Week seven: Screenwriting culture in the digital age

Writing is an odd beast, both influenced and unchanged by technology. On the surface, the outcome of writing is for us exactly what it was for previous generations: print on a page. But in addition to that we have other ways to disseminate work: online, self publishing, podcast, etc. This carries with it an unprecedented access to resources and, therefore, a high level of competition.

Mulder, it’s me…

What we write is changed too. Technology allows for tidy exposition. You can find information in-scene. The telephone in your character’s pocket gives you huge scope for delivering just the right piece of information at the pertinent time, speeding up the pace of the plot. This can be seen to great effect in The X Files which was on screen as mobile communication technology came of age. Early episodes required Mulder and Scully to have a base office where the investigating could take place, whereas later episodes relied heavily on exposition through telephone calls, with the phrase “Mulder, it’s me” becoming almost a catchphrase for Scully as she rang to explain large chunks of the plot to her partner. Later, in the reboot of the series, Google too was referred to. It’s funny to think of how different those early episodes, and Mulder’s encyclopaedic knowledge of weird phenomena, would have been if Google had existed back then.

How we write is affected by the accessibility of writing tools. We’re no longer tied to a desk and a heavy typewriter, we can go anywhere. Once can literally immerse oneself in the world one is writing about.

Finally, how we grow and expand out creative practice can’t help but be altered by the access to resources we have. Ebooks, podcasts, on demand film, television and theatre libraries, all of these things that can enrich our development. We can use social platforms for networking and self-promotion, yes, but also for research. First hand testimony, being able to speak to real people, has never been easier. It’s possibly made being a writer a more solitary activity than it was historically, but it’s simultaneously opened up worlds to us.

I’m going to add a section on extra-curricualars at the bottom of my posts because these are also massively influential to my writing. It might be helpful to see what I was watching, reading, experiencing as I made progress in my work.

This week:

  • Reading: Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood
  • Seeing: Nicola Shindler interviewed at the BFI, Jemma Redgrave interviewed at J Sheekey
  • Watching: Collateral, Jessica Jones
  • Listening: The Royal Court podcast: Dennis Kelly and Joe Penhall (from 2016)

This entry forms a part of my MA Writing for Script and Screen Reflective Journal.