Redefining the role of a writer for film & television
Acclaimed writers mingled with those who aspired to become one on the occasion of the first Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, organised at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, by the association. The assembly of leading lights deliberated on various issues plaguing scriptwriters. A few pertinent points that emerged from the deliberations could be summed up as under:
1.A screenplay of a film would be better if writers didn’t write what they assumed was acceptable to the audience but wrote about what they believed in.
2.Make producers break the stranglehold of the star system.
3.Contemporary films have something for everyone except
4.Existence of a system that inflicts self-morality as a result of which characters in our films don’t even speak the way normal people do.
5.Despite the existence of a rich tradition of folklore, the film industry has not cared to even tap into this treasure trove of stories. Hence, the need to find an original way to tell stories.
6.It is not just the content but also the way it is being told that is changing
7.The need to allow personal creativity to take over to make things change.
8.The Film Writers’ Association has been holding the Indian Screenwriters’ Conference every two years to address issues concerning screenwriters and lyricists and to expose them to the contemporary realities of India by inviting celebrated scholars, thinkers, media experts, even broadcasters and producers, for stimulating and rewarding discussions. This August, the Film Writers’ Association held its 4th Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, which, as usual, was attended by about 800 writers. The Indian Screenwriters’ Conference is perhaps the only platform in the Indian film and television industry that takes the issues concerning not only writers but other crafts also seriously and addresses them with thought-provoking debates and discussions. We hope to take it to the next level and make it an Asian Screenwriters’ Conference some day. Since the 3rd Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, the Film Writers’ Association has also begun to give the FWA Award to legendary screenwriters and lyricists. In the 3rd Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, lyricist Gulzar, screenwriters Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar and the late television writer Manohar Shyam Joshi were given the FWA Award. This year, the late lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi and the late screenwriters Vijay Anand and Sharad Joshi were given the FWA Award. Regular events are held every month at the Film Writers’ Association office premises. In the last two years, it has held events on Saadat Hasan Manto, Sahir Ludhianvi, Bhojpuri legends Bhikhari Thakur and Mahender Misir, a workshop on adaptation for Marathi screenwriters, a screenwriting workshop for Bhojpuri writers, screenings of documentaries by Anand Patwardhan, etc.
9.Poetry recital sessions are held regularly for Hindi and Urdu poets, to create a platform where member poets can share their work with each other.
Stories, Screenplays, Songs
In the late ’60s, the association undertook the task of registering stories, screenplays, songs etc. The first recorded reference to such registration is contained in the minutes of the Managing Committee meeting held on June 11, 1968. It was felt that registration would protect the rights of writers in case of any dispute.
The registration is one activity undertaken by the association that has withstood the test of time and continues to draw hordes of writers, professionals as well as amateurs and is being indisputably recognised by the film and television industry as a whole. We have kept the registration fee ridiculously low to make it easier for all members, some of who are not yet working professionally.
At the time of its formation itself in 1954, the association felt the need to have a library and approached all members for donations. Wali Saheb was the first to contribute. He gave `201 and with his contribution the Library Fund was established. Over the years, the association has regularly upgraded its library.
A few major developments during the last decade have brought about a welcome change. After a long hiatus, acclaimed writers took the initiative to contest elections to the Managing Committee of the Association. They took the initiative in organising series of seminars/conferences and workshops to enable the fraternity to focus its attention on key issues plaguing the writers.
Exciting developments like the arrival of multiplexes and positive responses from the audience to unprecedented themes led to the elevation of a writer to a major player in the scheme of filmmaking. A well-structured screenplay is not looked down upon by producers but considered to be a key element in making a good film. Today every Bollywood professional has a bound script that he or she wants to make it to the screen. It is now an acceptable fact that no matter how good or great your story is, a bad screenplay can ruin it.
The Film Writers’ Association achieved a global presence when it was invited to be a full member with voting rights on the Board of the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG). It regularly attends the World Conference of Screenwriters (WCOS), where its voice is heard and respected. At the Indian Screenwriters’ Conference, Film Writers Association regularly gets guests from Writers Guild of America.