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Posts Tagged ‘television’

There comes a time in everyone’s life when one has to go back to the basics. Nowhere is it seen more plainly than in sport where peaks and troughs are regularly hit and are painfully evident to see. It is amazing how a sportsperson who is, as sports commentators are fond of saying, ‘timing the ball sweetly’ or in  ‘fine nick’ the week before can struggle to get a racket/bat on the ball in the very next week.

Sometimes the lean patch can last a long time and while it persists, can slowly erode the player’s confidence till she doesn’t believe she can compete with the, again as sports commentators are fond of saying, ‘the best in the field.’ To break this vicious cycle they are advised to go back to the basics. Focus on your rhythm, footwork and hitting through the ball cleanly. Focus on winning just the very next point. Then the next. If you do that, your confidence will slowly return and soon you’ll be able to strategise ahead for a clutch of points and then the whole match.

I hope you can see where I’m going with this. (And no, I haven’t turned into a motivational speaker or a sports psychologist).

As you know, it’s been slow going for me for some days now on the writing front. Much as I tried, I just couldn’t figure out why. And then I realised I was thinking about writing the whole novel, that is 100,000 words. And to make matters worse I’ve started two. So that’s at least 250,000 words.

Think of it like that and the task seems daunting. The trick is to focus on writing one scene well. Then the next. Soon, as you get a grip on the language and the characters you’ll be able to write more than a scene at a time and before you know it, the novel is finished. Voila! Simple, isn’t it?

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You know, it occurred to me that I’ve been waxing about writing for so long – what one needs to do to get published or produced or whatever – and I left out the most important thing. Luck.

You can have talent by the oodles, dedication and determination but if you haven’t got luck you’re pretty much toast. On the other hand, you can average to zilch talent but if you have the lady on your side you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps my placing too much on mere chance stems from the industry I come from.

While luck plays a role in any field in life, its importance is exaggerated in mine. Every day I see talented people struggling away, unable to make a mark. On the other hand you have a music director (I shall refrain from using names), whose sole talent in life is creative stealing. *Gasp* you guessed???!!! And here I was soooo careful.

Of course what I’m saying could be pure baloney. As one erstwhile leading tennis player, talking about the favourable percentage of close net and line calls that regularly went his way, said, “The harder I practice the luckier I get.” Perhaps in sport. I mean, that is one area you need to have some skill. And hone it. You just can’t wake up one day and bend it like Beckham. *Sorry* I couldn’t think of a more original one.

Elsewhere, I think, luck is a necessary and sufficient condition for success. So all you aspiring writers, singers, musicians, you too can get lucky. It’s really a question of practice. *You too can win* Do I sound sufficiently like Shiv Khera? God, where did that name come from? It’s been ages since we heard it! There was a time where he was everywhere. And then he just disappeared. Guess who the lady deserted.

BTW, what do you think of the title of this post? I dithered between luck by chance and oye luck luck oye and chose the latter. I am a Dilliwali at heart. What to do, I’m like this only.

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It’s been slow going on most fronts – the cover design (we’re taking all suggestions into account and taking our time over it, too), the third novel and the social scene. Which means I have a lot of time on my hands. Which means I’m looking for ways to fill that time, preferably by engaging in mindless activities. Like watching TV. Alas, that isn’t to be.

A friend of mine told me an interesting statistic. He said that that since the advent of the set top box, the number of hours people spend in watching TV had gone up dramatically. Well, duh! With 232 channels (if you live in Bombay you don’t have to subscribe to individual channels or bouquets. You pretty much get everything.) it stands to reason you’d spend at least a couple of hours surfing. So that straightway adds to your TV viewing time.

Apparently it isn’t so. According to him, people are actually watching more. Because they have more to watch. This made me wonder, what exactly are people watching? ’Cos I have a set top box with and I still can’t find anything to watch!

You see, the first problem with so many channels is incessant surfing. I can’t stick to one channel in case I’m missing out on something much more fun elsewhere. Like on Australia Network or Deustche News or Russia Today. Makes me kinda wish they’d given a Chinese Channel too while they were at it.

Anyway, coming back to the point about missing out exciting stuff, turns out, I’m not. When I first got it and saw what all was on offer I was mighty thrilled. I had two BBC entertainment channels! Wow, at last, I would be able to watch all those understated British comedies. Well, there aren’t many of those. Unless you want to see re-runs of Fawlty Towers and ’Allo ’Allo. P.S.: You can watch all the Weakest Link you want.

Then there are all these channels like MM2 and Mnet and Show Series and Show Comedy and keep advertising about all these great shows – Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Ladies No. 1 detective agency etc – but I haven’t yet figured out the time or the channel. I can’t figure out who or what Orbit Showtime is. Is it a bouquet of channels or just the one? Are Super Comedy and Show Comedy a part of Orbit Showtime? If so, which channel is what show on? It is too confusing (yeah, I know I’m slow). It’s easier to go back to Star World.

Also, there are no extra movie channels. At least not ones showing movies I want to watch. The one thing I can’t complain about is not getting enough sport. With some 15 sports channels I have the sporting universe pretty much covered (I especially like watching poker on Zee Sports. Awe.Some.). And then there these encrypted Data Channels whose purpose defeats my limited intellect.

At last we come to the point of this post. And the point is, that my life hasn’t changed at all post STB. I think I’m going to have to watch my nails grow for entertainment.

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I have acquired a minor celebrity status in the film circles and, I must say, it is extremely agreeable. Right after I optioned Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions for film rights, at least two other producers/directors have expressed interest in the book. And since Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions has already been optioned, they are now they are now offering to buy the rights to the soon-to-be-released Piggies on the Railway, A Kasthuri Kumar Mystery.

Why am I talking about it? Aside from blowing my own trumpet, of course, it is an interesting Bollywood case study.

Dearth of ideas: Bollywood is suffering from a lack of good, original stories. It is a veritable drought. Producers demand and writers keep coming up with the same old same old. The result? All the best, Golmaal, Hungama etc.

Risk aversion: The second point springs, in part, from the first. You see, producers aren’t willing to back risky ideas. So even if writers do come up with interesting and unconventional ideas, producers will give it a miss. They would much rather someone else undertook the risk. And with a best-selling fiction title out in the market, they reckon it’s worth a shot.

Validation: Now, I mentioned that they are willing to buy rights for my second book, based solely on a sneak peek of the manuscript. They figure that a writer has scored with the first one, so chances are that she will with the second one as well. They would much rather keep working with someone who has already proved themselves rather than give a new comer a chance.

Conclusion: For all you Bollywood aspirants out there, write a book.

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It’s weird how Sach ka Saamna has created such furore amongst our MPs. Apparently, the I&B Ministry has issued a notice to Star Plus, demanding the closure of the reality show. What has got our netas’ knickers in a knot is a small time actor confessing to having sex with a prostitute while his daughter sat in the room. Well, of course it did. Prostitution is illegal in India and such shows only encourage people to break the law.

(Bet they’re thinking they weren’t so hard on sex-ed in schools now, eh?)

Besides, it gives them another headache. Prostitution is like homosexuality. A giant elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge. It’s like before the repealing of section 377, we had a host of gays admitting to being homosexuals, but not practising homosexuals. How stupid is that? It’s like me saying I’m ambidextrous but doctor, don’t cut off my right hand as I’m not a practising southpaw?

Then someone says to me, “How you know is if the thought of doing it with the same sex excites you.” Okay, so I’ve often fantasised about doing it with Raveena Tandon and Shilpa Shetty. That doesn’t make me Akshay Kumar, does it?

In another incident, some journos asked Shruti Haasan to comment on how her dad would react upon seeing her in a bikini. And she said, “Dad’s changed my diapers, why would he mind seeing me in a bikini?” How stupid is that? What is she saying? That she’s been toilet trained since then and is not likely to poop in her panties? And that, should she poop, panties are so much easier to change than diapers?

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Writing for Television

If you want to write for television, identify the kinds of shows you want to write. Find out who the producers are – their names/logos usually come at the end of the show. Find out their numbers from the directory/Internet/Just  Dial services and call them up.

Ask for the creative director on the show. It is better of you ask for him/her by name. Again, the creative director’s name appears in the opening credits roll. Don’t be afraid of rejection. You may get some, but mostly, ‘writer’ is the magic word that will open doors. There is such a chronic shortage of good writers that chances are creative directors will drop everything and meet you.

If you don’t get to speak with a creative director after repeated attempts or they just ask you to send an email, don’t despair. Creative directors are very busy people. At any time they are looking at the story, screenplay and dialogues for a show, going to the sets for the shoot, looking after other creative (art, styling) and technical aspects of the show, juggling various talents, managing the channels and so on. Creative directors’ job is never done. They work 24X7X365.

So respect that and send an email. Eventually you’ll meet them. And when you do, make sure that you are worth their time. Don’t make them feel they’ve wasted their time in meeting you. They don’t have the time or the inclination to teach you basics of screenplay writing, so make sure you know your stuff. It is better if you have a sample of your writing with you.

That’s it. If you’re any good, you’re on. Initially they will try and extract work from you for free – work for shows under development, pilots, rewrites etc. Write all that. Pretty soon you’ll be able to work your way into the paid writer category. And when you do, it’ll all have been worth it. Money in TV is good and it is on time.

Remember another thing. Write fast. Time is of paramount importance in TV and none of your usual – I couldn’t think of anything, I need more time, will work. If you can turn in a script fast, you’ll score over a writer who may be more creative.

And now I’ve got to go. My creative director just called, ranting about how her writers (including yours truly) are giving her a hard time and how she is desperate for new ones. She’s so desperate, she’s asking me to recommend competition!

 

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Even before we begin writing a show or a movie, we do a lot of prelim writing work in churning out what is called the ‘show bible’. It contains the detailed concept, character sketches and the story.  In some cases it even contains the budget, casting options and options for various talent – director, cameraman, stylist, set designer.

It is blueprint of the show and on which our screenplays are based. I have already covered some aspects of a TV show in some of my earlier posts.

What I haven’t covered is how we develop characters. Contrary to what people think, a lot of work goes into developing engaging, believable and quirky characters. It involves answering a lot of questions in as much detail as possible. Good character biographies can run into thirty page or more.

There are many formats available on the net, but here’s one:

SOCIAL ASPECTS

*Occupation
*Education
*Religion
*Hobbies
*Political views
*Ethnicity
*Marital status
*Birthplace
*Social status
*Affiliations

PHYSICAL ASPECTS

*Men or Female
*Height/weight
*Physical Build
*Appearance
*Complexion
*Health
*Athletic
*Defects (scars, or limps)
*Voice

PSYCHOLOGY ASPECTS

*Fears (Do not create cheap Freudian back story as motivation for your characters. For example, “she was once sexually abused by her stepfather and so hates all men.” People are more complex than this. If such a traumatic event happened in her life, if anything, it would make her promiscuous. She may hate sex, fear men, but hate men? Do some research for plausible cause-effect scenarios.)

*Values
*Addictions
*Habits
*Intelligence
*Morality
*Temperament
*Beliefs
*Secrets.

You can of course, embellish it with more details, for example, what clothing does your character favour? Or what motto defines her world view, i.e., “A successful person is one who can fake sincerity.” Does she have a nickname? Does she like it? Hate it?

All the detail you create may or may not be revealed during the story, but it doesn’t mean that it’s work that’s been wasted. The more detail you create, the deeper you can make your character, and this rich history will be such a rich source of information that it may even change and evolve your story itself.

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