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Thinking big: up-and-coming writer Albuliwi.

Movin’ On Up

For Bandar Albuliwi, a 20-year-old aspiring screenwriter and junior at the University at Albany, everyone has a story and a theme. He observes each moment like a hawk, seeing a potential character in everyone around him and studying the particularities of city life. To Albuliwi, a city can breathe just like a person.

“I went to a high school where my best friend and I didn’t fit in,” Albuliwi said in a recent interview. “We’d skip classes almost every day. . . . I found that I learned more on my own, from the city streets, more than what I could learn in the classroom.”

“The city, for me, became a character,” said Albuliwi, of his home neighborhood of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. “It can be the best place to be when you’re happy, and the saddest place when you’re feeling terrible.”

Now, he’s in the process of turning his habit of examining city life and humanity into a career.

After trying his pen for more than a year at writing screenplays and stage plays, Albuliwi created a script that has attracted the interest of professionals in the film industry. The screenplay, Picasso, is Albuliwi’s third completed script and his only work, thus far, to achieve recognition in the professional realm.

Peter Belsito, executive vice president of the film marketing company Film Finders in Hollywood, was the first pro to read Picasso. It wasn’t long after that he decided to take a personal business interest in the project. Using his power as a film and screenplay marketer, he has generated the interest of such production notables as Malik Ducard, vice president of acquisitions at Lions Gate Entertainment, and Quentin Little of HDNet Films. Each of these representatives will attend a staged reading of Picasso on Nov. 18 at the Abingdon Theater in New York City.

Belsito, confidant in Albuliwi’s “promising work,” described Picasso as “hard-hitting and true . . . a clear-eyed look at tragic youth today.” Said Belsito, “He’s definitely got some talent. . . . The story is a coming-of-age piece, aimed at a large youth demographic. . . . Those kinds of films have great potential. It’s just a matter of getting the film made and having the right people see it.”

Drawing from his high-school experience, Albuliwi has created in Picasso a piece that he believes will speak to the kids and relive, on screen, the passion and inner-workings of the city he has come to love.

“I found that writing could reach people . . . you can really make an impact on their lives, the way they think,” Albuliwi said. “When I write, I can write about whatever the hell I want to. With film, I can allow the audience to see what I want them to, to feel how I need them to.”

So he thought long and hard, attempting to create a character that was “autobiographical in a sense,” yet vivid enough to appeal to a large mass of moviegoers. Eventually, he crafted Darien Adams, Picasso’s protagonist. Darien is troubled by his mother’s recent death, yet he is offered a full arts scholarship to the University of Miami, something he knows will help him realize his dream of becoming a successful painter. While choosing between staying in the city he knows best or following his dreams of becoming a successful artist, Darien learns that his memories aren’t easily forgotten.

Not surprisingly, the screenplay is beginning to resemble Albuliwi’s own path to success. Although his parents are still in very good health, Albuliwi has come to a similar point in his own life. Disillusioned by school and academics, he’s been juggling the choices of following his own dreams as a screenwriter or following his parents’ wishes of completing his education. As of now, Albuliwi seems to know what is best for him. On Dec. 15, he plans on leaving New York for L.A., working hand-in-hand with Belsito, and (hopefully) getting right down to shooting his film.

Albuliwi says that the production estimates for the film range from $1.5 to $2 million, dictating his need for talent-thirsty producers. In the meantime, he has spent his time raising money, seeking in vestments, and advertising his film’s Web site, www.picassothemovie.com. And as far as acquiring an agent is concerned, Albuliwi feels his own peddling efforts will be sufficient in selling the film.

“Why am I going to pay 10 percent to someone when I can be making my own calls?” Albuliwi said. “If producers like my script, if they see something there, they’ll buy it and I’ll have done it all myself.”

Aside from Picasso, Albuliwi recently received news that his stage play, Side by Side, will be produced at New York City’s American Theater of Actors. The director of the theater, James Jennings, has offered to produce the play in full, giving Albuliwi a flat rate for the script and any resulting royalties that the play may produce. The script involves the conversations of two 20-something death-row inmates as they await execution, sitting in their respective cells next to one another.

In the coming month before his move out West, the success of Side by Side will give Albuliwi’s film dreams a jump-start, not to mention allow him a little taste of how his work can affect an audience.

Albuliwi’s ambition is there. He’s aiming high, and things seem to be breaking his way.

—Ryan Judson

 

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