Words by Monita Mohan
Of the many forms of writing that I have dallied in, script-writing is one that has always eluded me. The form itself has always been a mystery to me. So, to unmask this hidden beast, I decided to attend Anjum Malik’s Scriptwriting Course held at the Universal American School, Dubai Festival City as part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s Festival Prologue.
The prospect was daunting, to say the least, but Anjum quickly put us at ease with her easy manner and penchant for both humour and relating many anecdotes from her life. It also helped that we were a small but diverse group, interested in a variety of script-writing; radio, film and television.
Anjum has been a poet for around fifteen years, and actually entered the world of poetry due to the ministrations of her mentor, and 2014 Festival Author Lemn Sissay. He heard her poetry and insisted she take up the position of resident poet.
A few years later, she began her Master’s degree in Scriptwriting. This is why, Anjum tells us, poetry and scripts have a lot in common – compact, concise writing and optimum use of white space. This is news to me, but I understand what she means over the course of the day.
She starts us off by giving us a free writing exercise based on an idea (ours or hers), which will become the theme of our scripts. It was the ideal exercise to, in the words of Hercule Poirot, get the little grey cells working.
Our next exercise was writing a character bio – always a particularly difficult exercise, but one that ended up being well received by all.
It was during lunch that the majority of us revealed how anxious, and, well, downright scared we all were when attending the course. Anni had already admitted to being afraid, and well, so did I. Frank, also a poet, eloquently explained the upside of these workshops.
“Working with a practitioner [of the arts] makes all the difference. It’s authentic and real, and comes from experience. You learn so much from them.
“The best part is you take away the things that will take you to the next big step.”
Without a doubt, a non-lecture style workshop is more engaging. Marie, a photographic artist and winner of the Short + Sweet Theatre Competition, mentioned that despite her initial apprehensions, she’d already come away with new ideas and new methodologies for acquiring new ideas.
The afternoon session began with a viewing of Casablanca, with an emphasis on the introduction of protagonist Rick. Using the film as a pointer, we continued with the introduction of our own protagonists with a fun exercise. I thoroughly enjoyed this exercise and it must have shown, as I evoked a fair bit of laughter from my colleagues.
With our stories already shaping up, Anjum left us with some homework and a great deal of thinking to take away with us – we were to write a premise for our stories, but we were also to begin answering some important questions, i.e., Who, What, When, Where and How.
To find out more, tune in tomorrow, same time, same channel.
Anjum Malik is a poet and scriptwriter who also exhibits and performs her work. She is a fellow of Manchester Metropolitan University and lectures to the new writers at the Manchester Writing School. Find out more about Anjum at www.anjummalik.com.