“There are as many reasons for writing teams as there are teams (actually twice as many reasons, if you think about it). Loneliness I have mentioned. The bringing to bear of different sensibilities and experiences to a subject is another. The sobering effect of someone who can expose your dementia to the light of reason so it will shrivel and evaporate like Dracula in the sun. The usefulness of conversation as a tool for exploring and developing ideas is yet another” (Brickman in Stevens & Johnson,2016, xii).
What skills should we foster to become better collaborators, particularly when it comes to idea generation and development and, more specifically, scriptwriting?
How can we make the most out of a collaborative scriptwriting context?
In most television (and much of film) scriptwriting, teamwork is responsible for a great deal of the work: the development of a show or season’s themes, characters, plotlines and story beats. The material is generated in a writers room – a collection of people coming together to work collaboratively. Social behaviours (listening attentively and respectfully, pitching new ideas, building on other’s ideas, encouraging others to speak) are central to the process.
The development of the collaborative nature of scriptwriting may be as important as developing an understanding of traditional principles of dramatic writing (eg. intention and obstacle; rising tension; tension and release). When it comes to the physical typing of scripts, the collaborative nature of the process continues. Script editors and/or producers may work with individual writers, and in other cases, multiple writers will work together to generate a script. In some cases, actions and dialogue can be generated by writers and actors “acting out” a scene through improvisation and rehearsal.
Our studio will involve writers room scenarios. Scene ideas will be generated, developed and scripted in groups. We will make frequent use of the table read – where scripts are read aloud to determine how material is received by others. In this setting, the reactions, reflections and ideas of others will be used to inform further development of the scripts.
Principles of dramatic and comedic writing will be studied and practiced. Examples of high-quality writing from television, film, theatre and comics will be analysed and dissected. By the end of the semester, students will have produced several collaborative scripts and one extensively-developed filmed and edited short film.
BIO OF THE STUDIO LEADER/S
Dr Alan Nguyen is a writer and director working in TV (SBS, NBCU, ABC) theatre (Melbourne Theatre Company) and extended reality (EyeJack, Arts South Australia, Creative Victoria). Alan was a writer for the SBS television miniseries ‘Hungry Ghosts’ (Matchbox/NBC Universal), nominated for AWGIE and AACTA awards in 2020. His directorial film work has broadcast on ABC and won awards & screened at film festivals internationally. Alan served as writer and editor for groundbreaking AR comic book anthologies (published by EyeJack), VR designer for a videographic opera (Arts South Australia), and writer, director & producer of a VR science-based nature documentary (Creative Victoria). Alan is a Lecturer in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT.