Friday, September 15, 2006

Tools In The Trade

Last night I made the mistake of taking a notebook to bed with me. Which gives some indication of my heady social life.

After writing a couple of lines of copy for each of the projects on The List, one piqued my interest and I wanted to sort out the relationship between three of the four main characters. It started out as notes, but ended up as what would become the dialogue for the opening scene between two characters, written as a solid block of text on a ruled scratch pad.

Typed up this morning, still with most of the description missing, it ran to almost three pages. All done without Final Draft, or the other softwares of that ilk. Using Word for Mac, the formatting for character names, dialogue and every other pagination, can just as easily be set in the Styles Palette.

While predictive smart type functions may float some people’s boats, having learnt to type on a manual typewriter, long before it ever needed to be plugged in, I still find it quicker to write out a word than work out which keyboard shortcut will give me that word. Rather than have a laptop, for when I’m out and about, 6x4 ruled record cards and a pen do the job just as effectively, and more quickly. Sure, handwritten notes then have to be typed up. But the time allows a brief rethink that can enhance the material.

Not long out of the Esteemed School of Art, while working on the big animated extravaganza, I met up with a guy from my year who had got in at one of the fledgling facilities houses that were sprouting up in Soho. After congratulating each other for successfully scaling the sides of the playpen and escaping into a decent job, he ultimately bemoaned the lack of imagination in some of the projects he was working on. In fact, some had no imagination at all.

On an almost regular basis, the designers from one of the London Independent Television companies would pitch up with a bucket of money, explain the nature of the programme, and ask for a title sequence. Mainly it would be for some wretched little Light Entertainment show, and invariably the facilities house would put together smiley faces of the presenters bouncing around the screen, trailing stars and other graphics in their wake, before the show’s title mercifully put a stop to all the nonsense.

Why? The facilities house had installed Quantel’s Paintbox. Who needs to have a lucid idea when technology can vomit up something lovely and shiney at the touch of a button?

Amongst the various people Work Buddy and I have consorted with over the last year or so, there have been a couple of potential Norma Desmonds-in-waiting, here in England, looking to expand, creatively at least. Before even writing a word, both proudly announced they had installed Final Draft on their computers. Yet the work we saw from one was execrable, the other still talks the talk.

It’s just like people who think signing up for a gym membership will shed the pounds. Or folk who buy the top-of-the-range rod, nets, waders, and every other accoutrement, and then go down to a pond to fish for guppies.

Sculptors managed to get by with a hammer and chisel, artists seem happy using brushes to daub paint onto canvas. With such basic tools, the results are still utterly startling. The softwares may be beneficial for the final stage of the process, but it’s a long road to get there.


At 6:12 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

Another one for the 'old school' club...good stuff.

I'd say I'm somewhere in the in I have no problem working with tabs in Word if need be...but when it comes to production and the flurry of page changes that come with that - the 'program'(Screenwriter 2000) sure is handy.

At 5:26 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

When it comes to the final stages of production, and new pages need to be spat out lickety-split, I'm all for software that'll have everyone on the same page. (Ouch!)

But it's the folk that think buying the kit makes them a writer... Which key do you press for that again?


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