The bleeding edge of screenwriting and media convergence

August 1996

by Terry Borst & Deborah Todd

filed 7.27.96 Copyright ©1996 alt.screenwriters

Terry: When the Guild put on its first big Interactive Media Forum 3 years ago, and later brought in 3DO because the company was seeking game concept submissions — there was one very important medium being left out of the Golden Digital Future everyone was forecasting…

Deborah: Let me guess…The Web. Tell me you haven’t joined the ranks of those who say The Web will replace CD-ROMs!

Terry: You know, when I initially got involved in ‘new media’ writing, I figured CD-ROMs were going to be a primary delivery medium for some time to come. Everyone’s comfortable with CDs, they know how to insert ’em and store ’em, so they’re not going anywhere…

Deborah: Okay, I feel better now.

Terry: But since you’ve been around CD-ROMs for a few years yourself, how eager are you to install a new one?

Deborah: I don’t do installations. Well, okay, so I’ve done a few. I’ve suffered through so many installations that now I have a rule: if the manual has more than one page dedicated to installation, my husband installs it. I put together the swing sets Christmas Eve.

Terry: And I bet he tries to swap… Now: my first time surfing the Web and I thought, you gotta be kidding… This is the WORST of all possible worlds: shallow text, itty-bitty pictures, and endless waits to download a 5-second video clip.

Deborah: Yet the Internet has managed to take off as an entertainment medium. Has channel-surfing shifted to netsurfing?

Terry: You’re on to something. To me, the reasons that The Web has taken off at the same time that the CD-ROM market has flattened are now so obvious

Deborah: Enlighten me…

Terry: The Web’s so EASY — and it has Adult Content appealing to both men and women. There is no installation for The Web (once your browser works, it works), no twitch factor (good for anyone over 25 )–

Deborah: — no winning or losing —

Terry: — the content is almost infinitely customizable, and there’s always closure (you don’t have to play for hours).

Deborah: TV with 500 thousand channels…

Terry: Most of them every bit as time-wasting! But, there are several dozen original soap operas and serials now being “broadcast” on The Web. A few written by Guild writers, with more in the works.

Deborah: Screenwriting, right?

Terry: Maybe a new definition of screenwriting. I find them to be sort of “cubist” soaps. Text, stills, and short video and audio clips combine to create a world. It’s Melrose Place, but you get to look at Jo’s portfolio and Kimberly’s loony bin chart.

Deborah: You know, I was so hooked on General Hospital when I was in college that I scheduled my classes around it. I shudder to think of the impact on my life if I had had access to Luke’s little black book and Laura’s diary. As a writer, this sounds intriguing. Maybe I should pitch this! Got any suggestions?

Terry: The stuff’s still in its infancy. A WGA member who has already done one of these calls it “Short Attention Span Theater.” Arguably perfect for our times, but not exactly Best Years of Our Lives

Deborah: Or Hill Street Blues

Terry: Ultimately, it’s another stab at new ways of storytelling, and I’d argue yet another transitional one.

Deborah: More transitions?

Terry: In 10 years, The Web’s going to be very different. The novelty of clicking through hypertext will get old, but there’ll be something new to replace it. Gobs of real-time video and audio aren’t going to be a problem — and further down the line you’re going to see some amazing virtual reality and artificial intelligence interfaces…

Deborah: So we all wait 10 years, until this all shakes itself out? When so much is happening now?

Terry: Well, you’ve got all these immature venues. (Like talkies in 1930.) Interactive CD-ROMs. Web broadcasts. Online MUDs (which we’ll have to talk about another time). So I guess that brings us to the question: if I elect to try the talkies, rather than wait for them to figure out how to move that horribly boxy camera, how do I enter the market? Is there any money in it? Is there any future in it — now?

Deborah: You pose questions I constantly hear. Bottom line, how can a writer make the transition, and make big bucks — or at least some bucks? Next month I’m going to reveal all my secrets.

Terry: About how to put together those swing sets, right?

Deborah: I’m not givin’ away that one, buddy…

Written by tborst

July 27, 1996 at 7:39 pm

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