HYDERABAD: “A story doesn’t exist without the screen-writer. He gives work to the rest of the film unit. That is how vital they are.”
Most would probably agree with this view of 71-year-old American, Robert McKee, who has for over two decades, been considered as one of the inspirations behind the successful screenplays of memorable movies.
The ‘man from Hollywood’ is of special interest to the city as his four-day ‘Story’ is scheduled to be conducted by the Ramoji Academy of Film and Television (RAFT) from February 9 to 12. Students from any film institute will probably recognise the name, but what surpasses his reputation as a master story-teller is his 30-hour seminar, Story. Divided into 10-hour sessions over three days, the seminar has given birth to close to 164 Emmy Award winners, 19 Writers’ Guild of America Award winners and 16 Directors’ Guild of America Award winners. “This year’s Academy Awards has 20 of my students in the reckoning,” the writer revealed.
Interacting with the media on Tuesday, McKee gave a glimpse into his mind that made the ‘Story’ such a phenomenon. “Any story is as good as its script. While there are different kinds of stories, its form remains the same,” he explained, driving home the point that he wasn’t here to change Indian cinema but only to make it better. “Irrespective of which country you’re in, the audience essentially remains the same. The difference is only skin-deep. While culture does play an important role in scripting a movie, the connect with the human nature is what drives it. And that remains the same anywhere in the world. Any story is a metaphor for human nature,” he pointed out.
Does he feel the need to tailor his seminar for Indian sensibilities? “If people are coming to the seminar, it is because they want to learn. Nevertheless, I only teach the form of the story, and that is universal. So no, I don’t really see why I need to make any changes,” he promptly replied.
McKee, an expert on American and international films, is no stranger to Indian cinema. Among his favourites is Oscar winner Satyajit Ray. “While contemporary Indian cinema seems to be a bit lost, directors like Satyajit knew how to make films. His movie ‘The Music Room’ is one of my favourites. Mother India is another movie that I like. In contemporary films, I’ve enjoyed Munna Bhai, Agneepath, A Wednesday, Traffic Signal and Robot. And I must say, Sanjay Dutt has become a favourite actor,” he said.
Having watched Indian cinema, the critic in him can’t help but point at a few things. “The first thing I’m going to stress on in my seminar is exposition. There is a serious flaw in the way it is gone about. The trick is to slip into it so smoothly that it is invisible. It has to be spread out,” he observed.
However, like most foreigners, he is just as smitten by the song-and-dance routine of our movies. “I love the way a movie can stop in between a narrative drive and break into a dance. It’s just marvelous. There is so much of energy and enthusiasm for life, the beautiful heroines and the songs are a celebration of this,” he opined.
His final tip was to stay true to the story and avoid repetition or rip-offs. “Hollywood films are made with a lot sincerity. Imitation is an insincere gesture. The inauthenticity of the project is also clearly seen. Any craft is only as good as its originality.” T’wood listening?