Developing a concept


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 Sometime back Dev asked me the process by which I develop a script. From where do I start and how do I proceed.

Obviously there wont be a particular fixed way by which one go about it in making up different stories but still it made me think. The question is whether there is some general pattern in which my scripts develop. When I retrospect, there is no single common point of origin for the concepts that I am working on. Some of them have started off from some real incidents, some from a contemplation about the tone a particular story should be having, some from a particular character and some out of the blue.

For example the heist script I am working on started from a discussion between friends regarding scripts that helped for break throughs for the current writers in the industry. Some one started to argue that it is not enough to write a great script- but it has to be brutally commercial at the same time. Then obviously I asked- what do you mean by being brutally commercial? Are there some tried and tested elements of being brutally commercial? Havent every tried and tested formula of commercial potential failed to recreate the same magic? My friend agreed. But he said that there are some elements which still have a higher chance of ‘appearing’ commercially viable. For example? I asked. He said- the good(?) intelligent thief. He quoted Spielberg- ‘People always like a good thief who don’t kill people.’ I laughed it off. But he wanted me to write about a thief- just for the fun of it. I wasn’t interested mainly because it was strange to start writing a script just putting in some elements whose main qualification for inclusion was commercial potential. But he made me curious in finding out about what kind of Frankenstein will really come out of such a process.

I didn’t want to write about thieves with a strong moral tone to it. I mean I didn’t want my thieves doing thefts to fight social injustice or to get back at a public enemy. Reaching this point even Spielberg is apologetic for thieves (in ‘Catch me if you can’ he used family issues to explain the thefts). It was too cliche-yish.

Plot itself was an issue. What kind of unpredictability can you bring to a heist script? You know that the hero is going to steal whatever there is to steal. This kind of stories work on just the proper rearrangement of the elements. Everything works on the characters, the overall tone and also how you execute the individual events. So I decided to concentrate more on the tone- I want to give it a playful frivolous tone. I didn’t want my hero to be too grim and brooding with bitterness.

I didn’t want a female lead in a heist story just to add spice to the story. Usual methods of adding a love ingredient is as the enemy’s daughter or as a sidekick. They usually don’t become a crucial element of the story. What I wanted was a female lead who is critical to the whole plot but who is neither in the enemy base nor in the male lead’s pocket.

Another problem I have with our hiest movies is that they are too much influenced by Hollywood. As a result, a third world country like us have thieves using helicopters, radar screens and all other latest equipments. In fact most of them go abroad to pull tougher jobs. I cant find many middle class thieves around. So I wanted my heists to be more grounded in reality, less action oriented, more elaborative- more like con jobs.

It is around this time ‘Oye Lucky Lucky Oye’ got released. Naturally I was curious how this middle class thief will come about. My overall impression regarding it I have blogged here. In many ways, the character of Lucky was like what I had thought my protagonist would be- but a little less enigmatic. And in OLLO the conjobs are too easy and are less concentrated on. I was planning to concentrate more on the process of the various pulls- the details that go into it. Basically my plot has a structure of two three elaborate heists held together with a strip of plot. My main challenge is to strengthen that strip of plot in the second draft.

That’s how my heist story developed. But this is not the pattern of all my concepts.

I wrote a short thriller set in a library. It was based on my feeling of being a little scared being alone in an entire floor of a library.

One treatment that I wrote for a friend was based on a one line he told me. So its not that I am not flexible to work on a borrowed concept.

Another short I am planning to write is based on the idea of strange nature of ideological conviction. Beliefs that reside in our mind leads to irreversible actions, like murder. But a belief can change. What happens when you are prompted to change your belief but you know the action that originated from that belief is irreversible? That’s from where this story started.

 Still is there some thing in common in my process? One thing is that I go about in a very structured way in developing a script. Its not always very spontaneous with a freedom to go in every direction. I usually determine the problems for which solutions have to be sought before I go about with the day’s outlining- like how do I make him do this- what could be his motivation- who should be aiding him etc. I work on such a fixed question on a particular day. If some other idea related to some other element of the script comes up, its fine- but I don’t actively pursue freeway while outlining. This is mainly because, for me time is always a limiting factor and often I would be working with a fixed amount of time- like one hour. So I don’t have the option of brain storming a lot- I am forced to think in a problem solving manner.

 

 

Photo by iChaz

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8 thoughts on “Developing a concept

  1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. You are right that main idea can come from any of the sources or combination of sources. The script I’m working on currently had it’s genesis in my first ever script I wrote for my scriptwriting class. When I decided to make my first short film, around 2-3 months back, the first idea which came to me was something very different. As always, I had a theme first, which in that case was about moments. That how small moments change the course of relationships. It had six different characters, and one setting. Now, the more I thought about it, more I started seeing problems in that story. Most people I discussed the idea with liked the story. In fact my one filmmaker friend still thinks I should do that story. Anyways, for around a month, atleast 4 other ideas came to me and I spent few days each before rejecting each idea. I started getting restless and said to myself that enough of fooling around and I will now choose one of these 5 ideas and go ahead. And, then suddenly one day while I was in a bank chatting with a teller, this current idea came crashing down to me. And, I knew this was it. Later I realized, as I developed the outline in my head, that how this idea sort of combined atleast three of those ideas plus my first script idea.
    The way I work is that I outline the story’s main problem, characters, main situations, plot points and resolution in my head first. I keep thinking about them until I’m quite sure about them and writing the scene by scene/dialogues come last.
    I like your discipline of committing oneself for no more than few hours everyday to achieve something of value.

    On a different note, I was wondering if you watched Kaminey and what you think of it. I enjoyed Kaminey but I personally thought that Omkara was much superior film. One major problem I thought was that there was no introductory character development for the Guddu’s character. I mean as an audience why would one care for his character. We are directly introduced into his problem and soon we start having pity on him, rather than rooting for him. Even if it was a crazy crime film, I thought it’s important to make the main character likable rather than sympathetic. Remember how in Pulp fiction Travolta and samuel jackson, before they commit the murder, are shown as bit funny characters arguing about something silly, hence making them likable.
    Otherwise also, there were not enough surprises for me in Kaminey to really rate it as high as most people seem to be rating it. Omkara had a very real feel and fleshed out characters. Kaminey tries to be too smart for it’s own good.

    1. Dev,
      I havent seen Kaminey. Will sure catch up with it. But from what I hear, appears to be heavily influenced by Guy Ritchie and Tarantino.

  2. Kaminey, starts with a theme, an expression which is very successfully conveyed in the title song. In fact, the song is a distillation of what bharadwaj wanted to do with the movie.

    But, as far as the events of the film is concerned, except for a few scenes, the theme is not proper. And, the plot is haywire, unbelievable, and emotionally unsatisfying. (I am talking about the guitar.)

    A film is good to the degree, it expresses the man who made it. Says, Orson Welles. Kaminey, the movie, fails to do that.

    If you judge a movie by its intentions, Kaminey fails. Even though, a very valid theme is claimed by the maker– I really don’t think he has stayed true either to his beliefs or his sense of truth.

    If you judge a movie by its consequence, Kaminey fails again. Bored, dissatisfied, emotionally starved and devoid of inducing any psychological process in the viewer’s mind. One scene that works is Charlie, going away with the guitar, and the various images, like the closed space depicting Charlie’s Dreams.

    If you judge a movie by its finesse, Kaminey is admirable. One can study the use of sound in films, through the movie. One can study, visual imagery through the movie. Though, I think camera is very very distracting at times.

    But one cannot study the manner in which truth is resonated. There is no soul.

    Let’s look at Taare Zameen Par, from the same three angles. As far as intentions and consequence is concerned, the movie works dead on.

    Finesse-wise it lacks. Preachy portions, certain songs unnecessary to the overall film, and an end that is so obviously utopic.

    But, the movie does what movies are meant to do. Which is to give the viewers a better understanding of life. If one ignores the majority of the second half.

    No Smoking, a much talked about movie, also has its intentions in place. And, its got nothing to do with interpretation.

    It is again, a resonance of society, and how the people who stand for aesthetics are villianised by people with a skewed sense of truth.

    Even though, a niche film, in every regard, it does what films are supposed to do. And has a soul.

    (To be continued)

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