Rabia Khan- Inside The Chaos: The Pilot Project

by Kierston Drier

We are often bombarded with images, messages and notices on social media. When it is flooding to us from every conceivable angle, dissecting the quality within such quantity can be overwhelming. But every once in awhile, some perfect gem surfaces- a piece of information that takes hold of us.


In my case, this gem jumped out of the internet and grabbed me, when Rabia Khan posted about it on a local writers’ Page we are both a part of. The piece? Her newly established The Pilot Project- an academic project where undiscovered writers can have a chance to have their work read by established Industry Professionals. Generously volunteering their time, and hand picked with great thought, these professional writers and showrunners must have produced work that is or has been on air. Their goal is to read your work and give you honest and legitimate feedback. The submitters? The just have a good script.


It was such an amazing opportunity I had to find out more. I contacted Rabia to have a coffee and talk about the project and how it originated. To begin, Rabia Khan herself is a graduate of the Toronto Film School and a professional writer for page and screen, working on both films and novels. I wanted the scoop on how her project got started. At a sunny coffee shop one afternoon we met and she gave me all the details


Khan explained the concept for The Pilot Project began as a response to Canadian writers not having anywhere to take their work. Once a great script has been created, getting it noticed can feel like an impossible task. Yet Khan faced a larger issue: the scripts she was reading weren’t up to the professional Industry standard. She would read scripts with great characters, but little adherence to form. Or she would read wonderful stories with deal breaking formatting issues. The content was there, but the basics were not.


Khan launched her website www.the-pilot-project.simplesite.com, a place where aspiring writers can go to gain tools to help them move their good ideas through the arduous task of adhering to industry standards. From here, The Pilot Project took its full form. Khan began reaching out to established industry professionals and built up a panel of experts. Each expert would be given the script of a selected unknown and asked to read through it and give their most professional feedback.


“One thing I want to acknowledge,” Khan mentioned, “was how incredibly generous this panel is. It is all volunteer, and these are all working professionals. Their donating their time to give raw, honest feedback on the work of the aspiring writers.”


After the panel was selected, the next step was to get submissions. Khan took on the task of reading every submission personally. The submission volume was large and the pool of writers moving forward would not be, so Khan devised a checklist to begin screening the submissions. “It’s very transparent”, she explained, “Everything The Pilot Project is looking for is clearly stated on the website.” She went on to credit her mathematical mind for her diligence is screening the applicants. “This is in no way in accordance with personal tastes in entertainment. It is an academic exercise. The scripts moving forward have to have clear adherence to format and structure.” As soon as a piece failed to meet the checklist, it was put aside. The final scripts were sent into the panel for serious professional feedback.


The Pilot Project was successful. The four scripts that moved forward all got Panel coverage and invaluable feedback. Further, this entire process is completely free. Why wouldn’t every writer throw their ring in the hat? It was time to ask Rabia the big questions.


Who Should Apply To The Pilot Project?

  • If you have an original concept that you have developed into a strong  half hour or hour pilot.
  • You have looked carefully at your piece and the story material is structured solidly.
  • It is formatted to proper industry standard and free of spelling or grammatical errors.
  • If you have put the work into creating a well polished piece, and are looking for feedback on content and quality of story.


What You Should Prepare

  • Review The Pilot Project website and the “Things We Look For” page.
  • Remember that the selection process is not personal- it is an academic excercise created with a rigorous industry-based checklist in mind. Only qualified participants are able to advance.


In keeping with the fashion of my last series Inside The Chaos, through FilmArmy, I had to end my coffee with Rabia asking her my usual question: If you could give advice to someone new  in the Industry, what would it be?


Rabia thought  for a moment, then answered,  “If you want in the industry- then get on set, any set! If you are new, and you want to be a writer, write for the audience, not for yourself. And take accountability for that writing. The ending you write must leave the audience feeling what you have asked them to feel.”  Then, she adds, “This might sound harsh, but if you’re in film school, then let Film school crush your dreams. Once that has happened, and the ego that is often attached to our work is stripped away, what you have left is you and your work at it’s rawest form- what makes you excited, what makes you happy, what makes you sad. Those things are your inspiration. After that, it’s just you and your hard work.”


​If you would like to submit to The Pilot Project, submissions for round two are opening May 15-18 2017. Find all details attached at the website http://www.the-pilot-project.com ​”

Film Review: THE NEON STRUGGLE, 38min, USA, Documentary

Played at the April 2017 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Directed by Bert Simonis

A family fights to keep their neon sign business alive as the light of the industry fades away. The process of creating these delicate signs is beautifully photographed to capture the intricacy of this populist American art form. Interviews with neon historians and experts are interspersed with vintage neon signs from across the United States.

Review by Kierston Drier:

The Neon Struggle, directed by Bert Simonis, is a story that will take you back in time. It follows one family and their small business passing down the true art and craftsmanship of building and creating Neon Lights.

There was a glorious time when Neon was new, fun, flashy and authentic. It took nearly a decade to learn the trade of sculpting, crafting, installing and repairing it A viewer may remember the day when Neon Lights were the only lights to catch your attention. But Vegas, once the Neon Capital of the world, would one day switch to LED.

And though this is a dying art, this family, with unapologetic charm, and passion, takes us through the work they do, the journey they have made through decades of lighting up the night with electric ions and phosphorescent hues.

Cinematically, this is nothing short of a colorful, and it is a piece brimming with authenticity. It is like stepping into an episode of Pawn Stars, with the cheerful characters and the educational, yet conversational atmosphere that the family creates while recounting the truly fascinating history of Neon. We wouldn’t immediately think that Neon went out of fashion for political reasons- that it was the victim of Marketing tactics hailing it as “colorful clutter” instead of the message board of the masses. That LED hit the stage in a time of Public Relations and Marketing, a platform that mom-and-pop neon shops never had been made to work within.

A fascinating look at sliver of history- a history that is as rich and bright as the lights themselves.

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Film Review: GEORGE, 7min, USA, Documentary

Played at the April 2017 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERGEORGE, 7min, USA, Documentary
Directed by Mary Gerretsen

A short profile documentary about a man’s life and journey through love, loss and illness.

Review by Kierston Drier:

Directed by Mary Gerresten, George is nothing short of delightful. It is the story of the complex tapestry of one man’s life through love, loss and grief. George, our hero, is young at heart, vibrant, poetic, witty and utterly charming. A familiar character to anyone who has ever had a favorite uncle or grandfather.

Without spoiling the emotional rollercoaster, for a film under eight minutes long it is hard not to cry when it ends. Not because George’s life is unbearably tragic- but because in the short time the film takes, you fall in love with man. You fall for his spirit, his highs and his lows. You fall, hook, line and sinker, for his heartfelt connection with his wife. You slide head over heels for the clear love and devotion he has for his family. And you are sad when the credits roll. Because you already miss him.

What sparkles about this film, is it’s amazing ability to straddle comedy, tragedy and poignancy without feeling condensed or rushed. The piece flows naturally, and absorbs the viewer so thoroughly, that the film feels shorter than it is.

A beautiful piece of cinematic storytelling, watch George. It will remind you to never take life too seriously and that aging is a privilege denied to many.

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Film Review: HAVE A LITTLE FAITH, 12min, USA, Comedy

Played at the April 2017 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Directed by Ashton Avila

A rebellious teenager is determined to get kicked out of her new Christian High School and teach the new boy she meets there what it really means to “have a little Faith”.

Review by Kierston Drier:

We all remember that one person in high school. They walked in a shook up your world- they oozed coolness or bravado. For Thomas, that girl is new student Faith, who wanders into his Christian prep school with her skirt hiked high, blowing bubble gum in his face. A manic-pixie-dream-girl with attitude. Enter offbeat comic gem that is Have A Little Faith directed by Ashton Avila.

Fresh, bright and funny, this is a charmingly little coming-of-age story. When Faith offers to have sex with Thomas he doesn’t actually seem to believe it- but then it happens! What keeps this story fresh and unique, is that it shows the honest, awkward and, yet- sweet moments that these two share while the try to get it on in the school auditorium.

Another great thing in this piece, is the performances. Faith is a rebellious, irresponsible troublemaker who is impossible not to like, and Thomas is a good boy bitten by the craziness that is adolescence. This piece also has some of the best closing music for it’s ending sequence. It is sometimes refreshing to take a step back into youth, when experiences were new and aching to be seized. Have A Little Faith will refresh you, for sure.

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Film Review: UNCLE ALBERT, 11min, USA, Dark Comedy

Played at the April 2017 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

Directed by Summer Blake

A dark comedy about the nuances of emotional response; Karen’s left emotionless following the death of her distant Uncle, Albert, she’ll stop at nothing to prove to fellow guests that she can indeed feel “sad.”

Review by Kierston Drier:

Directed by Summer Black, Uncle Albert is an open letter of support to anyone who had to go the funeral of a relative they barely knew and didn’t care about. In Karen’s case, it’s uncle Albert who was probably the creepy uncle that gave weird hugs and asked you to pull his finger way too many times.

The main issue for Karen is that she can’t seem to fake it. Try as she might she can’t feign sympathy for this poor dead jerk. Following her on this comic trail of family obligation are the larger-than-life family members that attend every funeral; the distraught relative who does nothing but cry, the overly dramatic jackass who is deeply affected by this passing and having an existential crisis about it.

The flirt who might get to take someone home. And all through this, Karen has to find a way to fake it till she makes it- at least until she can get home and call it cocktail hour.

Funny, because in one way or another it is all too familiar, Uncle Albert takes the comic notes you can find in a funeral and puts them under a microscope. And it does a really good job at it.

So buckle up, grab some popcorn, and get ready to laugh yourself to death- it’s a pretty good way to go.

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Film Review: THE WHITE ROSE, 5min, USA, Thriller/Film Noir

Played at the April 2017 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERTHE WHITE ROSE, 5min, USA, Thriller/Film Noir
Directed by Rebecca Scott

A lone gunman, interrogates his prisoner, to find the truth.

Review by Kierston Drier:

White Rose, directed by Rebecca Scott, is a powerful, symbolic and dramatic remodeling of a classic Noir piece. The interrogation, the cool agent out to track down the criminal, the quick, rapid fire dialogue pushing the criminal into the corner where he must confess- all here, all sharp and pulsating with tension.

There is a masked prisoner, and one armed interrogator filled with revenge, and victim dear to them both. Cinematically this is a piece filled with vivid images, bright contrasts and wicked symbolic representations. A thoughtful and well composed pieced with a killer twist.

If you like sharp, quick, dramatic crimes, this is a film that will have you biting your nails. And when the mask comes off our criminal, prepare your jaw to drop.

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Film Review: CONFESSION, USA, Horror/Thriller

Played at the April 2017 LA FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERCONFESSION, 5min, USA, Horror/Thriller
Directed by Sofia Vyshnevetska

The loving father, after kidnapping and cruelly killed his little daughter by pedophile, turns into a proficient butcher. Desire of revenge will be confessed in another way of expiation…

Review by Kierston Drier:

Revenge, is a complicated emotion. It burrows inside us and simmers slowly. Enter Confessions, directed by Sofia Vyshnevestka, a subtle, striking, beautifully short and terrifying film. Subtle, because you don’t immediately know what the motives of the two men in the room are- but they are there, and one is passing a wad of money over to the other.

And after a quick breakdown to what is and is not allowed, the first man is brought down the dirty hall to a dirty bedroom and let inside. On the bed, appears to be a young girl.

Feeling sick? If you are anything like this reviewer, you might be. But the twist will push you to your breaking point.

A gut wrenching tale with many moral layers, I’m Not Him is a fascinating story of love, loss, desire, damnation and the ultimate revenge. It’s a dark tale with a gut wrenching twist not to be missed, this piece also boasts beautiful colors and excellent shooting. Check out Confession but be warned- it is not for the faint of heart.

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