Saturday, September 24, 2011

You can't make stuff up

I'm writing another script for a sponsored film.  As TV writing becomes more difficult to obtain as our industry contracts, I'm happy to be writing drama for non-broadcast.  My current project is about foreign-trained lawyers trying to get qualified to practice law in Canada.

The most interesting part of the work is actually the research.  I meet with as many "stakeholders" - foreign-trained lawyers, Bay Street law firms, government lawyers, law profs - involved in this topic and listen to their stories.

Research is such an important part of the writing process because unless you know what you're talking about, your script will not be authentic.  Especially when working on scripts for targeted audiences, who usually will see themselves portrayed in the story, you have to tell the truth.

There's always an educational purpose to these kinds of films, but typically "training videos" turn people off.  They're usually prescriptive, hokey and false.  Rather than try and be prescriptive about behaviours, I try and convince the people who hire me that video is lousy with things that lectures, workshops and textbooks can do better.  What video does well is show behaviour.  And audiences then put two and two together when they recognize what they see.

So I try and get the participants in the story to tell me their stories, which I then use as springboards to drama.

When I find someone who will tell me their story, I always get something far more interesting than anything I could have made up.

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