Behind every great movie is a great screenwriter who creates deft plotlines and crafts memorable characters. The Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab 2014 saw nine screenwriters share their experiences and advise aspirants. Four of these minds chatted with Soma Das
Malia Scotch Marmo
Screenwriter for: Madeline, Hook, The Polar Express
A still from Polar Express
Rewards and challenges: The most challenging is facing a blank page and having the courage to begin. The most rewarding is the feeling of having captured something in time; a memory turned into something tangible.
Most memorable experience: My first film – Once Around; it’s based on my family and my city, Boston. It was such a pleasure to work on something so close. Through the years, it’s taken a kind of reality within our family.
Words of wisdom: If you feel you got a story in it, write it and that’s that. The rest is a merry-go-round!
Screenwriter for: Dracula, Tomb Raider
Rewards and challenges: The most challenging part is typing the end. Nobody in our industry has a job until a screenwriter writes the end and that is the most rewarding part.
Most memorable experience: Every film I am working on becomes my favourite. The most memorable one was Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. The character and the journey of the film intrigued me. Coppola was a mentor and a teacher to me. I was involved in every bit of the filmmaking. It was a learning experience because Coppola was first a writer himself, and that bridged the gap.
Words of wisdom: You must write every day, it needn’t be a script but just write, even if it’s for 10 minutes. And my only mantra is — never grow up and never give up.
Screenwriter for: Dinner for Schmucks, Night at the Museum 3
Rewards and challenges: Actually, having to write is the most terrible part; the most rewarding part is when you
Most memorable experience: My favourite film was Dinner for Schmucks. We were approached to work on it (me and my partner) and there was a creative partnership amongst the group of people, including actors Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. The essential challenge is that bigger the film’s budget, the more people it has to appeal to, to make it’s money back.
Words of wisdom: Write imagining yourself and your friends as the audience; write for the people you admire, you respect and whose taste you share.
Screenwriter for Hunting Season
Directed Episodes of Ugly Betty, Six Feet Under
Rewards and challenges: The most rewarding bit is when you actually figure out how to do it. The biggest challenge is trying to be original and saying what you want to say.
Most memorable experience: I always think that the next one is my favourite. But I love working on series because you get long time to shape it the way you want to and say what you want to.
Words of wisdom It’s a real privilege to write and write well. You must feel what you are writing for and you must be compelled to write something and say what you intend to say.
The third edition of The Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab offered eight screenwriters a chance to develop their work under the guidance of nine Creative Advisors, which included international and Indian screenwriters and filmmakers. The Creative Advisory Board included screenwriters like Michael Handelman, Dante Harper, Elena Soarez, James Hart, Malia Scotch Marmo, Naomi Foner, Rose Troche, Sooni Taraporevala and Anjum Rajabali. The Lab was held from March 17 to 21 in Lonavala.