What I Learnt At The Drishyam-Sundance Screenwriter's Lab!

By Arun Fulara. Posted on May 06, 2015

Sundance has been conducting it's screenwriting labs in India for some time now and over the last few years, the Labs have spawned films like Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan, Shonali Bose's Margarita With A Straw & Prashant Nair's Umrika, each of which has premiered at top international film festivals.

This year the Lab is being conducted in partnership with Manish Mundra's Drishyam Films. Earlier last month the 7 filmmakers whose projects were shortlisted for this year's lab, went through the first round of mentorship in Goa. The mentors this year include Srdan Golubovic (Circles), Erik Jendresen (Band of Brothers), Rose Troche (The Safety of Objects, The L Word), Habib Faisel (Do Dooni Char), Sriram Raghavan (Badlapur, Ek Haseena Thi), Shridhar Raghavan (Yennai Arindaal) and Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou, Talk To Me).

Drshyam Sundance Lab

 Participants At This Year's Drishyam-Sundance Screenwriter's Lab

Jamuura spoke with Dnyanesh Zoting, one of the participants at the lab on his experience at the lab. Dnyanesh was at the lab with his project The Monster, which is backed by Vivek Kajaria and is slated to go on the floors later this year. It is the story of a young girl who's father goes missing while on a documentary film shoot in a tribal village. The young girl and her mother then go on a journey through the jungle to find him, relying on clues from the Raakshas fairytale.

Dnyanesh Zoting studied theatre under the noted Marathi playwright Mr. Satish Alekar. He's made 3 short films that played across festivals like Mumbai International Film Festival, Durban International Film Festival and International Film Festival of Kerala. He's also assisted Marathi film makers like Mr. Paresh Mokashi & Mr.Satish Manvar.

This is what he had to say about his experience at the lab.

On His Experience At The Lab

It was one of its kind. Precious, rare and overwhelming. I feel lucky to be part of such a beautiful process. The process of lab was very organic, very personal and professional at the same time. It was less of 'teaching' about script writing and more of evaluation and nurturing of the script. The mentors were very keen on getting us intimate with our own stories. With the wide range of mentors from USA, Europe and India, this lab helped us to look at our stories in a wider perspective. Got to learn a lot here not only about script writing, but about people, their worlds, their stories, their way to deal with their subjects, their vision about cinema, art etc.

On How The Mentors At The Lab Helped Him

Out of all the 7 mentors, each fellow script writer had one on one sessions with at least 4 mentors. My script was mentored by Rose Trots, Shridhar Raghavan, Habib Faisal and Kasi Lemmons. Although, all of the four mentors have their own approaches towards film making and script writing, they did not try to overpower or influence or confuse me; rather they  helped me understand and evaluate my own story telling approach in a much transparent and objective manner. Mentors were more of fellow travellers, in this exploration. This approach of mentors, really made us comfortable to share our thoughts, to understand the problems (in the script) and finding a way out.  It was a homogeneous process.

On What The Lab Taught Him About Screenwriting

Each story you write is directly or indirectly connected to you. It has some thing to do with who you are, where do you come from, what do you think, how do you see things around you. You must understand the common line shared between you and your story. The more you explore it, the stronger your story becomes. This was the most valuable approach, I learnt here.

Writing is a subjective procedure and objective procedure at the same time. You are the character and you are the viewer simultaneously. Exploring and moving through the script; scene by scene, with this dual approach was the another unique approach of writing I learnt in the lab.

On How The Lab Will Impact His Script

This script lab or any lab does not do quick magic to your script. So, one cannot quickly tell how the lab benefitted one's script. It is a process of evolution which has just started. I think post lab, I am pretty clear about what works in the script and what doesn't. I have come out of all those confusions and nervousness which I faced earlier while writing. Now, I am much sorted about what I want and what I don't. With the detailed feedback which I received from my mentors, I am now all set to work on the weaker areas in the script. Hope to have a better draft soon.

On Fellow Writer's At The Lab & Being Part Of A Community Of Writers

At the lab, with all different fellow writers, I became a part of new peer group, where you can come up with ideas, share them, develop them, scrap them endlessly. You always miss such a kind of writers' community where you can comfortably share and analyze your scripts. Such peer group, criticises you and encourages you objectively while writing. I am happy that I am part of such a community now.


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