May 18, 2016

Weeks 8 and 9: Creating Your Characters and Setting (Part 2)

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.

Two months are over at AIB First Draft! Time never flew so fast as it did in the last nine weeks. As I write these words, the ten students have completed the mammoth task of writing one page of character sketch for ten to thirteen characters per story, as well as three pages of description of the setting of their stories: the location, the time/year/season, and the socio-cultural milieu. Considering sixteen stories are being developed among these ten students, to achieve this in four weeks is truly praiseworthy. Apart from this, they have also been working on the plotting of their stories/ episodes and on a short screenplay.

Weeks 8 and 9 involved all that is mentioned above, and more. The students also indulged in some character-development exercises to create rounded, three-dimensional characters for their respective stories.
  • Find similarities between you and each of your characters and then write about those similarities in 100 words each. The idea is to find yourself in all your 10-13 characters, including the so-called villains.
  • Find, in each of your characters, reasons that make them loveable. And write it down in 100 words each. You must find reasons to fall in love with each one of them.
  • Think of one person from your real life for the following: closest friend from childhood with whom you have lost touch, your favorite neighbor, a child who fascinates you. (27 such questions were given to them). After identifying them, write for each one of them: one admirable/ likeable quality, one flaw and one quirk.
  • Write in 50-100 words how each one of your character changes through the story.
These two weeks also included a lecture on 'Italian Neo-Realism' and the screening of 'Bicycle Thieves' (1948). The highlight, however, was the guest lecture at the sound studio of Biswadeep Chatterjee (he has designed the sound of, among others, '3 Idiots', 'Piku', 'Madras Cafe', and 'Bajirao Mastani'). From making us experience the multitude of sound that surrounds our every-day lives, to talking about the basic theoretical aspects of sound design and he eventually demonstrated for us how emotions and aesthetic of film are enhanced with the meticulous work on sound. The lecture was an overwhelming experience for me as well as the students. I am so deeply thankful to Mr. Chatterjee for his time and effort, and enthusiasm.

The students also read the screenplays of 'The Godfather' and 'Udaan', taking the number of screenplay-cum-discussion exercises to twelve in nine weeks. They also watched 'Casablanca', 'Sideways' and 'Short Term 12' - the screenplays of which they had read recently. We also watched three new releases: '10 Cloverfield Lane', 'Sairat', and 'Captain America: Civil War'. And we visited Matterden (Lower Parel) to watch the timeless horror classic 'Rosemary's Baby' on the big screen. Optional screenings of 'Apocalypse Now Redux', 'The Tin Drum', '12:08 East of Bucharest', 'Marty' and 'The Scent of Green Papaya' were held as part of our 'Cannes in Andheri Film Festival 2016'.

We decided to reward the students with two things in these two weeks. One, we had a surprise dance workshop where they were introduced to different dance forms and encouraged to shed their inhibitions and shake a leg. And at the end of the ninth week, the students had three days off, almost. The daily writing of 1-2 pages of scenes continued and as on today the students have been doing this for a consecutive 63 days! Isn't that something! :)

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