Friday, 26 October 2007

Writing for digital

"Hey, who wants to be chained to a keyboard sweating to strengthen a character arc or imposing a three-act structure on a screenplay when you could be out there waving a camera in the streets with cool people and actors that amazingly ... make up their own dialogue.

Too much digital stuff looks more like an acting workshop from a first-draft screenplay, shot by whoever could borrow a camera - and it is giving digital production a bad rep."

Vincent Monton - cinematographer

I'm about to embark on a Digital Feature and I thought I might examine some of the fundamentals when approaching this lucrative creative style.

What does it mean when we say digital? Well I guess these days it represents the non-analogue technology that is used when shooting, in post, and in broadcasting our ideas. The closest thing we have to our minds which are Über digital in the way they handle and manipulate information. So when we say digital we mean everything is datafied, it is all streamed through chips, it is soft.

Ever bought something from Ikea? Well furniture that has survived from 8Th-century B.C might be what the difference is in who is making what, and I'm not talking about the actual hard copy material of the work, but the ideas that exist within - of course some movies age better than others but does ease of production mean better results? The point Vincent was making in his statement at the start of this post was the temptation to two minute noodle your script instead of making a proper "meal" of it - even a Planet Nine movie was laboured at by the haphazard and posthumously notorious creator, Mr Ed Wood, even if it was done without realising its slightly below grade style.

The way I see creation with digital filmmaking is that now more then ever we have time to re-work material, in the same skein as what made Bohemia flourish in the writer's quarter of France - we as filmmakers have a chance to share our ideas and re-work the outcomes in the same way a writer like Henry Miller may have shown his manuscript draft to Anais - digital has done what the printing press has done for literature, it has put production at our doorstep, made it more accessible.

There is no doubt about it, people still say that a good script will make or break the efforts of a filmmaker. Sometimes of course an audience aren't looking for a good script, they want martial fight scenes, scantily clad heroines, and tough guys wearing dark glasses, so I guess it depends what side of the fence you sit on.

For me however I take a lot of time on my scripts, that's why I write, that is my canvass, like a tailor who makes fitted suits because that is a true definition of a fashion statement not what we quite often confuse with other forms of dress which is more akin to being a statement of fashion. The same goes with writing for digital, in my books, you may be of a different opinion and "that's just the nature of the way things works" (Barfly 1987).

The script that I am writing is however taking a traditional format such as the over-done murder mystery and using those set of rules in that genre in conjunction with the rules of digital filmmaking, the ability to be non-linear in approach to narratives, quite often plugged by academics with not so exciting examples of the theory. However, give an idea a better context and you can break convention as well as improve on genre just by the approach taken at the incubator level, i.e. when you've gotten through half a bottle of red in front of a computer making fist prints on your keyboard.

Often academics or tech heads will produce narratives in the digital realm that are not more exciting then the mode of production, and I think that is the mistake. The idea should surpass the means, of course if something picks up at the production level that comes across pretty neat, then you've made more rich already the wealth of creativity supplied from the meat end (the brain). A great idea leeches off its mode of expression for example ... calling a record label "Virgin", making a car for "the people - Volkswagon", giving your city a personality "The city that never sleeps - New York", etc etc.

That is my approach, what are some of your thoughts on digital filmmaking and the drawing board before approaching production?

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