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Scriptation – A Paperless Resource for The Director’s Toolbox

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2019 was an important year of growth for women directors, particularly regarding episodic television. For the first time ever, women and minority directors (both men and women) directed half of all TV episodes with women directing a record 31% of all episodes. Valerie Weiss was one of the many talented women directors who had a busy year in 2019 directing many popular shows: Why Women Kill, Suits (multiple episodes), For The People, The Rookie, The Resident, Chicago Med and many more in a bold follow up to 2018 which saw her directing two of my personal favorites: How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal. (I’m a Shondaland fan, what can I say?)

As I followed Weiss’s career, I learned about a key tool in her director toolbox that not only helps her save time and conceptualize episodes in a more complete way, but allows her to do this work without paper. Weiss estimates that she saves thousands of pages of paper every year and is able to work with her team more effectively using the unique tool, Scriptation developed by TV writer Steve Vitolo (Black-ish, Hot in Cleveland).

“When I first started directing TV, I polled a bunch of directors about a system where I could store photos, annotations, shot lists and other references all in one place.  Nobody had ideas other than using a binder and post-its,” Weiss explained. “Then, when I was directing Scandal, Darby Stanchfield and Tony Goldwyn, showed me Scriptation. The whole cast was using it on that show because they could transfer notes into a new draft in seconds. That’s particularly important on a show where you get revised pages daily. That was 2 years ago and I have been using it exclusively ever since.”

As a producer, I’m always seeking ways to make productions more environmentally friendly (reusable water bottles and coffee receptacles versus disposable, compostable craft service plates and utensils, etc.). Reducing paper waste is another way to minimize a production’s footprint. Additionally, as an indie producer, I love any tool that saves time and money and as I learned about Scriptation from Weiss, I realized that it seems do all of my favorite things for a production (save time, money and paper waste).

Weiss expands on her use of Scriptation: “I have so many ways that I use it: to associate a music cue with a scene, write on floorplans on facing pages, incorporate my storyboards and location photos right into the script. It’s a time-saver and it helps me conceptualize a whole episode or movie in a more complete way. Plus, there’s the whole environmentally-friendly aspect of it. I always tell the production office that I am paper-free and to only give me digital versions of scripts, schedules and floorplans. I save thousands of pages of paper every year this way.”

What producers, directors and cast members alike all seem to love about Scriptation is that it makes it seamless and simple to transfer notes into new script revisions. I can see how this would be particularly useful for episodic work where revisions and notes happen consistently and for shows that are highly collaborative, like Scandal, for instance. Scriptation is a valuable tool for all production departments, and it was an added bonus that I discovered this tool through my support for women directors.

Of course, I loved seeing the number of women directors for episodic work in 2019 explode, but what I think I loved even more was seeing that alongside that growth came increased visibility regarding key issues that were important to the directors that I follow. Through Valerie Weiss, I discovered Scriptation and was able to follow her missives from the Climate Strike in New York City and that is just one example out of many. If you want to find out more about Valerie and Scriptation, check out this link. Or, if you are already using Scriptation, please let us know! Leave a comment or connect with us via social media.

Furthermore, in 2020, I’ll be seeking out additional green initiatives that target the entertainment industry. If you are doing something to make your sets more environmentally sustainable or if you know of an initiative that is focused on reducing the carbon footprint of the film and television industry, I want to hear about it. Leave a comment below or connect with me via Twitter @IndieJenFischer. Thank you! Let’s ring in the new year (and a new decade) with creativity and a little bit more love for our planet. Cheers!

Jennifer Fischer

About Jennifer Fischer

Jennifer Fischer is a writer, producer and teaching artist as well as the co-founder of Think Ten Media Group. Her multi-award winning feature film, "Smuggled,” saw her tackling distribution, successfully securing theatrical screening events at universities, colleges and community organizations throughout the United States and abroad. Her short film series, THE wHOLE explored solitary confinement and mass incarceration in the U.S. and premiered at Amnesty International's 50th Anniversary Human Rights Conference in New York City. Fischer ran a film festival for 7 years when she first moved to California. She curates various films for the City of Santa Clarita's 10x10 event as well as organizing and moderating panels for various film events. She is currently writing and producing an interactive experience entitled, THE LEECHES.