Writers’ Room Grantees and Residencies Announced
23 / 1 / 2024

AFAC and OSN are pleased to announce the six projects that received support under the Writers’ Room program. This program focuses on the development of scripts into fully-fledged limited series, while providing mentorship support, follow up, and input from specialists in other fields. The program also offers a framework for series-writing that is anchored in the writers’ room methodology, bringing together a group of writers to collaborate on the writing process and character development to create finished written episodes.

The program’s call for applications resulted in an overwhelming response: 276 applications from 18 Arab countries were received, out of which 90 were sent to an independent jury committee following an administrative check. The committee was composed of Syrian scriptwriter Yam Machhadi, Moroccan writer and director Hicham Lasri, Egyptian director Mariam Abou Ouf, and Lebanese director Amin Dora. In their joint statement below, issued following the deliberations, the jurors highlight their impressions on the submitted works:

    “To put forward a pioneering initiative in the Arab world, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), in partnership with OSN network, launched the Writers’ Room program in early 2023. The program set out to identify a group of completed scripts in order to facilitate workshops to further develop and prepare them for production and presentation on the small screen.

    The significance of this project lies in it providing opportunities for writers from all over the Arab world, without any prerequisites, to participate in workshops and opening the door to writers to liaise with prestigious production studios. The project also aims to offer a chance to think outside the box, by opening a wider margin for creative freedom than is normally present in the traditional market.

    The jury committee reviewed 90 projects with the aim of selecting the most pressing works, those that resonate with the demands of our time. The committee took note of the remarkable efforts made across several works that demonstrated great promise in laying the foundation for a distinctive vision.

    However, the main themes that emerged in the majority of the scripts were within the conventional framework of Arab television work, despite the existence of ample room to embrace and integrate new ideas into the realm of Arab drama. The adherence to convention was not only reflected in the ideas presented but was also evident in the writing style. That being said, the scripts did take on a wide array of subjects explored within the scripts, with some delving into the world of crime, others exploring social crises, and many others touching on the worlds of magic and fantasy. In a similar way, the committee was happy to receive and discuss an application portfolio balanced between scenarios emerging from personal visions and collective perspectives.

    Nevertheless, the lack of specificity and distinct sense of place in many projects prevented them from capturing the local character, with its unique details and cultural nuance, a character that a project like the Writers’ Room hoped to spotlight. Thus, we found that a number of projects provided a general treatment of their subject matter.

    Despite these shortcomings, credit must be given to the applicants for creating works that were able to blend the entertainment aspects required for television with artistic and cultural dimensions.

    Selecting final projects was a difficult task given the number of submitted works and the limited productions that could be chosen. In the end, the committee leaned toward topics that delved into the issues facing the Arab world. These works explored the intricacies of place.

    In addition, the committee favored works that addressed the challenges facing youth and teenagers, a demographic often overlooked in the Arab world, which tends to focus on productions centered around the sole star and thus on the concerns of a specific age group.

    In conclusion, we would like to encourage writers not selected to further develop what we saw as significant work in order to bring them to fruition and ensure their release, either through the Writers’ Room program in subsequent cycles or through other channels of production.”

The six projects selected by the jurors:

With this announcement, the winning projects will now embark on a journey of further development of their scripts. A series of three residencies are planned for February, May, and July 2024, led by the program’s mentors director and screenwriter Bassem Breche and screenwriter and producer Maha El Wazir. Winners will also benefit from OSN’s right to a first look at their projects and the opportunity of potentially being selected for production beyond the residency program.