Beating the Writer’s Block

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The biggest adversary of screenwriters across the globe is the Writer’s Block. It is also the most difficult hurdle to overcome in the writing process. This comes in different shapes and forms: ‘I just do not feel like writing now/today’ ‘I do not know how to take this character/ scene forward’ ‘This conflict does not feel good enough’ and so on. Staring at a blank page, waiting for the words to come can be quite frustrating, more so when you are starting out as a screenwriter. Here are few techniques to fight this menacing monster:

Draw a plot outline

This is a good practice which involves defining the characters, scenes, flow of events and all important elements of the story before starting to write the actual script.

Do not be a victim of perfection

Do not try to be extremely good in the first go. The quickest way to write is not to think about making it perfect. Just go ahead and write something, review it and make it better. Writing is an iterative process and nothing is set in stone.

Unburden yourself

You have to eventually write the full film/episode/play, but for now you have to finish this scene. Thinking about the volume of writing that is still left to be done will do you no good and will only busy your mind with the deadlines rather than the problem in hand.

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Focus on the problem area

Think about the world, the characters, the complexity, and most importantly the conflict of the scene that you are currently working on. Take a break and imagine the scene, visualize the setup, let the dialogues flow, replay it multiple times in your mind until you have something that you feel is good enough to write. Eventually the answers will come to you. Unconscious mind of a talented writer has already created stories within it. Once he is inspired enough, these find their way to his work.

Skip ahead

Sometimes certain scenes and characters take time to come to you. In such situations it helps to go ahead and get done with easy ones while you are waiting for the breakthrough, on the complex stuff. Writing is rooted to your emotions, so there can be days when you cannot bring yourself to write something funny and in mood for something serious and drama oriented. So go ahead and pick that part of script which suits your mood.

Set a schedule

This works for many professional writers. Dedicating a slot in the day purely for writing can help you get that procrastination out of the way. This helps in making sure that your other day-to-day activities do not stop you from writing. There can be thousands of legitimate reasons for you not to write and which you will eventually end up calling writer’s block.

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Ultimately it all boil down to getting yourself to writing. As many screenwriters suggest ‘Get to your desk, say I do not have a writer’s block and start writing. That is the only way.’

Workshop by Siddharth Sinha

Graduated from the FTII as a Direction student, Siddharth Sinha’s final Diploma Film ‘Udedhbun’ won the Silver Bear award in the Short Film Category at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin in 2008. This award, holding prestigious value, had been conferred on Indian Luminaries like V.Shantaram, Tapan Sinha, Satayajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, in the past. Being appointed as a member in the selection committee for the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) 2009, he is currently planning to direct his first feature Film.

Here is what he had to tell the students of NM College at a seminar organized by DA at their college festival in December 2012. Starting off on a note about how movies turn out the way they appear to us, he posed a question to the students, Do you think a movie turns out the way it was thought exactly?” No! You might prepare in advance for weeks, months or years; but the location, situation and Actors are the defining factors that can change things you may have visualized them to be.

Today, the attention span of movies for the audience has got shorter. That’s why it has become even more important that a Film needs to tell a story visually. You need to make the audience believe what they see. He gave an example of Chak De India, where, in one of the stadium scenes SRK is very angry, but he shows his anger through nuances in expression rather than dialogues.

Write a scene, not a dialogue” was what Siddharth stressed on. The audience should understand the Actor’s tension and intensity, and that’s what makes a scene.

To further prove his point, Siddharth asked students what they would pick if given a choice as a Filmmaker – a screenplay filled with pages or a movie scene which one could enjoy and understand even when watching on mute? Definitely you would go for the later one. And yes there’s a broader reason to it. The movie needs to be enjoyed by all and language should not become a barrier. Even more so, because translating a movie to different languages results in losing out on the essence of the movie.

Talking about Digital Filmmaking, he recalled a situation where he was a member of the jury at a Film Festival in Delhi. Among the top entries received, there were 2-3 movie entries by students, that were shot using a cell phone camera. And yes, he was amazed by the work. Ten years back, there was a classical and methodical way of shooting. But Digital Filmmaking has broken all norms today.

Superman of Malegaon’ shot in this unconventional style, was the best example according to him. Being a locally shot movie, it caught every Filmmaker’s attention. Digital Filmmaking without doubt, has given a casual approach to Filmmaking today. You never know five years down the line, there would be no reel Films, no 35mm. Today digital is the game changer; in earlier times, it was sound.

Concluding on an interesting note, Siddharth spoke about how people often confuse short Films with documentaries. Even a Feature Film, in his opinion could be short. Also, documentary movies need not always have a social message, is what he believes. Today, fortunately, there is a market for each and every type of movie, as long as you can make the audience believe in it. A Film is eventually about creating a world, a world which can be believed by the audience, irrespective of the format or the time it lasts!

The Magic of Prosthetic and Makeup Effects

Seen ‘Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and wondered how did they manage to make Brad Pitt look over 60 years old? Or how did they manage to make those Ogres look so menacingly ugly in ‘The Lord of the Rings’? Well, Prosthetic and Makeup Effects is your answer.

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A discipline of makeup, Prosthetic and Makeup effects utilizes various specialized materials and methods to create looks which cannot be achieved with the regular makeup techniques. This discipline requires painting and sculpting skills along with traditional makeup expertise. It is commonly used in film and TV productions.

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Prosthetic and Makeup effects are used to make an actor look aged or young, to enhance/modify existing body part or add a completely new one, it can morph the face of an actor into that of an entirely different creature and much more. For an artist who is adequately skilled in this discipline sky is the limit when it comes to creating innovate yet believable look.

The process of applying this specialized form of makeup usually begins with creation of a mold or a cast. The makeup artist will sculpt a realistic model of the actors face or body part in question and this will serve as the base for the artist’s work. This process of creating a lifelike replica for prosthetic enhancement is called lifecasting and mold created is called a lifecast. These lifecasts are usually made of silicon rubber or prosthetic alginate. The materials used in creating this makeup have to be selected with care as they are worn by the actor on their skin, hence it has to also take the allergies of the actor into accord.

Once the lifecast is in place, the artist will start modifying its look depending on the character requirement. One can add wrinkles, wounds, skin aberrations, discoloration, deformity, specific texture etc. This is how in fantasy movies, the elves get their pointed ears or hobbits get their hairy large feet.

The process of applying prosthetic makeup can be a time consuming one if the character requirement is complex. For Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt had to undergo one of the most difficult and time-consuming makeup processes. His aged look was achieved with a blend of conventional visual effects coupled with makeup effects which at time took over 5 hours to complete.

One of the key factors in this art-form is making the makeup believable, and for this to happen the prosthetic appendages should blend seamlessly with the actor’s skin and body.

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With the increasing use of visual effects in films, makeup artists work collaboratively with VFX technicians to get an enhanced and complete look for the characters. It works incredibly for the budget too, as prosthetics makeup can save huge chunk of money by doing effects that are within its sphere of possibility. Some of the best examples of this prosthetic and computer graphics marriage is the nose less look of Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, the zombie effects in the post apocalyptic television drama ‘Walking Dead’

VFX coupled with prosthetics can achieve looks makeup alone cannot.

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