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Updated: March 2, 2013 18:12 IST

Spin a visual yarn

Vishnupriya Bhandaram
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Amnon Buchbinder. Photo: Vishnupriya Bhandaram
The Hindu
Amnon Buchbinder. Photo: Vishnupriya Bhandaram

Screen-writer, teacher, author and story-editor, Amnon Buchbinder from Canada talks about the art of storytelling

In his workshop at the Ramoji Academy of Film and Television, Amnon Buchbinder said, “A world without stories is worse.” He went on to substantiate this statement juxtaposing a fresh narrative to a formula; the latter he said is a manufactured narrative which you achieve by putting different things, essentially, a lot of bad commercial cinema. “Now you can have good formula too, take James Bond for example. Most good films are about stories, but when they work and the idea gets repeated by others over and over, it tends to become a formula — when all you’re doing is imitating,” he says. He feels that a lot of producers believe that they must imitate a good product in order to make their product successful.

Amnon made his first film in High School, it was a film where the students of the school tie up the teachers and take over the school. From that he has progressed in different direction and has grown from strength to strength. He is a director, screenwriter, teacher, author and story editor. He teaches at York University in Canada and has directed two feature films, The fishing trip and Whole new thing. Whole new thing was screened at over 100 international film festivals and won many awards. Amnon has also made a number of short film and has tried making different narratives and experimenting in his approach. He has also extended his profile to include performing arts adaptations and documentaries.

As a screenwriter and teacher, Amnon feels that his job is to give creative people weapons to use in the battle to make good movies. But can writing really be taught? He answers with both, a ‘no’ and a ‘yes’. “You can’t teach people about inspiration or intuition, each writer has to discover it on their own. You can’t tell them what the right stories are. What you can do it give them tools which will allow writers to overcome their weaknesses,” says Amnon who also wrote a book on screenwriting titled The Way Of The Screenwriter. Amnon has seen enough of Indian cinema to conclude that screenwriting could be of help. “I don’t want to say anything categorical,” he smiles. He says that the audience in India have been enthusiastic and there has been a lot of acceptance of various types of formula and narrative. “Films here are entertaining in many ways but tend to go weak on a story level,” he says. Screen-writing creates a foundation for telling a story. “We tell stories in order to understand our lives better. A good story is both entertaining and meaningful. Formula tends to be entertaining but not meaningful,” he says. Amnon talks passionately about the story and says the all stories are escapist, but good stories are escapist in a way that you live through someone else’s life but understand something about your own life. At the workshop, Amnon used Pan’s Labyrinth as a focus and explain the ways of screen-writing. He explains, “Pan’s Labyrinth is very visceral and has a sense of brutality to it. There is intensity but it is serving an emotional impact as well. We need stories where we care about characters.”

A man with a beautiful vision of story-telling, Amnon however hasn’t made too many films. “I am first a screen-writer, but I am also a teacher and I became too invested in teaching to remain a seeker; it is always difficult to find people to accept your story as is and because I teach, I never felt the need to go all out,” he says with a broad smile.

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