IN THE FACE OF ISIS, COMPETITION WINNING LGBT SCRIPT 'FRIENDS' BEGINS PRE-PRODUCTION IN KURDISTAN
'In an idyllic remote countryside in mountainous Kurdistan, three young boys' peaceful routine is threatened by the arrival of a man on the verge of suicide.'
Born in the city of Kirkuk, Mazin M Sherabayani moved to the UK in 1999, where he graduate with a Masters in Film, Screen Media and Television at Birkbeck University. He is now based in London, but travels between the UK and Kurdistan to make short films, documentaries and photography projects.
His latest short script, 'Friends', won our script competition last month, and we were very excited to speak to Maz about the idea and his writing process.
How did the script 'Friends' come about?
The idea of ‘Friends’ has been roaming around for a very long time, however, I was not ready to finish the final draft until recently. My main objective for this script is to tell a story about LGBT community within Kurdish and Middle Eastern societies, and raise awareness it. The subject is considered taboo in these societies, and personally I feel that the LGBT community is facing huge discrimination. There is no hope for them to tell their stories, and it is very difficult even for me to make a film about the subject.
As a heterosexual myself, I couldn’t delve deeply into understanding the problems facing them, how they are treated and how they want to be identified. So, in my recent trip back to Kurdistan, I met some LGBT friends and they explained to me the difficulty of revealing their identity and the struggle they face with their families, friends and colleagues. However, after the recent ISIS (Islamic State) war, the LGBT paid a very high price and many of them were captured, killed or thrown from high buildings by the terrorists.
It knew I wouldn't be able to tell the story in a direct way, as it would be difficult to find cast willing to take a part in the film. I decided to tell a simple story by relying on symbols, motifs and metaphors to reflect on the complex issue. For example, the use of harsh and difficult terrains versing beautiful sceneries within the same location. Using symbols of cracked windows, broken glass, a struggling fish that has just been rescued, skipping stones, etc. Also, the friendship between the man and the boys' indicates that hopefully the new generation is more tolerant. That’s why I chose for the film to have a happy ending, and bring more light into the world of the story.
How did you get into screenwriting?
Since my childhood I have been fascinated by cinema and writing. I am very passionate about writing short and feature scripts, and practice on a daily bases. Though my interest in filmmaking is both as a writer and director. I made a few short documentaries about Kurdish culture, art, and immigration, and my latest short documentary ‘Dyab’ won over 30 international awards and participated in over 100 film festivals across the world. My latest short film is called ‘Stride’, which I have just begun submitting to festivals.
What is your writing process?
I usually brainstorm the ideas that I am passionate about, but both for my feature scripts and shorts I outline extensively, write a treatment to go deeper into the characters and plots, and then I use index cards to structure the script. However, I am a big fan of simplicity and I like to work more on my stories bringing them to a simple level while a complex theme can lurk in the background.
What do you hope readers will take-away from 'Friends'?
I hope to introduce readers more into the dilemmas of the LGBT community, both in the Middle-East and around the world. Meanwhile, I hope the LGBT community to have hope and a voice through this story. Positive changes can happen with perseverance, and we can help the next generation understand the issue and create a better world for all of us.
Finally, I hope the script will shine a light on simple things in life such as, enjoying and respecting nature, friendship, trust and, above all, life.
What would your advice be to struggling writers?
My advice for struggling writers is; be yourself, write stories that you love and care about, create characters that you admire, understand human needs, discipline, practice everyday if you can, and use your imagination and the world around you.
What motivates and inspires me is life, human behaviour, social-and-political problems around the world, nature and music. My cultural background and childhood upbringing have a big impact when I create characters, and I always try to share some traits with my imaginary characters, such as Alan in 'Friends'.
Do you plan to direct 'Friends'?
Yes, I am very determined to direct this film and bring the picture to the big screen. Right now, I am seeking financial funds (approx. £8,000) to produce and direct the film in Kurdistan.
What else are you currently working on?
I just finished writing the first draft of a feature film entitled 'Beyond the Sea' (75 pages). The story revolves around two young immigrant women from different parts of the world, but they meet on the island of Sicily.