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Desi Awards for Aspiring Hollywood Writers

Apr/07/2024 / by Team Seema

New opportunities for South Asian screenwriters 

Bollywood can shimmy to the left because South Asian women writers are popping up all over big screens and (and smaller screens) near you. From rom coms to superhero flicks, South Asian women have been prolific with the pen and are now garnering some long overdue time in the limelight. 

The annual Black List has recognized the industry’s best unproduced screenplays for the past two decades—the ones that don’t get the big bucks needed to be made. This year, diversity categories are back with six lists added to find the most authentic and inclusive unmade stories in Hollywood. In 2024 the GLAAD List, the CAPE List, the Muslim List, the Latine List, and the Disability List all return with the Indigenous List, created in collaboration with IllumiNative and Sundance Institute, slated to return in 2025.

Perhaps the most exciting addition to the The Black List is a brand new Desi List. Created in collaboration with The Salon, the Desi List will highlight stories from South Asian writers featuring at least one South Asian character in a leading role. Here’s what else you need to know. 

Are You Eligible for a Desi Award?

*Writers should identify as South Asian (*The UN defines South Asia as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka).

*While writers can be from any country of origin, they must currently reside in the U.S. Citizens, residents, visiting students, and undocumented individuals who reside in the U.S. are welcome to apply.

*Writing teams are eligible as long as one member of the team identifies as South Asian.

*Scripts can be multilingual as long as they are written primarily in English.

*Feature films, half-hour TV pilots, and one-hour TV pilots will be considered

*All genres are eligible and will be considered

*All scripts must have at least one South Asian character in a prominent, lead role

*Is your script a feature, half-hour pilot, or one-hour pilot?

*Does your script feature at least one South Asian character in a prominent lead role?

*Do you or your writing partner identify as South Asian?

For these diversity lists 400 fee waivers are available through a program with AMC. 

3 to Watch

Here are three uber-talented screenwriters making a name for themselves:

Geetika Lizardi, Los Angeles

Having emigrated from India when she was 2 years old, Geetika Lizardi having plenty of success after getting her undergraduate degree from Stanford and an MBA from University of Michigan. Despite being recruited by Microsoft, she started seeking a re-write, pivoting instead to screenwriting. Lizardi has gone on to work on popular series like Bridgerton. The South Asian screenwriter is committed to creating context where people of color, LGBTQ+, and those with disabilities are the stars (not the sidekicks). 

Amina Munir, Los Angeles

Amina Munir has set out to tackle the toughest tasks in screenwriting—creating clever comedy. Any writer, director, or actor in the biz will confirm it is much more difficult to make an audience laugh than it is to make them cry, and she is up for the task.

A five-year veteran of Mindy Kaling’s writer’s team for Netflix’s hit Never Have I Ever, Amina has the knack for tapping into the cringe worthy universal teenage experience. Just one of the show’s first- generation Indian American writers, Amina had previously honed her comic writing alongside the likes of Tina Fey on NBC’s Mr. Mayor

Bisha K Ali, London & Los Angeles

So far South Asian screenwriters have been slaying comedy, rom coms and drama now meet the woman behind the very first Muslim superhero- Bisha K Ali. Growing up Muslim in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and in the U.K. Bisha was exposed to both Bollywood and Hollywood. The combo proved successful as she was a screenwriter on Loki and was the showrunner and screenwriter for the TV adaptation of Ms. Marvel, featuring the Marvel Comic Universe’s first Muslim superhero Kamala Khan.

Seema

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