Producing Videos: A Complete Guide

review by Kathryn Millard


Martha Mollison
Producing Videos: A Complete Guide
Australian Film, Television and Radio School/Allen and Unwin, 512pp.
ISBN 0 642 2458 2


Producing Videos is a lively, accessible guide to video production, providing an overview of such areas as Camera, Crewing, Sound Recording, Editing, Budgeting and Scheduling. The information within "Producing Videos" is particularly well presented; text is broken up with graphics, photographs and key quotes 'vox pop' style. The quotes/tips - primarily from production teachers/academics and students - are aimed at avoiding classic beginners' mistakes. This is an effective strategy since advice drawn from experience makes much more engaging reading than the lists of rules or "do's and dont's" often included in introductory production texts.

Two of the topics that are less successfully explored in Producing Videos include Scriptwriting and Documentary. In part, this is simply due to limitations of space and issues of focus. The "Scriptwriting" section has some useful introductory comments and provides a clear explanation of scriptwriting stages: from conceptualising the whole in an outline through to a more detailed treatment and then first draft. But some of the usual truisms about writing are reproduced. For example, "You should be able to write down the main concept in a few sentences, sometimes just one." Why? And at what stage? Isn't this something most scriptwriters can usually do after they've more fully explored the material? Can all ideas/concepts be developed from such concise statements of themes? Producing Vidoes provides some script pages as examples of layout. Reading these excerpts, I wondered if it might not have been appropriate to draw on a wider range of examples - preferably from contemporary short fiction, essay or documentary programs - selected not just with layout but also writing style, description of key images, sounds etc. in mind.

Similarly, the brief section devoted to issues of documentary form seems inadequate for use within tertiary courses. Complex issues of form and practice appear to have been reduced to a series of simplistic assertions about 'documentary' as opposed to 'drama documentary'. Given the book's emphasis on the range of contemporary video production (with useful sections on 'non linear editing' and 'video on the internet', for example) some attention to the new digital technologies and environments and their impact on documentary form might have been appropriate.

Overall, Producing Videos is an extremely useful text for video production courses in both educational and community contexts. It's strengths are clear, accessible information about the stages and processes of video production. However, the inadequacy of its material in areas such as Scriptwriting and Documentary is of concern to those of us teaching 'theoretically informed' screen writing and production and attempting to relate this teaching to a wide range of contemporary writing and production practices. I am sure these concerns would also be shared by some students. These problems seem connected to the limitations of the 'production manual' approach favoured by the Producing Videos writers and its almost inevitable privileging of material that can easily be broken down into stages and procedures. I would suggest that in many contexts, Producing Videos should be supplemented with other materials about script/program stricture and form.


Kathryn Millard teaches Screenwriting and Production within the Department of Media and Communications Studies at Macquarie University. Her credits as a writer and director include the documentary "Light Years" and the one hour drama "Parklands".


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Vol 2 No 2 October 1998
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Tess Brady