The US Embassy in Cairo and the American Film Showcase (AFS) sponsored a five-day workshop on comedy writing for Senior Egyptian Scriptwriters. The workshop was headed by Emmy-nominated American screenwriters and producers Matteo Borghese and Rob Turbovsky. The program focused on narrative and character development, including using humor as a medium. In addition, it sheds light on creating a mutual platform to share experiences and develop comedy writer techniques.
On Tuesday, the Al Falaki Theater hosted a round table for Egyptian reporters with Borghese and Turbovsky for a wide talk about scriptwriting, the ongoing challenges of the industry, and their points of view on the process of writing and creating a TV show.
One of the most significant questions was about the method they would follow during their workshops with the Egyptian scriptwriters regardless of the difference in culture, background, and language.
They highlighted: “We are not talking about actually jokes, but we are talking about schools of techniques or schools of writing.
I mean sometimes when we hear about writing a script for a comic show a comic play something like that. We think that a group of people are sitting down and yes, there is a plot, and script but not mainly jokes. It's more than that.”
They added: “Your main preoccupation is the story the thing that you're trying to get to the audience to feel of something for characters, that your audience has a feeling for that they care for. And that's a really difficult trick to write something down on paper to invent people out of your head that we all know they're fictional. But, you are feeling like they're real enough.
Regarding the difference between the American shows, and others, they explained: “We think we understood that people watch American shows everywhere. It didn't really surprise us. What I think was surprising was we showed a scene from “The Sopranos” and it's not just that they knew it, but everybody understood why it was funny, you know because the characters are so defined.”
Both writers were asked about their background in Egyptian or Arab comedies and if they liked an Arabic show. Both of them recommended “Finding Ola” and how the show discussed common issues and universal ones like family, and relationships.
“There are just things that are universal and I think those things travel. You know, if you're doing social critique, maybe it doesn't maybe people don't understand. If you're keeping your comedy just at the most kind of basic level of what it is to be a human.”
They added: “In terms of Egyptian comedy, I mean meeting these writers and reading their things we've read a lot of really funny ideas from I think people have worked on a lot of great shows here.”
Shortly, both writers talked about what means to be pair-writers. They asserted that understanding and sharing thoughts and ideas are the secret, in addition, they revealed that they have the same sense of humor.
They also added that their mutual contribution is based on “sticking together all the time.”
After that, they were asked about various ongoing issues like the Hollywood strikes and the rise of AI technology.
This is something that we're constantly thinking about and we've talked a lot about with between ourselves and with all of our fellow writers. You know AI like we had kind of previously spoken about is something that we are legitimately concerned about if not replacing writers then kind of limiting the number of writers that are necessary for projects and suddenly. There are fewer jobs to go around. We think additionally these streaming platforms have a lot of information that they do not share with us
“The system we used to have worked for a really long time and it was still there were still big companies it was still about making money, but there was also a sense that what you were making mattered.”
Finally, they urged all writers to write more and to keep going to reach the best version of themselves.