My scriptwriting balance sheet for 2011

I intended to write at least 2.5 hours per day  in the last one year. If I don’t reach that target, I will not access the internet for that particular day other than to check my mail. I am glad I didn’t succumb to the urge to peek into the net even once in the last one year without reaching the target.

So how much did I write?

Well, I will simplify the math here. If I just calculate the hours based on days I have reached my target and also the days I overshot my target, it would be around 370 odd hours. That is slightly more than 1 hour per day.

Wait, not done yet.

There are at least 72 days where I have worked but didn’t reach the target of 2.5  hours. Most of these days, I usually would have crossed 1.5 hour mark. There are many days where I fell short of the target by half hour. Still to keep it at the lower side, if calculated at the rate of 1 hour each of these days, it would be a total of 442 hours of writing in the last one year.  That would be around 1.2 hours of writing per day.

I am proud of this even though when rounded into average figures, it is very conservative even for some one with a day job. The reason is that, there were times where writing ground to a halt for weeks due to some academic assignment. At the personal side also, this was one of the toughest periods for finding the atmosphere to write (which is going to change in a couple of weeks). Also there are two 2 week vacation periods in there where I took a sabbatical from writing. And I am going to go easy on my rules in the last week of december even though I will continue writing.

Now what is the output? Did I complete the tasks that I had set out to do in this year?

All I can say is that I almost got an equivalent work done. Almost means around 80%. Why equivalent? Due to a variety of reasons, mostly the projects I planned to do in 2011 were not the ones that I ended up working on. Also a (co-writing) project concept was abandoned midway into the 1st draft because it was not going any where. Hopefully, we will approach it from a different angle later on. Anyway I covered more ground with my collaborative projects than my personal ones for obvious reasons.

I am happy with my writing in 2011 except for one single thing. It is all over the place. I need to concentrate on specific projects with the objective of finishing them rather than developing a number of ideas in parallel. I need 2-3 finished products in my platter rather than 10 half finished ones.

Photo by Dalo_Pix2

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Contagion

I am trying to figure this out even now. It is an interesting movie by Steven Soderbergh. But then why is it so boring? Can a movie be good and boring at the same time?

Contagion traces the aftermath of a highly infective, lethal viral epidemic. Economic inequality, greed of corporations, media frenzy and paranoia, selflessness of health workers, political games, man’s sheer brutality when his existence is threatened… everything is thrown in. You have seen so many zombie movies which explains the zombie phenomena with some viral apocalypse that it is a relief that this movie doesn’t resort to cheap thrills to maintain the interest quotient. The film maintained the scientific accuracy and the realistic feel in every scene.  At the same time, I personally feel that you don’t have to shun drama to maintain that feel. Soderbergh himself has shown with Traffic and Erin Brockovich that it is possible . It is all about being able to strike the balance while writing. For me, Contagion tipped a little too over to the other side.

 

5 reasons why you should co-write a screenplay

Co-writing is an exercise every writer should try at least once. May be you feel that you are not a ‘team person’. You may have certain fixed priorities and personal preferences in mind and you don’t want to be steered away by a writing partner. But still, you should try co-writing on at least an experimental basis. Reasons? I will give you 5.

The learning curve is steeper

Believe me, we all have our own strengths and weakness. Having a co-writer helps to improve that self awareness. What you would learn by writing 3 scripts by yourself, you would learn by writing a script with a friend. It is because many mistakes we make, we know in a instinctive manner that we are doing it wrong. But the problem is, to openly accept the judgement of such an unconscious ‘shit detector,’ it takes us more time. But with a co-writer who is honest regarding the worthiness of your concepts and process, the duration to enlightenment is cut short.

You will feel guilty if you don’t write

Almost all of us believe that we have some ‘great’ ideas for movies in our mind. But an average idea which you have put down on paper is better than thousand brilliant ideas that you are never going to write. With co-writing, you actually improve your chances of really getting things done. Writers are notorious for their tendency to procrastinate. But if you have a co-writer, it is much more likely that you will keep the ball rolling as otherwise you will be wasting the time of another person.

Learn the team game

What really makes scriptwriting different from other forms of writing is the collaborative process which is the crux of film making. Even if you wrote a screenplay which was wrenched out of the intimate parts of your heart, it is going to undergo scrutiny, invite comments (including many outrageous ones),  and you will be working and modifying it relentlessly until the point it becomes a film. It is all about taking feedback with composure, defending what you really believe in, examining your own ideas objectively and being able to articulate the abstract issues in the script. Now if you have a co-writer, you are a step ahead. You have some one to engage and challenge your ideas even at the concept level. There is a lot of back and forth which gives you time to sharpen your axes and be ready. Also it teaches you to accept disagreement, realise that some one out there may be able to contribute a better idea than yours and to work towards a consensus by bringing in a third, even better idea.

Throwing more darts

Every co-writer brings something unique to the table which is not only about plotting or dialogue or characters. Some may be good in networking and some in getting the work done. Also the catchment areas of different people may be different in terms of pitching your finished screenplay. Some may have technical expertise or past experience which may be helpful in getting your script made. The trick is not in writing your screenplay but being in a better position to really make it into a film. With co-writing, you are widening your net.

There are many roads to the same place

Different writers use different processes in writing. Some outline a lot. Some like to plunge into the first scene and let the characters surprise you. Some believe in structural templates while some love to experiment. Some like to know their characters while for some, attributes of a character develop according to the needs of the theme and plot. Some research while some doesn’t. The problem is, for most of us, our process is set within one or two screenplays. There are different methods in writing a screenplay but it is unlikely that a person will experiment much. But if you have a co-writer, it is much more likely that you will be exposed to a different method, which who knows, may be even better than that of yours.

Photo by ratexla

He said…she said: a short film review

This short film review of mine was first published here at shortz

 

(Major spoilers…)

How do you dramatise the malady of modern relationships? When I read the synopsis of this short – ‘Marriages are made in heaven… what happens to it by the time it materialises on earth?’- I was curious about this. But after watching the short, it  appears that the logline is a little too generic for what happens with the couple in the short.

But if you don’t approach ‘He said… she said’ with any prior misconceptions, it does reward you. What  the back bone of this short film really is the brilliant acting by the lead characters especially Prashant Narayan. Until I googled him, I didn’t realise that he is a successful film actor. He deserves to be. The improvisations he manages on screen makes it a real pleasure to watch this short.
Another strength of this short is the production values. The quality and destiny of your short is inevitably linked to the quality of your equipment and expertise of those who handle them.
I liked the basic idea. And the twist in the end is very well set up with the calendar, the character of the husband who repeatedly tries to joke about everything in the first segment etc. The first half of the film where the wife tries to do a cross word puzzle while the husband is busy on his laptop is infused with a certain credibility. Even though the conversation is deceptively simple and mundane, it is very tough to achieve that in terms of writing, directing and acting. The second segment (after husband admits to the relationship) is also well made but I felt that even though it has come out beautifully, cannot claim the kind of simplicity and credibility of first half. There are beautiful lines out there (‘We are both travelling in the same boat but with different people’) but it is difficult to believe that immediately after admitting to an extramarital relationship from both sides, a husband and wife will talk (poetically) like this . At least on the same day of the revelation.
My biggest problem with this short is the ‘talking heads’ syndrome. With the subject matter, definitely it is going to be dialogue dependent (even though a much more daunting challenge would have been to use the pauses and silences well within the time constraints of a short film without the dialogue being too exposure heavy or meandering) . But some how an effort doesn’t appear to be made to break the monotonous nature of the camera angles and repeated visuals of heads of characters talking into the camera. Interestingly, it is only for a very short duration both the characters are together in the same frame even though they are talking to each other incessantly through out the film. Don’t know whether this was intentional but at times we don’t even feel they are in the same room. Towards the end, the amount of light exposure and tint of light is different for these characters even though they are standing near to each other. There is a lack of fluidity in the execution and shot selection of the scene where wife closes the laptop and husband grabs her hand.  But I liked the decision to abruptly start the second part of the film after that such that husband has already confessed to his extra marital relationship.
The title of the short film could have been better.