2020 Grand Prize Winner and Finalists 

 

"This Festival is a breath of fresh air in a sea of confusing options. I was drawn to their mission statement of being indie and looking for "unabashedly original" scripts. They walk the walk! We had a layered and highly original project, and the final script notes were easily the most insightful notes we had ever received - constructive and with an unparalleled depth of understanding of the story and characters. And now that we are Finalists, the Festival is delivering on their promise to get our script into the industry and promote the writers. Well worth the price of admission, and friendly people on the other end of the phone as well!" - Daniela Saioni 2020

 

"Friendly organizers, excellent script feedback and opportunities to network and connect... Wow. I am so happy that the person who read it seems to have connected to it. Also just a really fabulous push to keep at it and keep going."  Tsonko Bumbalov 2020

 

2020's Grand Prize Winner was awarded a one hour consultation with Conrad Sun of Meridian Artists and introductions to Steve Smith of Stagecoach Entertainment, Chris Sarfin of Storyline, and Andrew Kersey of Kersey Managment. Our finalists met with Chris Deckard of Fictional Entity and Justin Ross of the Bohemia Group.

 

"I just had my session with Justin Ross. I cannot express my gratitude enough for setting this up! Ross, I feel. is the best most perfect person to give me feedback on Endless Forest. I don't know if you chose him specifically for Endless looking into his projects etc. but he was amazing. His feedback was in-depth and spot-on. And he is professional but so friendly and approachable. Very very very grateful here!" - Tsonko Bumbalov 2020

 

These have been the best notes we have received so far anywhere. - Daniela Saioni 2020 

 

Grand Prize Winner!

 

Prize Fight by Natalie Ganey

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Finalists!

 

Jiyan by Daniela Saioni and Mazdak Taebi

 

Endless Forest by Tsonko Bumbalov

 

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Semi-Finalists!

Creche by Dave Sheski

Light Years from Home by Aaron Pope

Dr. Portia by Millie West

Journey to Fisterra by Alan Lambert

Art in Tandem by Elizabeth Blackmer

The Music Scrooge by Jim Evry

A Bad Influence by Yul-Pyeong Oh

When Two Ends Meet by Tom Tanno

Darby Petty and the Lost Treasure by D.C. Sayre

Hal, The Spud King of Japan by John Thibault

Chupacabra by Aaron Willett and Jayesh Patel

 

An interview with the talented and brilliant Daniela Saioni and Mazdak Taebi.   

What's your background? How long have you been writing?  And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting? 

MAZDAK:  I have been writing ideas and short and feature film scripts since the mid-nineties. I consider myself a director more than a writer.  I'm a writer/director who often collaborates with other writers.

DANIELA:  I am a veteran script supervisor on major motion pictures and TV series, and I also did stand-up for 8 years.  I have been writing for about twenty years on and off between gigs, but the moment that made me realize I wanted to write comedy screenplays was hearing a packed audience laugh at one of my short film premieres in Montreal in 2002.

What Screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs?

MAZDAK: I went to film school at Ryerson in Toronto with a second major in philosophy  My first feature as writer/director premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and received great critical acclaim.  It was reviewed as "The most original film of the Festival" that year. 

DANIELA: I went to film school at York University in Toronto, then did a Post-grad in Comedy Screenwriting at Humber College (yes, we have a program dedicated fully to comedy in Toronto!) and more recently took several workshops with Corey Mandell in LA. But I believe my biggest breakthroughs in screenwriting came as the result of training comedians through a program I created called From Schtick to Script which offered me the opportunity to shepherd over fifty original sitcom scripts from new voices.  Sometimes you learn the most about something while figuring out how to teach it to others. 

What else have you written? What writing habits work for you?  Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking? 

MAZDAK: I have written several short and some feature film scripts.  My last feature as writer/director was an adaptation of a classic story called The Blind Owl.  I usually write in the morning between 5am and noon.

DANIELA: I co-wrote a multi-award-winning, raucous pre-#MeToo feature script called The WBI with filmmaker Annie Bradley which was optioned twice but never got made, and we also co-wrote a bold comedy series pilot and bible called Ir-Reverend which will be shopped in the US this year. While I was still script supervising, I had to fit my writing time in between film shoots so I tended to turn down shows when I needed to block off chunks of time a few weeks a year to write, either at home or at an AirBnB away somewhere. Early in the morning before I'm awake is the best time to get the most pages out without my inner critic trying to interrupt me, but I don't have a set routine.

What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?

MAZDAK & DANIELA: Our script is called Jiyan, which is the Kurdish word for "live", and it's a story of how imagination and artistic expression can help us triumph over the worst adversity. It is a story about hope, survival and the American Dream.  The plot centres on a Kurdish refugee stand-up comic and artist who loses himself in an odd Minnesota border town on the Fourth of July weekend after suffering tragic losses, and the adventures he has there fuelled by his imagination while unknowingly being hunted as a terrorist. 

Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script? 

MAZDAK: My life experiences, the absurdities in our world, and my love of music all trigger my imagination. 

DANIELA: Both in stand-up and in screenwriting, my life experiences and fascination with human psychology are my main sources of inspiration.  In this case, I was bringing Mazdak's story to life so I drew inspiration from his life experiences and the commonalities of what we both love about cinema.  When I write for a director, it's important to me to embody as much of their personal philosophy 

and aesthetic as I can in the script.

Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow?

MAZDAK: I usually start with an outline then I'll move to the treatment, then the script. Note cards don't work for me.  I simply sit down and let the writing flow. 

DANIELA: Whether I'm writing alone, or for a director, or with a partner, I always begin with conversations about the topics and themes the film will be delving into. Then I will think more on it, and start scribbling scene ideas on notecards and move them around. Then I put the cards in order and write a full treatment before starting the screenplay. When I write for specific filmmakers, many discussions happen alon

g the way in the process until I finally sit down and write a full script. By that point, though, most of the heavy lifting has been done and the dialogue and jokes are the easiest part for me.

What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve upon?

MAZDAK: I've found the Festival to be very friendly and supportive to the smaller independent 

storytellers like us who are not yet represented and have limited access to the big league players.  Improvement could involve sourcing more industry risk-takers, film producers and management companies who are not afraid of unique and visionary scripts.

DANIELA:  These were the most well-written script notes we have ever received anywhere, and we appreciated that the readers really understood the project. This was a pleasant surprise, to receive such detailed, insightful notes and we were thrilled to be acknowledged. It really feels like this Festival is about the work and the quality of the projects and goes the extra mile to promote the writers.  The area for improvement would be a bit more organization in the communication of timelines and awards, but we did have an unprecedented set of world circumstances this year.

 

What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future? 

MAZDAK: I am writing a new script, Fogurat, a rock-and-roll music-centric film about a Jewish Iranian American teenage boy and his multiracial punk band who enter an air guitar contest in 1980 Laurel Canyon during the Iran hostage crisis. 

DANIELA: I am currently writing an original half-hour comedy pilot and series bible about an alternative not-so-chosen family consisting of a poly woman in her 40s, her trans ex girlfriend and her Italian American aging mom.  That's all I'll say about that for now, other than it's definitely geared towards cable or streaming services. I am always looking to write a feature film that can be shot near my other home in Tuscany, and I think I'm getting close. 

Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?

MAZDAK:  Keep writing.  If it flows organically, it's worth continuing.  If  you are struggling, stop and start on a new idea. 

DANIELA:  I'm the kind of writer who plans a lot more on the front end to avoid multiple rewrites later on and I encourage my writing students to do the same. The draft of JIYAN that won this competition was our second draft, for example.  If I'm working for a director, I need to understand the vision the director has for what their film is about on a deeper level than plot, and then I think a lot about every character and mull over many different possibilities before landing on a story structure. Changes will certainly 

 

happen, but having done all the heavy lifting up front, that first draft script seems to fly out of my fingers sometimes. There is no greater feeling after having taken all that time than racing to the finish line on a strong first draft. Deadlines are great motivators, too, though.  My first short film was written in two hours to make a contest entry deadline, and I won the money to make the film, got a national broadcast and festival premiere, and ended up getting my union card as an actor out of that.  Ultimately, whatever your process is, it sounds cliche, but just write.

Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA (or stay if you’re already 

 

 

MAZDAK:  We have received three awards in the six months since we launched the script. I was eagerly awaiting the results of Edinburgh in particular because it was outside our home turf. 

The script was judged by international industry professionals, so to be a finalist meant a lot to us and was a confidenc

e booster.  We are actively seeking producers, financiers and management companies to help us make this film.  I have been spending more time in L.A. and seriously hope to move there.

DANIELA:  This was one of the few festivals we entered just after our multiple wins for Best Screenplay and Best Fresh Voice at the Toronto Female Eye Film Festival.  We were  drawn to the mission statement of Edinburgh Screenwriting in regards to its indie spirit and focus on quality and uniqueness, as we knew we had a very different kind of project on our hands with the potential to make a huge impact in the right hands. It's still early days to know what will happen next, but I am certainly inspired to look for representation after this win. I love both L.A. and New York for entirely different reasons and would live in either in a heartbeat.  Winning this award has given us the motivation to get the script out to some influential companies and we are looking forward to their thoughts.  Ultimately, we want to get this film made as it is a unique story that we feel needs to be told.

An interview with the very talented Tsonko Bumbalov.

 

What's your background? How long have you been writing?  And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting? 

Back in 2008 I was still living in Bulgaria, my home country, and I got my first writing gig as a dialogue writer for a daily scripted show which was produced by Fremantle Media. That’s where I met the people I spent the next six years working with. After the show ended, seven of us started developing and pitching our original ideas and we became a writing team.

What screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs? 

I graduated from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Bulgaria with a degree in screenwriting and dramaturgy.

In 2017, I was already living in London, I was selected with six other writers for a Writers’ Incubator scheme with TriForce and Creative England. In 2018 I was a finalist in the WriterSlam  in association with C21 Writers Room and Content London, where I had an extract from my script read out in front of commissioners from BBC and Platform One Media, and talent developers from HBO. It was an amazing night and the feedback they gave me was very encouraging.

What else have you written? What writing habits work for you?  Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking? 

A feature comedy-drama about two women in their late 70s who make a prison break from a care home and live out a Thelma and Louise fantasy in carpet slippers. It’s called “Lemongrass and Morphine”.

I write at home. Early mornings and evenings for a few hours. Some days it can be a scene or a couple of scenes. Other days it can be an idea for a scene or a nice piece of dialogue. It can be one line but I need to know I showed up and made some progress. Also, every Christmas holiday, or any other longer holiday, I try to write a vomit draft. Then it becomes easier as I am mostly editing or rewriting, solving problems and finding solutions and you can do that on the bus or on the train or while walking or exercising. 

What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?

The script is called “Endless Forest” and it’s about two cousins connected psychically through shared trauma. When one of them dies, the other uses the psychic portal to hunt down the killer, who is actually a dark, supernatural entity. It is a queer coming-of-age story mixed with a supernatural, overcoming the monster plot.

Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script? 

This script is very personal. When I first moved to London I really missed Bulgaria and my old home. One day I was hiking in the woodlands in Surrey and suddenly I thought this feels like I am back in Bulgaria. What if I follow this trail and end up back at home, in the woods overlooking my old village? And then the woods became a metaphor for the unconscious and how we are all connected underneath our personas, nationalities, etc. The idea that there is a piece of this primordial forest in each individual.

Another big inspiration for this script was the far-right nationalist and anti-LGBTQ movement in Bulgaria and Russia and all over the world really. It is very frustrating to me how these people make claims on our national heroes and mythical figures and use them in their ideologies. So I got fed up with that and I wanted to tell a story with an LGBTQ protagonist who basically becomes a hero and who is connected to the ancient heroes and they initiate him and guide him on a hero’s journey.

Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow?

In the morning I try to get up very early and brainstorm. Then throughout the day I keep the best ideas or scenes at the back of my mind, checking on them every few hours to see if they still excite me. And if they are exciting, by the evening I just can’t help myself but sit down and write them in more detail and expand on them and begin to fill in the gaps around them and then I have a very rough story outline. Then I work on that outline a lot. Coming from a TV background I am very disciplined about outlining and structuring. When it all makes sense and I feel like I know this story and I have already projected the movie in my head a couple of times, I will start writing the script. On weekdays I write in the morning for 2 hours and in the evening for 2 to 3 hours. I also write on weekends, pretty much I write every Saturday – all day and then I give myself Sunday afternoon to rest. I set goals for myself – a monthly, weekly and daily number of scenes or pages. At the start, I never hit my daily goals. It is frustrating but I just keep showing up and writing and at some point, a shift happens and then I start hitting and surpassing my daily goals and finish the script pretty much on the deadline. Another thing from my TV background is that deadlines are sacred. So even if I have set the deadline for myself I try to stick to it

What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on?   

I am extremely happy with the festival, the fantastic and helpful feedback, the connections and the exposure. I really enjoyed chatting with your director and receiving a professional reader’s feedback on my script.

What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future? 

I am writing a comedy play and a TV thriller pilot for a mini-series. I am also working on a feature drama about a man witnessing an accident and becoming obsessed with the dead person’s life.

Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?

Go for it. Bleed on the page. Find something personal to write about – a fear, an obsession, a trauma. Take advice from other working writers on social media and podcasts, just find a way to feel connected to the screenwriting family. If you do that, you’ll see everyone struggles and everyone feels stuck at some point, so those things should not discourage you, they are a sign you’re a part of the writing family.

 

Fringe Writing

2019 Grand Prize Winner and Finalists

"Absolutely thrilled with the level of individual attention this festival provides. They were very communicative about what I could expect after my selection, and they followed through on what they promised. This is a great festival at a great value that I'd encourage all aspiring screenwriters to take part in."

 

"Edinburgh, birthplace of mankind's best inventions, knows a good idea when they see one. Proud to be part."

 

"Great competition and very responsive staff!" 

 

2019's winner received a personal introduction and one hour consultation to Fred Richter at Tradition Pictures. 

 

Grand Prize Winner!

 

Men by Rebecca Dreyfus

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Finalists!

 

Worthy by Mary & Ryan Griffitts

 

Desert 10 by Zach Tomlinson

 

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Semi-Finalists!

My Sex Life by Rosalyn Rosen

Troy Town by Matthew Barker

Possum by Lyndal Simpson

Perry by RJ Watson

Stalag Dixie by L Morris

The Wild Heart of Alaska by Mary Albanese

Integrated Offender by Kathy Krantz Stewart & Manjit Bhangoo

Twilight Sleep by Alan Lambert

True Destiny by Joe Leone

D.N.A. by Skatz Baxter

Tony and Annette by Daisy Eagan

Shooting Palmer by Angie Louise & Sue Corcoran

 

An interview with the immensely talented Mary Griffiths.        

 

What's your background? How long have you been writing?  And what made you choose and or transition into screenwriting? 

We have been writing for about nine years.  We’ve always loved film and wanted to write a screenplay, but spent many years just kicking around ideas that we never put to paper.  Then we had an idea that really took root, so we started learning from there.

What screenwriting training have you received? And what were some of your biggest breakthroughs? 

Not much.  We consider ourselves “homeschooled.”  Workshops here and there and reading all the required screenwriting books.

What else have you written? What writing habits work for you?  Do you write in short bursts or long shifts, in the morning or late at night, do you write at coffee shops, at home, or at the office when no one else is looking? 

Mary:  Spillage, a one-hour sci-fi fantasy and Dirty Mats, a thirty-minute comedy.  We write at home for the most part, but really wherever and whenever we can find the time.   

What's the title of the script you entered, and what's it about?

Worthy.  It’s about Nazi officer who defies the Third Reich to save his Downs Syndrome son when he learns of Action T4, Hitler’s plan to exterminate all Germans with physical and mental disabilities.  

Where do you look for inspiration and what inspired you to write this script? 

For us, it really has to be something we connect with.  We don’t think in terms of writing a particular genre, we start with story idea we like and go from there.

Describe your process? Do you outline your story first? Do you use notecards or a beat sheet? Or do you simply sit down and let it flow?

Mary:  I like to outline.  Ryan:  Let it flow.

What was your experience with our festival? Are you happy with your involvement? What did you like most about your experience? And what could we improve on?   

We were very impressed with Edinburgh’s follow up / follow through with us.  As a finalist, you reached out to us to find out who you could connect us to in order to help us get our project to the next step.  That was not only very unique, but very appreciated.

What are you writing now and what do you plan on writing in the near future? 

We are working on a psychological thriller and a dramedy about middle-aged parents.

Any advice for those about to dive into their first feature-length screenplay?

Learn the structure.  If you don’t know the structure, you are not speaking the language of the people who read your script.

Last, but not least, what have been your biggest victories since entering our festival? Any more awards, any representation, any options, connections, new opportunities, and or plans to move to New York or LA? 

We are happy to say our script, Worthy, has been optioned with a great producer and director!  Joth Riggs with Whitestone Entertainment discovered our script and will be directing and producing alongside, Grant Bradley, Paul Griffin, and Robert Eagar of Inspiring Films.

Fringe Writing

2018 Spring Grand Prize Winner and Finalists

 

"This competition has given us the push we need. Thank you to everyone at Edinburgh Screenwriting Competition"

 

"A great competition with real potential to be seen and read."

 

"Great contest. Nice awards. It was an honor to be part of it. Great follow through on introductions."

 

Grand Prize Winner!

 

Jim Carroll - Black Easter Resurrection

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Finalists!

 

Joe Graham - The Return of Finlay MacQueen

 

Michelle Lindsay-Baharie & Rob Baharie - Fame Hungry

 

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Semi-Finalists!

The Queendom by Olha Onyshko

The Gospel According to Charlie by Kamal John Iskander

Confirmation by Adam C. Vorenkamp

1933 by Marc Anderson

Sentinels of Tzurac by James Raven and Danielle Kaheaku

Clay by Ash J. Louis

The Venetian Equivalency by Alvin Easter

Elephant and Castle by Samuel Bernstein

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The Last Indian War by Michael Graf

The Contestant by James H. Hibbard

Rebound by Warren Paul Glover

The Hidden Truth by Milva Scollo

Ephemeral by Juan Armijos

Terrordise by V.N. Alexander

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