Posts Tagged ‘Workshop’

Tilt Shift Labs is organising its first ever certified workshop with National film award winning director Kamal Swaroop. The workshop titled ‘Grammar of Film Direction’ is a two-weekend intensive workshop for amateurs/students of cinema who are looking towards making a career in films.

– In two short weekends, students will be instructed on the basics of writing, directing, camera, and each student will write a short film project which will be guided and mentored by Kamal Swaroop.

– About the director:
Swaroop is a well acclaimed filmmaker and screenwriter. He graduated from Film and Television Institute of India in 1974, and later on did his postgraduate studies at the Institute. In 1982, he assisted Sir Richard Attenborough in the filming of Gandhi. His feature, Om-Dar-B- Dar (1988) is still considered a path breaking film, and it has a massive cult following among cinephiles.
Swaroop’s career, spanning 42 years, covers a broad range of films, channel promos for Channel V India, ads and Radio Spots. In 2014, he directed The Battle of Benaras, produced by Medient, and went on to release Tracing Phalke in 2015 for Films Division of India. Later on, he made Pushkar Puran (2016), and Atul (2016), based on the world renowned Dadaist artist Atul Dodiya.
Battle for Benaras premiered at Cinema Du Reel, Paris, while Atul premiered at the Cochin Biennale. He is currently working on a musical, Miss Palmolive All Night Cabaret and The Third Police Man, a metaphysical murder mystery.

Weekend I 

Session I
Camera Angles
Scene, Shot & Sequence
Types Of Camera Angles: Objective, Subjective, Point-Of-View
Objective Camera Angles
Subjective Camera Angles
Subject Size
Subject Angle
Camera Height
Extreme Long Shot
Long Shot
Medium Shot
Typical Two Shots
Close-Up
Inserts
Descriptive Shots
High Angle
Low Angle
Angle Plus Angle
Dutch Angle
Selecting Area And Viewpoint
Other Angles

Weekend I

Session II
Continuity
Cinematic Time And Space
Filming The Action (Controlled And Uncontrolled)
Filming Techniques (Master Scene And Triple Take)
Screen Direction (Dynamic And Static)
Neutral Shots
Reverse Shots
Screen Travel
Pictorial Transitions (Fades, Dissolves And, Wipes)
Sound Transitions

Weekend II

Session I
Process Of Writing
Back Story
Internal Need
Inciting Incident
External Goal
Preparation
Opposition
Self Revelation
Obsession
Battle
Resolution

Weekend II

Session II
Process Of Writing
Discussing Individual Scripts
Story Boarding Process
Production Planning
The Need For Story-Telling
Visualization Strategies
Dramatic Strategies
Characterization Strategies
Dialogue Strategies
Melodrama, Docudrama, Hyperdrama
The Experimental Narrative

Dates : July 29 – 30 | Aug 5 – 6 |

Time : 10AM-5pm

Seats : Only 15

Venue : Lowfundwala Productions, Andheri (West)
Bungalow No.96, SVP Nagar, MHADA, 4 Bungalows,Andheri West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400053

Fees : Rs 8470

– For further details, and to book your seat, click here.

 

We had put out the first post here – Notes From Anjum Rajabali’s Screenwriting Workshop – Part I. If you haven’t read it yet, do check out that first. This is the second one in the series.

Our friend Dipti Kharude attended the workshop. The second post is bit longer than the first one. But it’s quite great. So have patience and keep reading.

screenwriter

Day  3 (continue)

Jitna accha jiyoge utna accha maal milega.” By ‘maal’ Anjum was referring to fodder for imagination. Beginning the day with Anjum’s witticism set the tone for days full of master classes. Their readiness to admit their struggles led to an illuminating discourse.

Session 7:  Master class with Sudip Sharma and Navdeep Singh

A discussion on character motivation with reference to NH10

Arjun is slapped in front of his wife. His honour was also ruptured. With a gun and high-profile contacts on his phone, he is armed with a sense of personal entitlement. They realized that the character should have displayed these traits of a hot-blooded Delhi male. When Sudip tried to incorporate these traits, he received feedback that the character would be unlikeable with these attributes.  Sudeep admitted, “This was a mistake. It’s not my job to make him likeable.”

 If you change characters, the structure is bound to change. In NH10, revenge was a part of ACT III. If NH10 involved two characters from Pulp Fiction, revenge would have had to be juicier and a part of ACT II, itself.

In terms of structure, they had planned to start the film at the Dhaba itself but NH10 worked because the characters were relatable. It was not Korean violence. The purpose of the scene where Meera makes a presentation in a corporate set-up was to make the characters seem like ‘one of us’. This was also the case with the party scene.

There were suggestions from producers to include happy flashbacks. NH10 had all the makings of a B-movie but Sudip and Navdeep were steadfast about the themes being honour and gender. This uplifted the story. “People thought that our themes were too overt but it was a conscious choice.”

Moving on to some nifty tips, Sudeep is vehemently against putting a camera movement in the script. Directors hate that.

Instead of writing ‘long shot’, you could write – A bridge across the river.

Instead of writing ‘Mid-shot’, you could write – A man on it.

Instead of writing, ‘Close-up’, you could write – A tear rolls down his cheek.

A good script leaves room for interpretation by the director. You should only provide a visual landscape.

Sudip’s favourite NH10 moment was not scripted. The child laughed when Meera is slapped by Ammaji (Deepti Naval). Navdeep kept the moment. It is a harsh and disturbing moment where you can see patriarchy at work and the child is already on the path of violence.

The famed scene where Meera says ‘Fuck you’ was not a part of the initial drafts. She’s an established swimmer. In the earlier drafts, she swims across a canal and throws her wet shoes at them. This scene was to mark her first success.  They didn’t find a canal and had to settle for a rock quarry and that is the genesis of the aforesaid scene.

Setting/Milieu is important in a film – Just like Varanasi is a character in Masaan, Gurgaon is a character in NH10.

On the process of writer-director collaboration, they advised not jump into writing the story immediately.  Stay with it. Spend a few months talking about it. Watch other films in that zone.

You can’t sit with one script and say you’re a writer. Sudip wrote about 25 scripts before NH10 materialised.

They also highly recommend the process of index cards, where you write one-liners of scenes sequentially on cards and keep them with you. Put them up on a wall and colour code them, if you’d like. It helps you understand what kind of scenes each of the acts is made up of.

Takeaway – Your characters determine the structure/genre of your story.

Session 8: Mythology: Discovering the heights of drama from the depths of human nature (Notes of this session are sketchy. Nevertheless, this topic deserves a separate workshop of its own. Thanks to the participants fawning over the writers conducting master classes, Anjum was forced to not cover it as comprehensively as he would have liked to)

The content and dramatic forms of Mahabharata and Ramayana have had an overarching influence on Indian screenwriting. Anjum spoke about how mythology lends itself to reinterpretation and how mythological stories have evolved over time. We discussed how Valmiki’s Ramayana doesn’t entail Agnipariksha or the iconic Lakshaman Rekha.

Anjum spoke about the integration of Mahabharata in the film Rajneeti and how one of the most important scenes in the film modeled on Kunti revealing to Karan that she’s his mother, didn’t deliver the impact.

He also explained how Arjun (Ranbir in Rajneeti) evolves. The better he gets at dealing with war, the more he declines morally.

In Ramayana, Ram has to adhere to the ideal of Maryada Purshottam and hence he doesn’t reveal his emotions.  The character of Lakshman serves this purpose, instead.

Anjum also explained how the phrase ‘Narova Kunjarova’ has over the centuries and millenia symbolized ambiguity in a message in our culture.  It has been channelized into dialogues and storylines.

Anjum wrapped up this session by saying, “Believe in magic. We are getting too obsessed with Hollywood’s realism.”

Takeaway: Tap into mythology for some interesting conflicts and insights into human behaviour. Stories need not be real. They should be lifelike.

Mythology: Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey

The three phases the hero has to go through for the hero’s spirit to be unleashed.

Departure

–        The Call

–        Refusal of the Call

–        Supernatural Aid

–        Crossing of the first threshold

–        Belly of the whale

Initiation

–        Road of trials

–        Meeting with the goddess

–        Women as temptress

–        Atonement with the Father

–        Apotheosis (Harmony)

–        The Ultimate Boon

Return

–        Refusal to return

–        Magic Light

–        Rescue from without

–        Crossing of the Return Threshold

–        Master of the two worlds

–        Freedom to live

This is a part of Joseph Campbell’s book, A Hero with a Thousand Faces.

George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope is based largely on this journey.

Takeaway: Overcome the hurdles at each stage. Our lives are a series of heroic journeys. The hero’s struggle is rewarding. S/he is defined by her/his steadfast commitment. Our creative blocks come out of residues of parental repression. In life, like in films, we need to resolve our psychological blocks to emerge as heroes.

Session 9: Master class with Himanshu Sharma

Screenplays are not supposed to be read. They’re supposed to be seen.  You might disagree with something but you should write it with conviction.

While discussing his method, Himanshu told us that he imagines scenes and snippets and starts building them up. For Tanu Weds Manu, the scene where Tanu has passed out and Manu kisses her came to him first. He discussed it with Anand Rai and they took it ahead. He writes a scene and finds a way to get there. Himanshu calls it the experience of discovery – if he’s taking trouble to figure it out, even the audience won’t find it predictable.

He believes that his films work because of nostalgia. Stay rooted. Write what you know. Even in that milieu, scandal is always better than banal.

Encash your current emotional situation – be it a heartbreak or a divorce.

While discussing the flaws of his films, he gave an instance of Raanjhanaa. The second half was problematic. The entire political chunk was not written well. Kundan’s character was not supposed to be as sweet as he appears in the film. Kundan’s character has stayed with him and demands a new film.

The scene where Manu proposes to Datto and calls her Tanu in TWMR was a genuine mistake. It was a typo and it played out as a good moment.

Pappi is essentially an extension of Mannu. They are the same.

Dattoo was portrayed as a strong character, so that she could handle the abandonment by Manu.

On the toughest part of writing, Himanshu says, “Main climax hi nahi kar pata”, which drew quite a few laughs.

Day  4

Session 10: Master class Saiwyn Quadros and Sanyuktha Chawla (Writer and dialogue writer of Neerja)

Saiwyn wanted to make a woman centric film since female actors are more willing to work with first time writer/directors than male heroes. He admitted that if it was in his hands, he would have cast a girl from Manipur in the role of the athlete in Mary Kom.

While speaking of her journey, Sanyukhta said, “Have you ever seen a rich writer?”

During the narration of Neerja, it was the climatic point where Neerja’s parents receive her body on her 23rd birthday that made the biggest impact. Ram Madhvani wanted it to be a mother-daughter story. Not a story about hijack. The end would have been sappy but Shabana’s speech made it inspirational.

Writers have to mislead the viewers. During ‘Neerja’, when she opens the emergency exit, you feel like she is going to be safe. How can she die now?

 On the terrorists not displaying more of their characteristics, Saiwayn said, delving into the Libya/Palestine issue would alienate the audience. Their character exploration would take away from Neerja’s journey. The language they spoke was an issue. Earlier they thought of going with Urdu and later, Arabic. “We thought when the passengers don’t understand what the terrorists are speaking, it leads to more dread. The terrorists couldn’t fit into the bracket of menace. They were uncertain.”

On Ram Madhvani being a tough taskmaster:  The scenes in the plane were shot in 12 days with a four camera setup. Ram Madhvani wanted it to be more like theatre. It involved one hour takes without cuts.

The script involved an emotional objectives draft and the business objectives draft (who’s doing what in scenes, like Neerja winding the tape of a cassette on her way to the airport).

While converting conversation into dialogue, find a real person as a reference for that character.

Add something new to a true story. The audience will then be convinced that you are capable of surprising them. The real Neerja was a Dire Straits fan, not a Rajesh Khanna fan. Saiwyn’s father was a Rajesh Khanna fan. Since Rajesh Khanna’s character, Anand celebrates death, it was fitting.

Session 11: Scene Design and Dialogue

Anjum continued his discussion about the first scene introducing the character of Antonio Salieri in the film, Amadeus.

In that context, Anjum explained how to use dialogue as action rather than dialogue as information. Resist the need to answer a dialogue with a dialogue. What does the character want? What are his expectations? When the expectations of two characters don’t match, you have drama! In the Amadeus scene, the concern of the writer was eliciting Salieri’s grief? No one remembers him. He is in an asylum. He is envious of Mozart, who is more acclaimed. He works much harder than Mozart but still Mozart is better. This envy is a universal condition.

Two and a half minutes is ideal time for a scene to unfold.

Vijay’s character is overcompensating in Deewar. The knowledge of psychological defence mechanisms can be very helpful in writing dialogues.

While constructing a scene and writing dialogues, take two steps forward and one step backward. The uncertain helps maintain the intrigue.

Deconstructing a scene from Satya where Bhiku Mhatre returns home from prison, Anjum said, “Be faithful to the characters and where they come from.” Despite being a love scene, Bhiku slaps his wife. This is their world. She slaps him back. That is catharsis. It shows how intimately they know each other. Look for such possibilities.

Push your characters. Push your pen. Don’t tell the audience what they already know.

We went to study the scene from Sixth Sense where the kid reveals to the mother that he sees ghosts. He explained how the choice of place and time is perfect. They are both in a car and stuck in a traffic jam. The mother is forced to give him undivided attention. The dialogue uses natural anxieties of the characters.  The wordplay is worth observing in this scene.

Takeaway: When a dialogue has a dramatic surprise, it is good writing.

Session 12: Master Class with Sriram Raghavan

Anjum asked us to watch Sriram’s short, The Eight Column Affair, and his film on Raman Raghav before introducing him.

Sriram spoke about what didn’t work with Agent Vinod. “You love it too much. You hug it too hard. You kill it.” He wishes to re-edit Agent Vinod and put it on Youtube.

In Badlapur, grief turns into uncontrollable anger. Anjum asked Sriram, if the protagonist waited for 20 years, he should have come up with a better revenge plan. Sriram clarified, “He was not brewing revenge. He just shut himself up for 20 years. He was confining himself. It is not his agenda. The agenda finds him when a lady knocks on his door. The misogyny in the character is intentional”. Sriram accepted that the film should have shed some light on the emotional state of the protagonist during his confinement.

On his method: “I take a book. Read half of it and then brainstorm with my friends about the possible turns the story can take. I also like to play a certain kind of music to be in the zone. Jaideep is my Dial-a-dialogue.” He confessed that he hated it when a writer once gave camera directions in the script – “Zack Snyder style slo mo.”

Session 13: Master Class with Jaideep Sahni

Since he was an engineer, Jaideep looked at a screenplay as an algorithm to make a film. It is a scientific process.

The writer confesses to having never watched Hindi films before writing Jungle; his only exposure to Bollywood being Hindi songs. He realized careers work only for people who want to do one thing forever. So he decided to let go of those careers once and for all to live simply but do everything he wanted. This freedom helped him be a writer. When he came across the screenplay of Gandhi at a bookshop one day, it changed his life. “I fell in love with screenwriting by then and kept trying to learn and make my own screenplays and songs and showing them to anybody who had the time.”

He says, Bunty aur Babli taught him to insert lip-sync songs in a script. He could do away with 15 pages of his script after Gulzar wrote the song, Chote Chote shehron se, Khali bor dopahron se.

His scripts get their dramatic energy from life. Though he didn’t know much about the sub-culture of organized crime, he used his knowledge of the group dynamics of student politics while writing Company. He grew up seeing the helplessness and self-righteousness of the middle-class and wrote Khosla ka Ghosla. Based on a real incident in his life, he had suggested the second half of the film as a solution when he was a kid.

He had heard of Kiraaye ke baraati (Shuddha Desi Romance) but it took him two months to find them and write about them.

Jaideep wanted to focus on small towns like Jaipur in Rajasthan and not depict deserts. Details like the way women wear a dupatta around their faces for privacy more than protection against the sun in Tier II cities intrigue him and trigger story ideas.

Session 14: Master class with Varun Grover and Neeraj Ghaywan

Objectivity is the biggest treasure of collaboration. The run-up to the first draft is the most beautiful process. Find your film before you go to the final draft.

Varun mentioned that he was an emotional wreck after his college stint drew to a close. Going back and feeling like a Banarasi was important to him. “A lot of stuff in the films exists just because of our love for the city.” He mentioned that the working title of the film was Raand-Saand-Seedhi-Sanyasi.

The montage sequences in the film are a tribute to Inarritu’s Babel and Amores Perros. They advised against inserting stylistic elements in the screenplay.

Neeraj spoke about how 7-8 mentors at Sundance helped them hone the screenplay.

They also admitted how they willingly went ahead with some contrivances in the film.

Day  5

Session 15: Master class with Sridhar Raghavan

He began with an introduction of Trinity Writers’ Room and the process they followed. Only 2 out of 8 writers selected had formal experience. Passion was the only qualifying criterion apart. They were asked to write a film review and a scene that could be added/removed from a particular film. So, they picked ardent, funny and well-read writers who would love the process of collaboration while writing.

Their first focus is ideas. Come up with as many ideas as possible. We latch on to our pet ideas. At a buffet, why stuff your plate with salads? Make a circuit of the whole place first. Take an idea; try all the routes – comedy, thriller etc. The Writers’ Room is training the writers to covert ideas into stories and to explore genre. The ideas could come through various sources – a poem, a painting or an article.

Sridhar’s process – I am a voracious reader and traveller.  I keep collecting data and putting it in different shoeboxes. I read somewhere that even after you burn a piece of paper, there is way to retrieve the text. This forensic device became a source of ideas.

The duality of Goa fascinated me. After hearing of a murder in Arpora, I spoke to a number people and collected information. I indulged in free association and wrote a piece. I showed it to Nishikant Kamath. It was not a screenplay but prose. It was not meant to be a movie but a book till Fox Studios picked it up.

I would advice you to focus more on characters. Take reference points for characters from real life instead of thinking of a character like ‘Daniel Craig’ from so and so film.

He went on to explain about digital writing – episodic writing which involves more character exploration. It is too early to discern the structure of digital writing. Narcos as a film didn’t do well but the series gave the characters room to breathe. Watch every pilot that comes out of different countries. He recommended Turkish television shows for the writing.

Session 16: Master Class with Juhi Chaturvedi

Juhi spoke about how she fought with her father to get into fine arts only to find out much later that writing was her true calling.

On the premise of Vicky donor, Juhu spoke about how the idea came to her after she had her first child. The vague idea that triggered the premise was – What if a guy goes about donating sperm but cannot have his own kids.

Anjum intervened and explained how films like Piku and Vicky Donor are not so much about constipation or sperm donation but more about the emotional consequences of those conditions.

On writing dialogue, Juhi said, “I don’t write character sketches. Forget you’re a writer when you write dialogues. Talk like the characters. Let the characters talk crap. See if you can turn your scenes into moments. Piku doesn’t say ‘Don’t go’, she says, ‘You’re going?’”

Juhi doesn’t like to reference films. She doesn’t watch anything when she’s writing. Day-to-day characters and the mundane fascinate her.

When she rehearses, she rehearses the silent moments as well.

Anjum mentioned how the end of Piku didn’t go down very well with him.  “Sattar saal ki umar mein ek badi potty ki aur mar gaya.” Piku and Bhaskor feed off each other. Many of us agreed that a resolution while he was alive would have uplifted the film. After his death, if her psychological issues remain, she is still not liberated.

Session 17: Writing Protocols/Professional guidance

Process

1)     Write a working premise

2)     1 Page story – (Synopsis – paragraph format – like a short story)

3)     4 Page Story – (Synopsis – paragraph format – like a short story)

4)     Revise the premise

5)     8 and half pages – Treatment Note – Has to have the possibility of showing on the screen

6)     Step Outline – The determining document. (30-35 pages). Include one line scenes with scene numbers. Also known as beat sheet. (Ideal number of scenes – 75 to 100).

7)     Script without dialogue (Casting, budgeting, location can be done on this basis)

8)     Script with dialogue or screenplay – (Maximum – 100 pages)

When you introduce a character, use ALL CAPS. For example, NAVEEN (mid-30s, lanky with a nervous energy)

First scene after the interval is a buffer scene. People take time to settle. Factor a scene that offers a recap even while it’s taking the story ahead.

Beat is a significant change not expressed with a huge reaction. Whenever such a moment occurs, write BEAT. Use it sparingly.

A song is a scene. Mention the description of the song. What it is doing? What will the song encompass visually?

Quick Tips & Tools

PITCH

1)     Concept Note – Half a Page

2)      Why does this script have the possibility of universal resonance?

3)     1 page story + 4 page story

4)     Covering Letter about yourself and mention which stage the script is in

Do not send this mail without having written the script.

Softwares available for screenwriting:

1)     Celtx

2)     Final Draft (Paid)

3)     Movie Magic Screenwriter

Screenwriter Labs

1. Sundance

2. Drishyam

3. Mahindra Mumbai Mantra New Voices Fellowship

– Read one script every day.

– Make a list of a dozen films, you really like. Watch the film completely. Write the step outline.

– Use your own fingers and experience the magic of transcribing scripts and writing them. You will feel like a contributor of the script.

– When your thinking becomes like that of a cinematic storyteller, every sentence will become a shot.

– He also covered copyright advice and the importance of FWA. While mentioning his busyness, he said that he doesn’t care for award ceremonies. One of the awards he has received is in the drawer where he keeps his ‘undies’.

Closing Talk by Subhash Ghai

The beginning of this session was like a time warp, thanks to an old AV about the showman.  He was quite the candid raconteur.

He advised aspiring writers to make a case study file. Note down the box office collections, reviews and your own thoughts against every new movie watched.  You will learn to see trends and make connections.

He also took a dig at a writer-director duo that conducted a master class during the event and couldn’t articulate the premise of their own film. Ghai blurted out the premise of their film and the loglines of many other new age films.

He believes that Ram Lakhan is similar in spirit to Kapoor and Sons. Cinema has to change with time. The new world wants to dissociate itself from the values of the 70s. “Fine by me. I believe in making movies for the audiences.”

Once a writer told Ghai, “Main story sunane se darta hun. Screenplay suniye. Treatment ki kahaani hai.” He told the participants to not make this pitching mistake. “Agar tumhari kahaani treatment ki hai, toh tumhari kahani beemar hai.”

He exhorted the participants to hone their narration skills or get the help of a good narrator while pitching stories.

——————————————————————————–

The brilliance of the syllabus and the speaker can’t be overstated but I do hope that they come up with a way to handle the Q&A session. It is a colossal waste of time to sit through sessions with existential questions like, “Sir, When will we win an Oscar?” Gushing is not questioning. “Sir, every frame of every film of yours is a painting” – what is the query in this statement? There are no right answers to wrong questions. When Anjum recommended Ganguli’s Mahabharata, there was a question about whether he was referring to Rupa Ganguly. Some of these questions did provide comic relief but it was appalling to see a writer and an actor (participants) break into a brawl over who gets to ask questions to the master class speakers.

– Dipti Kharude

 

image1Film Heritage Foundation has announced the debut of its “Do You Speak Cinema” programme with a two-day workshop for children.

Venue : Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai

Dates : May 27th and 28th, 2016.

Workshop : “Do You Speak Cinema” is aimed at immersing children in the magic of cinema, transforming the experience from mere passive viewing to actively engaging with this art form and teaching them the language of the moving image. The idea is to make children a more discerning audience in a world where they are constantly bombarded with images.

Highlights : A rare opportunity to see, touch and watch films on vintage film projectors. Learning about the pioneers of cinema from Melies to Chaplin to Phalke. Touching and feeling film strips and drawing frames.

Age Group : First two workshops are for children from ages 8 – 12

Contact : To register, call 022-22844484 or email – education@csmvs.in

“Do You Speak Cinema” is a part of Film Heritage Foundation’s educational initiatives based on the belief that cinema is an art form and that the moving image is an important visual document of our heritage and the times we live in.

When it comes to screenwriting, Anjum Rajabali is probably the best teacher/mentor in B-town. He organises a screenwriting workshop almost every year. We had posted about this workshop on our blog. Our friend Dipti Kharude attended the workshop this year. Here’s her extensive notes from the workshop.

Do read and thank her for putting it all together.

DSC06307 (1)

In the early 2000s, I had a juvenile blog. I remember blogging about how, if there were one extravagant thing I’d want in my own house; it had to be a space for screening films. Another stray line from that same blog comes to mind. It was more like an affirmation – Wish I could make a film that would be an expression of the explosion in my heart. The bang I was referring to was a visceral reaction to incandescent instants on the silver screen. Filmmaking seemed nothing short of wizardry.

Movie clubs were magical places then. They made the idea of cinema palpable and more importantly accessible. The most spellbinding moments on screen could be traced back to a web of words on paper – the script or the screenplay – that sacrosanct document where imagination flourished.

Once I began ‘adulting’, this curiosity got sidetracked and the searing zeal waned into a tepid fascination. It was only after rupturing the shackles of a job that I submitted myself to the lure of cinema again. This time though, I decided to approach it scientifically and registered for the 5-day Screenwriting Workshop by Anjum Rajabali.

Despite the academic approach, it upheld the movie mojo. When you don’t miss your phone for 5 straight days, in a world where you are willingly tethered to your devices, you know the workshop instructor has done a stellar job.

In the interactive master classes, Jaideep Sahni, Sriram Raghavan, Juhi Chaturvedi, Himanshu Sharma, Shridhar Raghavan, Varun Grover, Neeraj Ghaywan, Sudip Sharma, Navdeep Singh, Saiwyn Quadros, Sanyuktha Chawla-Shaikh, shared their creative and professional struggles, explained their style and approach to writing, and offered a wealth of tips for new writers.

Though not without its faults, the workshop was enlightening and enthusing. Replete with Anjum’s personal stories of failure, it encouraged participants to write. ‘Till the age of 34, I didn’t know the meaning of screenplay. I had only written articles. It is possible to reinvent yourself. Get the junk out of the way, which is usually the first draft. Write what you enjoy seeing on screen and no joy equals to that of writing ‘FADE OUT’.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of what happened at the workshop. It is a gist at best.

Day 1

Session 1: The Importance of Stories and Storytelling

After a quick introduction, we were handed writing pads with Stanley Kubrick’s quote – If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed. Anjum delved into how stories help us make sense of the chaos of life. We are constantly battling the senselessness of life and stories help us find meaning. They unravel the complexity of lived reality.

When it comes to story ideas, we were told that, just the way you don’t marry the first person you date, you don’t commit to the first idea that comes to mind. Spend time in building a trove and the one that stays is worth looking into, the prerequisite being that it should move you profoundly in a sad or joyous way. Once that idea is discerned, live, breathe and fornicate with it.

Meaningful stories are the ones that address human condition. They offer a lifelike experience and make viewers suspend their judgments. Reality takes a backseat. Lions may not speak in real life but Lion King makes the viewer suspend this disbelief.

After a bout of anecdotes, the interactive session snowballed into a volley of irrelevant questions that lasted much beyond the time allocated for the same. Future participants should be careful about asking pertinent questions to avoid this debacle. While a participant pointed out that Sholay didn’t take into account the ‘greys’ of characters and how she had a problem that Gabbar Singh was depicted as pure evil, Anjum quipped, “You can’t screw up a film like Sholay with greyness. It is not about understanding evil. It is about destroying it, as opposed to Satya.” This exchange turned into a debate about whether the workshop would be ‘democratic’. Though it was a delight to see Anjum field questions with his special brand of humour and irreverence, he was forced to downsize some other germane discussions.

Session 2 – Premise : The Dramatic Centre/ Expansion into Plot

If you can’t say it in one sentence, you don’t know what it’s about.

This one kickstarted the workshop in the real sense of the word. Premise is the interplay between the protagonist and the central situation (conflict). The energy of the story comes from these one or two sentences that form the premise. Everything else is a sub-plot.

We deciphered the premises of different films. Most of the participants were surprised when they discovered that though Dil Chahta Hai’s theme is friendship, the premise is about Aamir Khan’s failure to understand adult love.

Anjum went on to explain how the specificity of the premise is directly proportional to the effectiveness of the screenplay. In case of the film Neerja, participants deduced– It is the story of an airhostess grappling with a plane hijack and responding with courage. Anjum explained how Neerja is the story of an ordinary girl finding extraordinary courage. The particularity of the ordinariness of the character is of significance. If the airhostess were a woman trained in martial arts, the story wouldn’t have worked.

The plot is the dramatic progression of the character and the central situation. The premise generally kicks in during ACT II. While setting up the story in Act I, the character should reveal characteristics or peculiarities that lead to the premise. In Sholay, though Thakur has lost both his hands, the emotion the story evokes is only anger and not sympathy since the premise involves revenge. There is not a single scene in the film where Thakur is shown in a pitiful state.

We watched the short film, Le Poulet, inferred its premise, discussed the purpose of every scene and analysed the point where the premise was activated. Anjum helped us examine the way in which the protagonist’s struggle is visually depicted (your film should cover action, not activity). There was also a discussion on how ‘twists’ work in films. A good twist is the one that surprises you but in retrospect it’s inevitable.

Takeaway: Once an idea arrives, you need to hit upon it with a premise. The premise is like a lighthouse. If you’re ever stuck while writing a scene, look to the logline and it will push you in the right direction.

Stories fraught with failure were more revealing. Anjum candidly gave references of his own films Pukar and Arakshan and how they moved away from the premise and suffered. Pukar was to be a love story based on Samson and Delilah but the love story turned into a sub-plot when the screenplay advanced and Arakshan dealt with reservation in the first half and the second half became about commercialization of education.

Constant references to films like Sholay, Deewar and the likes were definitely helpful to those who have grown up on that fare but to a large extent the grammar of films has changed. If there were more references to contemporary films, the juxtaposition would have been more pertinent.

Session 3 – Character, Characterisation, Character Arc, Transformation.

Discovering the Character’s personality, qualities relevant to your plot.

The protagonist is defined by her/his struggle and her/his steadfast commitment.

When it comes to characterisation, imagine the vulnerabilities and unmet desires of the character. Being vulnerable is a sign of being alive. Explore the physiology (paunch, looks, etc.), sociology (caste,class,neighbourhood) and psychology of the main characters (fears, vices, early memories etc.)

Place the character in multiple ‘what if’ situations and reflect on her/his reactions. Anjum warned us about digressing and crafting character sketches that run into pages with immaterial details like the brand of toothpaste the character uses. (Precisely – Bhaad mein gayi uski chaddi/ Bhaad mein gayi uski toothpaste).The premise serves as a beacon at this stage too. The characteristics of the protagonist should propel the premise.

At the heart of any good story is character evolution. A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story.

Ask two questions of your character with regard to the character arc:

What does s/he want?

What does s/he really want?

In case of Airlift, Ranjit Katiyal initially wants to ensure the safety of his family and then includes his employees in its ambit.

The most interesting stories are the ones where the characters have lost the battle but won the war.

Film Screening: Little Miss Sunshine

Takeaway: A character sketch is not a biography. Brevity is your best friend.

Despite Anjum repeating countless times about questioning the main characters in relation to the premise, a participant was hell-bent on deconstructing the character of Samba in Sholay.

Day 2

Session 4 – Script Analysis of Little Miss Sunshine (with emphasis on characters and their arcs)

After diving into the vulnerabilities of each character and discussing how each character was introduced on screen, we dissected the 14-minute dinner scene which exhausts all the possibilities of dissonance.

Dissonance lends the plot the essential dramatic vigour.

For a rewarding character arc, put your characters in the worst situations and dire places. Let them dig deep and find their way out.

We traced the journey of all the characters – how each of them started and how their arcs blended with the resolution of the film.

In Little Miss Sunshine, Richard tells his daughter, “If you win, we will go.” In the climax we see him joining her with jubilation as she loses. This flip makes for a good character arc.

While there have been films with a few exceptions, your scripts should have at least one major character who goes through a change in his belief or behavior.

Takeaway: Ironies and paradoxes make for good stories.

Session 5 – Structuring the Screenplay

A screening of the short film, The Lunch Date, shined a light on how prejudice operates through generalization. It is dissolved by treating the person as an individual. Hence a personal experience can help one overcome prejudice. This led to the premise of a rich lady encountering a poor, black, homeless man.

Anjum explained how it is important to exploit every single frame in a short film. The film just like Hitchcock’s Psycho sways your perspective. Irrespective of rationality or morality, viewers feel sympathy towards characters that are vulnerable and struggling.

Before plunging headlong into the three act structure, a disclaimer is in order. This popular structure is not a formula or a model to follow consciously. It is meant to be imbibed and forgotten.

Act I – Setup – Introduce characters. Establish their situations. Begin your sub-plots.

Act II – Confrontation – The plot goes into second gear and the premise blooms here.

Act III – Resolution

Takeaway: Treat the knowledge of the 3 act structure as scaffolding. Knowledge transforms to wisdom when it becomes second nature. Thought can be the enemy of creativity. Too much thinking leads to contrivances in the plot. Write and when you find yourself faltering, evaluate your screenplay with the help of the 3 act structure.

Session 6 – Scene Design

“The structural unity of the parts is such that, if any one of them is displaced or removed, the whole will be disjointed and disturbed. For a thing whose presence or absence makes no visible difference is not an organic part of the whole.” – Aristotle

The questions to explore before writing a scene:

What is the purpose of the scene? Is the scene related to the rest of the story? How does it advance the story? Does it reveal something important about the character? Are you introducing a character? Does the dialogue reflect character? Do your characters have something to do – any activity?

We scrutinized a scene from the film, Amadeus against the parameters mentioned above.

Screening of Incendies

Day 3

Session 6: Scene Design Continued

We studied the opening scene of The Godfather where the aim was to introduce the Godfather and his system. Anjum explained how the scene exploits the discord created by an emotional reaction. A monologue at the start of the film is generally considered as suicide but this one weaves in intrigue since it is structured like a story. This scene is a master class on how an organic quality of the character lends a dramatic touch. This drama is a rich device to bring to the fore, the hidden.

Takeaway: This was the most gratifying session since we analysed every frame of the scene and tracked its progression. While Anjum deconstructed the scene, it dawned upon me that this is the part I like most about the whole process of screenwriting – crafting the nuances of a scene. It also elevated my capacity to savour aspects of films that I had earlier mindlessly consumed.

Thanks to questions that only served to stoke the pseudo intelligence of some participants, the session on analysis of the film Incendies had to be deferred. Another purpose of questioning seemed to be name-dropping.

Dipti Kharude

Master class with Sudip Sharma and Navdeep Singh – To be continued.

screenwriting-215x300Brave writing seems to be moving center-stage in the Indian film industry. Year after year, an increasing number of vibrant scripts, which reflect the writer’s vision and conviction, are finding their way to the big screen. Every well-written script increases the industry’s confidence in screenwriting.

Here’s a chance to learn from those who are blazing a trail – repeatedly!

In lively interactive master classes, they will share their creative and professional struggles, explain their style and approach to writing, and offer a wealth of tips for new writers. The Workshop Instructor, through extensive sessions, will cover all the essential principles of screenwriting, Indian mythology, copyright law, writers’ contracts, and professional guidance.

WORKSHOP INSTRUCTOR:  Anjum Rajabali (Drohkaal, Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Raajneeti): Head of screenwriting at Whistling Woods Mumbai, and an activist of FWA. Conducts workshops, script labs and fellowships for screenwriters in India and abroad.

SPEAKERS

Jaideep Sahni (Chak De India), Sriram Raghavan (Badlapur) Juhi Chaturvedi (Piku, Vicky Donor), Himanshu Sharma (Tanu Weds Manu 1&2), Shridhar Raghavan (Dum Maro Dum), Varun Grover (Masaan), Sudip Sharma (NH-10),                   Navdeep Singh (Director: NH-10), Saiwyn Quadros (Neerja, Mary Kom), and Sanyuktha Chawla-Shaikh (Neerja)

DATE : 30th March to 3rd April, 2016 (5 days)

VENUE : Whistling Woods International, Mumbai

FEE:

For FWA members: Rs. 7500/- (Inclusive of taxes, tea/coffee and lunch on all days)
For non-FWA members: Rs. 10000/- (Inclusive of taxes, tea/coffee and lunch on all days)
*If you wish to become an FWA member, please visit www.fwa.co.in

DETAILS/REGISTER – For more information and to register for the workshop, please call 30916003 or email: kanchi.parikh@whistlingwoods.net

Umesh Kulkarni, the acclaimed Marathi filmmaker, is conducting a filmmaking workshop in Mumbai. He’s been doing similar workshop in Pune for the last 4 years.

Date : 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th January, 2016

Time : 9:30 am to 5pm

Venue : Sathaye College Auditorium, Dixit Road, Vile Parle East, Mumbai

Eligibility : Open to all

Fees : Rs 10,000 (includes Tea + Lunch)

For students, there’s 10% discount on the fees

– To register and for further details, call the numbers given in the embedded poster below.

Or can mail shootashort@gmail.com

This is Jamuura‘s intiative. And click here to read an interview of Umesh Kulkarni on shorts and filmmaking.

shoot a short poster

WWI-FWA Workshop 2015

WHAT : 5-Day Screenwriting Workshop

by Anjum Rajabali

and

Vishal Bhardwaj (Haider) , Sriram Raghavan (Badlapur), Jaideep Sahni (Chak De India), Juhi Chaturvedi (Vicky Donor), Ritesh Batra (Lunch Box), Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan, Producer: Queen), Shridhar Raghavan (Dum Maro Dum), Akshat Verma (Delhi Belly), Sharat Kataria (Dum Laga Ke Haisha), Anand Gandhi (Ship of Theseus), Navdeep Singh (Director: NH-10), Sudip Sharma (NH-10)

WHEN : April 29 – May 3, 2015

WHERE  : At Whistling Woods, Film city, Goregaon (East), Mumbai – 65

Presented by Whistling Woods
(in association with FWA & Living Bridge Pune)

WORKSHOP : The last few years have marked the beginning of an exciting era for Indian screenwriters! More films are breaking the conventional mold, based on bold scripts. Badlapur, Udaan, Haider, Dum Lagaa Ke Haisha, Queen, The Lunch Box, Vicky Donor, Ship of Theseus, Delhi Belly, Chak de India, NH-10.. the list goes on. What’s more, the audience is welcoming these with pleasure.

Gradually but steadily, the scriptwriter seems to be moving centre-stage!

This workshop will not only cover all the basics of the screenwriting craft, encouraging you to develop competence as a screenwriter, but also expose you to how these stalwarts let their imagination fly with conviction. So, here’s your best chance to learn, via rich interactive sessions with writers who are redefining Indian screenwriting today!

WORKSHOP INSTRUCTOR: Anjum Rajabali (Drohkaal, Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Raajneeti): Heads the screenwriting departments at Whistling Woods Mumbai and FTII Pune, and is an activist with FWA. Conducts screenwriting workshops, and script labs and fellowships for screenwriters.

FEE: For FWA members: Rs. 7500/- (Inclusive of taxes, tea/coffee, lunch)
For non-FWA members: Rs. 10000/- (Inclusive of taxes, tea/coffee, lunch)
*If you wish to become an FWA member, please visit www.fwa.co.in

REGISTER : To register for the workshop, please call 30916003 or email: kanchi.parikh@whistlingwoods.net