Posts Tagged ‘film-making’

Okay folks, we have decided on the cover. Almost. I spoke with my editor yesterday and it is going to be one of four designs from the last post. We may tinker with a bit, experiment with different colours, try out different fonts, but it’s going to be one of them.

In light of this I have taken the liberty of removing the other, earlier cover options from the site. Given that we are not using them, they are not my property (since becoming an author I have discovered a new found respect for IP *pats oneself on the back*).

While we were on the subject of Li’l Piggies, I also asked her if there was any chance of the book coming out in Jan 2010, in time for the Jaipur festival. It seems there isn’t. The earliest target was, and remains Feb 2010 *Sighs*.

Meanwhile, the proofs have been proof read and finaled. So I should be able to publish some extracts very soon. There is still the small matter of the blurb, which my editor and I are working on. Other than that, my work on the book is finished. Finally!  

I have also started on my third (Kkrishnaa sequel, tentatively titled Kkrishnaa’s Kandid Konfessions) and fourth (a new genre for me) books simultaneously. Which is a bad idea unless you can multitask and my multitasking extends to eating and drinking at the same time. I suspect I will have to take it sequentially only after all.

I am also meeting my producer today for a discussion on the second draft of the Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions screenplay. Will have more to report after the meeting. Ciao until tomorrow.

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It’s always a good idea to develop related skills. People who’ve been following my blog know that I’ve done my fair share of bouncing around, from Investment banking to publishing to adventure sports to multimedia to writing, I’ve done it all (you can read all about it here).

Okay, so you don’t have to be all that adventurous but if you want to be in the fiercely competitive media industry, it is essential to experiment a little, at least with other media. So photographers might want to fool around with a DV Cam; singers might want to have a crack at composing; writers may want to experiment with print media and if you’re a production person, it may be a good idea to have a look at the creative side as well.

I’ve known singers who struggled for years, unsuccessfully I might add, to make a mark for themselves as singers only to get a stray break composing for the title track of a show. And now there’s no looking back for them. They are not known names (they are certainly not Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s of the world), nevertheless, they make a very comfortable living.

You never know when a door may shut in your face and another one opens. You have to be nimble and have to have the necessary skill to be able to capitalise.

Now, I’m not an expert on all the aspects of TV production/film-making so I’ll just stick to what I know best – writing. For instance, did you know that regional pulp fiction is huge business? I certainly didn’t, till read this article. I mean I knew it was big but not big. The point I’m making is, if you’re a screenwriter – fluent in a regional language and struggling to find work, you might want to contact those publications.

On a separate note, I watched the Incredible Hulk over the weekend. It’s just another superhero story. Edward Norton is good, Liv Tyler is soporific and the visual FX good. Total timepass stuff.

On a yet more different note, had an interview with the Pioneer and the Indian Express, Delhi. These articles have some more tips on writing for TV. You can read them here and here. They are there on the Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions website as well.

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An average half hour TV show has a budget of around 5 lakh (Rs. 5,00,000) per episode. Out of which writing (story, screenplay and dialogue) budget is about Rs 15,000. In rare cases, very rare cases, maybe Rs. 30,000, if they’re really desperate. Thrilling, right?

It gets better in a film. In an average small budget production (Rs. 3 crores/Rs. 30 million), writers are lucky if they get paid Rs. 5 lakh while actors, the director, even the cameraman get paid several times that amount. Come to think of it, almost every technician, except the writer does. The only people who are paid less than the writer are assistant directors but then they are paid even lesser than spot boys, so go figure.

I mean they go on and on about how important a good script is but when it comes to putting money where their mouth is, and it’s not that important.

And everyone knows you can’t really begin a production without a script.

Earlier this used to rankle me, till I realised one thing. A script is not a literary document. It is at best a functional document committed to putting ideas (descriptions, action) across in a succinct and a verbally economical manner. You have to since you cannot run the risk of your script exceeding 100-110 pages. The only place where you can really show off your literary genius is in the dialogue.

It is only a blueprint, a take off point. It’s a plan which the engineers, contractors, electricians and plumbers use to construct a building. Film is a collaborative project which begins with a script. Based upon the script, your team – the director, the production designer, the cameraman, the executive producer, the line producer, actors etc. gets together. All of them work damn hard, if not harder, than you the writer, to make the project a success.

Still, I believe writers deserve to be paid more than they are currently. But I’ve learned to live with it. And it wasn’t exactly hard reconciling to it. Rs. 15,000 may be less than 5 per cent of the overall production budget but it is still damn good money.

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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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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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I know it’s rather late in the day to be commenting on Taare Zameen Par, but as they say, better late than never. I also know it’s not fashionable to unfavorably critique TZP, nevertheless I’m going to do so. At the outset, let it be understood that it is a good film, an extremely effective film. My criticism is based on other factors.

I guess by now everyone has seen the film so I needn’t go into the story. So, I’ll just begin with what’s good and what’s not.The script: The script suffers from three major flaws. One, it is simplistic portrayal with no layering. All characters are caricatures. The good are very good and the bad are very bad. Two, Nikumbh’s character does not have any conflict (external or internal) in the second half. Apart from a token resistance from the school principal, there is no obstacle in his path. Three, it lacks a certain punch in the gut in the end. Ishan’s improvement is miraculous (except for him misspelling enough and struggling with the digit 8, there was no evidence of him being dyslexic), he wins the painting competition, all’s well with the family and so on. For films like TZP to be effective, we need a tragic or semi tragic ending. Just change the ending to Ishan wins the painting competition but is still forced to normal school, doomed to a fate of special schools forever and just see the reaction. I guarantee there won’t be a single dry eye. And it is believable. If we can show limited understanding of dyslexia in India, it is quite believable that Ishan could be expelled.

The script is contrived in several places to up the emotional quotient and the effort shows. For instance, in the scene between Nimkubh and Ishan’s parents where Nimkubh informs them that their son might be dyslexic, the father raves and rants about how such a person will survive in the outside world while Nimkubh listens in hapless silence with his teeth gnashing to convey his frustration. Yet, in the very next scene, he tells the boys in the school that famous personalities from Einstein to Edison to Agatha Christie were dyslexic and that dyslexia is not an inhibiting problem. A case of selective memory recall, Mr. Khan?Then, what was that with the inane confrontation between Mr. Khan and Ishan’s dad when the dad comes to school prove a point and score one over Nimkumbh. I thought that surfing the internet for information at least shows an effort to understand. Agreed, that it is more important to show support in other ways; a hug here, a pat there, but Mr. Khan almost makes it sound like a crime that the mother is surfing the Internet for information on dyslexia!

For a teacher of special children and a former dyslexic himself, Nimkumbh is easily overcome. Whenever he is sees children who are challenged in some way, he is always lachrymose. How about a little stoicism and good cheer, Mr. Khan?On the other aspects of the film, the dialogue is heavy and stilted. The lyrics are strictly average. Mr. Joshi, like Gulzarsaab in recent times, tries too hard. Yet, apart from the Maa and the title track which still pass muster, his lyrics are neither poetic not evocative. Contrary to popular opinion, I found Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music good. Cinematography is competent. The script doesn’t require it and the cinematographer doesn’t try to unnecessarily wow us with snazzy angles.  On the positive side, Darsheel is endearing and a natural in front of the camera. He does justice to a demanding role. I hear he’s made dyslexia fashionable. He may do the same for big, buck teeth. Dakota Fanning, watch out, here comes Darsheel. Kudos to Mr. Khan for extracting a superlative performance from him.

As usual, Mr. Khan is excellent in an (again, as usual) understated kind of way. In many scenes, it is only after watching his reaction to a situation does that lump in your throat emerge. Having seen him act over the years, and now direct, I am convinced that he is the best film talent we’ve got. If only he’d let himself go. While TZP is an excellent film, a refreshing film, the likes of which we’ve seen emerge from Bollywood after a long time. But it still lacks that flash of brilliance which could have made it sublime. It’s not that Mr. Khan doesn’t try. His crime is he tries too hard. To play safe. He realizes that he’s dealing primarily with Indian audiences and accordingly ups the melodrama quotient to the overall detriment of the film. But maybe that’s just my perception. I am a firm believer of the minimalist school.TZP is a sincere effort and deserves at least a 4 on 5. But because it is Mr. Khan at the helm, I will give it a 3.  

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