(1) At the beginning of each scene the following information is given:
The number of the scene.
Whether it is live in the studio or filmed.
Whether it is interior or exterior.
Whether it is at night or by day.
The set (if live); the location (if filmed).
(2) At the end of each scene there is a direction showing how it is to be linked to the next. If the scene ends a sequence the fact is stated. (A sequence is a group of scenes comparable to a chapter in a book or a movement in a symphony. It covers a complete stage in the development of the plot.)
(3) Stage and camera directions are set right across the page; dialogue is in-set.
...One of the advantages of this lay-out is that there is no doubt as to where a scence or sequence ends and where the next one begins. Nor can there be any doubt as to how the writer intends the scenes to be linked.
That deals, as far as it is possible to do so here, with the three main problems of the writer, but there are naturally others which vary with each programme. One difficulty however crops up so often that it should be given special mention: it is the difficulty of giving the appearance of continuous action or movement where actually there is a break.
...I do not think anyone imagines that writing for television is an easy business; even for the writer who has succeeded in the theatre, the cinema, radio or elsewhere, there is a new technique to acquire and the difficult process of adapting a personal style to the needs of a complex medium. But it is my belief that the attempt is worth-while, not only for the rewards of success, should they come, but also because it will introduce the writer to a new and exciting field of experience. Finally, it should be realized that television needs the writer even more than he needs television. Without him it can never grow to maturity, never deploy its latent power; and it can never be a wide, open and shining window on the world.
(From Television in the Making, ed. by Paul Rotha)
THE EDITORIAL INFLUENCE
What is a good television assignment and what is not? There are many variables involved; the editorial values of a story; your resources, in terms of personnel and equipment to do the job; and the cost, in terms of money, time and effort. Also much depends on what you are trying to do, in your overall approach to the responsibility of covering news for your station.
You may not completely control this over all approach. Much depends on the basic attitudes and policies of the station management, and it is necessary to work within that framework. If your operating budget is small and your staff is limited, your coverage necessarily reflects such limitations.
...There are several basic points to keep in mind about assignments. The most important one is: People are more interesting to people than inanimate things. A building may be impressive but when a person comes into the frame, your attention shifts to that person. We should exploit this natural curiosity about other people because, whether we realize it or not, all of us are constantly seeking to understand one another
But an interest in people doesn't mean that all interviews
will be interesting. All too frequently interviewing somebody in the news is used as the easy way out. We are not covering a story if we get somebody to say on camera what has already been published in the press and broadcast on radio. Unless the interview carries the story further, provides new information or sheds new light on development, there's little reason to use it. Of course, one cannot always know whether a film interview will carry the story one step further, so we often have to try it, and see what happens. But just because it has been shot doesn't mean it must be used.
Not is interest in people justification for indiscriminate interviewing of the so-called man in the street. You are not providing news or information when you ask somebody to be an expert on something they cannot possibly be qualified to discuss. Man in the street assignments are really not valid unless you are asking people questions they are qualified to answer.
What makes a good television film story? I believe it is writing of the story. Good writing can make a striking piece out of routine visual elements. And the fact is, most of what one can film is quite commonplace and routine. And though an imaginative approach by a good cameraman can make something interesting out of a Rotary Club luncheon, there's a limit to what he can do visually.
One picture is not necessarily worth a thousand words. It depends on the words, how they are put together, and most important, the idea behind them.
Another important aspect of assignments: know your staff and use them to the best advantage. Certain men can do better with a certain kind of story than others, because of their own individual make-up. The special talents of a reporter or cameraman should be taken into consideration in making an assignment.
Too frequenty we are content to settle for what is really talking coverage of an important story instead of doing the kind of job television can do. The city, state or federal government passes legislation or undertakes some project. So we interview the man who sponsored the bill or heads the project. In doing so we are being dull. We are quality of not taking advantage of the very special capability of this medium. Newspapers are limited to doing this - but we are not. Instead of having somebody talk about it, we can show it. Why settle for an interview with the city councilman or a state representative when there's a wealth of meaningful stories to be had by digging a little.
When we assign a story, we don't try to spell out in detail how it should be done. We expect that the team doing the story will know what to try to include in the piece. If there's a special angle in which we are interested , we tellthem what it is. But on the whole, we leave it up to the men in the field to figure out what is the best way to do it. By being on the scene, they know what the local conditions are and what problems are.
...So it is up to the correspondent on the assignment to come up with an angle that will be interesting informative and will put the story in perspective.
Again and again, this is done with adequate but less than extraordinary visual elements coupled with good writing.
A good assignment should both involve a good idea and good men to execute it. But the fact is that even when the idea isn't so good, if the men who handle it are skilled and imaginative, chances are you will come up with something worthwhile.