Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Writing in different mediums

I write in different mediums - radio, TV, film and theatre. Each time I write a new play then I fall in love with the medium in which I’m writing and swear of all the others as lesser relatives – until I get an idea in a different medium and then I go through the whole process again.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the differences between each medium and more importantly the differences in process for each one.

I spend a lot of time testing out working processes for one medium and seeing if they transfer.
I believe very strongly that they are each a very unique medium and when writing is at its best they are vastly different creatures which require different processes. I think very few writers are genuinely masters across several mediums. There are a few examples, Abi Morgan is one that leaps out because I’ve recently seen The Hour, watched Lovesong and read Shame.

Also just for the record I want to state the obvious, TV, film, radio and theatre are all different.

I know it’s obvious but I get really frustrated with writers who don’t seem to notice. Yes, it’s all telling stories BUT it’s telling stories in very different ways. And yes you can pull some elements from one medium to another specifically to add something to that script. So yes, write a very filmic script for TV but know that you’re doing it as opposed to writing a film script and calling it TV. I see so many people saying things like, I’ve written a theatre play but someone said it would be good as radio so I’ve changed it a bit and sent it out and they’ve rejected it. Well yes, they would reject it because it isn’t a radio play. Or, I wrote this feature film but now I need to send something to a TV writing competition so I’m redrafting it a bit and sending it in – and guess what, surprise, surprise, it doesn’t win. Well yes it wouldn't win, as it’s a feature film crammed into a TV screen. Laughable I know but more than anything it makes me angry. As someone who loves all the mediums with equal passion I get very angry with people who have so little respect for the medium that they are writing in that they think, ‘changing it a bit’, will make it work.

Each of the mediums requires incredible and particular skills of writing, skills that are unique to that medium. Yes, some of the skills are transferable but some of them are very specific.

Even things that seem transferable are not - writing dialogue maybe? No. Dialogue for theatre, film, radio and TV are all very different.

A story demands to be told as well as it can possibly be told. As well as it can possibly be told in that medium. ‘Changing it a bit’ isn’t going to do that. Delving back into the core of the story is required, searching for the truth of the story, finding how that truth can be brought to life as either radio, theatre, film and TV. Each medium will demand very different things of the story and very different things of the writer. Listen to those demands.