It’s been three years in the making, but finally, 13 Canadian writer-producer teams from across Canada will have their chance to hook the world’s second-largest cinema market at this year’s inaugural China Canada Gateway for Film Script Competition.

At today’s Whistler Film Festival’s Industry Summit at least three projects will be chosen for development in 2013. The teams will pitch their script synopsis to a panel of three international experts and three Chinese production companies, which will bring up to $15 million to the table.

There were 109 applicants representing a diverse geographical landscape, comprising every Canadian province. Even some Canucks working abroad made their pitch.

“We had an amazing mix of kinds of stories,” says Jane Milner, WFF managing director. Stories range from romantic comedy to black comedy to teen films, animation, action thrillers and police dramas.

Milner was impressed both by the diversity of genres and the quality of applicants. “Canada’s best,” she calls them. “It was an embarrassment of riches.”

The competition looked for contemporary stories that could transcend Canadian and Chinese cultures, and experienced producers with the “gravitas” to package the film.

The Chinese studios bankrolling the winning films are angling to start nurturing projects that would reach an international audience, and to expand into genres that they might not be traditionally known for.

“They are extremely interested in Canadian storytelling because Canada hits above its weight when it comes to storytelling — we have a whole lot of screenwriters in Hollywood,” Milner says.

Meanwhile, the competition has been drawing tremendous attention for the Whistler fest. “It’s really helping put the Whistler Film Festival on the map,” she says. “We have an ambition and a strategic plan to become an important international film festival and this is definitely another notch.”

Whistler fest sharpens dual edge