Video journalism/Develop a current affairs story

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Writing treatments – current affairs research/planning exercise

Objectives[edit | edit source]

By the end of this exercise:

  1. You should have an ability to put together a research plan and treatment, on the word processor, for a TV current affairs feature.
  2. You should be writing with visual emphasis while always considering sound.
  3. You should then be able to take your story on to developing it into a finished work in that it could be given to an editor who will be able to interpret the edit instructions and edit accordingly.

Keep objective three in mind, there is always the possibility of your work being screened or even re-worked for inclusion in other programmes. This means that the product being designed here may have commercial value. Any footage made available to you, or any material that you shoot, will have to be cleared to you, you will have to own the rights or obtain the material from Creative Commons or the like.

Such permission should be applied for in writing and signed by all parties; in terms of chain-of-title, copyright and other encumbrances (legal or moral) that come with filming someone or using their material.

Before you start, you might read "The last of punchy current affairs: Profile interview: Mark Davis,Dateline, Special Broadcasting Service"

Assignment - Part A[edit | edit source]

Consider your story possibilities, scenarios, or briefs that you chose in Assignment 1 research. Focus on the final one as chosen with the view of developing a current affairs story that could run at around seven minutes screening time.

As researcher/scriptwriter you are asked to research the story possibility very briefly. Using the internet or some equally fast and efficient search technique, choose extra material for further development, while working with the scenario you chose. If this is unworkable, find a new subject area and go through the same newsworthy testing as the case in the first assignment.

Research and write a plan and treatment for a TV current affairs story of 7 minutes. If the original idea is still viable, from Assignment 1, then try to develop this into a Current Affairs story that will run onwards into Part B in this section. This Assignment at this stage is not a script, unlike Assignment 1, but it is a plan for a script. It should show an established angle, story synopsis, research sources, possible locations and possible visually stimulating events for shooting. The treatment should show possible quirky angles, possible irresistible aspects and possible talent (interviewees and subjects). There should also be a paragraph or so on possible library, archival and overlay footage and so on — where relevant.

Although this assignment document is required by the producer (COS) at a length of only four pages, your first response is overwhelming panic, followed by a calm as you decide to use the Internet for finding further material and backgrounding.

Any Internet research should include web addresses. Your story structure and its basis, and, any possible story telling footage from a library (archival, Vimeo or Creative Commons) should all be clearly identified.

You should always note and be on the look-out for possible shooting locations for original material that can go into the story. These should be briefly described in terms of the event set for filming, including potential interviewees who have expressed that they would be willing to consent to be filmed.

A treatment should include a clear angle and direction, it should provide research data, addresses and descriptive comment. Treatments with technical and data based information should be accurate.

While the treatment and all the documents that follow will contain elements of your intellectual property and copyright, they will also carry some moral and legal responsibilities.

The assignment should be presented in the accepted treatment structure and form that applies to your region, location and niche to which you hope to target your developing work. If you don't know how this formatting might be undertaken, try to obtain some examples so that you are writing within an accepted format, even genre.

Please refer to resources online, where examples of scripts, treatments and research plans are provided for you to use as ideas and templates. Always choose the examples and scenarios that best suit you study plan. This should be based on what you want from this Study Schedule, your career aspirations in television, and ultimately, your study interest.

There is no absolutely perfect or correct way to perform any of these tasks, as there is no perfect film or current affairs piece. You should use other examples and resources to guide you and find the best path through the exercise, while keeping in mind that the better treatments are those that have a strong visual impact emanating from the words. They will have a strong story line and a simple and clear structure.

Throughout this process of thinking and writing you should visualise the organisational and research work that must have gone into other film stories. Try to mentally deconstruct them so you can inform your own process in constructing your piece. In other words work within the genre. Read the section on genre in the Topics. In some instances the scripts are provided in examples you may find online, showing how a work changed from script to broadcast work. There might even be discussion about the process and how legal issues or aesthetic considerations brought about change to the original script.

Try to make your thinking, decision making and conclusions transparent and apparent in a Rationale section of your TV treatments.

Assignment - Part B[edit | edit source]

Synopsis, treatment and possible shooting plan (Shooting Script) 15 minutes.

Continue to work with your chosen scenario from Part A, or if it has lost freshness, apply the same assignment brief and parameters to a fresh news / current affairs scenario that relates to your working project or geographical region and interest.

Apply the following assignment criteria to write a longer (15 minute) current affairs synopsis, treatment, possible shooting plan and draft shooting script.

The Brief[edit | edit source]

The Executive Producer of the current affairs programme in which youre a journalist is asking that you shoot, cut and voice a 15 minute current affairs (mainstream TV) story based on the news story that you chose in the first assignment.

In the first instance you are to provide a written synopsis, treatment and possible shooting plan (shooting script). You dont have much time, but there is enough time to run a search on the web for alternative data. You can shoot a limited amount of development material while scripting and you're aware that you have access to existing library footage . You're told that all material is of broadcast quality.

For this assignment you should present a treatment and early script. The assignment objective is for you to develop an overview of how to structure, plan, shoot and cut such a story. You must consider balance, editing grammar and rhythm while using the TV codes of mainstream current affairs. You are not required to submit a budget.

Always weigh up your priorities with what is realistically achievable and document all research considerations. If your story requires filming in foreign countries, you will need a fixer, an on location organiser and you should provide their address and brief bio. You will need to consider visas, travel requirements and filming permission in addition to the standard TV network requirements of equipment, crews and legalities.

While working as ethically and fairly as possible, and knowing your copyright parameters; write the plan, synopsis and draft (rough) shooting script. You should write so that angle, sequencing and list of possible vision is clearly defined. Try to make clear in notes or asides, the dilemmas, double standards or possible conflicts of interest you encountered or might encounter in filming.

Base your structure on the templates provided in the Resources. You will need to have a realistic script that is stimulating, visually oriented and runs and reads, while being read aloud, at 15 minutes. You would need to take 20 pages to achieve a satisfactory result.