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Write Now with Scrivener, Episode no. 32: John Wyver, Television Historian and Film Producer

John Wyver writes about the history of television in the United Kingdom, produces films about the arts and performance, and is a Professor of the Arts on Screen.

Show notes:

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John Wyver began his career as a journalist for the London listings magazine Time Out, but has since become a producer of films of theater and dance, of documentaries, and is a historian of television in Britain. Television began nearly 100 years ago. "In the middle of March 1925, a Scotsman called John Logie Baird takes this homespun apparatus to Selfridge's department store and does a fortnight of demonstrations in the electrical department, where he'd been invited, with a piece of technology that could send really, really blurred, fuzzy images of geometrical shapes. I think it's legitimate to regard it as the origin moment of British television."

Television has made a great deal of progress over the years, from that simple eight-line display to HD and 4K television, but the production process hasn't changed much. "The sophistication of the cameras that we use at Royal Shakespeare Company, the audio systems that we work with, the kind of definition, the quality of the image, the work that we can do in post-production, with the grading and all of that means, all of that is kind of unthinkable when you compare it to the early television. Technically, there's been a vast improvement in the system and profound change. But in some of the cultural forms and some of the ideas of language in some of the ways in which television speaks of what it is doing, there are really strong continuities."

I asked John his opinion of the Barbie movie, which many media critics have dismissed. "I think it's a masterpiece. I think it's an absolutely extraordinary achievement to make a film that effortlessly passes a billion dollars, within three weeks, that clearly appeals to and entertains a vast global audience, and yet is so complex and distinctive and interesting and challenging in terms of its politics of representation, its engagement with media theory, and its sophisticated argument about feminism, I think it's an absolutely brilliant achievement. It's also a complex piece of revolutionary pop propaganda."

John uses Scrivener for everything he writes: books, articles, and academic papers. "It's completely my go-to writing tool. It's an absolutely essential piece of software. I use it for drafts, I use it for structuring and planning, and I use it to gather almost all of my research materials. So I will put a lot of PDFs, a lot of images, a lot of obviously a lot of notes that I take from books into a Scrivener project. And that's the way that I draft, write, and finish both books and journal articles."

John stores lots of research in his Scrivener projects, information he has collected in a variety of locations. "It's all available at the touch of a button as long as you've got a subscription. So that's incredibly important. And pulling down PDFs of articles and loading them into the Research folder of Scrivener is really important, and equally, going through a lot of other academic books. Either taking photographs in the British Library or other libraries where one's able to take photographs of pages for your own research and load them into Scrivener. I really am an enthusiast, but one of the great things is being able to work with a horizontally split screen. In the lower screen, I'll have the text that I'm typing, writing, compiling. And in the upper screen, I'll have a page of a PDF or a JPEG or whatever, which I can refer to, and that kind of really basic, comparative way of working is what I spend a great deal of my time doing. And it's a really good way of working."

Kirk McElhearn is a writer, podcaster, and photographer. He is the author of Take Control of Scrivener, and host of the podcast Write Now with Scrivener.

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