Digital ‘underwriting’: A script development technique in the age of media convergence
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This article examines the use of digital tools to create audio-visual resources that can both inspire and inform the development of the contemporary feature film screenplay. With reference to Martin, Millard, Price and practitioners Waldo Salt, Raul Ruiz and Mike Leigh, I define this activity as a form of ‘underwriting’. This term refers to the creation of fictional, written or audio-visual work that does not feature in the screenplay but helps to inform the creation of characters, narrative and story world. The writers/directors listed above are noted for creating a mass of material that contributes towards the richness of their work but is not intended for publication in script form or in the final film. I then report on my own digital ‘underwriting’ in the early development of a feature film tentatively titled Fireflies. This activity has involved the use of digital cameras, mobile phones and social media to document and develop a screen idea during workshops with actors. The result is the creation of a mass of creative material (character improvisations, profiles and filmed ‘test scenes’) that informs the writing of my screenplay. Finally, I consider how this ‘underwriting’ might also function as an audience development tool. I situate my work alongside current industry practices in Australia and abroad (such as the production of proof-of-concept videos and mood reels) to demonstrate the increasingly common and desirable use of digital tools in the early development of a screen idea for both writer and audience.
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