Behind the Scenes of the Beijing International Screenwriting Competition

Follow me on Twitter @robcain or Sina Weibo @robcain, or connect with me on LinkedIn. For info on China Pooch email info@chinapooch.comBeijing Int'l Screenwriting Competition

By Robert Cain for China Film Biz

March 28, 2013

In a world that is absolutely brimming with screenwriting competitions, you’d think there wouldn’t be much need for another one. But the new Beijing International Screenwriting Competition has emerged so dramatically on the scene and from such a seemingly unlikely place that I decided to make a few calls and check it out.

It turns out that the competition, the first of its kind, has quite an interesting back story of its own.

The competition’s founder and Chairman is Kevin Niu, an energetic Chinese-Canadian with a background both in film producing and in technology. Recognizing the Chinese film industry’s acute need for quality, professionally written screenplays, and the fact that western writers are the ones whose scripts result in globally successful movies, he set out to attract those writers to consider China as a setting for their stories. Niu’s purpose is completely apolitical; his goal for the competition is to “foster artistic collaboration and an ongoing creative dialogue between China and the U.S.”

Niu has secured support and sponsorship from a range of institutions that includes Harvard and its alumni entertainment group, Harvardwood, from talent agencies WME and UTA, and from the Beijing Cultural Asset Office (BCAO), which has provided financial support. The BCAO’s party secretary, Huiguang Zhang, is serving as President of the competition.

Niu and his colleagues arranged for the competition to be announced to U.S.-based writers in a blitz of publicity over the past few weeks, with the aim of attracting short film and feature length stories that are set at least partially in Beijing. There are no entry fees, and awards include cash prizes of $1,000 with all-expense paid trips to Beijing. The Grand Prizes include a monetary cash award of $15,000 for the feature film winner and seven Production Grand prizes for the short film winners who will be fully sponsored to produce their productions in Beijing.

The Grand Judges of the competition are Tracey Trench and Mark Jonathan Harris. Trench is a former studio executive at Fox, a producer of such films as the Drew Barrymore starrer Ever After, and the 2006 comedy The Pink Panther; she is currently  consulting to Dreamworks Animation and its China joint-venture, Oriental Dreamworks. Mark Jonathan Harris is an Oscar-winning documentarian (Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport). Working behind the scenes is Ann Chao, a second-year Harvard Business School student who brought the Beijing competition to my attention.

For information about the competition and to submit an entry, go to this link.

Robert Cain is a producer and entertainment industry consultant who has been doing business in China since 1987. He can be reached at and at