Ideas. A simple word that each individual react to and experience differently.  Simple ideas, complex ideas, ideas that may seem insignificant on the surface, ideas that seem no more than a thought, or ideas that are just that, ideas. They are formed from personal experiences or observations, and more often than not, all stories are the product of an idea someone had.

As filmmakers we are ultimately storytellers, and I understand now that we can only tell powerful and compelling stories when we write and tell what we know. This is what our lecturers have been reminding us, and that was exactly the topic of discussion with our patron, Lord David Puttnam in February 2014.

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Sharing with us personal accounts of ideas that shaped the films that he was involved in, Lord Puttnam enlightened the BA (Hons) film students in an intimate seminar  about the concept of never regarding an idea as a wasted idea. In the context of film, I did have my reservations when it comes to being able to adopt the mentality that all ideas can be shaped into a bigger and larger story or script.

Lord Puttnam however proved that it could be. At some point, inevitably some ideas may seem to be of no use. However, when it is combined with several different experiences that are formed at different points in our life, its full potential is realised. Giving us an example about how his childhood interest in comics, and his interest in athletics at a later stage in his life resulted in a film he made, he proved his point. These two happened at different stages in his life, but he drew inspiration from these experiences for his film.

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As a child, Lord Puttnam shared that comics kept him company.

It was also interesting to know that even though a producer, he also contributes to the content of the story, which shows that everyone and anyone can initiate an idea for a script.

As we encounter so many things in life everyday, it sometimes can be hard to remember every interesting experience we have.  This reminds me of what my lecturer once said, about carrying a notebook around at all times, so that we could note down any interesting observations we make around us. Who’s to know when we might be using it!  As for me, I catch myself, being more observant to my surroundings, noting what people do when they are at their most natural self.

He then moved on to speak about the importance of getting others to commit themselves to the idea. Pitching or convincing others to believe in the idea is challenging enough and if we don’t believe in our idea, it makes things even harder. I feel that the ability to pitch confidently probably comes with practice and knowing exactly what we are trying to achieve with that particular script.

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Lord Puttnam was gracious to answer questions we had for him at the end of the seminar.

Once we are able to get people on board the first time, and if it works out, it will be made easier to move on and get through more contacts. Sometimes, we may even end up working with the same people on different projects if the working styles are very similar.

He also shared with us that to make sure he and his collaborators are on the same page, he would make them write to him about what they think he just spoke to them about. I feel that this is a very effective way to work with people. Not only do you know if they have understood you, you also give them the opportunity to give their inputs. This I feel is very important, because we have to show that we take their contributions seriously, and therefore we have to allow them to have the freedom to share their thoughts,

He also pointed out that because film is a collaborative process, it does not only mean that you have to be a director to be successful. All is not lost if one does not get to be a director, some people are undeniably stronger at certain aspects than others, and that is the way things work. So as students, this is the best time we have to find our area of interest, and to nurture that into our strength.

All in all, it was heartwarming to see his dedication in ensuring that  students got the most out of this session and the take away for me was that when you least expect it, a certain experience from your past would come back to you, and that will spur on an idea and eventually a story. Now, I am rethinking ideas that I have disregarded previously and hopefully some good will come out of it!

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Rajeswari Vikiraman is a Level One BA (Hons) film student.

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