W’RITE’RS WRONGED!

Until eight years ago, my wife Anuja and I were working with different Media Companies (Production Houses, TV Channels) in Mumbai. Then, merely months into being married, we were both Pink Slipped when the recession hit. The Media Industry was particularly bad, with mass retrenchment and companies either winding off, or laying off almost entire work-forces! That is when the two of us, because we had a fair bit of experience in Writing, decided to become stand-alone, freelance, professional Writers & Content Developers.

To our minds, we had hit upon a brilliant survival-idea. We had a pre-existing network into the Media Industry, and we had both been Writing within our various roles over the years as Directors, Producers and Assistants. This would need NO investment. We’d work from home. And we wouldn’t inform our parents (back home in Delhi or Jaipur)!!  🙂

Then came our first reality check. We were asked by a large corporation (said organization shall remain unnamed) to develop their Website. Now typically we would quote a certain figure for the project with a break-up of Writing/Ideation/Supervisory Fee as one block & Designing Fee as another block. We were shocked to learn that the client, upon seeing our cost break-up, rather nonchalantly said that he’d be willing to spend the money on designing, but would cut the Writing Fee by a 5th!!! Why? Because “kaun toh padhta hai”. Agreed. But where would the ENTIRE ‘idea’ for the website come from? Us of course, which is why it formed an integral part of our ‘writing fee’. Bad luck for that though. It was just fine that any design-software-savvy person (not to take away from the genuinely talented designers that are out there) would be able to create a me-too site by seeing ‘references’ provided by the client! And for that ‘copying’ work, the client was willing to pay, let’s say 1 lac, but not our 30,000 rupee Writing Fee!

This was only the beginning of our brutal initiation into the world of ‘freelance writing’. What we dismissed as a first, one off bad client, turned out, to our horror, to be the norm. We’d write scripts upon scripts for huge television networks for paltry sums of money, and those payments would be made to us, after ‘daily’ follow ups (read phone/email begging and countless physical visits to their accounts departments) 6 months to a year later! So while the on-air talent would be paid, lets say 50,000 per episode, IMMEDIATELY, we’d be waiting for a 50,000 cheuqe for 5 scripts, for a year!

I don’t mean for this to sound like a rant, or ramblings of a frustrated writer. The truth though is, it is tough. We even had to ‘invent’ a Brand and Brand ourselves, just in order to be taken a little more seriously. Even that didn’t work.

I just want to leave you with this thought… If Customer is King (which most clients admit), then shouldn’t the Content, which ought to engage them, appeal to them, appeal them, and ultimately lure them (and that will ONLY happen if it is based on careful study of the target audience and developed on the basis of some real human insights of that target), also be KING? Agreed, hardly anyone reads nowadays. But isn’t an IDEA, or a SCRIPT on which VIDEO content is based, worth something?

I sign off with a video interview that UTV had done with us shortly after our Pink Slips in Mumbai… And urge you, do not WRONG WRITERS. We have VALUE!

Vidya

Ageless and Stage-less

Race-less and Colour-less

Not Biased Towards the Intelligent

Nor Biased Against the Average

Indiscriminating

Indefinable

Invaluable

Vidya

 

FilmGyaan!

In a world where education is becoming increasingly staid and prosaic, it always helps to remind ourselves of some inspiring stories of some educators, students, and institutions. A lot of people have probably watched these three films. They are not new. But they will always be FRESH, and my absolute favorites.

Good Will Hunting, the Academy Award Winning film where an unusually talented janitor at MIT is discovered and guided by Robin Williams’s character.

The original, the precursor to School Of Rock; in my view Mr.Holland’s Opus is one of the most moving, uplifting films about a Music Teacher wonderfully portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss, proving how beautifully cathartic teaching can be, and what an impact a great teacher, albeit an ordinary mortal, can make in a student’s life!

The English Teacher in this case, played once again by Robin Williams, inspires his students to look at poetry from a completely unique perspective, helping his students discover themselves in the process. Dead Poets Society’s Mr.Keating leaves an indelible impression!

These masterpieces are easily available on blueray and dvd.  Buy them, rent them, WATCH them, AGAIN!

JUDGMENT BE DAMMED!

A student of mine recently confided in me. The things he/she shared awakened me to a startling reality. What kind of an environment are we subjecting our children to? The student said his/her peer group at school had boycotted him! Why? Because he failed to solicit the latest model of a cellular phone from his parents, his ‘lesser’ phone, falling a mile short of ‘cool’. To add to these woes, he/she had expressed no plans or desire to prepare for the SAT and subsequently study abroad. This, proved to be the final nail in the coffin! How could this kind of blasphemy be pardoned? Promptly, his ‘uncoolness’ was punished as he/she was struck out of the ‘gang’.

Is it just I who finds this ABSURD? I too attended a school that is sometimes dubbed elitist. I don’t remember being antagonized for who I was and where I came from! Rich or poor, intelligent or average, tall or short, we were ALL the SAME.

It got me thinking. Could this undeniably unhealthy situation be related more to kids’ parents, rather than to the kids themselves? Are we as parents doing the right thing? Instilling the correct values? Being good examples and role models? Or could it perhaps be that we have lost our path? That in our tearing hurry and desperation to demonstrate that we have ‘arrived’, we might have, unwittingly, unintentionally, misguided our children?

I’m not sure. But it is certainly food for thought. In the meantime, don’t we owe it to our children to ensure that we create an atmosphere that is COMPLETELY FREE of judgment? A place, at home and at our schools, where our children aren’t burdened by banal issues like brands & defining themselves through them? A habitat where experimentation, discovery, self-expression are uninhibited and unstoppable?

We grew up in a simpler time, where we were footloose and fancy-free. Shouldn’t we decide for our children’s sake, JUDGMENT BE DAMMED!?