Egyptian/Canadian filmmaker Reem Morsi attended Berlinale Talents in 2012 and 2018 and was nominated for the Film Prize of the Robert Bosch Stiftung in 2013 and 2014. She participated in our Script Station earlier this year with her feature-length project “Bootleg,” which follows a woman who starts her own underground sex toy manufacturing business in Egypt. After participating at Berlinale Talents in February, Reem was selected for the Realness Residency in South Africa this summer and is now completing a three-month fellowship with the Nipkow Programme in Berlin. Here she shares her experiences at Nipkow to give potential applicants an idea of what to expect.
What was your experience like at the Script Station this year?
Taking part in the Script Station was really amazing. I’m a big fan of the Berlinale, it’s my favourite festival. And Berlinale Talents was one of the best lab experiences I’ve had. I’d say the Script Station is a very useful first step when you have an initial idea (perhaps somewhere between a rough and a first draft), which gives you a crucial push towards developing it further. It forced me to reconsider many choices in my script and helped me open up to other options. With “Bootleg,” I wanted to avoid exploiting the culture or presenting an exoticised view of my subject. I wanted to make something authentic and real but felt a bit stuck. My mentor Anita Voorham asked all the right questions, prompting me to revamp one character I disliked and to develop two others further so that they became three far more interesting protagonists instead.
How did your project continue to develop afterwards?
Another Berlinale Talents mentor, Selina Ukwuoma, suggested applying for the Realness Residency, so I got to spend the summer months in South Africa in an amazing, tranquil setting with plenty of time and space to write and work on my story in more detail – such a luxury. After that, I came to Berlin in October for Nipkow.
What did the Nipkow Programme entail exactly?
First of all, the other participants’ projects were absolutely fascinating; Nipkow had chosen a really varied selection of work focusing on unexplored parts of life and society. Talking with the fellows, I received a lot of support for my project, especially from the other women. When I arrived, there was an immersive week of pitching and co-production workshops, followed by feedback sessions with the mentors and other fellows.
The co-production workshop was actually a real eye-opener because I usually leave those questions to my producer. It helped me understand how to navigate different financing routes and what countries would make sense for a Canadian-European co-production of my project. I cannot overemphasise how important it is for filmmakers to understand the process. After the workshop, we were also offered personalised consultation sessions. Next was a pitch session with the other fellows and jury members, who asked us tough questions and gave advice on our pitching style, content and body language. Then we had one-on-one sessions with each jury member to follow up. There were several German producers at the pitch itself, and it was great to meet potential partners for your project without any pressure.
After that, we were given time to write – three months to just write and develop your project is a huge privilege. Nipkow offers five individual mentoring sessions, and you can choose whether you want to take all five with the same mentor or five different ones. You can take them during your three months in Berlin or after the residency while you continue developing your work at home. Finally, I just want to say how supportive the Nipkow staff are. They really go out of their way to help you with all questions big and small – one of them even fixed my computer.
To finish off, what’s your favourite thing about Berlin?
Berlin has a magical feel to it. I’ve only had great experiences here. I feel like I’m at my most creative here, I feel motivated for life!
Interview: Marion Schnelle
Submissions for the Realness Screenwriters Residency are open until January 31, 2019 to African passport holders with a narrative treatment, story outline or work-in-progress screenplay.