Screenwriting And
The Digital Revolution

By Clive Davies-Frayne

Independent Filmmakin How To Tips I like to believe that when historians eventually write about the current revolutions in the film industry, that this period could be known as "the age of the digital bohemian." I believe this, because what I see is a rapid evolution and fragmentation of what it means to be a creative in this industry.

This evolution isn't always easy to see as a positive force, largely because it has often been driven forward by poverty and stupidity. If the digital revolution was a movie, then its opening scenes would show how the screenwriting community found themselves tossed out into the cold and snow by independent film-makers; the pages of their unwanted specs scripts cast aside, to spiral down the drain. Rather than bringing in a golden age of opportunities for screenwriters, the development of screen-writing was the first real casualty of cheap digital production. In the first act of the digital revolution, everyone who could afford to buy a camera, decided to write and produce their own script... regardless of their ability to do that. The results of that collective decision, to largely ignore the screenwriting community, has brought the independent sector to the sorry state it is in at the present.

Sunday Morning Movie BlogIt is the position we are in now, where it is almost impossible for a screenwriter to make a living within the industry, that I believe is fueling the next stage of development. Frustrated by the ineptness of many modern producers and the sluggish contempt of agents, more and more writers are starting to ask whether they can't bypass the normal process of write and pitch... and instead, they are looking to the new tools of the digital revolution: DSLR cameras, iTunes, uStream, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, blogs, podcasts, youtube, multi-media ebooks publishers, DVD on demand suppliers. They are looking at those tools and asking questions. If the start of the digital revolution was about the dominance and stupidity of camera owning producers, the sequel could be called "The return of the writers."

That is the thing about creative people. If you put them in a bare cell, with nothing but a pencil, they will write on the walls. What I am starting to see, is a generation of writers whose energies are being channelled directly into creating digital content, of some form. My belief is that we are just starting to see the transformation of writers, from passive employees, to being content producers in their own right.

I am one of those writers. I am a writer who still writes spec scripts for the industry, but who at the same time develops and packages my own projects. I am a writer who publishes e-books, a writer who blogs, a writer who believes that it is possible to turn our backs on conventional wisdom and create our own ways of story-telling. Some of which, will end up being movies and some of which will not.

It seems to me that there are only two questions that a writer need ask themselves these days:

1) What story do I want to tell?

2) What tools do I have to tell it with?

The idea that we can't build an audience for our stories, simply because we don't have the finance or the skills to make a movie, is no longer credible.  If a concept created on twitter like "Shit My Dad Says" can become a CBS TV show, then no writer has the excuse, that they don't have access to the means of production and distribution.

These days, the only barrier between a writer and creating something, is their belief that the primary goal of a writer, is to find someone to pay them to write a script. The thing holding back writers these days, is the idea that being a writer, always means being employed by someone else.

As I said at the start of this piece, we are starting to enter the age of the digital bohemian... the age when the next generation of writers could step up and take back the industry. The idea that the digital revolution was solely about recreating the existing industry, but cheaper, was hopelessly naive... as is the idea that owning a camera makes you a writer.

Although the last few years have been hard for writers, I suspect that's all about to change. Regardless of whether a movie is made on film or created digitally, the bottom line has always been that it's content that matters. As writers we are the people best qualified to benefit from the changes in technology and access to production and audiences... the tragedy, so far, is that we haven't fully understood the opportunities open to us and have instead often looked to other people to create the opportunities for us. If we continue to rely solely on producers and agents to find and create work for us, I believe writers will continue to be marginalised in the new production environment.  Our careers and our future as creatives, lie firmly in our own hands... and it's up to us what we do with that future.

I've spent a great deal of time thinking about precisely these issues: what does it means to be a creative in the current production environment? How do the new digital production tools create new opportunities? And, in what ways we can adapt and change the way we work and the way we view the business? This is how I developed the idea of Lone Gun Manifesto - a production philosophy designed encourage writers and actors to work together to create new pieces of work, and at the same time also remove the exploitation of actors, which is inherent in traditional no-budget movie making.

As I said before, for me, the important questions will always be: What story do I want to tell? What tools do I have to tell it?

It is by answering those questions, that we'll alter the evolution of the film industry from "the same old shit done cheaper" into something that we're not even capable of imagining, yet. One think I am sure of though, these are exciting times to be a creative in the content creation business.

viva la revolution

Clive Davies-Frayne aka @filmutopia

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About The Author

Clive Davies-FrayneClive Davies-Frayne is a writer and founder of Filmutopia, a European company specialising in digital content development.

He has spent the last twenty years working in the media industry, sometimes making a living as a writer, but mainly spent as a full time media-hobo and professional irritant. He has written and directed half a dozen shorts, radio drama for the BBC and two features, both of which are used by the Oxford English Disctionary to define the phrase " fallen into obscurity." He is best known for his iconoclastic rants about movie-making and the movie business. He has an unhealthy allergy to the use of the word “film” to mean "movie." He works with his cat, who was once listed as a the senior producer at Filmutopia and who occassionally acts as Clive's agent.

Here are the links

The Sunday Morning Movie Blog is here
Filmutopia is here
Clive can be found on twitter here

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Screenwriting and The Digital Revolution