The pandemic is having a detrimental effect on mental health, because people are being denied the opportunity to socialize. Single people, and single parents with children are some of those having the most difficult times. Yet, there are provisions for people in these categories to form support bubbles, at least in some communities. Once a bubble has formed, the main difficulty is finding something meaningful for the participants to do.
In this weblog post, the suggestion is to work on some form of video project. While it could involve the production of a documentary. Here, the focus is on fictional works. Plan B is to provide an opportunity to work together on a novel, or a derivative work such as a graphic novel. One reason for this focus, is at the end of the pandemic, the support bubble will have something concrete to show for their time together.
If there is any rule, it is to have fun! While doing so, learn patience. Don’t expect any early results. Allow creative energies to simmer, so the full flavour of dramatic energy emerges slowly. Savour it.
The videographic bubble regards filmmaking/ videography as a creative enterprise resulting in a work of art, rather than a commercial product. One of its aims, is to bring to life the scriptwriter in every filmmaker. Does the term screenwriter or filmmaker refer to a single individual? Perhaps in normal times, but in a pandemic it can be more fun to work collectively. Thus, the screenwriter is a collective, that morphs into a filmmaking and acting collective, if all goes well.
Previous weblog posts: In 2016, a more general Filmmaking with a social conscience was published. This was followed by a post on Institutional Cinema Theory. All of this was expected to be operationalized in Lost Tribes of Inderøy, with conceptual explanations in To Hell with Anne! These posts were followed up in 2018 with a Auteur vs Scriptwriting Team. The content of these remains valid. This current post is an attempt to relate it to the current pandemic.
The essence of the videographic bubble is to return filmmaking to small clusters of inspired, local, co-operative groups who make cinema/ film/ movies/ videos for fun, rather than profit. The idea for this weblog post emerged when I started to read an article about a major, commercial film production team, which involved anything but appropriate social distancing during the pandemic.
While, at the beginning of the millennium, there seemed an overabundance of books about digital filmmaking/ videography, far fewer emerge now. Many of those new(ish) books involves drones or weddings. One possibility is that potential guerrilla filmmakers are involved in making short documentaries for YouTube, and that they are less interested in making longer fictional content.
Canadian film producer Elliot Grove (? – ) has provided three useful books: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay (2001); Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-to-No Budget filmmaking (2004); 150 Workouts to Becoming a Filmmaker (2009). Another important writer about alternative filmmaking is the American Dan Rahmel (1969 – ) who has written Nuts and Bolts Filmmaking: Practical Techniques for the Guerilla Filmmaker (2004). Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe have also written, The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook, 3rd edition, (2004). The authors started writing this in 1991, and the first edition was published in 1996. There is also a pocketbook for digital film making, published in 2011. The DV Rebel’s Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (2006) was written by Stu Maschwitz.
Some of these books are now 20 years old. Thus, there is a disparity between the technology used today, and that suggested in the books. These books can be supplemented with more modern works. Even though Bryan Michael Stoller’s Filmmaking for Dummies (2020) is new, the author is looking at mainstream (read: Hollywood) production, so it is not a suitable resource for making budget videos. Fortunately, books are not the only source of information. New videos on the technical aspects of videomaking appear on YouTube every day, and may be the best way to keep up-to-date on technical issues.
A greater problem than technology involves changing attitudes to film making. Here other resources may be needed to discuss these challenges. Eva Novrup Redvall is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark. Her research focuses on film and media production, particularly screenwriting and creative collaboration. She has written, Writing and Producing Television Drama in Denmark: From The Kingdom to The Killing (2011) and with Anne Marit Waade and Pia Majbritt Jensen has edited, Danish Television Drama: Global Lessons from a Small Nation (2020). It latter explores the international appeal of Danish television drama and Nordic Noir in the 2010s. There are lessons that can be learned by videographic bubbles, even if they lack the budgets offered by the DR (formerly Danmarks Radio = Danish Broadcasting Corporation), a public broadcasting company, founded in 1925.
The most fundamental change in recent decades is to put screenwriting at the centre of the creative process, to use a screenwriting team, and to demote the film director role to that of an activity co-ordinator. For many Scandi-noir productions, director roles are given on an episode basis to junior staff members, as training exercises.
Before committing to write a manuscript, a support bubble may want to discuss engaging in many other, and very different activities. Some people keep notes in books, others prefer to use software. There are people who use both. Joplin is one. It describes itself as an open source note taking and to-do application. It is available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android and iOS. Another similar app is RedNoteBook. It is available on Windows, Linux and macOS, but not on Android or iOS.
Screenwriting programs exist for many different platforms and environments. Desktop applications are commonly available for Macs, but also for Windows and Linux machines. So far, they are elusive for Chromebooks. However, there are web applications that run solely within a browser on any type of machine, and apps that run on handheld devises. Unfortunately, many of these programs are published on a commercial basis and are expensive.
Another approach is to use a markup language. Screenplay, developed by John Pate, is an open-source formatting package for LaTeX, a software system for document preparation that separates presentation from content. Fountain, an open-source plain text markup language, has its origins in two different and non-related projects: Scrippets, developed by John August (1950 – ) and Nima Yousefi, and Screenplay Markdown, developed by Stu Maschwitz.
While it is an exaggeration to say that I used Trelby, I did play around with it, before the project was discontinued in 2012. Today (2021-01-24), I have downloaded it again, and will start to use it once more. Osku Salerma, originally from Finland, developed the program.
It is oriented towards screenwriting with an emphasis on simplicity, elegance and speed. Its screenplay editor enforced correct screenplay formatting, including pagination. There are also some auto-completion and spell checking capabilities. There are Windows and Linux versions available. When version 2.2 was released in 2012, Windows 7 was the most dominant Windows version.
For something more modern there is the Russian KIT Scenarist, another program to create screenplays, formatted to international film standards. It is partially open-source. Collaboration requires the use of cloud (other people’s server) storage, and payments. I will not be using it at the present time, but it is a backup system if Trelby fails to live up to its promise.
A Novel Bubble
Novel can be used as a noun, as in a book length fictional story. It can also be used as an adjective, referring to something new. In this particular case it refers to both, a new bubble for writing a novel. For some groups this might be an easier starting point, than writing a screenplay. In addition, it could morph into different products: what used to be referred to as a radio play or a graphic novel or a ???.
Writing a novel does not need the extensive set of tools required by a screenplay. Manuskript is an open-source toolset for novelists. It offers two writing modes. Simple mode offers only the most basic features. Fiction mode provides additional tools: summary, characters, plot, context, etc. There is also an outliner, that allows incomplete thoughts and suggestions to be organized hierarchically.
There are also some features that may be used less than others. These include the Distraction-fee mode. Then there is the Snowflake novel assistant, that encourages a single idea to grow into a complex whole with complex characters, intricate plots.
Perhaps the most important feature of this is the ability to store files in a folder that encourages collaborative editing, and allows versioning. Index cards are also available to organize thoughts, scenes, chapters, notes, etc.
While there is nothing in this post that restricts videography to specific geographical areas, people living in rural communities have more opportunities to videograph.
First, rural environments provide more locations where one can videograph without disturbance, than in more urban environments. This works both ways. Videographers will disturb fewer people, and other people will disturb the videographers, less frequently. In addition, it is easier to find quiet locations to avoid sound pollution, infecting scenes being recorded.
Second, ruralists have a greater opportunity to work less. One reason for this is that their housing costs relatively less, so they don’t have to work more to pay higher rents or mortgage payments. The videographic skills they learn can also be applied to more commercial uses, such as making advertisements for local companies.
Humans are frail creatures. People need to take breaks. Research has shown that taking a lunch break actually makes a person more productive. A 6 hours work day, and a 4 day work week is probably optimal. It results in a 24 hour work week, something that will soon be implemented in Finland. Work more than that, and major mistakes will be made. In another approach, Travis Bradberry contends that working 52 minutes, then taking a 17 minute break is optimal in terms of productivity. This is similar to the academic hour, that starts at 15 minutes past the hour, to accommodate people running late. It lasted 45 minutes, and provided a 15 minute break. Six of these in a day, optionally divided in two after three hours, with a 75 minute break, should be more than enough work to satisfy anyone.
Third, ruralists have a greater opportunity to play more with others. When people work extensively, there are fewer hours available for social interaction. When they work less, these opportunities expand. Play is necessary to maintain sanity.