Combined with the demand by OTT platforms for good writers, screenwriters have become the need of the hour in the Indian entertainment space.
It was Alfred Hitchcock who said, “To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.” Screenwriters in Hollywood have been celebrated with Oscars being given out for best original and adapted screenplays. Though India too has such awards and some good screenplay writers, their lot has never been considered important in the pecking order of those involved in a film. Today, directors doubling up as writers and screenwriters not getting their deserved due – either in credit or in salaries – has become the norm. However, the advent of OTT platforms – especially the international ones – in the country seems to be changing the tide for the better. Meanwhile, the Indian audience is demanding quality content and having got access/exposure to path-breaking international content thanks to OTT platforms, they are now willing to settle for less.
And this is where screenwriting comes in. The stupendous success of web series like ‘Paatal Lok’, ‘The Family Man’, ‘Breathe’, ‘Criminal Justice’, ‘Delhi Crime’, ‘Sacred Games’, ‘Mirzapur’ and ‘Made In Heaven’, has shown how writing is a key skill that is mandatory for a show’s success. Writers’ rooms are slowly becoming par for the course where Hindi content is concerned and screen writers in Mumbai are now being hailed for their work with some disclosing that salaries have now finally evened out. Strong writing skills are in demand for Hindi content and screenwriters who have been in the shadows for years are now taking centre stage. Having said that, though this may be the case in Hindi, writers in other regional languages are still struggling/fighting for their share of the limelight.
When we look at screen writers and cinema, there was a trend in India where there was a clear distinction between a screenwriter and director and their roles were considered exclusive. In the last decade or so, the roles merged and the ‘director-cum-screenwriter’ became the norm. Some industry insiders claim this trend was started by directors to augment their salaries while directors state that they had good stories to tell and it was natural that they write the story/screenplay themselves. Ultimately, storytelling started to suffer as many films became run-of-the-mill lacking novelty and uniqueness. Controversies of plagiarism of writers’ works also started to make news in some industries. But the success of small and independent Indian films has highlighted well-crafted scripts by talented writers. Combined with the demand by OTT platforms for good writers, screenwriters have become the need of the hour in the Indian entertainment space.
A new voice. A brave new voice. A fresh approach. These are phrases we are hearing often now with regard to writers and this is a welcome change. Those aspiring to make a career in screenwriting can now look at the OTT space since there are a plethora of opportunities versus the film space. In this scenario, Indian writers’ associations have started to fight for rights and demand changes which were long-pending.
More than decade ago, the Writers Guild of America went on a 100-day strike and it cost the state of California over US$ 2 billion and resulted in the loss of 37,000 jobs. The writers negotiated for better pay and rights and clearly forged their importance in the entertainment space as well. Post that, there have been writers’ strikes on and off in the US based on specific issues. Today, Hollywood writers’ rooms are still struggling to ensure diversity in representation.
Meanwhile, in India, producers seeking to set up a quality writers’ room with good writers still find it challenging due to a dearth of good writers. With this demand for screenwriters, some established writers and directors are conducting online mentoring sessions to help upcoming writers since many don’t undergo any formal training. So if you are a writer, then your time has come as fresh, talented writers are in great demand for OTT.