15 March 2010

Screenwriting and the Hyphenate

by guest columnist David Spies.  Follow him on Twitter.



In today’s competitive industry, creatives must understand the importance of Hyphenate; a creative with the ability to be multifaceted, multitalented, and cross-specialize in a multitude of creative outlets.

Think of your current skill as a springboard with the option to wear many different hats. Specializing in one particular skill such as a screenwriter, may not generate the attention today that it may have twenty years ago. With that in mind, you’ll need to consider learning multiple skills that relate to your current specialty.

There’s a multitude of creatives in the industry that are already on this path. It really starts with the mindset of being a business person first. You must have the forethought and vision to realize the practical connections needed to build your brand and advertise for your project. Work to build the skills needed to be a Hyphenate.

If you’re one of the millions looking to make your mark in the creative industry you’ll need to be versatile. You’ll need to posses the fortitude to market yourself and your project. If your main focus is screenwriting, you’ll also want to try your hand at filmmaking, directing, editing and even acting. Having a good understanding of the different aspects in filmmaking will serve to make you a better writer.

Give yourself the title of “director” and start working with a video camera. This will give you a better understanding of shooting scenes, framing, blocking, sound, lighting and timing. Practice shooting short films. Get to know the mechanics of a video camera and how to operate one well.

Knowing the basic fundamentals of filmmaking will help when it comes time to put together a video pitch, video resume or a short film that demonstrates your collective abilities as a writer, director, editor and maybe even an actor. In most cases each of these jobs are exclusive to each other and would require the collective efforts from several creatives. However, it does help a writer to have a basic understanding of the work that’s required of each of these positions.

Video editing is another facet you should consider adding to your skill set. Most editing is performed as non-liner (digital) editing. Knowing how scenes are edited, e.g. timecodes, various transitions, greenscreen and manipulating time in video. Hands-on experience will give you a better understanding of working with video in a post production environment. Learning the art of manipulating the perceived flow of time is the task in video production that writers can learn a great deal. There are some occasions when your video will be real-time. However, in most cases, video duration will differ from the real-world time span of the story you are telling.

Learn the three possible ways of presenting time in a video or film sequence:

Time is expanded, i.e. slower than real-time.

Real-time, the video runs at the exact same time as it was recorded.

Time is compressed; this is the most common situation when working in video production. Your story will likely take place over days, weeks, months or even years. Time compression is applied to keep stories at an acceptable duration on film.

These are just a few examples of work that is required in the filmmaking process. In addition to writing, shooting, and post production, there are special effects, sound and music. If you’re a true hyphenate, this is where you take up guitar lessons…

It’s almost a requirement to have a social media presence if you want to succeed as a creative in the industry. Keep in mind that your primary goal of social media should be about networking, forging friendships and helping others. Social media is also about building and marketing your brand. If you’re unable to hire someone with a good understanding of marketing who has vision and creativity, you’ll need to wear the hat for this role as well.

Today’s technologies allow creatives to reach out to their audience like never before. In addition to your goal of attracting financing for your project, you’ll also want to be cognizant of the balance needed to build a large and influential audience. To do this, you must have an extremely well thought-out plan before you execute with your brand campaign. Once you have a marketing plan in place you’ll want to utilize web techniques such as blogging, social networking, and video sharing sites to share your creativity with the world.

Hyphenates can be found on Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a multitude of other social networking sites.

It may take a while to educate yourself in the many different aspects of filmmaking and the various roles of the creative process involved. Therefore, it would be in your best interest to consider collaborating with a filmmaking group. Your collaboration should be with creatives that share common interests and values. The most important interest and motivation being the desire to succeed as a creative in today’s industry. Seek to join a creative community or create one yourself.

- Commit to success and your dreams will be realized – David L. Spies

David Spies is a screenwriter and storyteller, having completed two feature-length screenplays; a comedy (Film Festival) and a horror film (Sasquatch the Movie).  For more information, be sure to visit his website, http://davidspies.wordpress.com, and follow David on Twitter for daily updates!

1 comments:

Maria said...

David - you make great points here. I will say, that times have changed dramatically. I've been producing for 20 years and it's vastly different than when I began.

I worked my way up from production assistant to Series Producer to Supervising Producer and then to Show Runner - and I learned A LOT. Every aspect of making a show, from writing, to editing, to shooting and then some.

What has changed it what is expected today in these economic times and with the vast amount of technology that is available in anyone's basement or on their computer. Today - a producer is expected to do it all. There is no 'specialization'. If you are going to produce you need to know how to write, shoot and edit - or someone else with those talents will be hired. I was fortunate, I had the chance to learn as I went from very talented individuals. It seems that today, you need to know it all before you're even out of the 'gate'.

 
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