Storytelling in the digital age

In spring of 2013, in an effort to illuminate how new digital technologies are impacting filmmakers, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held a series of seminars open to Academy members and special invitees. To explore the screenwriter’s role in this new digital landscape, the Academy presented “Turning the Page: Storytelling in the Digital Age,” hosted by writer John August (Big Fish, Frankenweenie) at the Academy’s famed Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Wilshire Boulevard.

It’s interesting reading the two different aspects of this piece. On the one hand, there’s a conversation about the issues new technology brings to us as writers – you can’t just have someone lose phone reception any more, because that doesn’t happen as often, nor are people as likely to just get lost somewhere, because apps like Apple/Google Maps are generally available to people most of the time. These changes in technology are forcing writers to be a little more creative and a little less lazy about getting their characters in to / out of certain predicaments, which can only be a good thing.

The other side to the discussion was how technology is affecting the actual production of movies. The ability to collaborate in real-time is a great benefit, but – as pointed out in the article – it seems to have led to a situation where films are starting to be shot when they’re not entirely ready. To meet ever demanding release dates for studios, major movies are commencing shooting before the entirety of the script is nailed down. In any movie you get re-writing as filming continues, but to not even have a complete script of some description before filming begins, and then pretty much “winging it” – just because you can – seems to just open the film up for trouble, and can go some way to explaining the mess of some recent major films.

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