Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I Will Read Your Fucking Script!

Posted: September 24, 2011 by moifightclub in cinema, writing
Tags: , , , ,

Charlie Kaufman: There are no rules, Donald. And anyone who says there are is just, you know…

Donald Kaufman: Not rules, principles. McKee writes that a rule says you *must* do it this way. A principle says, this *works* and has through all remembered time.

The header is a homage to this brilliant post by screenwriter Josh Olson. If you haven’t read it yet, click here and do read.

So i was lucky to get the script of Mausam(don’t ask how), read it and wrote this post. (Should i have or shouldn’t, well, that’s a topic for another discussion. You can join the debate on John August’s blog) And what i wrote about Mausam, it seems the film turned out to be the same. I would have been happy to be proved wrong but then, i guess, i can at least read scripts. And this wasn’t the first time. I also managed to read the terrible scripts of Luck and Game much before the films released. Had put an open bet on Luck, and it turned out to be exactly the same. Did the same with Game but we had to remove the post on Game because the makers threatened us with legal notice and God knows what all! But heard that thing about shakti ka santoolan? Read Maqbool. Nothing could save the film. There you go! The point is I am not trying to boast about my great skills at reading scripts and predicting how shitty they are. Trust me, anyone with some serious interest in screenwriting can do so. The point is the complete disregard for the script and screenwriting. As if it just doesn’t matter. As if weekend is all we have, make something with stars and songs, package it well, sell it, and you are done. Shit can work at the box office and it will continue to do so but that’s no excuse to start making a film with just unadulterated shit.

Charlie Kaufman: I’ve written myself into my screenplay.

Donald Kaufman: That’s kind of weird, huh?

As i struggle with my script in this Bollylalaland, i have been trying to find out how scripts get selected and funded by producers and directors. And in this quest, i chanced upon these three film scripts. It left me wondering if anyone really reads the scripts here, and if so, who are these people? I haven’t been able to find the answer yet. If you have the answer, do let me know.

The easy route is to design “projects”. If you have access (say friends, relatives) to the stars (Salman, Shah Rukh, Akshay, Imran, Ranbir), make them agree to your “story idea”, and then quickly write a film and you get the funds easily. Strangely that’s the way most stars prefer to work here. That’s why you would rarely see a star coming out of his comfortable cocoon of friends/coterie and acting in a newcomer’s film. May be Aamir is the only exception. And it has worked wonders for him. SRK is the smartest guy in B-town but i don’t know why his choices are so bad. May be because he prefers to work only with friends.

Now, if this is the only way, then why do we shout out from roof top that we don’t have good scripts or screenwriters. Sometimes people like Akshat Varma get lucky after some nine years. Read here.

So coming back to Luck, Game and Mausam – who read those scripts? And if someone did, can they really, really read it? So how they got made? Let’s try.

Charlie Kaufman: You sound like your in a cult.

Donald Kaufman: No, it’s just good writing technique. Oh, I made you a copy of Mckee’s ten commandments, I posted it over both our work stations.

[Charlie tears the page from over his work area]

Donald Kaufman: [in threatening tone] You shouldn’t have done that.

[smiles]

Donald Kaufman: ‘Cause it’s extremely helpful.

Luck – directed by Soham Shah. Produced by Ashtavinayak and Studio18. Stars Imran Khan. That makes it a family affair. Easy to get funded.

Game – It seems one of the Excel guys were super impressed with the script written by air hostess-turned-screenwriter Althea Delmas Kaushan. Bingo! Farhan read it? Abhinay Deo read it too? Of course we all can go wrong in our judgement but to separate the shit from the rest, that doesn’t need much talent. I’m lost here.

Mausam – Pankaj Kapoor had a script. Pankaj Kapoor has a son called Shahid Kapoor. Pankaj Kapoor wants to direct a film. That’s simple.

Even with all the possible permutations and combinations it’s hard to believe that the producers are willing to spend Rs 30-50 crore on these scripts just on the basis of stars or “projects”. Let’s dissect Game.

Stars – Abhishek Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut, Shahana Goswami.

Director – Abhinay Deo. Debut film. But a well known name in advertising.

Banner – Excel Entertainment & Eros Entertainment. The producer and the financier. Excel : Well established banner known for making sleek and smart films catering to urban audience. Supposedly the coolest guys in B-town.

Budget – Rs 40 crore.

BO Collection – Rs 4.8 crore (1st week). Verdict – Disaster.

Not sure what kind of proposals Excel made to woo Eros with that script of Game. We got stars, we got hit music directors Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy. Let’s roll it baby? Or was there some black magic involved? Enlighten me please! If the starting point for making the “project” was the same script that we read, am not sure why would anyone like to go ahead with it.

[to Charlie]

Robert McKee: I’ll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit. Find an ending, but don’t cheat, and don’t you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you’ll be fine.

The other argument (and possibly the strongest) that has emerged this year is we don’t need anything. Fck scripts, we have Salman Khan. Agree. But not everyone is Salman. And not every film can be saved by Salman either. Remember Veer, London Dreams, Main Aur Mrs Khanna, Yuvraj? The flop list is long too. Salman has to be that cinematic comfort food as Anupama Chopra points out in this esaay. Try anything else with him and you are not sure what will happen. And you are also not sure how long will people still enjoy that comfort food. That’s the reason why everyone is desperately looking down South to find the next movie in which Bhai can “act” and they can make money. It’s the Rajnikant-isation of Bhai.

And that’s a lazy ass logic. As Mark Kermode points out in this essay, blockbuster doesn’t have to be dumb. Why be Michael Bay when you could be Nolan? Or in desi context, why be Bazmee when you can be Hirani? Even in hindi mainstream films there are filmmakers like Mani Ratnam, RajKumar Hirani, Sriram Raghavan, Imtiaz Ali, Dibakar Bannerjee, Shimit Amin, Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Basu who always try to find that perfect balance. The result might not be satisfactory always, but you can’t blame them for not trying. We have turned the genre of “mainstream masala” as an excuse for making bad films. Slumdog Millionaire is bollywood mainstream masala and so is Main Hoona Na. And i enjoyed both (except that Indo-Pak bit in MHN). Masala done well is also cinema. We are not being purists when we dismiss the bad ones, the masala or the arty-farty. But let’s stop giggling every time someone farts onscreen and calls it “mainstream masala” that entertains.

Donald Kaufman: Hey, Charles. I pitched my script to mom.

Charlie Kaufman: Don’t say pitch.

I have realised that the biggest problem here is to make people read. 120 pages? Nobody has the patience. Narrate it to us. It’s a unique place where people don’t read but make films. Herzog surely would have committed suicide. And i used to think that this culture of narration is only for the stars. Because they are the “stars”. They don’t have the time and you can’t make films without them, so you don’t have a choice but to narrate. But now i have realised that even the producers and directors wants a narration. Nobody wants to read. Some big directors even glorify the way they narrate their films with all band-bajaa-baraat. I think that culture of “not reading” scripts led to the culture of “no readers” at any production house.

[first lines]

Charlie Kaufman: [voiceover] Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn’t be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There’s something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I’m way overdue. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn’t fat I would be happier. I wouldn’t have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time. Like that’s fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. Really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more, improve myself. What if I learned Russian or something? Or took up an instrument? I could speak Chinese. I’d be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese and plays the oboe. That would be cool. I should get my hair cut short. Stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that? Just be real. Confident. Isn’t that what women are attracted to? Men don’t have to be attractive. But that’s not true. Especially these days. Almost as much pressure on men as there is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel I have to apologize for my existence? Maybe it’s my brain chemistry. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me. Bad chemistry. All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I’ll still be ugly though. Nothing’s gonna change that.

I don’t know any production house which has some sensible and professional readers whose job is to read and understand scripts and  to say why the film should be made or shouldn’t be. Forget sensible and professional, there is no system in place anyway. Black List? That’s Utopia! Plus, there are few more issues –

a) Almost every director wants to write.

b) Almost everyone feels that just directing is not creative enough. They want credits even for giving feedback on scripts.

c) Everyone has ten great ideas but writing 120 pages is too much work.

I also find it very strange the way most directors and writers are so secretive about their scripts as if it’s the next big thing. If it’s a high-concept film, it’s easy to understand the madness to keep it under wraps. But when was the last time someone made a concept film in Bollywood? Look at the films we are making every year, I find it’s a funny situation the way we want to hide these scripts. Feels like it’s more of an insecurity. Imagine if someone reads the scripts and tells that it sucks, the film will not get made then? Nobody takes the feedback in positive way – someone says it’s shit. Ok, let’s work on it. Make it better. What do you tell the producer who has spent money on films like Rakht Charitra, Rann, Jhootha Hi Sahi and Mausam? Hire someone who can read scripts!

Charlie Kaufman: To begin… To begin… How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. Okay, so I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana-nut. That’s a good muffin.

Look at QT. He leaked the script of Inglourious Basterds almost a year before he started shooting. Same with his latest one Django Unchained. When you are confident that it’s a good script, am not sure what’s the reason to hide. Think, people will read it, spread the good word and will eagerly wait for it to arrive. And if you are interested to read the script reviews of Hollywood films, click here.

Trying to source the  scripts post-release seems to be a difficult game too. And i ask for it so that the script can be shared here on the blog, and anyone who is interested in screenwriting, can read it. Thanks to Vikramaditya Motwane, have managed to put only Udaan’s script so far. I guess the rest loves tom-toming about their scripts going to Oscar library.

I have also been told that since the script reviews appeared on this blog, many production houses have become more strict with their scripts. No soft copies, no working from home, come to office and write. Someone even described a funny scene at one of the production house whose script we had got. But as long as you have disgruntled ADs in your team, i think we don’t need to worry. And knowing the way most people behave with their ADs, disgruntled is not a very hard emotion to achieve. And if not us, then someone else. I just hope that they devote more time working on the scripts rather then trying to save it from getting leaked.

We do get to read many scripts written by our friends who are writers and filmmakers. Believe it or not there are people who value our opinion. We don’t go to town tom-toming about it. Only when it is ridiculously bad and you get to know that someone is spending shitload of money on it, it’s difficult to control yourself and sit silent. You feel like shouting that it’s shit and you feel happy when you are proved right. Should we celebrate a Hattrick?! Just some cheap thrills. Nobody is paying us to do so. And you can do the same when you get our scripts. Dissect it the way you want. Till then it’s time to go back to a new draft of the script which nobody wants to read. Or to moifightclub@gmail.com let’s see if we have got some new scripts.

Charlie Kaufman: [voice-over] I am pathetic, I am a loser…

Robert McKee: So what is the substance of writing?

Charlie Kaufman: [voice-over] I have failed, I am panicked. I’ve sold out, I am worthless, I… What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck am I doing here? Fuck. It is my weakness, my ultimate lack of conviction that brings me here. Easy answers used to shortcut yourself to success. And here I am because my jump into the abysmal well – isn’t that just a risk one takes when attempting something new? I should leave here right now. I’ll start over. I need to face this project head on and…

Robert McKee: …and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.

Our mailbox gets flooded with all kind of mails. Raves, rants, goss from unexpected quarters and threats by star-fuckers. This one also came as a surprise. Screeny – a new member in the Fight Club.  His master The Creative Terrorist says it’s time  to have some new recruits, ideas and plans. So, here it is…read on. All first hand experience involving the names and faces that you know for sure.

One rainy night at run down Mukesh Mills, we had a new visitor called Screeny. He was visiting us for the first time. He wanted to join sort of club where Tyler Durden, John Nash, Karthik etc hung out, and I said you were at the right place. He was beaten, bruised and thin in appearance, but spoke aggressively of his reasons to be there.

Screeny was a frustrated screenwriter who wanted to vent his frustration at the fight club. He had made multiple rounds of Film Directors’ offices and realised in the process that sometimes their great films might have been accidents. As he spoke, I dragged and pushed him inside the arena, everybody was waiting to just pounce on him.

Screeny’s issues started with the creative process. The names of directors were something he wanted to keep confidential. Most directors did not know the importance of a one-liner and genre. Screeny’s approach was to develop a one liner; most directors looked for finished scripts, which Screeny refused to give since finished scripts reflect the writer’s vision and not the director’s. Screeny started with asking the directors what sort of film he saw. While most of them were clear of the genre, few of them knew why that particular genre worked.

When a commercial maverick director, finally decided he wanted to revisit one of his own genres, Screeny was hired, after months of messages. He showed great involvement in the plot level for the first two weeks much to Screeny’s delight. He made Screeny rewrite three versions of the same plot, till he was satisfied. Screeny was thrilled with the way the director was working, moulding the plot the way he wanted, while Screeny offered arguments and counter arguments, the eventual choices lead to somewhat a good plot. The Director did have some wild sense of imagination – the process was mutual – sometimes Screeny pushed the director in a thought, while other times, the director offered his argument.

Finally when the director made his choice, it was evident there would be issues in the screenplay which needs to be addressed separately. Screeny vociferously established that the screenplay needs to be worked in a similar style. The director laughed when Screeny said this because for him the screenplay did not matter.

Then the bang – “start the one line order”. A one line order for Screeny was only the index of scenes with no dialogues, just an outline of events; but the director was ready to shoot with it. In a conversation, he mentioned he never worked with a bound script, which scared Screeny. He had to argue strong in asking time for developing the entire screenplay, maybe a month. Reluctantly the director agreed, Screeny went to work, every time a doubt cropped up. “You figure it out, you are the writer”.  Screeny had to break his head, without any direction from the Director.

Eventually a month later a half baked screenplay evolved with issues which had to be fixed in the subsequent drafts. Meanwhile the director had lost interest in the plot and moved on to working on other plots with other writers. Screeny was asked to continue, but his screenplay was never picked up for reading after rewriting three drafts.

A year passed and the director started coming out with other films. Screeny started spotting the trends of half baked attempts at writing in the subsequent releases that followed. The screenplay never mattered for him, only his ideas needed to be fleshed right for him.  Screeny started worrying – if the director had made great films at some point of his time, were all of them accidents? When the director was questioned, he maintained his stand that all of his films were instinctive and took pride in the fact that his writers wrote on sets, including films which considered cult. Today those writers are famous.

Screeny’s school of thought was scripts were locked and then shot, while the director in question never bothered about the script. He plainly maintained everything as being his instinctive vision. Screeny fell into self-doubt – what was the point of banging out a screenplay when he does not plan to read it?  Eventually he will be told write the scenes on the sets. So why the talk about scripts in the first place, was Screeny even needed to write those three plots, or were the plots clear in the directors head, including the great films he had done ? If they are not accidents why is there no consistency in his films? What remains Screeny’s role with such directors?

Screeny went home that night confused, when a friend visited him that night with an invitation to the Fightclub.

Screeny wanted to talk more about other directors for whom visual play was important. The creative process was different there. I stopped him, because now inside Fightclub we had to deal with Screeny’s first issue. So throwing Screeny inside the Fightclub, make sure he returns two weeks later..

– The Creative Terrorist.

Those of you who are interested in writing for television, check this out.

tvWhat : Film Writers Association ( FWA), in collaboration with Whistling Woods International, announces a 4-day TV writing workshop from 14-17 May, 2009.

There will be 17 interactive sessions, of 2 hours duration each. While some of these will cover the theoretical aspects of writing, more will be about getting the participants to write and learn as they do so.

Who : The instructor of the workshop will be Vinod Ranganath. Additionally, there will be guest sessions by Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Sidharth Sengupta, Atul Tiwari, Ashwini Dheer, Lilliput, Purnendu Shekhar & Rajesh Dubey.

How : Members wanting to attend may either collect the application forms from the FWA office or write to us at tfwa@rediffmail.com for a copy by e-mail. You’ll need to fill in the form and submit it at the FWA office with a passport size photograph, plus the workshop fee of Rs. 3000/-. (This is inclusive of lunch and tea/coffee for all the four days).

This workshop is for FWA members only. (If you want to become one, e-mail us for details.) Participants will be accepted on a first-come first-served basis. The last date for accepting applications is 11th May 2009.

FWA Address : Film Writers Association, 201-202 Richa Building, Plot No. B-29, Off New Link Road, Andheri west, Mumbai 400053. Phone Number:- 26733027, 26733108.

Where : Whistling Woods International, Film City, Goregaon (E), Mumbai – 400 065

Workshop Timings : 9.30 AM – 1.30 PM and 2.30 PM – 6.30 PM

Mahasweta@Prithvi

Posted: April 23, 2009 by moifightclub in life, writing
Tags: , ,

Noted bengali writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi was at Prithvi Theatre on Monday evening. A documentray film on her was screened ( very boringly done. but her quotes were priceless) followed by Q&A with the author.  Unlike many she was completely candid, spoke about her writing, her two marriages, kids and even her two suicide attempts.

And with a razor-sharp tongue, she dismissed everyone who tried to be cool or intelluctual. A guy framed a long question mixing religion, politics, beliefs, ideology and eveything possible. She looked at him and asked “But, whats the question? ” Nobody could control their laughter.

And those of you who missed it, here is the tip of the day, the quote which wrapped up her thoughts…. 

Right to dream should be the first fundamental right of every human being in any country.

Aha….couldnt agree more.

writing for others

Posted: April 17, 2009 by moifightclub in bollywood, writing
Tags: ,

Here is a small  note from a friend who has been trying to get a break as a film writer since last 2 years. Frustrated, he has now taken up AD job and is trying to pitch in with his script whenever he manages. Forget Syd Field, listen to someone who is on the field, facing it all….

Unless and until you are Abbas Tyrewala, its tough luck here. Because every director wants a good writer.

And good writer means one who can type fast. Because every director just wants a typist who cant type exactly what the director wants. But what the director wants, he/she also doesn’t know.

And if you type something that the director can’t think of, then you have more trouble. How can you think better than him/her ?

Better to write your own script and then look out for director/producers. Thats what i have realised in the last one year.

If you have any  kind dope on any new film, do write to us at moifightclub@gmail.com.