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Jamaican Filmmaker Tony Hendriks Wins International Screenwriting Award

Jamaican Tony Hendriks Wins International Scriptwriting Award

Tony Hendrik’s Shoot the Girl began life as a statement of intent. Now it has become much more, bringing accolades and opportunities for the writer and announcing him as one of the Caribbean screenwriters to watch. Shoot the Girl, now a feature length script, was recently listed as a finalist in the 2017 Cannes Golden Plume Screenwriting Competition. 

The Cannes Golden Plume Competition aims to be a career launching mechanism, by propelling new talent into the film world by introducing them to prestigious talent agencies and lit managers. 

Shoot the Girl largely set amongst the zinc fences and gullies that cordone off much of Kingston's inner city explores the resourcefulness of a small girl and the ability of a community to make change if they choose to stand up for what's right. The film makes smart use of social media, and shows that it can do far more than be weapons of mass distraction.

Shoot the Girl started out as an idea for me to write and Natalie Thompson and I to shoot as proof of concept to show people we mean business,” Hendriks said. The money to develop the then short film came through the inaugural Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA) Propella project which, through funding from CHASE and support from JAMPRO saw the production of five short films. Shoot the Girl subsequently won the award for Best Local Film at the Greater August Town Film Festival (GATTFEST) in June this year.

Producers of the 2016 JAFTA Propella films

“Winning, getting a scholarship to a programme, becoming a finalist, or indeed simply being recognized is great validation that proves I’m on the right track,” explained the popular comic and playwright turned screenwriter. And it is a path that is becoming clearer with each win, as the script also won the 2017 Black Screenplays Matter award in spring this year. 

“Winning Black Screenplays Matter was nice for the same reason, especially at a time when we need more diverse voices in film. Being a finalist in the Cannes Golden Plume is also great in that it’s an even broader pool,” Hendriks said.

Yet Hendriks has no delusions that the path from script to screen will be an easy one, just because of the win.

“Ultimately though it doesn’t mean anything much unless I can make the script into a film or at least leverage more interest in the other ideas and scripts I have written.”

And with that understanding, Hendriks has been on a path to create the best script he can. He explained that the award winning version was produced after notes from a reader service in the USA along with input received after attending the British Council Script Development workshop staged in March 2017 with the support of JAFTA and JAMPRO.  The workshop was facilitated by script developer Ludo Smolski and teamed him up with his producer Natalie Thompson and fellow filmmaker Kaiel Eytle to develop the script.  

“I went away from that first workshop and did a very extensive rewrite. Aided by some coverage from a reader service out of the USA along with Ludo, Kaiel and Natalie’s input and notes. What I wrote then was, I feel, far superior to my first draft,” Hendriks said, unafraid to gush about the  impact of the workshop on developing his craft.

“What Ludo taught us and the insight he gave us has been quite revolutionary. For me at least.” Hendriks said. “Basically that rewrite got me into ScreenCraft program, won Black Screenplays Matter and now a finalist in Cannes Golden Plume Screenwriting,” He said, also referring to his scholarship to attend the inaugural ScreenCraft Screenwriters retreat in Treasure Beach.

Hendriks explained that the script development brought key lessons. 

“The ability to be open and listen to and take critique but also to know what you are willing to change and what you are not, is important.” 

It also opened his eyes to the importance of reading scripts. 

“I already forensically break down movies as I watch them but the impact of Ludo’s workshop is to make me read more screenplays and see how other writers do it. It’s the same old advice: if you want to write, read. Also write every day. Even if it’s only an hour. Don’t obsess. Write new things, notes, other ideas as well as he project at the top of the list.”

Benn Flore’s Just Divorced earned the Grand Prize in the 2017 The Cannes Golden Plume Competition, while Runaway Ship by Thoedore Carl Soderberg was the second finalist. 

Note: Edited November 16, to reflect that the British Council workshop was staged in March not January.