The bleeding edge of screenwriting and media convergence

October 1996

by Terry Borst & Deborah Todd

filed 24 September 96 Copyright ©1996 alt.screenwriters

Terry: I’ve done my homework. I know the field. So how do I get an interactive scriptwriting job?

Deborah: Four words: Be your own agent.

Terry: Then where’s my rolodex? Who do I schmooze?

Deborah: You’ll find contacts in the interactive- related articles in The Reporter and Daily Variety. Also try The Multimedia Directory, published by The Carronade Group. It lists publishers and developers, platforms, tools, titles — it’s a great resource for targeting companies. Best of all, it includes contact names and numbers, so you know exactly whom to call.

Terry: I just call them?

Deborah: Absolutely! These people are easy to get on the phone. I once just called a company and ended up doing two titles with them. Identify companies that produce what you’re interested in writing, but be selective — because you’re often fighting an uphill battle.

Terry: When Technology married Entertainment, Entertainment came into the marriage with a new concept: the writer.

Deborah: And Technology said, “Gee, I love you honey, but I don’t know if I love you that much!”

Terry: So there’s still resistance?

Deborah: My experience has been all over the board. You have to be able to sell them on what you bring to the party — creating innovative characters and compelling content, and an ability to re-purpose existing material in fresh and original ways.

Terry: And you have to get interactivity. Character is spice in the interactive dish, it enriches the main course. But in a sense, your most important character is the Player or Websurfer. You have to keep him or her involved, satisfied, rewarded and challenged. So how do you reach out and grab this audience? You’ll need to convince the TechnoDudes that you can do it better than they can.

Deborah: One way to meet that challenge is with your writing samples. For my first interactive assignment — a children’s project — I used a script that I had co-written for an animated series, plus a couple of unpublished children’s books that I dug out of my filing cabinet. They were ideal for the job.

Terry: “Linear” work is still the best calling card. That said, I think the more you can use the technology, the more you’ll have a leg up. Imagine if you can walk into a meeting with a demonstration of your concept worked up through Macromedia Director. The producer can “click through” your ideas. Imagine if you can put up some Web pages that show what you envision. These are tools accessible to any writer now, and they’re nowhere near as hard to master as the art of storytelling.

Deborah: That’s a powerful combination — the traditional tools of story and character combined with the delivery tools of New Media.

Terry: So what else can I do to get work?

Deborah: Go to trade shows! Meet producers. Set up meetings. You’ll soon notice that the same people show up at most of these shows. You’ll be “in their face” and in their consciousness.

Terry: I’m a writer who makes more than the Guild minimum on both TV episodes and features. So why should I go to all this trouble? How can it possibly be worth my while?

Deborah: Interactive writing has to be something that intrigues you, or you’re wasting your time. You will take a pay cut on your first deal, but if you’re willing to think of this as an investment that can create career opportunities in the long run, then you should consider it.

Terry: With studio movies now costing $35-40 million on average, that market is all but closed to a majority of writers. Television is not growing as fast as we might think: a lot of it is “Nick at Nite” recycling.

Deborah: We need to seek out new markets. Be progressive!

Terry: At the moment, The Web is hot and CD-ROMs are in a downturn — but 10 years from now, this market, however it evolves, will be much larger. Somebody’s going to be writing for it.

Deborah: So next month, let’s talk about the deals you make.

Terry: There is no MBA, no Schedule of Minimums. You’re on your own out there. But we’re going to try to make it a little easier…

Written by tborst

September 24, 1996 at 8:53 pm

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