June 23, 2016

Weeks 12 and 13: Story Development (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.

With all the theory lectures on writing over by week eleven, the students were given new exercises as we finish thirteen weeks of the course and reach the mid-point. During these two weeks:
  • We had a session where each student read out one page of write-up on their relationship with the story they are writing: how they are discovering it, what they like about it, what are the doubts in their heads and how they see the way forward. Other students were made to react to the reading - with the intention to help each other with the help of what they have learnt in the class or while doing their own writing. It was a session where the students did almost all of the talking.
  • The students were asked to select five scenes from different movies or shows which come closest to the tone of their respective stories. They then presented those scenes in class and shared the features of those scene that may define the tone of their stories.
  • The students were asked to write the opening scene of a hypothetical movie where a husband and a wife who are going through a difficult marriage meet a counsellor. The students were assigned different genres for this exercise. After their scenes were presented in class and feedback was provided on their scene and dialogue, we discussed the opening scene of 'Blood Simple' (1984).
  • We have also started Mandatory Feedback exercises where the write-up of one student is shared with all and everyone is asked to read and provide constructive feedback. The beauty of this exercise is that when the student and the mentor have lost objectivity on the story, the feedback by other students shows how to improve it.
During these two weeks the students read the screenplays of 'The Verdict' and 'Ordinary People' and created a detailed beat sheet of 'Satya' after watching the film. They also wrote the functions of each scene of the beat sheet.

As part of the film history classes, the students watched:
  • 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1920), followed by a lecture on German Expressionism
  • 'Un chien andalou' (1928) as an introduction to Surrealism
  • 'The Rules of the Game' (1939), followed by a lecture on French Poetic Realism
The students watched the latest releases on big screen: 'Phobia', 'Waiting', 'Thithi' and 'The Nice Guys'. We also watched the silent classic 'Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans' at Matterden. 

They also watched a play at Prithvi and attended a talk at Avid Learning, Mahalaxmi, on women professionals in cinema that featured Guneet Monga (producer of Gangs of Wasseypur and The Lunchbox), Juhi Chaturvedi (writer of Vicky Donor and Piku), Pubali Chaudhari (writer of Rock On and Kai Po Che), Jabeen Merchant (editor of NH10), and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (director of Nil Battey Sannata).

Apart from all this, the students submitted the short film screenplays they have individually developed over the last few weeks. And yes, the daily scene-writing has continued uninterrupted for 90 days now.

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