The Writing Process
At the outset, it is clarified that there are no rules in film writing but just a few general principles that hold good for any script. Students are encouraged to look into their own memory and experience in search of stories. Intuition is emphasized as much as the need to make the personal story universal.
Plot: Classical and Non-Classical Structures:
A deep understanding of plotting is at the heart of good story telling. A plot is the internal wire frame of a story that defines its structure. At Digital Academy we not only teach the classical three act structure, much used in Hollywood but also other structures like epic, lyric and non-plot structures. Through a detailed analysis of certain films from India as well as Hollywood, the classical three-act structure is clearly laid out and students are asked to identify story structure in all subsequent films screened in class. Films are carefully chosen to demonstrate different models of storytelling. The concepts of theme and premise, story and character are illustrated at the outset with multiple examples.
Characters: The Life Blood of Stories
Characters inhabit stories and characters make the story. So it is crucial that we create credible and unforgettable characters. Students learn about the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist and how each of the main characters can have an identifiable social backdrop. In all films screened in class, the protagonist’s 'character arc’ is carefully traced to understand how the character changes through an experience. The use of dialogue is studied in order to understand how it helps to bring out character as well as give information about the story.
Development of an ‘Original’ Screenplay
The best way to learn and internalize the concepts elaborated in class is to do-it-yourself. Students are therefore required to develop a full-fledged screenplay based on their own ideas and not on any previously existing source. They are first asked to articulate the premise and then move to the synopsis and then the treatment, the step outline, and finally into the screenplay. They are also introduced to Final Draft, the screenwriting software which has become the industry standard worldwide.
Alternative dramatic structures
While the classical three-act structure is emphasized, students are also exposed to films that violate and even question the conventional storytelling format and yet have other principles that hold them together. Students are encouraged to see all kinds of Cinema that they have possibly never seen in their lives and then go out into the world to make the kind of film they want to write.
The Uniqueness of Indian cinema
Indian popular cinema definitely is unique for its storytelling conventions that have been influenced by several factors. The historical process of the evolution of this unique form is explained. Students are urged to make sure that all the storytelling elements including song and dance blend organically with each other and reinforce the overall theme.
Dramatic concepts: East and West
Students learn how the governing principles of today’s film drama are actually derived from the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. They also learn about the lesser-known Indian tradition of dramatic theory (Natyashastra) that dates to Aristotle and still has a strong connection with the Indian popular cinema. They learn about the vast narrative tradition of India and why and how they need to rediscover them to revitalize their own creativity. All sorts of dramatic devices and concepts are explained.
Pitching, Narration and Industry issues
In order to strategize their careers, students need to clearly understand the inner functioning’s of the Film and Television Industry. Here they learn the importance of pitching and story narration in the film industry where, very few people actually read screenplays. Thus, 'narration’ may seem like a performance for which they are made to rehearse in a friendly classroom atmosphere. They also learn about how to register their screenplays or story-ideas and protect them from copyright infringement.