By: Sarah Chaisson-Warner
The Early Writer
Writing has always been in Karim’s blood, ever since childhood. Karim loved storytelling when he was young, and created stories to appease his “overactive imagination,” but his favorite medium for storytelling was always filmmaking. “I have always loved stories but struggled a little with reading books,” he says. “I was in too much of a rush and always wanted to get to the end too quickly.” Filmmaking was forever on his mind – whenever Karim read a book, he would picture it in his mind as a movie.
In the early 1990s, while working abroad, inspiration struck Karim, and he took his first steps toward becoming a screenwriter. “I had read an article about construction workers in 1920s New York and decided that this was a story – and a film – that should be realized.” From there, Karim he wrote a 12-page treatment on a Psion Organiser (a small computer developed in 1984 with a 4-inch screen) based on this logline: In 1920s New York, during an ultimately futile race between two former architectural partners to build the tallest building in the world, an ambitious construction worker is caught up in their bitter rivalry which challenges his morality, threatens his family and forces him into a frenetic fight for survival.
The story of the construction workers in the 1920s served as a spark for his developing interest in screenwriting, and he had a few friends who were starting out in the film industry at the time as well. “I started writing with a view of being able to realize great stories I discovered, or created in my mind,” he says.
“The story of the construction workers in 1920s New York really fueled this as I saw the amazing visual impact it could have along with the compelling story and characters, and so my first screenplay came to life.” – Karim Halwagi
As Karim began to build his career as a screenwriter, his biggest challenge was learning and understanding how to format screenplays and the concept of the “story within the medium.”
To advance his skills and knowledge, he read several screenwriting books, including “Story” by Robert McKee, “The Poetics” by Aristotle, and the scripts of many of the films he had grown to love.
Once he had mastered the art of formatting and learned more about structure, plot, and character development, his next challenge in establishing himself was, like many new screenwriters, navigating the industry.
“I found it hard to find producers who had the credentials and ability to get a movie made,” he says. “Finding an agent/manager is also difficult simply because there are so many talented writers out there, and breaking down the walls is really hard, even with contacts in the industry. This is still the case.”
His Winning Script
Karim’s script, THE LION’S DEN, is a tense, well-paced thriller pitting (mostly) unarmed men against lions, with the goal – the border fence – tantalizingly close. Karim has always loved the thriller genre “because of the rollercoaster ride they offer. Great thrillers take you on an incredible emotional journey, filled with thrills, drama, and hopefully and great payoff in the end. What’s not to like?” he says.
The challenges of navigating the industry were one of the many reasons Karim entered Shore Scripts’ feature competition.
“I entered the Shore Scripts Feature contest because I wanted to explore a way to gain insights into my screenplay, my ability as a writer, and see if it could place well and elevate the visibility of the project. Navigating the industry is very difficult and so the contest seemed like a great way to potentially showcase the script.” – Karim Halwagi