Qalambaaz: In search of the perfect screenplay

15 screenwriters will be shortlisted, of which five will proceed to join the mentorship programme

Saadia Qamar August 21, 2014


From providing mentors to creating opportunities, Qalambaaz is a platform that centralises discovering and nurturing the growth of screenplay writers. Initiated by Iram Parveen Bilal, who helmed the well-received film Josh (2013), the screenplay writing competition was recently launched at The Second Floor (T2F) under her banner Parveen Shah Productions.

“We are just offering a platform. If you have an idea of how to write a screenplay, fill out a form and submit its first ten pages to Qalambaaz,” says Bilal. 15 applicants will be shortlisted out of which five finalists will proceed to become a part of the mentorship programme.

“The five selected international screenwriters will help the final five screenwriters and facilitate them in completing their screenplays,” Bilal explains. While calling upon young film graduates and budding filmmakers to participate in the competition, which is expected to be stiff.

One of the mentors is Afia Nathaniel, director of the much-awaited Pakistani film Dukhtar. “People have been talking about the revival of cinema. They should know that can’t be achieved until you have good screenwriters,” she says.

“Filmmakers of today need to understand the business of filmmaking. When one writes a film, it should be with a purpose of selling the film to the audience. It should be based on a strong story with strong characters,” she comments. “This, however, is a long struggle,” she feels, as a project rivets the audience’s attention only if it is worthy enough. “You need to challenge yourself to write the best that you can.”

According to Dr Framji Minwalla, Chair of the Department of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts at the Institute of Business Administration, “One should not ignore the mechanism of production. You need to be wise enough to understand it all.”

Nadeem Mandviwalla, distributor and owner of Atrium Cinemas, states that in order for the local film industry to evolve, aspiring writers and filmmakers need to go back to the basics and start the process of growth from scratch.

Screenwriters are often faced with the challenge of avoiding redundant plots and clichés, which Nathaniel suggests, can be prevented by “writing the complete opposite of what you are thinking of writing.” For those who suffer from a writer’s block right in the middle of penning a story, she quirkily recommends: “Burn it all, darling.”

Bilal clarifies that the platform does not promise funding for filmmakers, but guarantees a final product that can be sold as a possible feature film production. Applications for the competition can be sent

till October 10. Writing of the first drafts is expected to begin from January 2015 and go on till June 2015.

Project Qalambaaz mentors: 

Zak Sheikh: A graduate of the USC Screenwriting Programme, Zak is currently a staff writer on the Warner Bros series Sullivan & Son. 

Amit Kumar: Graduated from the Film and Television Institute, Pune. His debut feature, the existential thriller Monsoon Shootout, premiered in the official selection at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. 

Sameer Asad Gardezi: Sameer is a versatile WGA Award-Winning comedy writer who has written for multiple networks, including Comedy Central, The CW, FOX, ABC and NBC. 

Sumit Roy: He has written fiction extensively for Indian television including the historical Chandragupta Maurya for NDTV Imagine and the forthcoming science fiction series Time Machine for Epic TV.

Afia Nathaniel: She won the Geri Ashur Screenwriting Award, Ezra Litwak Distinction in Screenwriting and IFP Market Best Screenplay Emerging Narrative. Her debut feature film Dukhtar is set to release  in Pakistan on September 18.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2014.

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