Priya Kumar on why good storytelling isn’t about following a trend but creating content that is relatable
After starting her career as a motivational speaker, Priya Kumar has donned many hats – as an author and screenwriter. She believes that good storytelling isn’t about trends but about honest and evergreen content.
Sunday June 02, 2019,
6 min Read
Priya Kumar was just 22-years-old when she started her career as a motivational speaker in the mid 1990’s. Later, she went on to become a business coach and author. Through her venture - Priya Kumar’s Training Systems - she has worked with around 1,500 multinational companies, and over the years, has also authored 10 award-winning books like The Wise Man, The Perfect World, and License to Live among others.
Priya, who is currently working on the biography of badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, has donned yet another hat, this time as a screenwriter. She is making her debut as a screenwriter for the web series called the Final Call, which is an adaptation of her novel ‘I will go with you: The flight of a lifetime'. The show, which premiered in February on Zee5, is based on the missing Malaysian flight MH370, and has a great star cast with Arjun Rampal, Sakshi Tanwar, and Javed Jaffery as lead actors.
Also read: Women Entrepreneurs: Learn Secrets of the Trade by Priya Kumar
In a chat with HerStory, Priya talks about what makes a good story, how to capture the audience’s attention, and how to hold your own as a storyteller.
HerStory: Tell us about your new career path. What made you turn to screenwriting and that too for a web-series?
Priya Kumar: Writing for film and web series is actually an extension of what I do. It allows the story to garner different mediums of exposure and reach to different audiences too. My vision is to be a director. I am also a graduate from the New York film academy where I learnt film direction and screenwriting, and I am all set to get onto direction after my debut with The Final Call.
HS: Do you think platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix have changed the way content is consumed? Are web series the new big thing?
PK: Well, yes. OTT platforms have changed the way content is consumed, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are making great content. With the emergence of the digital platform, you know there is no censorship whether it is in terms of language or storytelling.
So, what is needed is great storytelling and fresh content. The onset of OTT platforms has opened a windfall of opportunities for artists and businessmen, and it’s a great time to be in the creative field.
HS: As someone who is producing a web-series and writing them, how do you gauge what the audience will like? What will work and what won't?
PK: I don’t follow trends. My benchmark for anything that I do, whether in motivational speaking or writing books or web series, is that is it going to add value? Will it compel people to think? Will it keep them hooked enough to imbibe and grasp the message? Those are my criteria.
If the content is fresh and new and meaningful, it will be evergreen. If one apes and follows the trend, then you have embarked on an unknown journey. My content is in the genre of spiritual thriller. While you are entertained and intrigued, you also learn and grow.
HS: You have leveraged platforms like YouTube to share content. How have you really made yourself stand out to have so many followers? What kind of effort went into it? What would you tell people who are trying to grow their channels on YouTube, and how can they succeed like you?
PK: Anything that is done consistently and with constant improvement works. I have posted a video once a week without exception for the past two-and-a-half years. That is a big commitment to create new and relevant content every single week. That itself is the tough part. And then goes the time in the shoot set up and the video edits. That costs a lot. But then, that’s the price you pay for service and for building your brand. It is worth it. Also, I have always done what I have felt right. So, while people told me that the language of my content should be Hindi, I took it to the audience across the world and shot all my videos in English. Many people told me that I was restricting my reach, but I feel I have expanded my horizons.
While cheap content, shaded humour, controversies, and nonsense form trending content, I am not in that game. I make content that is inspirational and motivating and have stayed true to my purpose. I have a great following of like-minded people and that’s what makes my community special and worth my time.
People who want to grow their channel need to know that content is your primary foundation. Go with what resonates with you. Don’t follow trends or use controversial tactics. Communicate with your followers, genuinely. Improve your videos in terms of shoot, creative design, and edits. It goes a long way in setting you up and building your brand.
HS: What is the biggest challenge you've faced till date, and how did you overcome it?
PK: I am always up for challenges. The bigger the better. Last year, my trusted accountant wiped out my entire bank account. To have worked so hard all your life and to be cheated of your earnings and savings was a major set-back. It took me one week to understand what had happened and then started a new journey to set it all right. So instead of agonising over what had happened, I rolled up my sleeves to fix it. While the police and the law took over the case, my money could not be recovered, but I did not break down. I immediately got to work and rebuilt my life back in the months to follow. My challenge stood that I would earn faster than anyone can steal from me. That incident taught me many lessons in judging people, trust, handling accounts, and sniffing out loopholes that could potentially destroy you. It’s simple, when things go wrong, understand the problem at hand and get to work immediately to set it right. The more emotional you become, further the mistakes you will make. I get emotional after I have solved the problem. Now I can look back and have a good laugh. That’s the correct emotional response to a crisis and a challenge.
HS: How do you keep yourself driven and motivated?
PK: I love what I do and so I want to do more. That’s the beauty about love. Everything that I have chosen to include in my life, love has been the only and final criteria and so the motivation comes very naturally and easy.
It’s when you don’t like something, or when your heart is not in it that’s when life becomes tough and you need to be pushed and motivated.