It's hard not to go online and not be, well, a tiny polka dot bikini bit desperate about the human world, if for no other reason than what that world is doing to the planet, and how little everyone is doing about it, myself inc. This is not a political statement; it’s a statement about logic (in this case, the absence of it).
I only start this blog about screenwriting in this way because I’ve just seen a Facebook post about someone who is asking if Final Draft (or any other screenwriting software) can format stage plays. What this person means is: can software save me the trouble of having to use the space bar and tab key as I write my stage play? This person is asking this question seriously; no irony or sarcasm is involved.
Only in the First World. I know.
This Facebook post made me think of the way some technology can, at times, addle us and make us redundant. Take Satnavs. Did Indiana Jones have one? Or Shackleton? Or Scott?
Or Neil Armstrong?
Look at driverless cars. Aren’t they pretty? Well no, actually. They're ugly as sin should be, but isn't. Anyway: driverless cars mean humans lose the skill of driving. Developing skills evolves us at a neuro-muscular level, and can, at times, ennoble us. Check out Ron Layport’s woodwork. Then check it out again. Then spend ten quiet minutes in awe. Anyhoo: driving involves interaction with other road-humans. For better or worse, yes; but there is interaction. Driverless cars mean even more isolation from other road-humans, and the environment around us. What might a now redundant driver do, while the car is driving for them? Sleep. Read? Ponder, research, and practice screenwriting? Good idea! I love driverless cars! Or perhaps engage with their smartphone? Perhaps log onto Facebook, and consider this activity to be interaction. Engaging with social media is, of course, a sort of interaction. It would be mad to rally against social media. They are the way things are. They are here to stay. But then so is climate change.
I am reminded of John F Kennedy’s famous speech at Rice University on Sept. 12, 1962. Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ateh7hnEnik
I think this is worth watching repeatedly; and that the most famous sentence in this speech is worth quoting and re quoting ever day of our lives: "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard." Imagine choosing to do something because it’s hard. How can we imagine anything else? When we cultivate our ease, we court our ruin.
The hard thing to do is usually the right thing to do.
I’ll try to tell my teenage son that now.
OK, so that didn’t work.
My point is that technology (the internet and online devices included, of course) can sideline humans and isolate them from the things they need not just to survive, but to flourish as sentient simians. I once wrote ‘Technology only protects us from the catastrophe it creates until it’s too late.’ This is bleak, yes, and I’m all better now (he lies); but the climatic cataclysms going on in America and the Caribbean at the moment lend a frightening dimension to my juvenile assertion.
Perhaps the most depressing thing I saw online this morning was an article stating that climate scientists can’t be sure that Hurricane Irma is a consequence of human activity. Well of course they can’t, because the causal systems involved are so complex, ancient, contingent, and large scale. But the article was grotesquely illogical. It can only reassure people reading it that they are in no way to blame, and encourage them to carry on doing what they are doing. Media irresponsibility is a vast issue. All those who broadcast have a responsibility to try to have a positive effect on the world. Quite how this relates to the likes of Steven King or Tarantino or others I’ll leave up to you to figure.
Let’s get back to it. This is a screenwriting blog, after all. The Facebook post about the stage play writing software made me concerned about the lack of involvement with the task at hand that technology can cause. Hurricane Irma almost certainly has anthropogenic roots. Shakespeare did not use Final Draft. Two and two makes four – though huge numbers of people seem to doubt this (and some of them have huge amounts of power).
Involve yourself with your story profoundly and you won’t even notice your hands formatting your screenplay or stage play in Word or Pages or pencil and paper. It will just happen.
To conclude (because I hate the sound of my own voice): the only screenwriting software that is of any value is inside your head. So please use it, and I’ll try to use mine.