Guadalajara’s Agavia Studios, the Film Commission of the State of Jalisco and market Ventana Sur’s Blood Window are launching Oscura Tinta, a screenplay competition for fantasy/horror features carrying a $25,000 cash prize.

Agavia will give the award in exchange for copyright to the work. Agavia will produce the winning screenplay, moving into production this year 2022, CEO Gustavo Castillón told Variety at Cannes.

The winner will be chosen by a panel of industry figures and genre specialists.

Launched by Blood Window, Ventana Sur’s genre platform, the call for applications runs June 1-Aug. 15. The winner will be announced at Ventana Sur.

Agavia aims to make three features a year, said Castillón. One will now be a genre movie. Genre, a highly exportable film form, will help give an international edge to Jalisco production, he added.

“Screenplays are the ‘philosophers stone’ of filmmaking,” said Daniel de la Vega, at Mexico’s Sofia Films, one of the drivers of Blood Window and Ventana Sur, sponsoring prizes at genre and arthouse industry showcases. The challenge for Latin America genre, he added, is that scripts have traditionally also been its genre pics’ Achilles heal.

The prize also forms part of a drive by Jalisco’s government to super-charge film production, with an aim to become the production capital of Latin America, said Esteban Estrada Ramírez, director general of Jalisco’s Agencia Estatal de Entretenimiento.

He argued at Cannes that Jalisco now had all the cards to become Latin America’s top production hub.

A new state film law, approved in 2020, has already regulated the planning, development and promotion of all audiovisual projects in Jalisco.

“We are the only Mexican state and film commission at Cannes. We’ve been growing in terms of film industry. We’re now at a tipping point where we have to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Mexico and Latin America,” he added.

As Mexico’s federal funding has contracted, Jalisco can step up to fill part of the shortfall, Estrada Ramírez argued.    

The winner will be produced in Jalisco. A VR pioneer, Agavia Studios develops, acquires and distributes commercially viable entertainment for the global market. It will bring its high-tech expertise to the production of the feature, Cornillón said. 

Jalisco already has a highly active animation industry, including part of “Pinocchio” being animated at Guillermo del Toro’s Guadalajara-based studio El Taller de Chucho, noted Jorge Eduardo Riggen Bustillos, director of Filma en Jalisco.

It has also hosted multiple streamer shoots, such as BTF Media’s “El Centauro del Norte,” a Pancho Villa bioseries, he observed.

Now Jalisco wants more. “We are only two hours by plane from the world’s movie capital, Hollywood. We have one of the best climates, and fantastic locations, and the intention of growing the foundations of our industry, its infrastructure and talent. We already have a deep talent pool, and we aim to attract more talent back to their native state.”