to the jury and expanding the project beyond the borders, and in time, to create a community of new & upcoming filmmakers among the finalists, which will also be a useful networking circle. Last but not least, I would be happy if the final pitching sessions would result in the production of several finalist scripts – that would be an ideal edition. I would love to make more talented people happy 🙂

Andreea: Well, what’s left to say? Laura pretty much said everything :))

Of course, to reach an international edition, with film professionals from abroad either as jury members or invited to hold masterclasses or panel discussions during the residency, would be more than wonderful. Also, it would be cool to collaborate with international festivals or co-production programs.

And one more thing, I would like to see that the films produced have a beneficial impact on the local industry, that they bring something new, that there’s a sign that we are getting out of this creative rigidity.

Romina Banu Romina Banu
Photographer and editor; she co-founded Dissolved Magazine together with Melissa. For Films in Frame she gathers film and TV series recommendations for lazy weekends and she writes about interesting projects from the film industry. Other than that, she likes traveling, chilling with her cats and sleeping.