I love myriad formats and genres. I try to appreciate each for what it is, not for how it compares.
Sometimes the distinctions are worth noting because they inform the creative process.
I’m encountering one of those distinctions today. It pertains to economies of scale.
They don’t typically apply in the world of novels or publishing in general, but can be a big factor in
writing for television or anything else that is scripted for digital or film production.
In a novel, it matters little (from a publisher’s perspective) whether you call for a small detachment
or a full regiment (or whatever small or large groups are referred to within your cast of characters –
be they flocks, herds, battalions or swarms). In publishing, whatever the scale, it still costs the same to print
and may relate to things other than characters. It could be setting or atmosphere or actions. Page count is a
factor and certainly word count when writing for print outlets with space requirements such as magazines or newspapers.
But that’s not the type of economy I’m referring to. There are production budget realities in the world of screenwriting
and they do influence the stories you tell.
My current television project is a western. I’ve called for a detachment of five cavalrymen which, I’m told, is achievable
whereas a regiment of one hundred men on horseback is definitely unacceptable. There are such things as special effects
which allow for amazing appearances of scale but such effects also cost money and somewhere there is a budget ceiling you
must respect. I have this from an unimpeachable authority – the Producer!
I love the work and I’m not complaining. Economies of scale are part of the artistic challenge. It’s part of the art. I’m simply noting
the difference because it’s staring me in the face today. Some days you figure out how to make it all work for the budget at hand,
other days, like today, the creative solution is more elusive and may instead prompt a particular blog entry. It’s then a writer could think:
If this were a novel assignment I could call for ten thousand soldiers and it wouldn’t affect the printing costs one bit.
But that’s a different story!