SCRIPT on SCRIPT: May/June 2009, Pt. 1

As screenwriters trying to make it in Hollywood, we already know reality bites. Only about five percent of all professional specs that go out sell these days. Audiences are watching movies on smaller and smaller screens with shorter and shorter attention spans. And the traffic out here makes our struggling lives all the more hellish. However, Phil Gladwin’s article Reality Bites: Writers Get Clever inspired me to look at how reality sucks in a newer, more positive light.

Let me be clear that I’m someone who downright loathes reality TV and arrogantly prides myself on having never seen an episode of Survivor or American Idol or the next one of whatever. But while reading Gladwin’s retelling of Jade Goody’s story, I actually got caught up in it as a dramatic, true-to-life concept. I enjoyed it on the page before it was ruined by the exploitative presentation reality TV often lends itself to. And that got me very excited. It got me thinking about how we as writers often complain about what’s wrong with current trends and simply stick to what we’re comfortable with. But as Gladwin’s article points out, with the decline of reality TV and the rise of new media, we’re arriving at the next step in our yet-to-be-written history as writers: What will our stamp be on the direction of new media content?

Personally, I’m not that interested in watching a podcast or anything really on a screen the size of a Gameboy. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy writing the content if it’s a good story! It’s pretty exciting too because even writers can do it yourself — inexpensively. Short films, the kind that go to festivals, cost money (my credit card bill reminds me of that monthly). And they usually require a lot of production. But the kind of new media content intended for the Internet needs only a unique script, a cheap camera, and a couple people willing to get in front of it. Okay, maybe a little more than that. But go watch the shorts on, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s online shorts site, specifically “The Landlord.” Ninety percent of the pie is creativity — some of their best videos are the cheapest.

Also, take the example in Robert Gustafson’s and Alec McNayr’s article Anytime Creativity Strikes. The idea of a talk show in less than five minutes is immediately interesting simply because it’s never been done. Now obviously, as the article points out, those guys already had access to celebrities which draws audience. The same goes for Funny or Die.

That brings me to my question. What are you watching? Webisodes, podcasts? Are you writing any content for new media? Where do you think is the direction of new media content?

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Andrew Shearer

About Andrew Shearer

A redneck from Small Town, North Carolina, population 8,000, high school dropout rate, 40%, Andrew Shearer drew from that background when he co-wrote his feature screenplay Holy Irresistible. All the pain of an adolescence spent trying to avoid getting shot by bee-bee guns paid off when he was awarded the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship. Since, he and his writing partner have optioned their script Son Up, developed projects with production companies, and have won another screenwriting competition. Andrew lives in Los Angeles and is repped by William Morris Endeavor and Brillstein Entertainment.