After the Official Launch of the Mauritius Cinema Week at Château de Labourdonnais, Mapou Mauritius, the First Day of the Masterclass started at around 10am at Plaza, Salle des Fetes, Rose Hill.

It was a great pleasure to see and meet the Director of Bahubaali, Mega Blockbuster Film, SS Rajamouli in Mauritius in the context of the Cinema Week. I gladly met him for an autograph, after expressing my ‘fan love’ for the movie, as well as the Android game which i play regularly on my smartphone.

SS Rajamouli Bahubaali Film Director Mauritius Cinema Week 2017

 

It was also a great pleasure to see Romesh Sharma, producer/director of Mauritian TV Serial – C’est la Vie. Had the opportunity to visit Cloud 9 Studio once during the Film Shooting in Mauritius of the TV Serial.

Romesh Sharma Mauritius Cinema Week 2017

The first session of the Mauritius Cinema week was on:

Write Your Own Story – The Art and Craft of Script Writing

Guy Hubbert Script Writer Mauritius Cinema Week 2017

By Guy Hibbert

Moderator: Naman Ramachandran

About the Speaker

Award-winning British screenwriter Guy Hibbert debuted with an episode of the television series Crown Court (1983). He has won four BAFTA TV awards for No Child of Mine (1997); Omagh (2004), for which he also won best screenplay at the San Sebastian International Film Festival; Five Minutesof Heaven (2009), for which he also won the screenwriting awards at the Sundance Film Festival andthe Lecce Festival of European Cinema; and Complicit (2013). For Eye in the Sky (2015), he won bestscreenplay at the Writers Guild of Great Britain awards and the Evening Standard British Film awards,and a Prix Europa. A United Kingdom (2016), written by Hibbert is playing as part of the Mauritius Cinema Week.

Here is an outline of what I could take note of during his delivery (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any inaccuracy of information/live typing. If you can suggest corrections, kindly please do as comments. i would gladly revise the note-taking exercise)

StoryTelling
Why am I telling the story?
What can I contribute towards my Society through my Story?

Advertisers are Story Tellers. They are selling their product. For 3 minutes of Ad, its a kind of story. Advertisers would not spend so much money if they think it would not change something. Change the way you think. Change the culture.

Quantin Tarantino’s work – Guy finds it difficult to support his work. So much down crime in USA, how storytellers would tell a story and make it an entertainment.

Advertisers would tell, yes, we have a profound effect on Society. Content is important as to what I do, what I write.

In stories, comedians have an important role. Every type of writer has an important role in society. The response to 9/11 – was to write a comedy? Write a script about this event that occurred in society.

Moderator: Did you know you wanted to be a story teller?

I started as a technician for a Theatre. For 10 years, I worked on building sets. Then I started to write for theatre. I wrote 3-5 plays for theatre. I eventually moved into Television. I didn’t had enough job for 8 years. I had my breakthrough via a stage play.

Moderator: What is your process? Do you lock yourself in a room? Do you use pen and paper?
Pen and Paper.
Type Writer
Computers came along.
Word Processing.
Is this the right dialogue?
Successful writers wake up at 6am in morning. Lock myself in a room. I write till 1pm and then I go meet my friends, check email, check football score, what’s happening in the news. I do 4 hours of writing in a 12 hours day.

Moderator: What’s your research process?
I do a lot of fact-based films. For instance – 5 mins of heaven.

Moderator: What is the main difference between writing for Film and Writing for Television?
There is a difference. There is something much bigger in a Film. There is a process we need to get through for a movie. There is more something of an event in Cinema rather than TV. I’ve spent 20 years in writing for TV and I have not met anybody. You are just in Television, you are in a box. The directors are now kind of choosing to work on big TV projects part of which as the fund is very good , specially with Netflix. Maybe there is a financial reason. Film and directors. Perhaps there are films like George Clooney would like to make. In UK, its around $1m for 1 hour of Television. VHS was fighting to be the dominant partner for Netflix. We have Netflix and HBO. The more budget, the more attractive it gets for actors. Now we have the bigger name directors, the money goes to bigger name actors.

I think writing Film, does not refers to TV. If you all think of your favourite films, you all remember favourite moments. One way of setting out (topography), is think of moments. Think of the film in terms of a curve. Two actually out of 2 moments of your film. The audience will remember these moments. Its a Dramatic wave. You are constantly thinking about those great cinematic peaks. I don’t think you need to that on TV. What you are doing is finding a centre moment in half an hour, so that your mom can come and watch the next episode. The story needs to be big enough.

Moderator: What are the challenges of writing shorter films?
I produced and wrote a short film myself. I did a 10-min short film on Sky TV for Christmas. We wanted a 10min story/10min film, in which there was no dialogue. It was a challenge for a very small budget.

The director has to respect script. And the writer has to let go the script. It is very important for that process to work well. Any producer has to respect that process. Else you will have a nightmare in the end as somewhere in the process, we’ve gone wrong.

A lot of films are adapted from Novels. I don’t do that because I don’t tend to think on novels. The producer will know the book, will know what he wants from the book Invariably, I don’t respect the book. The whole thing ends up with the producer being disappointed. I don’t do that. With Susan Hills (Ruth and Karma). I read the book, and I worked with Susan fro about 2 years. She gave me lots of advice. We worked very closely together. She was writing a history book and I was writing a Script.

Question from the Audience on: Script Writing as a Successful Career
I spend few years at a screen writing centre. If we can develop screen plays in Africa, then we have the basis of Cinema industry. I tried setup screenplay centres in Cape Town, Kenya. The problem is that politicians wants to get money back from it. The potential for film industry is Huge. And Nobody is not doing anything about it. And it has to start with screenplay. You get a novelist, journalist. You get them together with producers. If you get an idea for movie together. We bring story tellers together. This is what we need in Africa. It is a billion dollar industry and nobody is doing anything about it. It really needs to happen in Africa. So many stories being told, but nobody is putting up a base and get this thing going.

In the beginning of the film, do I like this character, is it going work? Where is the right time, where the story kicks in. It’s almost impossible to know when when the story kicks in. Nobody really knows. Act 1 – Clear.
Act 2 – all the much complications. Were the ending comes.

There are always disagreements with the director about the script. The filming process is you get a beautiful glass (creating by the writer) breaking that glass. And then the filming process is about coming back together of the different bits. If an actor says I do not understand this line, I would break down. The director would come and come with the vision of the film. You need a very good strong producer. The producer works with the director and script writer. A sense of trust with everyone needs to be established. Then you get all types of problems, for eg. You get bad cast, as you did n’t have enough money to get that person. Film can get run off for years and years. Small budget film.

One should always surprise the audience with the lines/ I can never know whether what I am writing is rubbish for now or excellent work. For 6 months, I have written totally rubbish. The right story, the right combination of actors. A lot of top scripts are written by writers. Right acts, right moods, right actors, then we get a perfect film.

 

The Second session took place after a tea break.
Film Producers in Mauritius Cinema Week

 

Making Ideas a Creative and Commercial Reality – The many, many tasks of a Producer
Through development, budgeting, financing, production, distribution and marketing to connecting with the final audience – What is a Producer’s role?

Speakers (Producers): Shobu Yarlagadda and Jason Taylor

Moderator: Julian Alcantra

About Shobu Yarlagadda
An engineer by qualification, Indian producer Shobu Yarlagadda worked in the US for a few yearsbefore founding Arka Mediaworks with Prasad Devineni. He served as executive producer on MorningRaga (2004), starring Shabana Azmi, and Pandurangadu (2008), starring Nandamuri Balakrishna andTabu. He produced Vedam (2010) that won him and Devineni best film at the Filmfare Awards South,besides the best director award for Krish Jagarlamudi and best actor for Allu Arjun and best actressfor Anushka Shetty. His association with director SS Rajamouli began with Maryada Ramanna (2010),starring Sunil, Saloni Aswani and V. Nagineedu. The film’s success prompted remakes in Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali and Hindi. Yarlagadda’s next production was Panjaa (2011), starringPawan Kalyan, Sarah-Jane Dias, Jackie Shroff and Adivi Sesh. His association with Rajamouli continuedwith the all-time blockbusters Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Baahubali: The Conclusion (2017).Together with Devineni, Yarlagadda has parlayed the Baahubali franchise into a universe spanningfilms, books, television and web series, graphic novels and a Virtual Reality experience.
Where did the idea/first step of becoming a producer come from:
JT: I struggled watching a lot of movies – 4 per day. Producers need to produce a whole bunch of movies.
SY: Wanted to be an entrepreneur, did some ventures. Ventures failed over 5 years. Third opportunity – Film Business.
Producers are involved in every sense of film. Where do the ideas come from?
JT: I work very closely with directors. Lots of ideas come to us. We are always looking for ideas. Some of the ideas end up in a bin. Others become movies. An estimate of 95% comes from article/book, the last 5% is from stories that one is generating.
SY: I got into creativity, I work into the risk finance, from marketing to production.
JT: Producers end up trying the be the creative person , in the writers room. We will give notes on many drafts.
Writers create stuff on a blank sheet of paper. Is there a sense of ownership. How does the relationship with the writer, who takes ownership?
How do you go about budgeting?
JT: a lot of movies can be made for low end. As you start putting in certain actors/actress, your money start crawling up. Special effects can take a good half. You can do a movie for 1.5m but also for 15m.
SY: When you look at a script, and you know that it will be at certain range – eg. Huge fight sequence, we cannot get it below that level of budget. You cannot write a massive script and put that you will need that amount.  When you see the script itself, you know that it will be in a certain range, then we have plus or minus increase of budget.
Its 200 pages, so it is 200 minutes and it gonna cost x.
There is a team that starts out – ok, we have earned X out of so many days of production.
Rebates, cost of labour.
 JT: I would rather have 1 source of Finance, whether it is a studio. Worst part of film making – Finance. Different people have different say as they are financing. Every, always go to a Studio. Sometimes you get bitten. Not ever imagining things that you put in the contract.
How important is the cast in the financing of a film
Cast is no 1. Then the Director no. 2.
If script is really, if you really like it, and you don’t have cast.
In so many projects, cast is very important. Who are the actors in the production set? That’s what people gravitate towards.
What’s the longest wait to be a producer?
15 years of time!
Can we get the cast to commit to something when the budget is low?
What makes a cast commit to a project?
SY: Who is the director and the script will be the first thing the cast will see before committing to a project.
Does the rumination side come up at the same time?
SY: it does come up. But personally in my experience, remuneration is not the first element.
JT: agents also have a say. As if they bring an offer to actors, that would make them multi millionaires, then it has an effect. Its not only .
Let the director get his special notes on special effects. And then get the problem solved for financing the special effects.
JT: Studio testing is basically you go in middle-americas (las Vegas) and you test the movie.
DO you like action movies? Then this is the movie for you.
People go on. Usually they are gentle-morrons.
There is expectations from the audience.
Audience watches for 2 hours.
Then we get feedback score.
Excellent / Very Good.
Out of all the form only the 2 scores are for interest for the studio.
A studio can do a test screening and change the ending to see the reaction to of the audience.
Global audiences do matter, not only local audience. You are obviously involved in Distribution. 
SY: USA, India and a little of UK is the biggest market. We focus on these and focus on the distribution.
Indian Films specially in USA – producers work with people / distributors for telegu/tamil film. Hindi films are distributed by other distributors. There are completely different scenarios.
JT: lots of US sci-films doing well in China, UK, Japan, Mexico. Lots of market you know that are good for certain films. Thailand is one of the tough distributors, for reasons I know. i.e language.
We test films in Los Angeles. Sometimes there are criticism. One needs to test. In lot of festivals that the movies that gone through, and then they figured out what needs to be changed, before they start the main campaign.
SY: Hindi Film is a totally new market. Today bahubali is grossing highly is all these markets.
SY: On websites, we mostly had organic traffic on bahubaali website based on cast and crew.
First projects where under $100k. But whilst building along and continuing, you don’t need the infrastructure. You want a talented group of people that have a passion. Yes, you want to pay them for their passion. Start with a good story. Every speaks English. Australian / NZ films are all doing well. They always have that same market based on commonality.
Would you producers willing to buy micro-budget movies made by Mauritian Actors?
If the film is good, if it is appealing to an audience, then producers could think into reaching a larger audience.
If the film does well, and it translates well to studio.
Cynando is a website for film festival. It is a database of distributors, one can contact them. If the film is engaging then one can contact them. As you are reaching out to the people, be short , sweet and to the point. Don’t try tell your all story in your first email to producers.
As producers, we work 2 hours before and 2 hours after. If you work on 6 – day week, I always rest on the 7th day. At the end of the production, its a great relief. After principal photography, its a great relief and after release of movie also.
There are 2 types of risk in a film . For eg. Cyclone or fire on your set. These can be insured. But you cannot cover the downside of ‘the film is not doing well’.
Question from Audience on Piracy
Piracy Costs: starting out – we hope the film is successful as much as possible. If it is being pirated, it is a compliment to you. When you don’t get released in certain countries, piracy is a love.
One is investing so much money, so much man-hours to get a high-quality product.
SY: people say “we are worried about leaking, being pirated”. But the other big problem, we have staggered releases for eg. In Japan. The piracy is very low there. In china, by the time it’s release (approval), the film is already pirated.
Contract is important in Producing a film. One has a producer’s guild. The producer’s credit can be given.

 

Rani Mukherjee Bollywood actress in Mauritius

Finally the last session of Day 1 of the masterclass was on:
The Evolution of the Role – Actresses’ roles in modern Indian cinema
From crowd-pleasing blockbusters to more challenging critical roles – How have opportunities and the roles for Actresses changed in modern Indian cinema?
Speaker: Rani Mukerji