June 29, 2016

Weeks 14 and 15: Plotting (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.


Fifteen weeks are over at First Draft. 105 days! Time really flies when you are immersed in something that is so fulfilling. As of now, thirteen stories are being developed at the course, six feature films and seven shows, and while we apply all the learning to find the right structure to these stories, time and again we remind ourselves that the most important elements for us are characters and the emotions they generate through a difficult but rewarding journey.

The students started Week 14 with a 600-word write-up on what they have learnt as the course reaches its mid-point. In the two weeks that followed, we focussed on scene and dialogue writing. The students would write a scene and present it in the class. After a discussion on their scenes, they were shown a similar scene from a movie. Following were the instructions given to them for these exercises:
  • A man is wounded and is lying unattended in a hospital room. Finally a female doctor enters. The two are shocked - she is this man's ex-wife. They are meeting after ten years. As she tends to his wounds, they have a conversation. The scene is somewhere in the second act and the man is the protagonist. Write this dialogue scene in 2-3 pages. Different genres were given to different students. After a discussion on what they wrote, two scenes from 'Ijaazat' were presented.
  • A group of girls are busy with their dance practice for an upcoming college function. A girl comes to them and requests to join in. The other girls tease her for a while but then eventually allow her to join the group. The scene should not be more than 4 pages. It should mainly rely on dialogue, but some action is allowed. The scene where Lakha joins Bhuvan's team in 'Lagaan' was presented after the discussion.
  • A boy and a girl are meeting for the last time. They may never see each other again. The boy loves the girl. In parting, he says something that touches her deeply. Write this scene in no more than 4 pages. Stay away from too much action. Keep the scene dialogue heavy. A scene from 'Life in a Metro' was presented after the discussion.
  • The students were also asked to write a Voice Over narration for a two-minute scene from 'Moonrise Kingdom' - the original scene does not have spoken lines. They then recorded and edited the VO with the scene and submitted for discussion.
  • All ten students were made to write the opening sequence of one of their batch-mate's feature film being developed at the course. It was a wonderful exercise and it has set very high standards for the days to come. I am now very proud of the way these students are approaching scene-writing.
The students continue to provide feedback to each other. They also read the screenplays of 'Juno' and 'The Social Network' during these two weeks. Two regional language films, 'Valu' and 'Visaranai' were screened for the students. The students also watched the latest releases: 'Te3n', 'The Conjuring 2', 'Udta Punjab', 'Dhanak', and 'Raman Raghav 2.0' and attended Vikalp's special screening of the documentary 'Among the Believers' at Prithvi Theatre.

As part of Film History lectures, 'Citizen Kane' was screened, followed by a discussion on why it is widely considered as the greatest film ever made. Later, 'Breathless' was screened, followed by a discussion on French New Wave. We also had a short introduction to Film Editing as part of our Film-making Lectures.

We had a three-hour session with Guest Lecturer Neeraj Ghaywan (writer-director of 'Masaan') during which he shared his journey as a film-maker and the way he approaches his craft. It was insightful and very inspiring. The students also attended a day-long workshop at Avid Learning, a masterclass on film appreciation by Meenakshi Shedde, with a focus on regional Indian cinema.

And a very unique thing happened one Sunday morning. The students attended a Classical Flute recital at Prithvi starting 7.30 am. Not only it was a beautiful experience, it appears that it led to the rains finally arriving in Mumbai! I am sure experiences like these will stay with them forever.

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