So what’s your story about? Death and mortality? Stuck in the “kind of, but not really” mode? Confused? Questioning your own originality? The three shades of white scare you?  In need of a trim, some polishing and a transformation? We might have the answer, or at least the European Short Pitch does: a first aid kit for emerging scriptwriters.

“Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn’t be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m a walking cliché…. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier…. I need to turn my life around.” Very profound Charlie, and meaningful, in the right context, but the way it usually ends, especially after a long while of introspection, is where it all began. “To begin… To begin… How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. Okay, so I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana-nut. That’s a good muffin.” Know the feeling? Funny how we always reach out to our most basic, primitive needs when procrastination, the fear of the white page or self-flagellation takes over. Let’s call it the art of survival. Our first step towards artistry. Today’s guide through the universe of ailing scriptwriters, Charlie Kaufman in Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation and his never-ending quest for self-preservation. Sounds way too familiar, doesn’t it, this being stuck in a cave, trying to give meaning to Plato’s allegory while trying to avoid the trap of coming up with imaginary friends, or twin brothers for that matter. It could be fun, this internal good cop, bad cop routine, but better avoid this split-screen personality syndrome and take a risk and step out in the real world, where the grass is still green and the birds are still singing, because, before you know it you’ll start writing yourself into your screenplay while looking for an instruction manual on how to deal with trick photography. It’s a difficult balancing act, this eternal struggle between your internal voice-over, some would call it hearing voices, and real-life interaction.

But there is a remedy, if only Charlie would have known, a remedy proven to be better and more constructive than Xanax, Valium, Prozac or any other chemically induced elixir to fight off depression and anxiety, the emergency hotline for young, European scriptwriters: NISI MASA’s European Short Pitch, a one-week rewriting session bringing together twenty-five emerging, young, European scriptwriters followed by a co-production forum and its pitching sessions. One could call it a very international self-help group, but it’s definitely better than having your loved ones or significant others, out of the goodness of their heart, after reading twenty-five pages of your blood, sweat and tears, be ruthless and as honest as they can. All your worst fears would be realized, and insecure as we are, that’s not going to help you.

What you need is someone giving you constructive feedback, someone thinking from within, someone trying to help you turn your story into the story you want to tell, the way you want to tell it. Someone who’ll recognize your intention and help you connect with and gain insight into the story on the page. We’ll take you back to its roots to decipher its essence, we’ll help you shape the internal logic of your story, we’ll help you turn the personal into the universal. Through trial and error. Your screenplay is a living thing and your intention must equal the result. You need to unplug from your subjective view to gain an objective overview and we’ll be that stepping stone. Yes, you’ll be swinging on a pendulum of emotion, shifting between elation and despair. But you’ll learn about yourself as a scriptwriter, your natural tendencies, your escape routes, your short cuts. Of course, all depends on you, as you’re the creative mind, the one overlooking that arduously and tediously built universe of yours. But as we all know, every Don Quixote needs a Sancho Panza and that’s exactly what we have on offer. That’s it for my sales pitch, but as we’re all looking for a reason to start narrowing down our focus and start acting like predators closing in on their prey, let’s make that reason European Short Pitch. And as we all need a deadline to keep our bodily fluids flowing, let’s meet on the 30th of September at midnight central European time. European Short Pitch it is. As Charlie would say, “I like this. This is good.”

text by Wim Vanacker