By Arun Fulara. Posted on August 01, 2016
Ask any producer or director in the industry what ails it the most & you are sure to get lack of good scripts as one of the top answers. Despite this the industry continues to treat its writers without the respect they deserve. No wonder, most of our films continue to regurgitate the same old trash & we continue to bemoan the lack of new stories. Things seem to be changing but a lot still remains to be done.
The Film Writers' Association, the industry body for screenwriters', has been trying to change this sad picture and has had some success on this front. From raising awareness amongst writers about their rights to pushing for a minimum wage contract, the FWA has hit all the right notes. Chief amongst its efforts to create a well-knit writers body has been the screenwriters conference that started 10 years back.
The conference, which should ideally be an annual affair but isn't, has grown in size over its 3 editions such that the last one held in 2013 saw over 700 writers participating in the event.
The latest edition of the conference is slated to happen this week - 3rd-4th Aug - and registrations are in full swing. You can register even if you are not a member of the FWA. Registrations can be done in person at the FWA office in Mumbai or you can do it online here.
The event this here has some interesting panels on the success of small budget films & what it means for the industry, the digital explosion & the love-hate relationship between producers & writers. There's an interesting panel on the rut that TV finds itself in as well as a panel exploring whether our films are getting better at creating well-etched female characters. Leading luminaries from the industry are expected to talk shop at the conference, making it a great place for writers, new & old, to network & sharpen their understanding of the evolving dynamics of writing, especially the business end of it.
The noted journalist & Ramon Magsaysay awardee, P. Sainath will deliver the keynote address.
Excerpts from the chat below;
When it began in 2006, it was a response to the widespread isolation that younger, new writers were beginning to feel. The screenwriting fraternity should feel like a community and there should be cross-fertilisation, debates, discourses which can be enriching for all writers. There was no such platform or forum then. The Film Writers Association (FWA) too, unfortunately, was rather inactive then, and wasn’t functioning as a proactive union should.
The first conference which was held at FTII changed all that. Apart from the discussions on creative and academic aspects, we saw large-scale anger exploding from new, young writers the professional situation came up for debate. They felt exploited and unprotected. Fees, credit, rights, dignity, status were very sore points with them. From that anger emerged the Progressive Writers Group - a collection of about 25 senior writers - who decided that the only way to rectify the situation was by taking control of the union, making it proactive and insisting on collective bargaining.
From a panel in the 2013 Screenwriting Conference
Two years later, in 2008, this group contested the election vigorously. So great was the cumulative disgust with the current situation that almost all the seats of the Executive Committee of FWA were won by them. That led to a galvanisation of FWA, with much-needed initiatives emerging from it, generally spawning a screenwriters movement here.
After that, the later conferences and the movement have effectively reinforced and strengthened each other. Every conference has consolidated the position of screenwriters in the public eye, as well as within the TV and film industries. FWA is taken much more seriously now as a mature union than it perhaps had ever been. And, a lot of the credit for that goes to these national conferences that we hold every few years.
Tell us a bit about the theme of the conference this year & why was it chosen?
It is quite evident to any observer of cinema and TV that the stories being told there hardly reflect the realities and concern of the larger India. Both media have been rather selective in their choice of which reality they choose to focus on, thereby revealing which constituency they prefer to cater to. The reality of inequality, of injustice, of exploitation, of discrimination which is the most prominent aspect of this country today, seems to have been widely denied by the entertainment media in this country.
Hence, we believed that it was a time for introspection. A time to challenge our own prismatic perception of India. Where do we draw our inspiration from? More importantly, are we actually choosing to not be chroniclers of our time? As writers do we deliberately choose not to shine a torch into the darker, more disturbing spaces of our environment? Do we not see ourselves as artists whose task is to afflict the comforted?
Hence, this became the natural choice of the theme for this year. Apart from this, we shall of course be addressing professional issues too. The Indian Screenwriters Conference has always had these two prongs - academic and professional. And, we continue with this in 4ISC too.
Why should a writer attend the conference? What can one look forward to apart from the panels?
This conference is designed for writers! It encourages you to introspect, to challenge the constructs that you have accepted by default, it provokes debate within the community, and it also allows the writer to have her/his concerns and problems acknowledged and discussed publicly. There is a lot of interaction which takes place among the delegates. You can’t bring 800 writers together and not expect linkages build up, newer bonds to be formed, networking done, and generally feel a sense of belonging to a community.
Frankly, for all of us screenwriters from TV & film, the Indian Screenwriters Conference is a dream realised. It revitalises us.
Below are some details regarding the conference. Don't miss it.
Dates: August 3 & 4 (Wed & Thurs), 2016
Timings: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (on August 3, a cultural program from 6:30 – 8:00 PM)
Venue: St. Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra West, Mumbai
For more information, check this page out.