TWICE OSCAR NOMINATED PRODUCER, MARIA GRACIA TURGEON WILL BE MENTORING THE WINNER OF THIS YEAR'S SHORT FILM FUND
By: Sarah Chaisson-Warner
We are honored to announce that Canadian producer and two-time Academy Award nominee Maria Gracia Turgeon is our Shore Scripts Short Film Mentor for 2023.
Maria will read the Grand Prize Winner’s screenplay from each of this year’s two seasons of the Short Film Fund, and offer insights about how to enhance its elements and help tell the best story possible. She will also offer guidance on the production of the short film.
Her invaluable experience and track record will help the filmmaking team produce their short film, which like our previous winners may go on to play and win awards at some of the top Film Festivals in the world.
An experienced short filmmaker, Maria has produced numerous short films including Brotherhood by Meryam Joobeur and FAUVE by Jérémy Comte, both of which were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Short. She is currently producing her first feature film, Marée Basse.
The Value of Mentoring
Mentoring in the entertainment industry is key to any writer’s success. Experienced industry professionals offer their support and guidance to newer or less experienced writers looking to gain skills and knowledge. Mentoring can help new writers advance their career trajectory, understand better how the industry works, and receive advice about challenges and opportunities that arise.
The entertainment industry can be notoriously difficult to navigate, particularly for people who may be newer to the field or lack industry contacts, but understanding the terrain and building solid and authentic relationships with other filmmakers can help make the experience more successful. Maria points to the immense value in having a mentor, particularly for filmmakers who might be newer to the industry. “Having someone championing you and answering questions you may have along the way is so valuable!”
Understanding the importance of mentoring, Shore Scripts has leveraged its long-standing and extensive relationships with Producers, Managers, and Agents to bring about this new opportunity for emerging writers as part of its Short Film Fund prize package. Maria has years of experience making short films and a deep interest in advancing the careers of exciting new writers.
“I’m always thrilled to read new scripts! I feel privileged to be able to read the two winners, to discover new voices and talk with them about the next step into making the best short film possible!”
The Art of the Short
The short film medium has always drawn Maria in, offering a special glimpse into the world of filmmaking. “I was drawn to short film when I understood that it was a film in itself, not a condensed feature film,” she says. “Starting a career by understanding how to actually write a film and doing shorts is immensely beneficial. Writers can actually do a project, understand its flaws, and find solutions for it faster and build a better skillset.”
Maria has since built on the experience she gained from creating short films for her newest venture in feature films. “Since I have done a lot of short films, and read and watch even more of them, I have built a better comprehension of what actually works in shorts and what doesn’t,” she says.
To create a successful short film, she points to several critical components – first, consider the who, what, and why of your script.
“I always think the key question that you need to answer before starting to write is why do you want to bring that story to life and why are you the best person to write about it?”
Answering these questions first will give you a solid foundation from which to write, and help guide your writing. Similarly, once your script is finished, any producers or agents considering you and your script will also want to know the answers to these questions.
Second, believe in yourself and your idea. The idea is yours – you dreamed it and created it. No one will have faith in your script unless you do. “As a screenwriter you will spend endless hours on your script and will get to a point where you will doubt it, so be sure to have unconditional faith on your idea at first!” she says.
Third, line up your financing. The average cost of a short (fifteen-minute) film, assuming you keep your expenses minimal, tends to be between $15,000 and $25,000. Attracting financing for your project can be challenging, and Maria points to Shore’s Short Film Fund as an important opportunity for leveraging the rest of your budget. “The process of defending your idea on paper and the feedback you’re getting is absolutely beneficial for the film. And if you’re getting the grant it gives you more credibility to reach out to other partners/actors/team members. And obviously it helps you bring your project to life which is always the end goal!”
Fourth, enjoy the highs, live the lows, and keep your ego in check. Professionals in the entertainment industry consistently seek out people who are team players, are willing to take feedback, and can work efficiently and effectively in a fast-paced environment. “The entertainment industry is such an unpredictable one,” says Maria. “There is a lot of value in what you have accomplished, but remember that however how many years of experience you have you’re always learning!”
The Mentoring Experience with Maria
As part of the mentoring experience, Maria will read the Grand Prize Winner’s script and offer her feedback – a significant opportunity for writers looking to take their script to the next level, especially when that feedback comes from a two-time Oscar nominee.
The writing stage has always been one of Maria’s favorite parts of making a film. “I have always been really involved in the creative process and bring a lot of creative input when I connect to a script,” she says. “I believe that in order to achieve a good film, you absolutely need a solid script no matter how long it takes to get there!” Getting to a solid script, though, can take time, and Maria suggests writers strive to be comfortable accepting feedback about their work. After years of working on incredible short films, she knows what she’s looking for.
“I’m looking for a coup de coeur! I’m really intuitive when it comes to reading so I’m just really looking for a film that already on script I can see and that makes me feel something!”
Feedback, after all, is designed to make your work stronger and stand out in the crowd. “When writing a script we may think something is working and we can be surprised when we get the opposite feedback. But always try to keep an open mind and find creative solutions in your own way!” She also suggests writers identify specific questions for their mentors, whether it is about your script or career – the more specific and directed your questions are, the better feedback you can expect.
Maria herself has immensely benefited from mentorship and reminds us of the importance not only of mentorship at the beginning of one’s career but throughout. “My first mentor has been and still is Pierre Even, an experienced Canadian producer who I worked with at the beginning of my career,” she says. Pierre, a two-time winner of the award for Best Motion Picture from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, taught Maria much about what she knows about working in film and production. “Even after I left, he continued helping me on my projects,” she says, and Pierre is currently serving as an executive producer on her first feature film.
Watch the videos below to find out more about Maria and her distinguished career in creating short films.
ALWAYS SIGN CONTRACTS!
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WATCH BOTH OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS
After 15 years of working in state and national politics, Sarah Chaisson-Warner is moving into the entertainment industry. As the former Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Athena Magazine for Girls, Sarah is now focusing her passion for creative arts through screenwriting. Many of her feature-length scripts focus on the often, unseen experiences of gay women throughout American History, and she is currently writing sci-fi and a family Christmas script. Her script, Serafina Stavinovna, was placed in “The Next 100” in the 2021 Nicholl Fellowship Competition.
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