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Storytellers

education Updated: Jul 17, 2013 10:00 IST

Hindustan Times
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The lowdown

A screenwriter is somebody who writes the script of a film. They create the dialogue, the characters and the story line of a movie. Thus, the screenwriter is often the most ­essential person in film production because no movie can start ­without a script. Like television writers, ­screenwriters often ­specialise in a particular genre such as comedy, drama, and science fiction etc. Like all other professions in the ­creative field, ­screenwriting, too, has to be driven by ­passion. Most films succeed or fail because of the quality of the script, which serves as a ­blueprint for the director. Hence, the screenwriter has to possess or develop the ability to visualise an entire film on paper. It is impossible to make a good film without a good script and the Hindi film ­industry is ­beginning to acknowledge this. “In the last ­couple of years, we have had many films like Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar and Udaan that connected with the ­audience without the ­presence of big stars or other ­commercial ­attractions,” says Anjum Rajabali, who has been a screenwriter for films such as Rajneeti and The Legend of Bhagat Singh

Clockwork
There is no universal time table for writing. Some maintain daylight hours, others prefer to write late at night. However, what is not negotiable is that every screenwriter must write every day. If you have a day job, squeeze out two to three hours daily. Full-time writers put in around five to eighthours a day. However, once a script goes to a director, you have no control over your timings, as discussions ­happen whenever he has the time! There are no fixed hours. His/her routine also depends on when the director has the time, and also on which stage of the script s/he is at. For example, if s/he is writing on ­location, while a shoot is going on, then the routine again would depend on the shooting hours. Ordinarily, a ­screenwriter needs to write five to eight hours a day, read and research for another two to three hours. Another one to two hours go in discussions, ­depending on how complete the script is

The ­payoff
A new writer can expect anywhere between Rs. 5 lakh and Rs. 10 lakh for a well-written full script. That increases with every release you have. Top-end writers in India receive upwards of Rs. 1 crore per script. It’s self-employment, so there are no medical, pension or other benefits

Skills/TRAITS
Essentially, a film is a medium that communicates an ­experience to the viewer. Hence, a screenwriter has to be aware that his/her crafting of that experience in the script has to convey it with desired impact. For this, an understanding of plot, characters, structure, scene design and dialogue- writing is imperative. Blundering into the field with the notion that all one needs are good ideas will lead to inevitable ­professional frustration

Getting there
While no academic qualifications are necessary, an aspiring screenwriter must focus on learning the craft of the screenplay. Watching great films, studying their scripts closely, experimenting with different styles of telling stories, reading good literature (including ancient narratives like myths) and above all, observing human behavior with deep interest are useful habits

Institutes and URLs
* Whistling Woods International, Mumbai: www.whistlingwoods.net
* Film and Television Institute of India, Pune: www.ftiindia.com

Pros and cons
* One has to be prepared for uncertainty and frustration if one’s work is not accepted
* The rewards for creative professionals who work hard and can be deeply gratifying

A script serves as a blueprint for the director. Thus, a screenwriter should possess the ability to visualise an entire film on paper ---- Anjum Rajabali, head of department, screenwriting, Whistling Woods International, Mumbai