The Writers' Room is a new mentorship program launched by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) and funded by the broadcasting network OSN. The program is designed for series creators in the Arab region and aims to contribute to develop and support talents and compelling stories. The program focuses on the development of projects into full limited series during the program’s seven-month timeline, consisting of three in-person residencies, in-between mentorship, and follow-up, as well as input from experts in the field as well as from specialists in other fields.
Series, whether they be in the form of books, TV shows, or films, are a vital and impactful art form. They allow the viewer to dive deep into characters, themes, and overarching narratives that cannot be captured in other formats. Television series also allow for a level of immersion that can draw in viewers, building engaged communities and fostering discussion and analysis around the work's themes. Through the course of a series, creators have the opportunity to shape their characters and their worlds, allowing for a more thorough exploration of complex topics, emotions, and relationships, bringing attention to important issues, and creating empathy and understanding in viewers.
Television series have been around since the early days of television programming in the 1930s, expanding more quickly in the 1950s and 1960s. These early shows proved to be extremely popular and set the stage for the many television series that followed over the years. Today, TV series are produced in a wide variety of formats and genres, and they continue to be a popular form of entertainment around the world.
In the Arab region, the history of TV series is closely related to the history of radio and television broadcasting, with some of the earliest TV series being adaptations of literary works. In the last two decades and with the advance of technology, streaming platforms have come to replace traditional television broadcasting and have revolutionized how we consume television shows, significantly contributing to developing series as an art form. With the rise of streaming services, the traditional network models have been disrupted, allowing creative teams more freedom to explore complex storylines, character development, and visual aesthetics. This shift in consumption has also led to the emergence of new and contemporary storytelling formats that are moving away from plot-driven storylines and embracing character-driven stories.
With this rise of streaming platforms worldwide, there is a higher demand for content by and from the Arab region that is diverse, fresh, and reflective of the region’s realities and aspirations. This higher demand for quality content brings about a pressing need to start building the foundations of an ecosystem with writers' rooms and labs, mentorship opportunities, networks for writers/ directors/ producers, and more investment in the research, development, and writing phases.
The program adopts the writer’s room methodology, which is based on collective writing and can be traced back to 1950s films and television series development. The practice has since been popularized due to the richness and diversity brought about by bringing together a group of writers to collaborate on the writing process from the brainstorming and character development stage to creating finished written episodes.
About the Program
Building on the few existing initiatives for series development within the Arab region, the Writers' Room will operate on four levels to bridge some of the still-existing gaps: incubating projects until the development of fully fledged limited series; providing mentorship support, follow up, and input from specialists and experts during the residencies and in between period; creating a framework that allows for peer-to-peer learning and participation in the creative process; and partnering with a streaming platform (OSN) that will have the right to a first look at the developed projects, with the potential of choosing a project or more to be further developed beyond the residency.
The program aspires to achieve the above through: setting up writers' rooms as an essential component of the program and as part of a strategy to grow talents who can ensure continuity in the development of new talents and quality content for the future; offering a timeframe for the series development and writing phase that allows for the creation of solid projects, hence increasing the chance of their commissioning; and providing a diverse pool of experts such as historians, social scientists, and researchers, who will enrich the development process and steer it toward the production of well-rounded, multi-faceted projects.
In its first edition, the program will incubate up to 5 series projects to be developed over a period of 7 months. The writers will benefit from:
Selected writing teams must commit to physically attending all three residencies and to abiding by the writing schedule in between the residencies to ensure the completion of all episodes over a period of 7 months. Failure to do so will result in the disqualification of the project and cancellation of the writers’ participation in the program. The first residency is scheduled for February 2024, the second residency for May 2024, and the final residency for July 2024.
Eligibility, Application, and Process
The Writers' Room program accepts applications through an open call process. The program is open to Arab writers living and working in the Arab region, irrespective of age, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Applying writers must have prior experience in writing (preferably series writing) and must apply with a series project.
AFAC and OSN encourage the formation of teams of a minimum of 2 writers (and a maximum of 4 writers) to apply with a joint project. A project with a single writer is still eligible to apply. However, if selected, AFAC will assign co-writers to the project to work with the main writer. Potential applicants with a current open AFAC grant cannot apply to the program. Additionally, interested applicants who have an application that is in the process, should reach out to our grants management team.
Applications are only accepted through our online application forms available on our website. Applications submitted via postal mail or e-mail will not be accepted.
The applicant will receive a confirmation email once the online application has been received. AFAC will not contact applicants if any part of their application is incomplete. Incomplete applications will not be taken into consideration.
Please note that the deadline for applications is July 11, 2023, at 5:00 PM (Beirut time - GMT+3). Applications that are not submitted before the deadline will not be accepted.
To apply, the following supporting material is required:
The Evaluation and Selection Process will be carried out by an independent jury committee composed of professionals in the field. Following the submission deadline, AFAC will conduct an administrative check to ensure that applications are complete and adherent to the guidelines. Only applications that pass the administrative check will be processed.
An independent jurors committee will review and evaluate the submitted applications and will select up to five limited series projects to receive support.
The selected projects will be announced and published on the AFAC website and social media channels pages after the jury meetings conclude. An automatic email will be sent to applicants whose projects were not selected.
Once the selected projects are announced, AFAC will provide a contract to be signed by the writers. The contract will include, without limitation, start and end dates, residency dates, general provisions, OSN’s first look requirements, implementation and amendments, required reports, and project results.
The writers will be expected to work on their projects consistently over the course of the seven-month term and to communicate with their mentors on a frequent basis via Zoom or other available means.