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Asia looks to boost writing talent

It’s long been a criticism from beyond Asia that scripts are – in a sweeping generalisation – weak. Recently that criticism has been acknowledged, and there’s been considerable growth in the number of labs and programmes springing up to address the issue.

The newest kid on the writers’ block (pun intended) comes from Singapore.

The Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) announced its return to the IFF calendar in March after a break. It will run alongside the Asian TV Forum, Asian TV Awards and ScreenSingapore. This week SGIFF has announced a new Southeast Asian Film Lab, targeting the region’s emerging filmmakers.

SGIFF executive director Yuni Hadi said the Lab’s aim was “to unearth potential stories from the region and explore the richness of Southeast Asian culture”. Before her appointment as the festival’s ED in March this year, Hadi was a producer on Anthony Chen’s multiple award-winning Ilo Ilo, Singpaore’s most successful film internationally in recent years.

The Lab’s application criteria (which include being under 35 with at least two short films selected by international film festivals but no completed feature) are deliberately quite high as applications are accepted from across the ASEAN region.

Up in Korea, the Busan IFF has been running the Asian Film Academy (AFA) for a decade, making it one of the region’s longest-running festival-supported talent development initaitives.

On Friday the AFA announced the 24 participants for this year’s 18-day Academy, which runs ahead of and during BIFF. The selection spans the continent and includes filmmakers from territories not often represented in international events such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

This year the AFA has partnered with the New York Film Academy and Florida’s Full Sail University, both of whom will contribute staff and expertise.

India has announced three writers labs for this year.

The National Film Development Corporation of India’s (NFDC) Film Bazaar Screenwriters’ Lab has run for several years, with producer Philippa Campbell among its international mentors.

At two- or three-stage affair, the Lab’s final event always runs in November as part of NFDC’s Film Bazaar in Goa.

This year the NFDC is also offering a Romance Screenwriters Lab in partnership with publisher Harlequin. THis week the programme announced the six writers selected to participate.

The Mumbai Mantra lab programme, a partnership between Indian multi-national Mahindra and the Sundance, completed its three-year deal in 2013, but Mahindra has decided to stay in the game.

This year it’s implementing the much broader CineRise 100, a programme combining training, mentoring and pitching. The programme will accept 100 screenwriters and is currently open for applications.

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