New scholarship helps AFI film students develop scripts about China

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AFI scholarships are making it possible for students to visit China for inspiration for their scripts.

AFI scholarships are making it possible for students to visit China for inspiration for their scripts.

Nine film students at AFI are getting a chance to learn more about China, develop scripts around Chinese stories and have a full year of tuition paid under a new scholarship program unveiled Wednesday at AFI Fest in Hollywood.

Funded by Hugo Shong, chairman of IDG Greater China, the AFI/IDG China Story Fellowship aims to help develop feature-length screenplays that foster greater understanding of Chinese history, literature and culture. The first three recipients of the scholarship visited China for more than a month this summer to research their screenplays. The recipients also get their second year of tuition at AFI paid.

Paige Devitt, 23, is developing a teen comedy centered on China’s famously grueling gaokao college entrance exams, and Lindsay Golder, 27, is penning a matchmaking comedy. Derek Ustruck, 33, is writing a screenplay about a family living in a traditional courtyard home in Beijing whose routine is upended when a Mary Poppins-type android comes into their world.


“I created this because our firm invests in films and film companies. China is the fastest-growing film market, and potentially the largest, but the problem is … most of the American movies you see over there are action films,” Shong said Wednesday on the red carpet in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. “China has a long history and there are lots of stories to be told.

“I want to encourage American script writers to write China stories and have Chinese stories made by American movie makers, and have Chinese stories told around the world,” added Shong, who was born in China, attended college in the United States and worked as a journalist before going into business.

IDG publishes magazines, newspapers and websites in China and is a major venture capital player, investing in companies such as Legendary Pictures and Relativity Media, along with Chinese Internet giants like Baidu and Tencent.

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“It’s thrilling to see. The enthusiasm for this program has been overwhelming,” AFI President and Chief Executive Bob Gazzale said on the red carpet. “When we announced the program at the conservatory, of the 28 young men and women in the screenwriters’ class, 27 raised their hands and said they wanted to try. The 28th was really mad because he already had a summer commitment.… There’s nothing really like this program anywhere else.”

Shong and Gazzale said there were no restrictions on what the students could write about.

“Hugo said there are thousands of years of stories in China that have yet to be told,” Gazzale said. “So help us.”

Courtesy of Los Angeles Times

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