Monday, September 10, 2007

My First Screenplay

I wrote ‘The End’ on it a couple of days back and heaved a huge sigh of relief. I couldn’t write the last few pages fast enough. I mean, writing an action sequence is no fun, in my opinion. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning, flashback and all that you know- Imagine the page dissolving right in front of your eyes…

There I was, in one of the small bookstores in Banjara Hills out here in Hyderabad when I chanced upon the book titled ‘The Screen-writer’s Workbook’ by Syd Field. Now, I am your regular cinema junkie who can only dream about an alternate career in cinemascope while his immediate reality is dealing with day-to-day issues in his 2 to 10 IT job (9 to 5 in UK). But here was a chance. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. I mean, instead of procrastinating against my family who nudged me into a mainstream Engg+MBA rather than a liberal arts education, I could have so easily done this so much sooner. Looking at the scripts that Bollywood churns out as regularly as Ajit Agarkar does length balls which go for a six, I didn’t think I could do much worse. By the time I reached home I was already visualizing a couple of scenes and licking my lips.

The book is an interesting read by itself, even if one is not trying to write a screenplay. It’s a step by step procedure and about how even a novice like me can take a good shot at writing a screenplay. Each chapter ends with an exercise which I think if faithfully done does help a lot. Anyway, I read the whole book (200 pages of it) in a couple of sittings and then sat down to actually ‘do it’.

The first thing which the author asks you to do seems pretty simple. Condense the story into three or four sentences focusing on the subject, action and character. I did that except that what I wrote seemed pretty lame. Lets move on now, next chapter.

Next couple of chapters focused on the structure and what Syd Field calls the ‘Paradigm’. He is really big on that word and keeps harping on it time and again. Essentially he asks you to split your story into three acts and two plot points. This was a very useful exercise as it helps you to keep track and not lose your way when you get into the meaty part of actually writing the damn stuff. ‘When you are in the in the paradigm, you can’t see the paradigm.’

Four pages- that’s the next chapter. Write the story in four pages. This took some time. It turned out that I was really clear about Act 1 and Plot point 1 in my head but was pretty vague about the rest. It took some effort, but I managed it. Though now I was already beginning to see why this was not going to be the cakewalk that I had initially imagined this to be.

The next three chapters talk about creating characters and you end up writing character biographies for your main characters up to the point their role begins in the movie. I wrote the biographies for the three main characters in my story. This took close to a week or even more I think and I ended up with about 15 pages of their collective life stories till the time my story begins. I didn’t really understand why I had to write about the character’s parents when they didn’t even figure in the main story but I was going with blind faith. By the time I finished those biographies, I was starting to ‘live’ with those characters in my head and later whenever I seemed to get stuck with my writing, they did all the writing for me.

That’s Part 1 of the book called Introduction, by the way. Now we move into Part 2, called Execution.

Sorry, this has already become a longer write-up than I imagined it would be, somewhat like my Act 1, so I think I will stop here. Anyway, it’s not important. What is important is that 45 days and 122 pages later, I have finished the first draft. It’s been a wonderful adventure and an extremely satisfying one. A couple of friends have told me that I am completely wasting my time but I disagree. Writing is its own reward. I am never gonna be a rockstar but it’s not going to stop me from strumming my acoustic guitar, I tell them. Same difference.

The last couple of chapters of the book deal with the rewrites. But I can no longer bear to even give a complete reading to my screenplay anymore. I don’t know why it’s like that at all. I am completely sapped of all energy; almost as if I regret that the whole project has almost ended. Not sure what the future holds for this story of mine, will it ever see the light of day or will it for ever be confined within the depths of my hard disk?

Hey, but I will always have Dazed and Confused.