With the launch of the global screenplay competition, Four Stories, FilmInk canvasses some savvy advice from Optus One80 winner and “Bondi Hipster” Christiaan Van Vuuren.
In the last few years, there’s no question that the changing media landscape has compelled brands to rethink the way they position themselves. With the flood of content now vying for people’s attention, it’s no longer sufficient to present one-note, didactic advertisements. Zeroing in on this savvy new way of thinking is the global screenplay competition, Four Stories, which hooks up forward-thinking brands with filmmaking talent.
Launched by Intel Corporation and W Hotels worldwide, the competition asks aspiring screenwriters and directors to submit an original screenplay inspired by the highly mobile 24/7 nature of travel with the only criterion being that the scripts must be set in a W Hotel and feature the Intel-inspired Ultrabook. And this is one competition that comes with a swag of cred attached with the three winning scripts – selected from a board that includes director Roman Coppola and actors Michael Pitt and Chloe Sevigny – to be developed and transformed by Coppola and The Directors Bureau into ten-minute shorts, which will premiere at red carpet events at W Hotels around the world.
It’s a pretty epic prize, but according to filmmaker and actor, Christiaan Van Vuuren, it all comes down to a great initial idea. And if anyone’s in a position to hand out advice re winning ideas, it would have to be this young man who took out 2011’s Optus ONE80 Project with his winning pitch for an MTV pilot based on his own story of being quarantined in hospital. Since then, Van Vuuren has found popularity producing and starring in the hilarious web series, Bondi Hipsters, which was originally conceived as an idea for Movie Extra Webfest. So what’s Van Vuuren’s advice in entering this type of competition? “Don't let the brand, product or signature item control your idea,” he suggests. “I would probably suggest not even factoring it in when you are brainstorming your entry. Come up with a strong idea first, and then once you've got yourself a winner, think about how you can work in the brand in a way that allows for the least possible distraction from your story or core idea.”
Interestingly, Van Vuuren notes that there remains stigma surrounding “branded entertainment”, but he attributes this to brands having too much control over the creative process. But it’s competitions like these – where the creative vision and decisions remain very much in the hands of artistic talent – that are helping to erase these kinds of negative perceptions. “Brands continue to stick their noses into scripts and ideas for what they think will be best for the brand,” Van Vuuren laments. “But what they still don't realise is that what's best for the brand, is normally no good for the "entertainment" factor of what they are involved in creating. Even slight tweaks to an idea can remove the energy of a scene, or flatten the concept of a piece of creative material – taking something that was great, and turning it into something that's okay. And entertainment that is "okay" just gets lost.”
And at the end of day, making something “great” and that can be used as a calling card is a primary incentive for applicants. As well as potentially showcasing your work on the world stage, competitions like these offer personally rewarding opportunities to develop and refine your own skill set. “They are a great way to be connected to other creators, a great way for you to make a name for yourself in the industry, and a great way for you to learn in the process of actually creating,” Van Vuuren says of these competitions. “Sometimes all an idea needs is a deadline to get it off the ground. If you are a really passionate creator, you will always think that a script needs more time, but when you have a deadline, things just have a way of coming together...”
Picture caption: Van Vuuren as a Bondi Hipster.
For more information or to submit a screenplay for Four Stories, head here.