The Rules of Technology for Playwrighting

December 5, 2012 by Sam Graber

The Rules of Technology As They Relate to Playwrighting with a Key To The Scriptures.

Earlier this year, during the waning moments of a glorious Minnesota summer, I was lucky enough to get invited by The Playwrights’ Center to serve on a three-member panel regarding the impact of technology on playwrighting. I’d like to think I was asked because of my impressive grasp of various technology issues, and because of my dazzling awareness of the impact of key writer-related technology, as well as how to communicate complex tech issues to the average writer.

Yeah. I’m pretty sure I was asked because I pestered them for over a year to put on this seminar. It became evident that the other two peeps placed on the panel were far more astute than I, given they worked tech for a living, whereas I was just a meager playwright trying to somehow best my Minesweeper Level Beginner time.

However, if I could defend my panel-serving worthiness, I did for an extended part of my life labor deep into the asset-managed and resource-deployed world of professional business. It was from this eon of pain that I did extract a list of technology rules as they relate to playwrighting to offer to the seminar audience.

I remember my first week in the world of Fortune 500. I found myself looking over the shoulder of the Vice President of Entertainment who was squinting at this green screen with little numbers laid in stark green arrays, as if something from a 1960s train terminal. No graphics. No special fonts. No fancy user interface. I mean, this is the land of dollar billions and here is this throwback screen with the kind of vicious green that would kill Dick Clark again. Turns out they called the green screen the ‘green screen’. And people were slaves to that green screen. Millions of dollars in decisions were made daily, if not hourly, based on the green screen.

Point is, here’s this post-WWII green screen of hateness that was probably around since the Fortune 1 and these titans of industry didn’t want to upgrade. Why? As an overseer of precious budget dollars, you have to make smart decisions about when to outlay funds for garnering higher returns. I know, I know. This reads as staid MBA speak. But I put to you, my fellow playwrights, that a lot of the lessons I learned from the hallways and cube-ways of commerce parlay direct to our playwrighting world. Our world is about creating works of dramatic art. And in today’s world we rely on objects of technology to get this done.

Of course, technology can get expensive. So like you I’m always wary about rushing out to buy the gleaming new SKU of popular fancy, or the over-advertised and much-hyped version release for something that was already version released last month.

Anyway, when I gave the presentation at The Playwrights’ Center I stood up and grandly announced my Rules Of Technology As They Relate to Playwrighting with a Key To The Scriptures. No laughs. Hmmm. If you see Tony Kushner tell him I said comedy is hard.

  1. Technology will not aid your writing unless you have a solid creative process to begin with.
  2. Technology can save you money and time once you realize time and money are not the problem.
  3. Technology doesn’t have vision.  Writers have vision.
  4. Technology is worthless without training.  Invest your time when there is a clear goal and a clear return.
  5. Technology and stress are related.  So are technology and fear.  Also, technology and quality of life.
  6. Technology can seduce.
  7. Technology can trap your writing in a room.
  8. Technology can make your writing easier, faster, better and more fun.
  9. Technology applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.
  10. Technology applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

My #2 garnered the largest nodding of the heads and smirks of appreciation. I can’t soapbox enough (PREACH ON) that time and money are not our problem. Our problem is figuring out how to tell the best story in the best way through a dramatic construct that makes the audience collective jaw drop. I know people who get this done with pen and paper. I know people who get this done with green screens. I know people who get this done with a 64-bit/1.73GHz/6MB L2 cache/8 thread/8GB RAM system with dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 425 2GB graphics card. See #6.

While on the subject of #6, I once spent an entire week avoiding the writing of an Act II by training myself on Scrivener. I first overloaded my eyeballs with video tutorials before tinkering with the entirety of the free download, absorbing hours of time that could otherwise have been spent, you know, storyboarding and developing character. But it looked so shiny and feature rich. Then I ended up not using Scrivener and reverted straight back to the good ole’ authoring app I’ve been using for years. Oh yes, the legacy of shirk continues.

Disclaimer: I borrowed #9 and #10 direct from Bill Gates. If you haven’t heard of Bill Gates then please disregard everything you’re reading here in this Clickies post and kindly direct yourself to my plays area thank you very much.

Technology can be anything. A computer. A special graphite pen. A stopwatch. The play is in your mind. The play sits on your tongue. The play is on your fingers. Whatever it takes to encode, capture and translate that play idea to others in the way that best suits your creative process is the objective. Technology works for you, not the other way around.

But in the hilariously wild event that you happen to be Bill Gates and you happen to be coming here to find out who’s been stealing your ideas, so there’s no hard feelings, I made Windows my bitch starting in 1996. Also: fund the arts more.

And just so you know, because we’re all friends, Minesweeper Level Beginner in fourteen seconds.

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