From Story to Screen, film-making 101 with Ashvin Kumar

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by ashvinkumar on Monday, March 4, 2013


Session type

Technical level


The workshop can be attended by anyone interested in the art and craft of making films. It provides a versatile set of tools which may be applied across short, feature, fiction and documentary formats and across multiple genres. For theatre persons, playwrights, film-makers how to think like a visual storyteller that while writing an original screenplay and making good directorial choices while making a film. Established film-makers & theatre practitioners wishing to reflect upon their process, for instance, breaking writer’s block on a stage/screenplay. For screenwriters and playwrights who wish to have a set of tools to bring to bear on existing and fresh works. And for Directors, it provides a set of tools, structure and approach to making a shot-list, what to tell actors and how to direct the camera and edit of a film.


Illustrated talks and exercises, drawing upon Ashvin’s own work and cinema-history, with a strong element of film-appreciation by viewing the works of great film makers, looking at their work from the point of view of writing / directing / performing the scene, the course will explore :

The study of mythologies and myth Human motives and the screenplay The construction of shots The action of the actor The brutality of a cut The disbelief of the audience

A good story, well shot, well performed and well edited constitute and the emotional connection with an audience. Ashvin shows how film-makers make that happen and how you can make it happen for your own story and film.

In this course, Film is looked at as an art-form that entertains. Emphasizing originality and honesty, celebrating intuition and instinct. Evolving 'thought processes', rejecting temptation of rote or formula. Appreciating history of cinema, applying lessons to our own films. Holding on to ‘vision’ while facing creative dilemmas, money and time pressures. Cultivating a ‘do-it-yourself’, learn-while-working approach.

With the explosion of digital means of producing and exhibiting films, anyone can purchase a digital camera, editing software and put a movie together. Storytelling i.e. the ritual narration of universal experience and commentary on the human condition, has not changed since the first person told the first story around a camp fire in pre-history. The fundamentals of visual storytelling, such as montage theory and grammar of films, date back to the first motion picture camera. How can we draw upon these fundamentals to make our own ideas and stories screen-worthy?

The course looks at harnessing the work of Dr. Joseph Campbell, Dr. Sigmund Freud, Christopher Vogler, David Mamet, Sergi Eisenstien, Keith Johnson, Stanislavski and Walter Murch may be helpful in sharpening the craft of the film maker. It is illustrated with the works of Orson Wells, Hitchock, Satyajit Ray, Vittorio De Sica, Sergi Leone, Chaplin, Buster Keaton, D.W. Griffiths, John Ford, Wong-Kar-Wai, Robert Altman, Joel Ethan Coen, Xiang Yimou, Alexandro Gonsales Inarritu and Abbas Kirostami.


A notepad and some imagination.

Speaker bio

ASHVIN KUMAR – FILMOGRAPHY Tasveer (The Photo) – in development – feature – 2012/13 Inshallah, Kashmir – documentary, 81 min – 2012 Dazed in Doon - fiction, 55 min - 2010 Inshallah, Football – documentary, 83 min – 2010
 The Forest – feature fiction, 86 min – 2009
 Little Terrorist – live-action short, 15 min – 2005
 Road To Ladakh – fiction, 48 min – 2004 ASHVIN KUMAR - BIOGRAPHY The youngest Indian writer/director with an Academy Award Oscar® nomination, Ashvin is also the first Indian to be nominated at the European Film Academy with his film ‘Little Terrorist’ which has been part of official selections to over 130 film festivals, winning awards in 25 of them, including the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) LA. Ashvin is presently developing a film called ‘Hype’, a hedonistic clash of youthful aspirations with society, culture seeped in tradition: a view of urban middle-classes of New Delhi, contemporary India in a critical time of its globalization. He is also writing a low-budget feature-film about Kashmir: ‘Tasveer’, a story of a ten-year old girl whose journey to find her ‘disappeared’ father results in her finding Kashmir. In addition, a storytelling project for ‘Kids in Conflict’, whose aim is to teach screenwriting and film-making to kids who have to live in war-zones, an attempt to humanize and understand the internal-wars raging in democratic India today.
Ashvin’s recent work ‘Inshallah Football’ ( ;, won India’s highest honor for cinema, The National Award for best social film, Asian Cinema Fund (Pusan) grant, special jury-mention at Dubai, Silver Conch at Mumbai, audience-award at Asiatic Film Mediale and best non-fiction and best editing at IDPA (Indian Documentary Producers Association). It was part of official-selections of Doc-Liepzig (film-makers as change-makers) and INPUT 2012, TV and Public Interest, Sydney. And in-competition at Pusan, Chicago, NYIFF, NJISACF film-festivals. The film is a feature documentary about a talented Kashmiri football player who’s dreams of training in Santos (Pele’s club) in Brazil are stymied by the Indian government’s refusal to give him a passport because his father was a militant (fighting against the Indian armed forces in the uprising in Kashmir in the ‘90s). Its sequel, ‘Inshallah Kashmir’ ( ; is culled from three hundred hours of rare footage shot in the conflict-zone of Kashmir while shooting Inshallah, football. This film reveals the scars of two decades of conflict through testimonies of over forty people whose families have been devastated by the conflict. In order to avoid censorship after his earlier films were banned/restrained from circulation (see below) Ashvin decided to bypass the Indian censor board and release Inshallah, Kashmir online and free-of-charge on 26th of January 2012, India's Republic Day. It received over forty-thousand views in less than a week. This film is yet to begin its film-festivals and release journey. ‘Dazed in Doon’, is a coming-of-age story about a boy with an active imagination trying to make sense of life at the ‘Eton’ of India, a British style boarding school called The Doon School. This film was a one-of-a-kind participatory project. Completed in four months, featuring a cast and crew of schoolboys who were trained on the job and worked in association with a professional film crew. Both Dazed in Doon (below) and Inshallah, football were banned/restrained from circulation by Doon School and the Indian censor board respectively (More on: His first fiction feature film, ‘The Forest’ ( is a thriller with an ecological message, a chilling tale of a man-eating leopard set in the jungles of North India. ‘The Forest’ was theatrically released in India in May 2012, and is being re-released in the Hindi language in September 2012. It also released in Brazil, Thailand and Greece. The film premiered at Cinequest, and was in official competitions at Montreal and Sitges, Spain. Ashvin’s first film was also his student film, ‘Road To Ladakh’ ( It starred Irrfan Khan (Spiderman/Namesake/Slumdog Millionaire) and Koel Purie. Ashvin dropped out of the London Film School to make this film. Having persuaded an international cast and crew to work free‐of‐cost, the course fee saved was his production budget. It resulted in an experience that he describes as his ‘real film-school’. Besides being nominated for an academy award, his second film, Little Terrorist, became the first short film to get a theatrical release in India. The success of ‘Little Terrorist’ is noted for kick-starting India’s now vibrant short-film movement.
Ashvin is a voting member of the European Film Academy and was a member of BAFTA while living in the UK. He served as a Jury member in the 2012 edition of the Osians Cinefan Film Festival, New Delhi. Ashvin began working as an actor and director in theatre and after a degree in Media and Communications at the University of London after which he founded one of the first digital post-production studios in India in 1996. Recently, Ashvin has been teaching ‘storytelling’ in filmmaking. ‘Story to Screen’ is a three‐day intensive filmmaking course that takes participants through the history and craft of cinema, mythologies, psychoanalysis; it is a practical approach to writing, directing and the work of bringing a story to screen. For more:


  • 1

    [-] Vijay Anand 7 years ago

    Can this be clubbed with the Film Lab that Sudhish Kamath is doing?

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