The recently concluded three-day writers-producers meet organised by FICCI in Mumbai resulted in over 3000 storytelling sessions, writes Aditya Sharma
One of the most daunting challenges for scriptwriters is to see
k out producers willing to listen to their stories. Often writers e-mail their scripts to production houses but a reply often takes months and even that’s not guaranteed. Even when writers visit producers to narrate their stories, the success rate isn’t too high. But when about 27 film producers gather under one roof and where budding scriptwriters can pitch their stories to them, what does one gather from it? It proves at least one point. The film-makers have begun to realise the need for good writers. They know if they have to get audience to theatres, it’s possible only through good content.
In the second edition of FICCI’s FYI (Frame Your Idea), organised alongside FICCI Frames 2016, production houses like Phantom Films, Dharma Productions, Walt Disney Studios among several others listened to the stories of more than 300 writers during the three-day event (March 30 to April 1). “The main challenge for budding writers is accessibility to producers,” says Viraf Pheroze Patel, honorary director of the event, “By organising this one-of-its-kind interaction, FICCI has bridged the gap between those who make content and those who need it.”
In the last year’s event, three scriptwriters had managed to ink deals with producers. The highlight of this year’s event was the enormous interest it generated both amongst writers and producers. As against 20 panellists (comprising producers, broadcasters and studio officials) who participated last year, this time there were 70 panellists. “The number of writers too increased from 200 to 300,” says Patel. “We avoided any screening process as we wanted the producers to be the judges. One didn’t even need a full script. All one required was a good idea to get the story credit on the film’s poster!”
Writers from varied background attended the event: from engineers to theatre directors, doctors, housewives, from novelists, bankers, students and alumni of film institutes to even retired people. Fifty-five-year-old housewife Richa Sharma (name changed) looked quite pleased after pitching her story to production houses like Vishesh Films and Dharma Productions. “I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to narrate my story to the producers about whom I have only heard in TV and newspapers. Even if they don’t pick up my story, I now know what kind of stories they are looking for. Next time, I will come more prepared.”
Thirty-five-year-old Delhi-based writer-director Sagar Sahay, who has about 10 short films to his credit, felt that the event gave him an opportunity to showcase his writing potential. “I have been working on a script for several months and hope that it is made into a film. I was able to pitch my idea to eight big producers. It wouldn’t have been possible had I contacted them personally. Who knows, I may get lucky soon,” he smiles.
Twenty-eight-year-old writer-director of 12 short films and a former IT professional, Amit Chandran (name changed), felt that the intention of organising the event was good but unless some safety measures are incorporated, it could very easily become a platform from where some producers could walk away with “free” story ideas. “Bollywood is quite notorious for plagiarism and I was somewhat scared while sharing my story with production houses. If a producer doesn’t like a story, he should inform a scriptwriter that he isn’t taking it. At least that gives the writer some surety that his story idea won’t be lifted. It’s possible that a production house takes the essence out of a story and its team of writers give it a different twist. In that scenario, what would the scriptwriter do?” Chandran also informs that unlike last year, the Film Writers Association (FWA) didn’t team up with FICCI to protect the interests of participating writers.
ScriptwriterJyoti Kapoor, who won a 25-lakh compensation case of copyright violation and breach of confidence against director-producer Kunal Kohliin the Supreme Court last year advises writers to register their stories with the FWA before rushing to producers. “Now, one can even register one’s script online with the FWA for a very nominal fee,” she says. “Mere ideas are not copyrightable, the expression of an idea is. You might have etched out the entire script in your head but until you put pen to paper and register the script, you cannot stake a claim to it”
Apart from feature films, the production houses were also looking for short films, TV serials, documentaries and animation films. While one or two production houses managed to find the right subjects, the others would sift through the piles of manuscripts and judge them over the next few weeks.
Rajiv Tandon, producer, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Pictures, who had picked up scriptwriter Manoj Sharma’s story last year, said that FICCI should start organising theevent twice a year. “However a ten-minute slot is too short time for any writer to narrate his story. He should be given more time,” he said. “Also, instead of quantity of writers, the focus should be to get good quality of writers.”
Tandon also feels that it is wrong to charge fees only from writers. FICCI should also charge the production houses, who too benefit from the event. Moreover charging Rs4500 from each writer is a bit too high. The fees should be reduced. As for the fears of plagiarism, Tandon says, “I’d suggest that every story-telling session must be recorded. FICCI should ensure that no story or even an idea of a story is used by any producer without its writer’s consent.”
Sanjiv Kishinchandani, Executive Producer, Raj Kumar Hirani Films, who listened to nearly one hundred story ideas felt that, although, it was interesting to meet writers from varied background, most of them had no experience in scriptwriting. “For an idea to develop into a story,” he says, “And for the story to engage viewers for two hours needs a lot of hard work. In the absence of any qualifying criteria, however, the producers had to hear to several half-baked ideas. It’d have been more fruitful if there was some sort of screening of scripts beforehand.”
Even before the event got over, a few success stories started emerging from it. Trinity Pictures-Eros International recruited four writers in their scriptwriting department, while Von Ryan Entertainment, a film fund, paid and finalised deals with two writers. It’s expected that there would be a few more deals in the coming days.