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What could be more tempting for an aspiring screenwriter than the prospect of signing on a Fawad Khan production, with the possibility of the heart-throb starring in it? Recently, the ‘Khoobsurat’ star launched an initiative, called The Next Big Story, with the mission to hunt out and incentivise talented writers by offering them to work for his company, Alter Idom Films.

At its inaugural session, held at Ali Auditorium in Lahore, Khan spoke of the initiative as a platform that would “bridge the gap between writers, directors and producers.”

“For years we’ve been hearing about problems film professionals encounter in finding the right stories ... At the same time, scriptwriters don’t know where to go and who to contact to present their work. That is why we bring to you The Next Big Story,” he said.

Wearing a long coat over a sweatshirt and blue jeans, Khan seemed to have slipped into yet another of his glamorous acting avatars, especially in the way he moved about on stage in measured steps as he talked to a live audience in carefully crafted sentences and, sometimes, half-muted tones.

Easily one of Pakistan’s most popular crossover stars, Khan hasn’t featured in a movie since Bollywood’s ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ (2016) — that is, if you discount his many special appearances in Pakistani films lately. His mega-hyped blockbuster ‘The Legend of Maula Jutt’ is tipped to rewrite film history, but only if it sees the light of the day. The wait has been too long, and there’s no official word on its release date. In the meantime, Khan has famously begun work on another film, titled ‘Money Back Guarantee’, where he teams up with former skipper Waseem Akram, among others.

There are rumours of a collaboration with his ‘Humsafar’ co-star Mahira Khan for a movie to be produced under his home banner. But there’s no confirmation on that project. Where Khan has been most consistent is in his association with the beverage brand Pepsi. This year, he was on the panel of star judges for the music reality show, ‘Pepsi Battle of the Bands’, for its third consecutive season. And it was here that he revived some tracks from his former alternative metal back Entity Paradigm. The Next Big Story launch event was also sponsored by the same brand.

The event attracted a number of TV and film celebrities including Mahira Khan, Humayun Saeed, Ahmad Ali Butt, Vasay Chaudhry, Asim Raza and Navid Shahzad. While Mahira and Butt shared their respective methods in “script selection,” Saeed and Raza explained what constitutes a good script. Chaudhry and senior actor and academic Shahzad shed light on the different aspects of screenwriting.

Earlier, explaining the entry process for The Next Big Story, Khan said that it involved a couple of stages, beginning with a scriptwriting competition. The writers will need to electronically send in synopses of their original stories — one person can submit one script only — in the Urdu language, and also pay a submission fee.

Adaptations are not allowed, unless the writer owns the copyrights of a work, or the said work is freely available to the public. There’s also a minimum age requirement of 18 years for the writer. The winners of the competition will be invited to write up full screenplays in the next stage. Finally, Alter Idom Films will buy the rights to produce the screenplay adjudged the best by a jury.