June 02, 2016

Weeks 10 and 11: Story Development (Part 1)

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.

Eleven weeks are over at First Draft. Fifteen more remain, out of which, the last five will be spent not in any instruction, assignments or workshops, but in writing first drafts of screenplays. So only ten more weeks of instruction will follow. It is all building up - each student busy with their respective stories, each having unique struggles, and individual journeys. The instruction and the feedback process too has changed now. It is no more a uniform approach, but tweaked to suit each individual and the story he or she is developing. 

Fourteen ideas are being developed currently. Seven of them are feature films and the aim with them is to have a four-page story document by the end of week 13. Out of the seven show ideas, four are episodic stories with a light-ish long arc and the students are presently trying to write their episodes in half a page each, and understanding the parameters of their shows' respective first seasons. The other three shows are long narratives and the idea is to first develop the broad story outline before dividing those into episodes. Somewhere, in the middle of all this, the students are also working on a short screenplay.

Week 10 started with each student writing in one page his or her expectations from the rest of the course and from themselves. We had writing lectures on: 
  • Themes, Premise, Controlling Idea and Image Systems
  • Story Development: The Principle of antagonism and Types of Progression (from Robert McKee's book 'Story')
  • Plotting: How to Deal with the Second Act, Use of Index Cards, Sub-Plots, Time-Lock and MacGuffins.
  • The Hero's Journey: (from Christopher Vogler's book 'The Writer's Journey')
The students indulged in an in-depth study of the narrative of 'Casablanca' with the help of this series I had put up last year on my blog. They also read the screenplays of 'The King's Speech', 'Little Miss Sunshine', 'Masaan' and 'Kahani'. So they have now read sixteen screenplays in eleven weeks.

We also had a film-making lecture where we studied the concepts of Aspect Ratio, Film Stock, Camera Equipment and Lenses.

The students watched Ingmar Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal' on big screen and the play 'The Merchant of Venice' at Prithvi theater. Optional screenings of 'The Double Life of Veronique', 'Son of Saul' and 'Secret & Lies' were held as part of our 'Cannes in Andheri Film Festival 2016'. 

We are immediately following it up with another festival of rare favourite films where each student is screening a film he or she loves but most of others have not seen. We saw the French film 'Love Me If You Dare' (2003) as the opening film of that festival.

However, the biggest highlights of these two weeks were the two day-long workshops we had. The first was conducted by Varun Grover in which he talked about his approach to writing, his influences, and his writing process especially with respect to 'Masaan'. He then went on to demonstrate the importance of the opening scenes of films. Eventually he talked about dialogue-writing with examples from dialogue scenes written by our students. Varun was with us for an entire day and has promised to return.

The second workshop was a surprise improv-workshop with the extremely talented improv-artist and comedian, Kaneez Surka. It was the day to shed inhibitions and indulge in games and exercises through which Kaneez taught us the principles of improv. It might just be the most fun day of all the 77 the students have had so far. Kaneez too has promised to return!

Perhaps it is about the sincerity and the brilliance of the students or the warmth of the set-up or the extra-ordinary effort by AIB behind the course that every guest leaves with the promise to meet the students again. It is not a secret any more that AIB First Draft is one of the best courses in film-writing in this country. After all, the students have written at least one page of a scene every single day for the past 76 days! How many writers or writing-students in this city can claim to have done that?

No comments:

Post a Comment