If you are an aspiring film writer, it's more than likely that you've had questions about how to get a foot in the door. We got in touch with screenwriter and lyricist Varun Grover (inspired by One Perfect Pod) and asked him to address some common doubts. A Civil Engineering graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology, Grover worked at a software company before moving to Mumbai to pursue his writing dreams. He started out as one of the staff writers on the TV series The Great Indian Comedy Show before finally getting to write the screenplay of Masaan in 2015. The film picked up two prestigious awards at the Cannes film Festival. Grover is also a celebrated lyricist having contributed to films like Gangs of Wasseypur, Ankhon Dekhi, Raman Raghav 2.0, and more.
Where can one read screenplays of films?
For Hollywood, there are many sites just a Google search away. For Hindi films, moifightclub blog (https://moifightclub.com/category/scripts/) has been a pioneer in chasing scripts and putting them up online for the last 7 years. Great to see that Film Companion now has a dedicated section for film scripts.
Is it necessary to go to film school?
I don't think so. But then who am I to suggest such major life decisions?
Which are the best books on screenwriting you recommend?
I haven't read any. The only one I started was Save The Cat! but even that became unbearable after 20 pages. I think scriptwriting is better learned through watching films, reading scripts, and then writing like you are in an obsessive, self-destructive relationship with your keyboard.
Is it necessary to move to Mumbai if you want to be a writer?
Initially, yes. Because without meeting people and networking, the chances of you being taken seriously are very slim. Unless you are a published and well-reviewed author of books, it is very much needed.
What are the kind of jobs one should look at before getting a start? Should one assist writers on TV shows?
I have never assisted and don't understand how people can have assistant writers on a film. On a TV show, yes, lots of assistants are needed and get to do some value addition. Ideally, one should be able to write anything when starting up – from anchor links for TV shows to radio scripts to short stories for Doordarshan to translating scripts to brochures for play publicity.
I've written my script – what should the next step be?
Send it to people you want to work with. Send it to all the screenwriting labs. And if rejected from both these places, rewrite as many times as possible. Rewriting is the only way out of rejection.
Do you need an agent to help you take the script to producers/studios?
I have an agency representing me (TULSEA Pictures) but I don't think an agency is needed in the initial stages. Initial years are all about honing your skills.
Should one send an entire script or just a brief to producers/studios?
Always start with sending a brief pitch. If that works, then send the script or treatment. And basics of grammar, formatting, aesthetics should always be in place. If you can't write a synopsis that excites, how can you write a full-fledged script? The love for language and expression must come through in every communication/document.
How do you set up a meeting with a studio to pitch a script? Is it wise to send a text/try cold calling, or do studios have an organised system for submissions?
Most studios do have an organized system now and that's good. I have never cold called anybody (kismat ki baat hai, nahin karna pada) but I don't think any producer/director minds a new good script landing in their mailbox without asking.
Are there any secrets to an effective pitch?
Your personal connection to the material matters a lot. If your passion for the subject is apparent in the first document you share, things will be way easier. If it is just another script for you (out of a bouquet of 7-8 ideas), then it's going to be treated like that only. One of many.