Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Writing for YouTube

If you've subscribed to my YouTube channel, you are aware that I've been pretty busy making content for that site.  More so than I have been when it comes to writing print reviews (though I AM redesigning my website in the background, so that takes up a lot of time).  Most of the time I don't write my YouTube rants.  I simple turn on the microphone, say my peace, edit out parts of the argument that don't fit or get too much off topic, and then add some pictures and videos to the audio before posting it for the world to see.  On occasion though I will need to sit down and write a script for a video.  This is when I want to tackle a subject that requires many points to be made and has lots of little details I can't mess up on or else the comment trolls will jump all over you.  These videos I need to write down so I have a frame of reference when I record.  If I'm on camera I need to put them on the computer screen and move my head in a way that doesn't give off the impression I'm reading a script.

Here's the thing though... I'm not a screenplay writer.  For all the skills I have in writing, editing, and forming a proper sentence, screenplays have always given me trouble because they are too vague and brief.  You don't spend a lot of time detailing scenarios because that's what the director will be doing.  Dialog can't go on too long because there are other characters on screen.  I have written screenplays for unproduced shorts, but they were by far the most difficult things I had to write.  Yet I now find myself in a situation where writing scripts are necessary sometimes.  So how do I write them?  How do I recommend you write them?  Honestly, this is the one subject that you are on your own with.  There is no proper way to write a script for a YouTube video.  No one is going to see what you write (unless there is a cast).  The formatting doesn't matter because no one will be able to pick it out when the final video is produced and uploaded.

The way I write my scripts are very much like I would write any other blog post.  This makes sense because I write reviews and columns, and my videos consist mostly of rants and editorials.  With very few exceptions, I am simply writing a blog post that I will be reading out load.  On some pages I will make a note of certain images I need to have on screen at the time or certain sound effects I want to edit in for a humorous effect.  I don't edit them to the extent I do with my print material because I know no one will ever read them.  The thing is, I really don't like writing scripts because they are so much like blog posts that I am usually tempted to just clean them up and upload them as is.  I can sometimes forget the reason these are being written for YouTube is because a visual element is required to really drive the point home.

As much as I love the written word, we live in a generation of people who get their information visually and on little mobile devices.  I don't like to encourage that (which is why The Movie has not been mobile friendly up to this point), but I do have to follow the audience to a certain extent because that's where the money is.  I still update these crusty old blogs and websites because I do believe words have meaning.  Plus, when I have to write a script, I feel bad because I know the thing is just going to get tossed in the garbage once the video has been filmed.  Maybe this is an unjustified phobia, but it almost feels like I'm throwing away hard work when I do that (I wonder if that makes me a writing hoarder...).  Ultimately for me the process of writing a review and a YouTube script isn't much different, but depending on the type of video content you produce, your mileage may vary.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Religion and Reviews

Last night my parents and I went to a private screening of "The Young Messiah." While we all agreed that it was a good movie, there was much debate on the accuracy of the holy text and why certain known facts were changed when they didn't have to be (my mom took particular offense to James being a few years older than Jesus when they were the same age in the Bible).  She also mentioned that in the Bible Jesus didn't perform his first miracle until he was an adult and changed water into wine at a wedding (though, if you REALLY wanted to argue this point, I suppose you could say that was the first RECORDED miracle.... never mind, playing with fire on that one).  I commented that she was correct in this, but to make a movie about a young Jesus who didn't perform miracles wouldn't make for an interesting story.  Besides, the film was based on a novel from atheist-turned-Catholic Anne Rice, who is most famous for writing "The Vampire Chronicles" novels (which in turn inspired the short lived Elton John Broadway musical "Lestat"), so we should consider ourselves lucky it was as blasphemous as it could have been.

My family has civil conversations about these sort of things, but the bottom line is that when you go to see a religious movie - or, at the very least, a movie that uses religious writings as the foundation of the story - there is a good chance something is going to come into conflict with personal beliefs you may have.  As a Christian I am asked frequently (mostly by other church goers) whether or not I'm "writing reviews from a Christian standpoint or a secularist standpoint?" I admit to a certain extent I have no idea why this is even a question sometimes.  Critics are writing from their own standpoint.  They are writing the reviews how they view them, how the films affect them, and how they would discuss the film to the world.  Reviews are one of the most personal forms of journalism on the market.  Next to columnists, critics are the most personal writers in an industry that (in theory) largely distances personal feelings from the story at hand.

Critics have the wonderful freedom to say things like "I feel" and "this bothers me" and not get in trouble with the editors for using such terms.  If the critic is Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Atheist, or Jedi (a real religion by the way), then chances are their views will affect how they approach the film and what they take away from it.  If you need an example of this, look no further than the reviews for "The Passion of the Christ." Most people who had some belief or personal connection to the story found the movie to be deeply moving and spiritual.  Most people who had no personal connection with the story found the film to be nothing more than two hours of Jesus being tortured.  In some rare cases the feelings were reversed.  It was a great movie in my opinion, but one that was going to have to go through a filter between the person watching the film and what they believed or didn't believe.  Likewise, a movie like "American Beauty" was praised much more by people who weren't religious than by people who were.

Most of the time a critic will mention his religion (or lack therefor) when the time is appropriate.  Yes, you CAN put aside your beliefs and watch a movie about a religious subject as a way to be objective (and in cases like "Noah" it might be required), but most of the time the subject needs to be brought up so that the readers have an understanding of where you're coming from.  Obviously this doesn't mean that you need to be religious to enjoy a movie about Jesus or non-religious to enjoy a movie that is against the idea.  Certainly "Spotlight" proved that the believers and unbelievers can come together and agree that a good movie is a good movie regardless how sensitive the subject matter is.  As a critic it is best to bring up your personal views when it is appropriate.  Roger Ebert won the Pulitzer Prize but only brought it up in his reviews when the subject called for it.  Likewise, if you are reviewing a movie like "The Young Messiah," then chances are you will at least note your belief system just so that your readers have a better idea of where you are coming from.

To answer the original question that was posed though, if you are a Christian or Atheist writing reviews, then yes, you will automatically be writing reviews from those perspectives.  Those beliefs have helped mold and define your points of view over the years on every facet of your life, and that includes what you take away from film.  To emphasize your beliefs occasionally will be helpful to the reader, but if you write your reviews with enough skill, bringing this information up on a daily basis will not be necessary.  Your readers will get a sense of who you are based on what you write, how you word things, and even be able to measure who you are based on how much or how little you curse.  Reviews are a personally reflection of yourself, and that includes any religious belief you may or may not have.