Why students should blog


Why students should blog?
The World Wide Web is home to millions of bloggers – some remain anonymous while some have become celebrities in their own right. All the same, bloggers tells us stories, keep us informed, inspire us and entertain us. Today, there are around 6.7 million people who blog through sites like Blogger, tumblr, WordPress etc, while 12 million people blog via social media sites. The most popular blogging network in the US, Blogger, gets around 46 million visitors each year. Blogging among youngsters, especially students, is a trend that is fast growing.

Blogging for open reflection
Having a hard time expressing yourself? Try blogging. Blogging is one of the best ways to express your feelings and opinions without having to talk about it. A blog can be your digital diary, one that is open to people. You can talk about your life, your passions, your career, or your ideologies and if there is someone out there that shares your passions, your blog will be read, and followed from around the world.

Building your personal brand
One of the most effective ways to establish a brand is through blogging. Businesses have relied on this form of marketing to get to their customers, so have writers, columnists, and subject matter experts. If you too want to establish your personal brand and become known in the industry, blogging is the way to go.

Developing literary skills
Want to become a writer? Start blogging to improve your language and literary skills. Blogging gives you the freedom to write about anything you want. You can even try different writing styles and get feedback from your readers. If you are good enough, you could also get noticed by publishers.

Encourages more reading
Writing inspires students to read more. The majority of readers on the internet are bloggers. The more they write, the more likely they are to read others’ blogs.

Starting a business
Did you know that you can earn money by blogging for businesses? That’s right! You can earn money by writing about specific themes and topics relevant to a business. If your blog interests the business, you can make money by allowing them to post ads on your blog site. You can also market a business’ products through your blog and earn a commission for every product sold that way. Now, isn’t blogging a great idea?

Blogging is fun!
If you love to write, blogging can be fun. Stay updated about the latest trends in your field and widen your horizons. Blog about music, photography, science, movies, language, people, animals, pets, books or anything under the sky. The options are infinite!

Whether you are writing for a reason, or simply for fun, blogging can make your day.

Become a storyteller
Have a story to tell? Write short stories or fictional accounts of your life that your target audience would be interested in. You could also give a day-to-day account of your life in the form of a story. If you already are a story teller, you could share tips on storytelling.

Build confidence
Blogging is a great way to build confidence in budding writers. Blogging gives you the freedom to be creative without questioning. Reading your own blogs, and seeing the feedback from your readers, gives you confidence about your writing skills. If you have a talented student who is not very sure about his or her sills, get them to blog and see their confidence levels zoom up.



“Be the eye of the storm”

Filmmaker, screenwriter, actor and academic lecturer, Ian Dixon visited AISFM, all the way from Melbourne, Australia to hold a master class for our BFA students. Ian’s short films have won awards for direction internationally. He is currently writing a screenplay that is funded by Film Victoria. His directing credits include Wee Jimmy (half hour drama for SBS – won director commendation at San Francisco International Film Festival), The Raptor Detail (short), Cut (VCA major film – won Gold at Australian Cinematographers Society Awards) and many more.

The session Ian had with our students was witty, interactive and a lot of fun. He spoke about direction in general, his experience working in films and also gave a few tips to our students. “You need to give your audience exactly what they want and what they expect from the genre. If you are making a romantic movie, you cannot accept the audience to be happy if you add thrills in it. There is a particular mapping already done when you choose a genre to make your film. What makes a great filmmaker is to be creative despite that mapping. You need to be in the center of that filmmaking storm. You need to be the eye of the storm,” he said. He admired how the Indian film Dhobi Ghat did precisely that. The typical Bollywood film form was put aside during filming it, which is why it seems so polished and why the story-line seems so real, he said.

When one of the students asked him how he decided on the genre of his movies, he humorously narrated a story of his conversation with his wife. He said, “I wrote a love story one time and presented it to my wife. She very sweetly said that, you don’t live love, you are not romantic. Please don’t try writing it. That’s how I found my voice. That’s how I found my genre.”

Ian spoke deeply about passion and how it influences one’s work. He said that being abused as a child drove the passion into him to get over his personal issue and make films about child abuse so that more people become aware of this social issue. “You need to take your subjects seriously. You should be passionate about it at your core, even if others don’t get you. Spielberg, for example, believes in ghosts and in extra terrestrial species. It is because of his beliefs that his movies are so engaging. You start believing in his beliefs. That is the amount of passion you need to have in order to make good cinema.”

“When I look around, I see danger everywhere. That is the person I am, and that is reflected in my thriller movies. That’s what keeps the movie alive. The fact that you are able to harness this thing from within is what will make all the difference. If you are a really secure person, you will lose your creativity. If you want to create thrill, don’t let the thrill from within get away. If I’m doing thrillers, I need to have a sense of paranoia,” he further added.

He went on to show the audience his Visual Diary. He explained how every picture was chosen, how his colour scheme was in sync with his story line and how that is one of the main things one must keep in mind while making films. “I am very strict with my colour balance. I only select those images that mean something directly to my film.” Not only that, but the relationship one has with their actors is also crucial; a great director is one who studies what his actors do, without a performance, you have no movie, he stressed.

Lastly, he went on to speak about drama. “The essence of drama is conflict”, he said. He went on to demonstrate this point by pulling out two acting students from the audience and making them perform an impromptu scene. Overall, the session was a success, and drew to an end with the students personally going up to Ian and speaking out their thoughts about what he said during the master class.


“Be your harshest critic”


He is the man with the magic touch, a man who needs no introduction. K. V. Vijayendra Prasad (Koduri Venkata Vijayendra Prasad), a prolific Indian film screenwriter and director known for his works in Telugu cinema and Bollywood. He is the screenwriter for more than twenty five films, most of which are blockbusters. His most recent works include Bahubali: The Beginning and Bajrangi Bhaijaan which are the biggest blockbusters of the year.

Sparing some very precious time from his busy schedule, he visited the AISFM campus recently to share his valuable inputs about his life, his cinematic journey and of course his stories, while interacting with our students.

A very humble and down-to-earth man, he never ceases to surprise with his unassuming nature. Said he before the interaction with the students’, “I always say that the person I am interacting with is more intelligent than me and I can learn from him and most of the time it happens. There are so many people here who have theoretical knowledge about films. So I wish to learn something from you.”

Talking about the movie that was on everyone’s mind, Bahubali, he recalled, “When my son Rajamouli wanted me to write a story for Prabhas he said that it should be a costume drama. He said that he should be able to create sequences where he can picturize good fights and that he wanted the female characters to be very powerful, as equals to the male characters. Then he asked me to include some grey characters also. The next morning I told him this scene – ‘a young man is displaying his dexterity in swordsmanship and when his father tells him that he is the best swordsman he had ever seen, the young child asks him in return – haven’t you heard of Bahubali? He fought with 200 people and he killed them all. By evening he was soaked in blood and not a drop was his. The father was mesmerised and asked where is this warrior, I want to see him. So the child replied that Bahubali is dead. Backstabbing is more powerful. – This is the scene I told Rajamouli and it didn’t have a beginning or an end then. Then I told him the scene about a mother carrying a child, wading across a river. I told him these two scenes and I saw the gleam in Rajamouli’s eyes. That’s how it all started.”

Bahubali seemed to be the top question again. Answering more questions about the hugely popular film that is been released in two parts, the veteran writer of this magnum opus said, “I never thought of writing it in two parts because it was a single story. But as it started evolving many beautiful sequences started coming up. I then knew that it would be at least five hours long and it would be impossible to shorten it to 2.5 hrs. Initially what we thought would be done with a 60 to 70 crore budget went on to become a 110 – 130 crore film. It is then that we thought of making it in two parts, that way we are safe and it also makes economic sense.”

Here are the excerpts of the session between the legendary writer and our students:
What is the future of Indian cinema under the subject of mythology?
It has a very good future; we love our mythology with its larger than life characters. Bahubali’s success is the success of the film industry of India. It has crossed the border of regional movies and become a pan Indian movie. Our Indian culture has got the vast resource of mythology, which no other nation can claim. I read somewhere that Bernard Shaw had read the whole Mahabharata and had said that ‘if it has happened, it is the most wonderful thing; but if it is written by somebody else, then it is a miracle’. It has thousands of characters for generations to come. Even if the best of screenplay writers attempt, they cannot write the Mahabharata again. We should have the imagination to pick up the characters from them. Very soon people will know the beauty of mythology and it will explode in the world. That’s what I wish for and pray also.

How do you get such different ideas for stories; that too back to back – be it Bahubali, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Eega or Magadheera which are all different genres. Please share the secret.
Why, do you want to be a competitor? A story is nothing but a lie; it is fiction and not a fact. So, one should have the ability to lie very nicely and putting it together should look like the truth; and I can lie very well. (Laughs)

What was the most discouraging moment in your cinematic journey and how did you overcome it? Do you experience a writer’s block, how do you overcome it?
Unless you struggle you can’t come up in life, there is no easy way out and hard work always pays off. If somebody is not recognizing your talent, it’s their bad luck, so don’t underestimate yourself and always have confidence in yourself.
Yes, I too have a writer’s block sometime. Let me tell you about how Bhajrangi Bhaijaan came about. One of the best movies of Chiranjeevigaru is Pasivadi Pranam, I liked the movie a lot. About seven years ago I wanted to rehash it and make it with a commercial hero and a child’s character who cannot talk. Then I thought about including the hero’s character going to Pakistan and how he has to solve it. Later the thought of making him a bajrangi came by and I started weaving the story. We could have written against Pakistan but it didn’t feel right, that was the writer’s block for me. Then about four years back, I read about a couple in Pakistan whose child had a hole in her heart and they had come to India for the operation. When the hospital authorities came to know that they are from Pakistan and that they had come to India by taking loans, out of compassion the hospital authorities waived off their costs. They spoke about it on TV and I immediately connected to them. I thought I should make a movie which will lessen the enmity between the two countries and that was the impetus for me to write the Bhajrangi Bhaijaan story.

Could you please share some tips on writing stories?
Have you seen a pebble in a stream? It is in the water for thousands of years and when you pick it up and squeeze it, will even a single drop of water come out of it? No! It’s not absorbing anything. But if you dip a sponge in water and squeeze it, it will be full of water. So my suggestion to you is; tune your mind to whatever you see, read or hear. Whatever it is that you aspire to be in films, always keep your mind open and learn. That’s how I tune my mind. Nobody is above committing mistakes. You may think high of me. But don’t grab and swallow everything I say. Always have a reasonable doubt and use your experience. Everybody is bound to make mistakes.

You said that you watch Sholay before you write any film, does the entire film inspire you or is it any particular scene?
I consider Salim & Javed my gurus. Whenever I see Sholay my thinking capacity gets charged and it elevates my mind.

When you write a story, do you think of the ending in the beginning itself or does it evolve in the process? What comes to you first; the plot, character or theme?
I was watching the Kamal Hassan – Sridevi movie Sadma with my assistants. The ending is like a stab in the heart. And I said, let’s make the same ending but put in the interval. My assistant suggested that the girl should actually stab the hero in the heart. With this in mind, the Simhadri story evolved. That’s how stories keep evolving. If I am writing a movie for Nagarjuna, then I will write a story that will suit his image. This is one criterion. The other is, if somebody gives me an instance and says write a story centred on it, then I will write accordingly. So it is not a single approach. Depending on the necessity I write the story.

In the movie Magadheera, the introduction scene of the girl, where the hero touches the heroine’s hand, how do you write such scenes?
If it is a clichéd story of a boy meeting a girl, then it is boring. The theme has come umpteen times. There is nothing wrong with it as it is a good formula, but if you put new factors into it, it becomes a new story. Always try to be innovative and don’t put anything which we have already seen. Be your harshest critic. There are people who watch many movies and they are good critics but they cannot write a story. The entire encyclopaedia cannot create a single poem. Don’t keep on acquiring knowledge, it is useless. Look into yourself for new situations. Believe me, I watch very less movies as I can’t sit through a movie; I wanted to convert my weakness into my strength and turned into a writer. I’d suggest, don’t try to imitate, try to be innovate instead. Second thing is expectation and anticipation. If a boy meets a girl in a movie you will expect them to fall in love, there is no newness. But create such circumstances, that they fall in love. Audience must feel the necessity, that is anticipation. Most successful formula for a story is, don’t write the usual story, try something different. Create an anticipation in the audience and fulfil it to the maximum.

The celebrated writer ended the session by sharing another anecdote about Bahubali. He asked, ‘has anyone of you felt happy when people said bad things about you and used foul language against you’? He then said, “Let me share a story, I went for a bath during the Godavari Pushkaralu. I finished my bath and was coming back when I heard some villagers discussing the climax of Bahubali. They were yelling and saying ‘how can Katappa kill Bahubali? You should hit the writer for writing such a story. Bahubali shouldn’t have been killed.’ Hearing this, I couldn’t control my laughter. Even though they were yelling at me indirectly, I felt happy.”

“Treat film-making like a craft”


Anjum Rajabali is a prolific Indian screenwriter. He has spent over 20 years in the Indian film industry with films like Drohkaal, Ghulam, The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Raajneeti to his credit. He is also known for his leadership and contribution to various writers’ rights initiatives in India, most notably recognized for lobbying with other prominent writers and activists for amendments in the Copyright Act in favour of writers.

He began his career in the film industry as an associate scriptwriter for the critically acclaimed Drohkaal (1994). In 1998, Anjum wrote the screenplay for the film China Gate along with writing the story and screenplay for the hit crime-thriller Ghulam. In the following years, Anjum is credited with writing for prominent films across a variety of genres, including the action film Kachche Dhaage (1999), the drama Pukar (2000), the biographical film The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002) and the horror Naina (2005).

He was the script consultant on Prakash Jha’s crime-drama Apaharan (2005) and Anjum’s association with him extended for the next four successive films that Prakash Jha directed, with Anjum writing for Raajneeti (2010), Aarakshan (2011), Chakravyuh (2012) and Satyagraha (2013).

He visited the AISFM campus recently and held a session with students and spoke at length about screenwriting; developing an idea, concept into a feature film treatment, how to explore dramatic conflict and characterisation as per the Indian film industry. The students interacted with him and greatly benefitted for the session.

Speaking about how the film industry treats its creative pool, particularly the screenwriters, he said that “The attitude of the film industry has improved towards the screenwriters and writing, but it is nowhere where the status should be. If you regard them as the architects of the film, it is the script that brings the entire film together, then it has to receive its due space, rewards, acknowledgement and rights.”

He has been at the forefront of the battle for film writer’s rights. What safeguards exist today, are they adequate, and what more must be done? Answering this, he said, “There has to be some protection for the newcomers who are joining, some encouragement so that their talent is nurtured and appreciated. So, ideally there should be some contracts and business practices which regulate the producer-writer relationship, which is very essential. At the moment, the bargaining power between a producer and writer are so disproportionate that a new writer does not have any leverage. If there is a regulated method then they will not have to struggle individually.”

Sharing his thoughts on screenwriting styles and how have they changed, he said that “screenwriting has seen a lot of interest from young people. Fresh talent is coming in and with it many new subjects and themes are coming in which are much more varied now than they used to be earlier. This is making a big difference. The other thing is that the film industry itself is beginning to recognize that one need not have a conventional approach to story-telling, as a result of which there are a lot of departures from the existing norms, and there is experimentation taking place and we are seeing unusual films which we would not have expected. They are achieving viability also because their story-telling and stories are connecting with the audience. This I feel is evolving and it is a very healthy sign.”

The reason for this he says is the “infusion of so much of entertainment available on TV & internet now that the audience is exposed to different styles and sensibilities. The conventional methods have begun failing rapidly with much more frequency, which are forcing writers and directors to explore newer ways which may be able to connect to the audience. Society itself is evolving and the new writers are coming from the new generation which thinks differently and much more courageously and which doesn’t necessarily feel the need to respect the old traditional notions.”

Would studying in a film school help students? What does the film industry look for in students? Talking about this he said, “the important thing is to treat it like a craft and therefore learn it, whether you learn it on your own or you go to a formal institution and learn it in a structured way doesn’t matter. But a film school does help, in the sense that there is a certain disciplined framework within which the student is working and there are certain productive landmarks within the course of the learning; which ensure that the student is regularly working/writing which otherwise is not easy to enforce. Therefore in a film school what would take you two years to learn may take you four years outside a film school.”

Forthcoming films that he is working on are Salute by Mahesh Mathai and Shaji N Karun.

From script to screen – learning the art of seamless transition


The third semester of the MA (Film + Media) course at AISFM is a hectic time for students. Deep in some of the most complex subjects of their specialization, they also prepare to produce their graduation films.

And this year too, screenwriting students have been buried in their laptops, or staring into space, as they contemplated story concepts to pitch to faculty panels. And helping them in this process was screenwriter/filmmaker Charudutt Acharya.

He recently visited the school for workshop on screenwriting with the students. For students grappling with perfecting their scripts for their final project, the session was an eye-opener.

“Before the workshop I was happy with what I had written for my film, but Charudutt sir pointed out so areas I could improve to make the script great. The sessions not only helped developing my graduation film, but also helped me as a writer, Said Sasinder Pushplingam, an MA (final) student.

Megha Subramanian, screenwriting faculty at AISFM was pivotal in roping in the filmmaker for the workshop. “I met Charudutt in Berlin during a screenwriting competition. I was impressed by his skill as a writing mentor and his accessibility to students. When we began the process of selecting a teacher for this workshop, I immediately thought of him,” explained Megha.

Acharya has co-written and produced two Hindi feature films – Dum Maaro Dum and Vaastu Shashtra. His directorial debut, Sonali Cable, hit screens last year. “Since Charudutt just finished directing his first feature film, the script-to-screen process was still fresh in his mind. He was perfect for the workshop,” said Megha.

An intensive four-day series of feedback and writing sessions, the workshop was scattered with discussions on the current industry scenario. The sessions included analyzing the variations in writing approaches, reading film treatments and watching the films.

Students also learnt about translation from initial story to screen, individual and group feedback sessions on the students’ film scripts and writing sessions, to incorporate feedback.

I’d thought I was more of a director than a writer – someone who would direct the scripts that others wrote. However, Charudutt Sir helped me understand the importance of writing as well,” said Purushottham, an MA (final) student.

In addition to his work in films, Acharya has a significant body of work on Indian television, writing for popular shows like Crime PatrolJassi Jaisi Koi Nahi and Galli Galli Sim Sim. This helped him give students a better perspective on how different writing for films is Vis a Vis TV.

“The one hour session felt like 20 minutes, said Mansoor Ali Patel, adding, “I got a better understanding of how the industry works – how the work I do as a student ties it to the real world. I really enjoyed the workshop.”

A graduate from FTII, Charudutt, also holds an MA in feature film screenwriting from the Royal Holloway University of London. He is the recipient of the British Council’s Charles Wallace India Trust Award for ‘Mid-career Fellowship for Artists’ for the year 2006-2007.

Chris Higgins, President, AISFM, said, “It has been an incredible experience for our students to hear a different perspective with feedback on their writing. It has also been valuable for them to learn more about the industry and how their ambitions match the current scenario in terms of being a working writer and director.”



8 steps to becoming the complete screenwriter

OK so maybe it’s not that easy, but if you follow these 8 steps you’ll be well on your way to creating a script that’s filmable without being flammable.

[Read more…]