by Vishesh Mankal - New Delhi, India
Twenty-five filmmakers. A hundred minute feature film. Four minutes per filmmaker. Keeping in mind the old rule of thumb, a four page script needed to be written. With a smirk on my face, I asked: could anything be easier?
As it turned out, yes. Apparently many things are easier than writing a four minute screenplay, like being a playful seal in shark infested waters or being asked to circle the globe in a bid to reverse time. Very few have dared to tackle writing and lived to tell the tale. Bottles of rum have disappeared forever in the space-time continuum, heads have lost their hair and husbands their wives, but the art that is writing refuses to yield. I went into the writing process thinking myself a General commanding his troops to an easy victory and came out with my tail between my legs; no more than a grunt who may have put up a brave fight against the blank sheet of paper, but one who will never fully succeed. Battles, I may win, but the war… The war goes on…
The problem is this; I am lazy. Get me a camera, give me footage, drop me a few actors and see how charged up I can be. But ask me to sit and write, and I’ll show you the definition of laziness. I’ll stare at the blank page for hours, type out a few sentences, delete them and then repeat the whole process again. I know sooner or later I’ll have the right combination of letters, spaces and punctuation marks, it’s just that I don’t know any shortcuts to get there. With this project there were so many threads to connect into a coherent plot that would stand on its own two feet and fit into the larger scheme of things that the combinations and permutations of grammatical elements were just proving to be too much to handle.
But as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. After two to three hours of staring at the blank screen (with a million distractions beckoning in the background, of course, like something called the Internet), I would get up and decide it was time to visit the local park, as a breath of fresh air never did anyone any harm. Carrying my notebook under my arm, I would find a nice bench to sit on to figure things out. It is always at times like these, when the mind is most vulnerable, that ideas (both insanely stupid and incredibly appalling) creep in and announce themselves as the new dogs in town. In excitement, I would gleefully scribble in my notebook one ghastly idea after the other. For a few days I was of the opinion that all writing should be done in parks and anyone who writes elsewhere is a fool of the first grade. All this was until I started noticing a trend; I would love all the various ideas that were popping into my brain at that time, but as soon as I came to my senses and glanced over them a few days later, I saw them for what they were; the etchings of an unstable mind.
Needless to say, I chucked all my notes away and went to sleep. When I woke one morning, lo and behold! I had a working screenplay on my computer. Okay, it didn’t actually happen that way, but it sure feels like it because I really have no recollection of how I was able to submit my script for submission. I am sure I did something to finish, but if you asked me to repeat the process, I wouldn’t be able to do it, and no, alcoholic substances were not in my bloodstream at the time, either.
But no one has to know of my lack of talent in the writing department. As long as I don’t tell, no one will know. You see the problem is that, as independent filmmakers, we have to convince a lot of people to work with us. After all, there is always the possibility of working with someone else who pays more. Thus, we tend to become a little lazy and write ourselves, saving the trouble of having to convince one more person, the writer!