China Opens Screen writing Competition for US Writers

The Chinese government Monday announced an international script writing contest targeting American writers, for which finalists will be flown to China to discuss having their stories set there made into films.

The finalists will be announced in May and given an all-expenses-paid trip to Beijing to meet producers about making their stories into films.

Budding and as yet-unknown US screenwriters will get a chance to follow the example of Hollywood heavyweights and make a pitch to booming China, now the world’s 2nd largest film market.

Zhang Huiguang, director of the Beijing Municipal Government’s Cultural Assets Office, made the announcement that officially launched the 2013 Beijing International Screen writing Competition for US based writers.

The deadlines for feature and short-film scripts are 7 April and 20 April, respectively, followed by a May announcement of the list of top finalists, all of which will be given prize money, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to meet potential financiers in the Chinese capital.

The competition is the Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to get the country more exposure in international markets through voices that might be more in touch with the tastes and expectations of foreign audiences. The difficulties of getting Chinese stories to transcend cultural barriers were illustrated last month when Lost in Thailand — the current highest-grossing domestic production ever to be released in China – flopped in its limited release at the now Chinese-owned AMC cinema chain in North America.

Zhang will serve as the president of the competition, with film producer Kevin Niu serving as chairman. Oscar-winning journalist-filmmaker Mark Harris and producer Tracey Trench, a former Twentieth Century Fox executive and now a Key consultant to the Oriental DreamWorks animation studio joint venture in China will be the competition’s Grand Judges. It is understood that the panel will meet during the Beijing International Film Festival in late April, after which the decision on the list of finalists will be made and unveiled.

“My hope is that the competition will bring the two cultures closer together through the delicious language of film,” Mr. Trench said in an interview. “As a judge, I will be looking for the elements of any good feature or short: solid storytelling with fresh characters. And in this case, I will be particularly interested to see how writers weave the hugely fascinating city of Beijing into their narratives.”

In a statement, the competition was described as an “unprecedented opportunity for aspiring and established US writers to obtain international recognition,” with submissions required to “prominently feature Beijing as a location, conveying in some way the romance, mystery and cultural richness of this great world capital.” According to Niu, the competition “is one of the 1st established routes for US filmmakers to obtain direct access to the Chinese market.”

“I am thrilled that the Beijing International Screen writing Competition is taking place at this time in history,” said Zhang. “The city and people of Beijing are excited to begin a new era of creative and cultural collaboration with the US”

The Beijing officials are backed in the competition by Beijing International Creative Industry Corporation, online video providers LeTV and Harvardwood, an organization for Harvard alumni working in the media and entertainment industries.