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Archive for June, 2008

All you screenwriters out there, Baiscope Entertainment, a Mumbai-based non profit organisation is organising a script fest, Sankalan – an ideas to screen workshop.

The idea is to source and nurture new writing talent.

The workshop is being mentored by Anurag Kahsyap (Black Friday, No Smoking, Paanch), Anjum Rajabali (Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh) and Sriram Raghavan (Ek haseena Thi, Johnny Gaddar).

The best scripts that emerge from the workshop will be made into films by Mahindra. The good news is that the workshop, which has an element of competition to it, complete with elimination rounds etc., will provide stipends to winners.

The last date for entries is July 19, 2008.

For more information visit their site or call Anupama Bose at +91 9833255171 or Rabia Chopra at +91 9820962559

Okay, time for a disclaimer. I just got this in the mail yesterday. By now, people who’ve been reading my blog know that I never throw out anything unread. So I opened the letter and read it. It said pretty much what I’ve outlined above and ended with, “If you are a senior writer, be a responsible member of the writing community and encourage young and new writers to participate.”

I am just responding to the implicit reprimand in the mailer and doing my duty by spreading the word. Please do your own research and background checks before participating. And if anything goes wrong, or you’re cheated out of a script, don’t write me!

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You must believe in yourself and in your work. When our first “Batman” movie broke all those box-office records, I received a phone call from that United Artists exec who, years before, had told me about “Robin and Marian” and let me know I was out of my mind. Now he said, “Michael, I’m just calling to congratulate you on the success of “Batman.” I always said you were a visionary.” You see the point here— don’t believe them when they tell you how bad you are or how terrible your ideas are, but also, don’t believe them when they tell you how wonderful you are and how great your ideas are. Just believe in yourself and you’ll do just fine. And, oh yes, don’t then forget to market yourself and your ideas. Use both sides of your brain. You must have a high threshold for frustration. Take it from the guy who was turned down by every studio in Hollywood.

You must knock on doors until your knuckles bleed. Doors will slam in your face. You must pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and knock again. It’s the only way to achieve your goals in life.

Michael Uslan – Producer (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin, Batman Begins)

Wonder why I’m philosophizing today? And that too on borrowed wisdom? You know, I had written several film scripts before Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions. All the producers bounced it saying it’s a good work but didn’t meet their requirements, the market isn’t ready etc. etc. I got a call from one of the same producers, who, in a complete 180 degree volte face, said that they are ‘interested’ in film rights for my book and other ideas.

“But,” I argued, “you’ve already got a script of mine.” I didn’t mention that they’d bounced it. Why give him ideas?

I could see him blink, clueless. “We do?”

I know exactly what had happened with the film script I had submitted. The script had been logged in and put away in a bank from where, a junior exec, in charge of screening scripts had given it a cursory glance. The junior exec, all of 21 years old and probably totally devoid of imagination and experience, had not understood the concept and stamped it REJECTED.

To give him credit he made a fantastic comeback with, “That’s even better. Sell the film rights to us and we’ll do a two film deal.”

That’s how it happens sometimes. You just have to catch the right guy’s attention. If one way doesn’t work, try another.

For more on famous producers’ take on filmmaking click here. It’s illuminating and heartening.

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Saw Man Bites Dog, a French ‘realistic’ cinema. Shot like a documentary, the film is about a TV crew recording the life of a ruthless killer who murders people for money. In parts hilarious and in parts gruesome, it is like Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange without the creative production design.

I’m not sure what the film talks about – whether it is society’s sure degeneration into violence and anarchy or modern society and its obsession with media, or both.  It sure is a mindfuck film. A must watch for bizzarros.

Also watched Stardust, a 2007 Matthew Vaughn film based on a graphic novel. I must admit when I sat down to watch it, I didn’t expect to like it. Sin City has spoiled me for other films in the genre. But I was pleasantly surprised. The story, a fantasy, is novel and so are the FX. Though, I have to admit, these days I am easily seduced in both these department while watching a fantasy.

These days, anything that does not ape the Lord of the Rings in the FX or the story department is good (Eragon, Narnia, Prince Caspian anyone?).

Stardust in a nutshell, is the story of a young boy, Tristan (Charlie Cox) and his search for his true love. The story is set in an imaginary English village, The Wall. The Village is so called because it is bordered on one side by a Wall, beyond which lies the kingdom of Stormhold, then undergoing a violent succession struggle.

The story begins with Tristan’s dad, Dunstan crossing over the Wall and meeting and falling in love with a beautiful girl who’s been enslaved by a witch. Ergo, nine months later, Tristan’s born. Eighteen years after that, Tristan himself crosses the Wall to catch a fallen star to present it to his one true love, Victoria (Sienna Miller), on her birthday, a week thence.

Tristan finds the fallen star which has assumed human form, Yvaine (Claire Danes). Initially bickering, the two fall in love as they journey back to the Wall in time for Victoria’s birthday. On the way, many adventures befall them as they wrestle witches, ruthless princes, lightening capturing storm pirates and more.

Though it could’ve been shorter by about 30 minutes, nevertheless, a fun film with great performances by Michelle Pfeiffer as the evil witch Lamia and Robert de Niro as the soft-as-a-pussycat-masquerading-as-fearsome cross-dressing pirate, Shakespeare.

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Kkrishnaa’s konfessions got a great review. Am over the moon…Check this out! For those who wish to read the whole article click here. You’ll have to scroll down to “Confessions of an ambitious mind.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Move over Bridget Jones, We now have our own Kkrishnaa, writer of TV soaps, young, attractive, single, and living alone in the big bad city of Mumbai. Indian writing in English has discovered chic lit and Kkrishnaa’s Konfession by Smita Jain is just what the urban English-speaking professional young woman was waiting for.The style is clever, irreverent and witty.It is an action filled page turner. Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is an unpretentious, rollicking romp through the lanes and by lanes of Mumbai. Considering the fact that there is a twist and turn in every page, the author Smita Jain has shown great skill in untying the knots, and giving the book a somewhat intriguing end.”
 
Deccan Chronicle 15 June 2008.
 
For those who wish to get a taste of Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, I’ve put up the entire first chapter on the Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions page.

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It’s been a lazy weekend. Did a bit of writing on my next book and caught a few movies – watched Sex and the City and wanted to watch 21 but there wasn’t a convenient show available. Then caught Man Bites Dog, a French film, and Mirror Has Two Faces on DVD.

Sex and the City happened on the spur of the moment. It was Saturday and by virtue of being a weekend, most promotional work on Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions was on hold. All distractions switched off, my work on my next book was going really well when some friends, all huge fans of the series,  arrived who insisted on getting me out of my tracks and tee and dragging me along.

It’s not that I wasn’t planning on watching it. It’s just that I, never having been a faithful follower of the series, wasn’t about to go out of my way to watch it.

But the film was a breeze, if a little long. King should have capped the length at 2 hours max. And quite contrarily, amongst all the friends I was the only one who enjoyed the film. The rest, were kinds disappointed. They found the film lacking in its trademark sass and the screenplay a little linear. After all that, they griped, it was all about love and forgiveness and fairytale endings.

I thought the film was very smart and aimed at providing viewers closure. Think about it, underneath the veneer of sexual freedom, wasn’t Carrie always about Big? Didn’t she always want to get married to him? Didn’t she keep going back to him, time and again?  The makers knew viewers wanted to see Carrie and Big seal the deal and they provided that, complete with a token heart-stopping moment.

Granted, the screenplay was a little one-sided and Carrie centric with the rest of the tracks thrown in for sprinkling. But then sex and the City was always about Carrie. Moreover, the rest of the tracks had been closed somewhat during the series – Charlotte was married happily to Harry, Miranda had decided to get hitched with Steve, and Samantha was in a monogamous relationship.

So they took the next logical step in their relationships – Charlotte and harry have adopted a Chinese girl and then Charlotte gets pregnant, Steve has an affair leading Miranda to break up with him, and Samantha breaks off her monogamous relationship.

With all this, the makers kept the relationship between the four friends at the forefront and even retained the trademark label parade – Vogue, Louis Vuitton, Manolo Blahnik and what have you. I don’t see how the film was any different from the series. In fact, it was like watching an entire season on DVD.

My guess is the next instalment (make no mistake, there will be) will have a bereavement, a life threatening illness, a break up, and Samantha will find someone like herself.

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The difference between a screenplay and a short story/novel is that in a novel most of the action takes place in the protagonist’s head whereas in a screenplay most of the action is physical. Only what the character does gives us a glimpse into his character.

 

Also it is a very tight document that leaves absolutely no scope for any flab. If a scene has no bearing on the story but is there for the express purpose of illuminating a character trait, it has no place in the screenplay.

 

Also, another ploy that is used to trim the fat and keep the tension going is the scene structure. Just like a story/screenplay, a scene has a legitimate beginning, middle and end. But we DON’T always have to begin at the beginning and take it all the way through to the end. When writing a scene a good theory to employ is, ‘enter as late as possible and exit as early as you can.’

 

For example,

 

INT. BAASI HOUSE — DAY

 

ANGLE ON

 

Seven potted plants lined up against a wall.

 

BAASI (O.S.)

                                     Number seven suits me.

 

Reveal BAASI, sitting on two chairs. He wears two watches, two necklaces, two shirts etc. OMI sits respectfully in front of him. Seeing Omi’s quizzical gaze, Baasi explains,

 

BAASI (CONTD.)

                                    I do everything in twos. As you can see I wear two

shirts, two watches, I even eat from two plates.

 

OMI

And sleep with two wives?

 

BAASI                  

      (IRRITATED)

How dare you? And so loudly? What if my first wife

heard it?

 

OMI

                                           (EMBARASSED LAUGH)

You’d have to die twice?

 

BAASI

     (GLARES AT HIM)

Let’s get on with it, shall we? What’s your name?

 

OMI

Omi.

 

Baasi looks pleased.

 

BAASI

                                     It’s a good name. It will lead to good things like

                                     celibacy and nirvana.

               

                                                 OMI

                                     Good God!

 

BAASI

                                     Yes, he definitely is.

               

                                                OMI

                                    No what I meant is I don’t want all that. In fact, the

very reason I came to you was so that..that…

 

Omi leans closer and whispers into Baasi’s ear. Baasi smiles widely.

 

BAASI

Why didn’t you say so?

 

Baasi throws a pair of dice, shuffles some cards, makes some calculations.

 

BAASI

I’ve got it. What you need is the letter K.

                                        CUT

INT. CANTEEN — DAY

 

ANGLE ON

 

RADHIKA, MANOJ and PIDDI looking bewildered.

 

RADHIKA

       (CRACKS UP)

KOMI?! You are going to call yourself Komi?

 

OMI

                                             (GRIMACES)

What other choice did I have? The other options

were Omik, which sounds like a milk brand, and

Okmi, which sounds like a Japanese geisha.

 

We go into scene 1 late, dispense with the introductions and enter scene 2 late, thereby avaoiding duplication of infomation. 

 

In fact, these days, with more and more emphasis on keeping manuscripts tight, even novelists are taking screenwriting classes to learn tips on how to hook their readers from the word go.

 

Excuse the formatting errors. I’m still not getting it!

 

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I had a most frustrating day yesterday. I typed about a 1000 words three times, only to delete each draft. I couldn’t figure out if chance had a role to play in a detective novel. It’s relatively earlier on in the novel and it’s not as though the protagonist is solving anything major with the help of chance.

Even so, normally I steer clear of the trap of stumbling onto something by sheer luck. (Where are your dicking skills if that’s the case?) But then, given that it is a funny detective story, like its predecessor, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, couldn’t one take some liberties? After all we do have a Jacques Clouseau whom people devour with amusement.

Anyway, couldn’t make up my mind so I typed out both scenarios, where the protagonist stumbles upon a clue by chance and where it’s logically thought out. And a third scenario. Wasn’t happy with any so I did what I do in these situations.

I set is aside and put on my running shoes.  The rain had lightened into a light drizzle and running in such weather is always fun, if you overlook squishy shoes.

In any case, I figured a 10K run would clear the mind somewhat.Alas, it wasn’t to be. All I could think about was Kkrishnaa. My baby, all grown up, refuses to let go. Rather, I refuse to let go of my baby.

On a different note and taking up from where I left off yesterday, film is more glamorous than it is lucrative. As a struggling writer, without a ‘produced’ film to your name, you cannot hope to make more than Rs. 2-2.5 lakhs per film script. Rs. 5 lakhs if you’re wildly lucky. And a film script will take at least 2 months (It should take more but we’ll discuss that later) to write.

Why I call it unprofitable is because you may never get to write more than one film. Or you may never get paid anything beyond the initial signing amount. There’s nothing you can do about it. Having said that, there are celebrity writers – Anurag Kashyap, Neeraj Vora, Jaideep Sahni, Abbas Tyrewala who can pretty much command their price. But it takes years of struggle and genuine talent. 

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