Arab Film Studio Narrative Competition 2015 deadline draws near

We talk to last year's winner Mohamed Magdy to find out about the contest and the opportunity it brings.

Mohamed Magdy credits the Arab Film Studio Narrative Competition for his scriptwriting, storytelling, production and budgeting skills. Christopher Pike / The National
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As the deadline for entering next year’s Arab Film Studio Narrative Competition draws near, this year’s winner says it offers a great opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to learn.

“The biggest thing I learnt from AFS is simply how to tell a story,” says Mohamed Magdy, a former interior designer from Egypt who now works with Lamtarra. “Scriptwriting, storytelling, production and doing it all on a budget – I learnt all that from there.”

Magdy's winning film Shadows, which tells the story of a painter who delivers messages from the dead, won an impressive four of the six AFS awards available this year: Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Design and Best Music. It was also an official selection at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last month.

The deadline for entering next year’s competition is December 6. Open to GCC nationals and residents over the age of 21, the Image Nation/twofour54-sponsored contest offers an intensive filmmaking programme, culminating in a two-week boot camp in March, during which the selected entrants will learn the basics of filmmaking from industry insiders.

It culminates with them making a film that will be judged by a panel of experts – which this year included Knight Rider actor David Hasselhoff – and a screening and awards ceremony at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

If you think you have what it takes to be next year’s award-winning filmmaker, the first step will be to shoot a video with a running time of between one and three minutes. It doesn’t need to be of professional standard – a clip filmed using your phone will do – but it must feature the line “Use your imagination”.

Once you've done that, post the film on the video-sharing site Vimeo and then complete an entry form at The creators of the best entries will be selected for the programme.

“With the Arab Film Studio, you learn to make your own professional film on a tight budget, and no one normally gives you that chance unless you go out and find it,” says Magdy. “It’s a great opportunity – and if you want to make it in this industry, you have to chase every opportunity.”