April 27, 2016

The First Month at 'First Draft' - Students Share their Experience

AIB First Draft is a six-month writers' residency programme where a select group of aspiring writers from all over India are being trained in the craft of screenwriting. I feel thrilled to head this project and design and conduct the course. This post is a part of the series that chronicles all that happens at the course. Click here and read from bottom upwards for all posts related to this.

At the end of five weeks, the students were asked to write about their experience so far. This post is a compilation of excerpts from what they wrote:


“Has it been 5 weeks already? In these days, I’ve felt everything from excitement and anticipation to exhaustion and absolute nothingness. But the most prominent feeling has been of gratitude. The gratitude for the opportunity – it’s only when a million things go right, does this happen. The gratitude for my family – I could achieve nothing without their unshakeable support. And the gratitude to be simply living this moment – it’s rare and unmatched.”

“Unlike the day I began, today I am not intimidated by the task at hand. Not because I think I’ve gotten better at writing, but because I have finally been able to wrap my head around the concept that writing does not require talent, it requires discipline.”

“We devoted our first five weeks to ‘ideation’ – a deceptively simple word for a process that is incredibly tough and frustrating. Coming up with ideas that have emotional appeal and would also work as a piece of art—a living, breathing entity—is a task so humongous, there is no possible metaphor that can do justice to its enormity.”

“I slept fewer and fewer hours as the month went on, but I felt more fulfilled as a human being. I could fight my doubt with the fire of my determination that grew brighter each sleepless night. Doubt was no match for any of us. It may creep up on us on a lonely night as the cursor blinks expectantly, but it will be banished as quickly as it arrived. I believe that now.

“I have a tendency to reject ideas when they don’t seem to be working out. But because of the feedback, I was forced to keep thinking, even if I didn’t love what I was thinking of. And I realized that if you keep going, it’s possible that an idea will evolve into something you would never have imagined when you began.”

“There was a ticking clock every day and you had to achieve certain goals before going to bed. It left me a bit drained. I felt like I have been living in Mumbai for months. But I scraped through.”

“I was pretty sure about the Plot Points of my first movie idea but hazy about the second. And that’s where the whole breakdown of the Three Act structure saved me. It’s science. It does sound less artistic but it’s an amazing experience to “solve” a plot using this tool. At the very least, it removes all the excuses of muses from my writing. It ensures that I’ll get something done even if what I write is ordinary. That takes a lot of burden off my shoulders.”

“It’s amazing how lost I am now. There’s a constant struggle to not let the cynic in me overpower the child. All the usual worries of life have been thwarted with such ease yet, the ultimate struggle remains. I often question myself, wondering whether I’ve been able to absorb all that’s been thrown my way. Whether my biases and pre-conceived notions are melting or whether some of them are being reinforced.”

The second awesome part of this journey has been having my love for cinema incredibly deepened. The understanding of scripts, how the written word in a screenplay translates to a cinematic movement, crafts of cinematography and direction, have incredibly richened the movie experience. For me movie-watching is slowly developing from a highly enjoyable thing to something very spiritual – I would love to remain on that track, and complete this journey.”

“Between us, I saw the world – from Korba to Chennai via Delhi, Nagpur and Bombay. What a fascinating universe! Brainstorming on others’ ideas, picking their brains on mine, writing log lines on WhatsApp and whatnot. The journey has been invigorating and has made us bond, solidly, as a team. This is here to stay. And I am so glad we’ve all found each other.”

“We learnt the wonderful lesson of staying grounded, always. We cannot feel proud of the fact that we are a chosen few out of 3000 applications. When I look at my course-mates, I find how all of them are rooted. They do not get too high-headed when they write something good, they do not mock at even the most absurd idea someone else comes up with and that enables us to share even our bad writing without caring about our “image”. Bonding like this so soon is perhaps our biggest achievement.”

“These are weird friends that I have got. Instead of stealing ideas, they help make them better. Before they start eating, they ask if I have had my food. If I ask for any help, they do, and then, a while later, they make sure to check if their help has been of any help!”

“Pitch day in itself was a whole different experience. Being good at presentation helped a little but I was still scared.”

“The day waiting for which so many people perish, the appointment of a few minutes, in which you have to pitch your story ideas, hoping that through this your ideas will grow into an actual work. It was an important day and I was nervous, of course.”

“However the pitch went smoothly. Sitting in a room with people and discussing both film and show-ideas was a dream come true. It wasn’t a place for judgment but helpful criticism. How can you make it better? What does this idea lack? It was a big stepping-stone for me to stand in front of people from the industry and present my idea and see how they reacted to it.”

“The moment I began pitching, I felt my hard-work and my batch-mates’ contribution is working. All doubts melted away. And the bottom-line was the learning that writing is “creative manual labor”. So, to turn into a laborer, I am determined.”

“As I prepare to face the second month of this course with a brave face, I’m already dreading the day it will end. I’m sure the months to follow will be fun in the most grueling way possible. I’m really looking forward to them.”

“Will I ever come to terms with the loneliness of writing? Maybe. Will I ever see something I wrote along with thousands of people? We’ll see. What matters is that I’ve resolved to give everything in trying. If I fail, I fail. I have come to be comfortable with being in flux. Chaos does not scare me. With my diary and pen, I have found a way to embrace pandemonium. That is my biggest strength.”

I thought this was about learning to write, but this is much more – it’s about becoming a writer.”

1 comment:

  1. As expected, the day I saw the residency program details I knew it will be great. Wanted to be there but have a lot to learn. Waiting for my chance in there. :)

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