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A platform for screenwriters

Friday, December 14, 2018

After a stupendous response to India’s biggest script contest, Cinestaan has announced the second edition. Ronita Torcato spreads the word

Everyone has a story to tell. Hum. Tum. Pehle aap. What’s yours? Aamir Khan, Anjum Rajabali, Juhi Chaturvedi and Rajkumar Hirani want to know. Dobara. For the second time. After the stupendous success of the inaugural edition of their script contest, Cinestaan Digital Pvt Ltd will be doing a repeat performance: giving handsome cash prizes totaling `50 lakhs, and the opportunity to storytellers to use their imagination and craft, and realise the dream of seeing their stories on screen by pitching their projects to production houses and film studios.

The winners of the inaugural edition of Cinestaan India’s Storytellers Script Contest were— band bajao—Kerala’s Christo Tomy who pipped close to 4,000 entries from across India to the winning post and got a unanimous thumbs up from the jury for his screenplay Funeral. Biplab Goswami  bagged the second prize for Two Brides, Satyen K Bordoloi  came third for his script titled Who Will Marry Thomas?, Rajdweep was awarded the fourth place slot for Ishqlogy (Something Greater Than Technology) and the fifth prize was won by Sagar Pandya for Sniper.

A-list film-maker, actor and juror Aamir Khan believes that, “Without a good script, there can never be a good film. There are many good and deserving writers in our country. However, not all of them have the right platform or opportunities to showcase their talent. Cinestaan aims at achieving precisely that.”

The script contest has a backstory. As Rohit Khattar, Chairman of Cinestaan Digital tells it, “We started this some years ago with Mumbai Mantra—Sundance as a Mumbai Mantra-CineRise Screenwriting initiative.” 

For the 2019 contest for which entries are open,  writers will have to submit a complete script which will be  assessed  by the jury, which will then select the winners. All scripts must be  registered by the contestants with the Scriptwriters Association and other similar recognised bodies to ensure that the writers' content is completely protected.

 About the 2018 contest, Anjum Rajabali, screenwriter  and Jury Chairperson said, “It has been a journey of discovering new talent. It was very tough to choose the winner but Christo Tomy  had the right story in mind and the imagination to tell the story well.”

Juror Juhi Chaturvedi takes note of “talent out there and the innovative concepts and stories waiting to be heard and explored. And we are looking forward to that”.

The best scripts will become part of the Cinestaan Script Bank that studios and production houses can delve into and then directly liaise with the writers, who often find it difficult to make a connection. Cinestaan Digital Pvt. Ltd  focuses on building cinema-related products and services for networked audiences. Its website is an attempt to record and recount the rich past and vibrant present of Indian cinema.

Those who are dreaming of making it to Bollywood can enter the contest by following the link

Screen talk

Award-winning writer Anjum Rajabali, who has scripted movies like Raajneeti, Ghajini, Pukar and The Legend of Bhagat Singh, elaborates on everything you want to know about writing for Bollywood

It used to be that unless one knew film industry insiders, the debut scriptwriter's journey from draft to screen would be tough. Now you guys are making it easy, aren't you?

Well, owing to the film industry’s acknowledgment that without a good script it is impossible to make a good film, there’s been an upsurge of demand for good scripts. Moreover, studios and production houses have set up protocols and channels for submitting scripts written on speculation. They’ve employed readers to go through and assess these. So, frankly, today if you have a good script, there is little doubt that somehow it will reach the people who are in a position to make it.  It may take some time for that to happen, but happen it will.  Moreover, script contests like Cinestaan India’s Storytellers Script Contest not only offer spectacular rewards to the top scripts, but also create an invaluable interface between the writer and studios and production houses, by inviting them to listen to the writers’ pitches.

Does a budding scriptwriter have to live in Bollywood, make that Mumbai, to work on pet projects?

To kick-start one’s career, it helps for an aspiring screenwriter to be in Mumbai, as there are numerous meetings before any script gets confirmed into a project. However, once your career is established, you could move anywhere and write from there. If at all meetings are required, they’re either a flight away, or can be conducted via Skype.

Are there many more writing opportunities in film and TV today than ever before?

Oh yes. India is producing an increasing number of films year after year. Plus, we have more than 500 active TV channels. And, now the digital platforms have opened. All of these are hungry for scripts.

In the USA, aspiring scriptwriters even hire managers and agents to represent them. Please comment.

Even in India, we have seen the advent of talent management agencies, like Tulsea and Kwan, and a couple of others. However, these will only take on those writers as clients whose work they have read and believe that it is worthy of being picked up. While these agents do charge a percentage of the writing fee as their service fee, they bring the client work, negotiate for her/him, and even iron out the legal and contractual issues.

How long does it take to get a whiff of the first sweet smell of success?

If you’re a competent writer with interesting ideas and a sound grip on the screenwriting craft, then you can taste success even with your first film itself. Many have done so.

What do you think of Screenwriting Labs, such as the one offered by NFDC at IFFI Goa?

I think screenwriting labs are a good and useful opportunity for writers to get concentrated feedback and receive mentoring on their work, which can be invaluable.

What is the best antidote to stress in a screenwriting career?

The writer has to keep in mind why s/he actually chose to pursue a certain idea. Obviously, because it had moved the writer. The flame of that emotional fascination with the story idea has to be kept burning at all times, as it strengthens your conviction in the script, in moments of doubt.

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