Writing Cinema Today

Writing residency for short and feature films

The German script consultant Françoise von Roy will run a course to teach writing for broadcast media, assisted by Graça Castanheira, teacher at Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema in Lisbon. This is a three-part course that will take place at the Gulbenkian Foundation: 14 to 20 April1 to 7 June and 14 to 20 July.



This  course is aimed at film students and industry professionals. Applications are open from 14 February to 9 March and must be submitted online in English according to the eligibility criteria established in the regulations.

Applications Regulation



Writing Cinema Today, by Françoise von Roy

Films can do more than tell (dramatic) stories. They invite reflection, allow us to experience a state of being, a moment, a question, a place, a person. Films may attempt to express the inexpressible; they do this because they can do more than ‘just’ tell a story. If we reduce screenwriting to dramatic storytelling, we ignore the possibilities of cinema, we ignore that cinema uses images, sound, rhythm, silence and darkness to create an experience. In this seminar we will explore the aspects of cinema that can be written, acknowledging that this can be more than plot, more than story.

Ever since the advent of US screenwriting manuals of the 1980’s, ideas of how screenplays should operate have been dominated by a handful of so-called rules. Some of these rules have become alleged truisms that are still used today to determine if a screenplay works; often these rules are not fully understood, neither their origin nor what their purpose is; they are certainly not, and have never been, applicable to every film. Unfortunately, however, they are often still used as though they are unequivocal.



How can we write for the screen today and how can we talk about screenwriting if we agree that the time for these rules is over? Can we replace them with something less limiting, more contemporary, more inline with creative practice, without forgetting that this is also an industry?

This seminar seeks to provide an understanding of how scripts for diverse films operate, how the writing itself already communicates more than just plot. Screenplays can and should also indicate how the filmmakers would like to communicate and engage with their audience. They are of course not the final work, but one crucial step toward the film-to-be, necessary in order to communicate with collaborators, creative and economic, what this endeavour is. At the same time, the process of writing, let’s not forget, is creative, is development: a process which can make clearer to the writers what it is that they are wanting to communicate. The writing of a screenplay may allow the writer to attain more clarity and become more precise and the final draft will let its reader get as close as possible to the experience of the film, as text.

The practical sections of this seminar acknowledge that the clarity of intent is something gained through the writing and development process, achieved over time. The practical group sessions provide support to the filmmakers in this process, and the group aspect of it means that each participant experiences not only their own process, but also that of the other participants in their group.

The three-part seminar is made up of theory and practice elements to introduce and deepen knowledge of central aspects of screenwriting. It offers the participants the opportunity of writing and developing their own short and feature films. Topics can be adjusted to incorporate specific questions arising from the practical work. 

The proposed number of attendants is twelve, with four participants developing feature film scripts, four developing short film scripts and the remaining four attending without projects. These four participants will take part in the group sessions, as reading drafts and giving feedback is a valuable way to experience development. The participants will take part in all three sessions taking place in April, June and July 2020.



Based in Berlin, Françoise von Roy works internationally as a script advisor on diverse projects, including genre, experimental, documentary and art film. Apart from consulting on individual productions, she also tutors for the Venice Biennale Cinema College, the Torino Film Lab and consults regularly on projects selected by the German Ministry of Culture and Media (BKM). She has guest lectured at the dffb, the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin, is a mentor there and at ZHdK, the Zurich University of the Arts and is an Affiliate Professor at the University of Malta.

Together with Franz Rodenkirchen she holds the bimonthly script development workshop Script Circle for writers and filmmakers and the yearly intensive workshop 6 Days of Practice for producers, development executives and others involved in script development. Françoise von Roy holds an MA in Media Production and a BA in Philosophy and Film Studies from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.

Born in Angola in 1962, Graça Castanheira is a documentary director. She graduated in 1989 at the Cinema School in Lisbon, where she is currently a teacher of Documentary Cinema and Direction. She is part of the group that founded Apordoc - The Portuguese Documentary Association.