Dig Baton Rouge

Written Ba-YOU

By Tara Bennett


Attention, aspiring screenwriters the Written Ba-YOU: Louisiana Screenwriter’s Project is now underway.

NOVAC and Upload Films are now offering screenwriters a chance to gain notoriety by creating a screenwriting contest, which officially launched on Monday evening with a live informational session. This is the first official film collaboration between NOVAC and Upload Films.

“I wanted to start a program with NOVAC to basically shepherd a project beginning to end where I wanted to create an environment that was super low risk for people who wanted to get into the industry,” said Lauren Ito, producer at Upload Films. “And that’s what NOVAC is about, they’re very keen on opening doors through education into this particular business. It’s one of those really cool industries that persists through apprenticeship. The best way to learn this business is to actually do it.”

NOVAC was excited to expand further their growing presence in the capital city as well as the opportunity to reach out and serve its filmmakers.

“NOVAC has consistently been the voice for the film worker and independent filmmakers in the state of Louisiana,” said NOVAC Executive Director Darcy McKinnon. “And we’re so excited to have the opportunity to engage with independent filmmakers and writers and start building that indigenous culture of creation.”

According to Ito, the competition was created as a way to cultivate the existing talent and to ensure Louisiana continues to thrive in the film industry in lieu of the recent legislative tax credit decision.

“[Upload Films] has been here for so long, and we’re so much a part of the fabric that is the film industry in Louisiana that we decided not to go anywhere,” said Ito. “We decided we were going to highlight the pool of talent that’s here in Louisiana that’s developed and grown.”

The first step for Upload Films in their initiative is to develop local writing talent via Written Ba-YOU. For the competition, which runs July 13 through Aug. 15, contestants will create a narrative feature film that snapshots life in Louisiana as told through and enhanced by song.

“[Upload Films] will be doing an indie feature film that uses Louisiana music as the theme to connect the other parts of the movie,” said McKinnon. “So think Pitch Perfect, Sister Act, Drumline, but told in a Louisiana setting.”

According to McKinnon, there are no other requirements for the contest other than creating original content using the theme of Louisiana life told through music. If applicants have a script that fits the theme, which was written prior to the announcement of the contest, they are allowed to submit it.

“Someone may already have the idea,” said McKinnon. “Upload Films is saying Sister Act online or Pitch Perfect, but someone could be like ‘No, it’s actually this.’ It’s gospel, or it’s swamp music, whatever they want to go with it, we’re fine with that.”

NOVAC will manage the logistics and training components of the competition, and Upload Films will produce a film based on the winning script. The winner will be trained in screenwriting fundamentals as necessary, have a support team to workshop their process, and will be employed as a work-for-hire writer on the produced feature and will be credited as the head writer on the completed project.

“I think that this is an excellent opportunity for the people of Louisiana to grow and develop an indigenous industry,” said Ito. “I think that the language in the new version of the tax incentive is specifically geared towards bookending the production credits and what that means is more emphasis on development of the actual stories as well as local artists and also finishing up the movie through distribution. And I think that if we can get those two things right, we have a solid chance of having our own indigenous industry here in Louisiana.”


The timeline for the competition is as follows:


July 13: Upload Films hosts an informational session and live webinar about the project at Celtic Studios where they received the creative brief of the greenlit project, and information about how to submit. Interested applicants can view the informational session at novacvideo.org/writtenbayou.html.


July 20: Interested writers will submit a logline (25 words or less of what the film is about) and a paragraph treatment of their idea for a feature film. Previously completed scripts that meet the project requirements will also be considered.


July 20-31: Submissions will be reviewed by Upload Films and a team of readers, 2nd round winners will be announced on July 31. Second round winners will have two weeks to create the first five pages of a script for their film treatment.


August 15: Project winner will be announced.


Written Ba-YOU is also seeking local directors and talent for the winning script. For more information, visit novacvideo.org/writtenbayou.html.


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