The top four screenplays in Byron Bay Film Festival’s 2023 Screenplay Competition cover four distinct genres – a measure of the breadth of writing talent to be found amongst those writing for the screen.
Overall winner was Dinner at Seven, described by Competition judge, Alex Mankiewicz, as an “engaging drama”. The screenwriter, Rodrigo Badoino, 28, who was born in Peru but migrated to Perth in 2003, takes home a $1000 prize as part of the award.
“Dinner at Seven is simply excellent,” said Mankiewicz. “Unspooling essentially in real time – which is not easy – it’s a relationship drama with wit, insight and twists, satisfying arcs (even minor off-screen ones) and compelling characters. Completely engaging and eminently makeable.”
Badoino says of his film: “I wrote this movie after a close friend shared his wedding drama with similar themes and it inspired me to create something chaotic. Thank you, Byron Bay Film Festival for this incredible honour.”
Dinner at Seven and the three finalists “all represent different genres”, Mankiewicz noted, “and all are excellent examples of not only the appealing tropes of those genres, but also present fresh, smart takes on them”.
The Life of Cockroaches (Gillian Croft, Canada): “This ambitious epic is smartly written, and deftly weaves a story of Holocaust survivors and Apartheid sufferers in South Africa. While successful at bringing it in at roughly two hours, it could easily be even better as a limited series.”
The Fandom (Lisa Nicole Rufus, Australia): “The log-line and concept should equal dreadful or at least ridiculous, but it’s knowing, pacy, genuinely funny, and utterly 2023. Original but also a clever homage to the horror/sci-fi/zombie-survivor genre.”
The Sting in the Tail (Patrick Carr, Australia): “Excellent characters, dialogue, pacing and genuine research. An Aussie ‘scam’ story (based on a true one) with universal appeal.”
The two commended films are both family dramas, both using the setting of a gathering at one member’s house to explore the dynamics and drama just below the surface in all extended families. Truth, lies, alliances, old wounds, prejudice.
Unwrapped (Amanda Dow and Millie Rose Heywood Australia): “A thoroughly domestic, relatable story set in Western Australia. The screenplay is rescued from predictability by a combination of authenticity and absurdity. It zips along, however at times it feels like an overextended sketch,” Mankiewicz said.
An Ending Unseen (Claire McNeel, Australia): “Not dissimilar to Unwrapped, but with a dystopian futuristic twist. The dialogue in both was sharp and effective in drawing and fleshing out characters. The plotting is not quite successful.”
Mankiewicz added: “Both writers of the Commended screenplays should be encouraged to continue working on the scripts and more in future.”
She noted that in a year of too much expository dialogue in the majority of entries, all six of the chosen screenplays avoided it, and stood out as a result.
For more information about the 17th Byron Bay International Film Festival, visit bbff.com.au