Life is a script with John

He has wielded his pen to write some critically acclaimed screenplays like Guna, Kuruthipunal, Chanakyan to name a few, but hardly shows off the fact that he is a veteran. His students listen to him with rapt attention as he takes them through the do’s and don’t s of screen writing. His humble room is filled with creative ideas and positive energy within minutes. That is expert screen writer John E for you.  We caught up with him in the middle of a session of his screen writing classes to talk about what he likes doing the most – writing and lots more.

writer John

John E is the founder of a city based production company Cheeseflicks. It’s screenwriting division – screenwriters. in, is conducting workshops in the city to encourage more people to enter the field.  “The response is amazing!,” says John, who is the principal tutor for the workshop. He is all for the enthusiasm that his participants of the workshop show.

The participants are from various walks of life and share a common bond of passion to write. “People carry stories with themselves and are looking for ways to put it in writing. Workshops like these will help them to do exactly that,” says John.

Stressing on the importance of such workshops, he says, “The workshop tries to bring in a systematic approach to telling.” The classes are a far cry from the usual teaching style. For starters, he promises not to thrust upon the participants, his own ideas or dictate rules. The participants are taught even how to pitch their screenplays at the end of the practicum. In between the theories and rules of scriptwriting, John shares his own experiences with his students, which in itself seems to be a resource for the aspiring writers. The session is punctuated with laughs as he goes about telling them the art of writing. Listening and sharing seem to be the mantra of the workshop.

He warns them of the life of a writer. John says, be ready to rewrite a lot times. “When you write for the first time, you write from the heart and the second time, it comes from the brain.” But he says; only when you write from the heart, you’ll be able to strike chord with your audience. He urges his students to find ‘universality’ in the characters that they create to make their scripts successful at the box office.

Writing is certainly an art, but not rocket science. “I’ am often at a loss of an answer when people ask me how I write. A good writer does not have a reason to write. A good screenplay writer will not be able to explain the presence a certain scene in his script,” says John.  He rubbishes the idea of following a process to write. “You write better when you are in a small room and sweating than in an air-conditioned room. Pressure can actually bring out the good writer in you,” says he.

He says writers should touch life to write better. “Stay constantly in touch with life, experience it to write about it. Only if you experience hunger, can you sketch a character in hunger properly.” He says. Generating story ideas can be a difficult part for writers. When experiencing a writer’s block, John recommends a trip in the suburban train and says it will provide one with enough characters and stories to write about.  

So what is this veteran’s advice to survive in the market? He advices his fellow dreamers to find a prototype for themselves. The workshop does not limit itself to film scripting. It is also trying to bring in other aspects like television script writing, writing scripts for ads and the like.  He says the students will have to find a place for themselves in the genre in which they are comfortable and work on it to create a prototype.

Being in the field for more than two decades, we ask him what is the most common mistake that screenwriters do and phat comes the reply – They fall in love with their scenes! He says, once a screenwriter falls in love with one of his scene, he tries to protect it at the cost of other scenes which might be more important.

In a bid to bring together the community, screenwriters.in has also formed Screenwriters alliance, where both established and aspiring scriptwriters can be a part of. This will be a good platform for exchange of ideas and trends in the industry, John assures.


Aishwarya Srinivasan

Published On : May 04, 2010

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