February 22, 2018

Programming & Screenwriting: The Stories That Bind Us

I wanted to write some questions about my experience in these two disciplines and see where and if they intersected. Here are my results so far.

When I was 18 I wrote a book of poems. When I was 19 I started my first startup. When I was 21 I wrote my first script, and now at 22 I’m building products I think can make a crucial difference in people’s lives.

What does technology mean to me and where do I see myself in it?

  • Technology allows for the expansion of the human mind at rates unforeseen in history. It allows people to live longer and more happily, and for me has allowed me to see beyond the problems of today and try to focus on solving the problems of tomorrow, as those problems that are unseen and are hard to prepare for are the problems that can do us in. Gaining more and more understanding of artificial intelligence and its possible implications on the world is scary and memorizing. It is truly the end of a great story of the human race, as it’s been written out in movies like the Terminator, or The Matrix where AI destroys the hope for humanity’s survival through big guns and supercomputers. Those things fascinate me today because when I was younger, they were the stories I was most interested in. I wanted Neo to save the day, and I knew John Connor could always escape the terminators grasp.

Where has writing and particularly screenwriting intersected this?

  • When I was younger I spent a lot of time in front of TV screens watching movies like Terminator and The Matrix. I was affixed with the possibility of the future and what it could contain and I constantly wrote stories of the future. Flying cars, intergalactic battles, demons on earth, superheroes and mythical powers all for saving the human race & of course AI that could destroy us all. I wanted to write the story that would save us from ourselves. I used technology to enable the heroes of my stories to save the day unaware that I would try to become the hero that I wrote about. A little less fantastic, and lot less spandex though. But I think the point of that story is that a child’s imagination is what adults can create, and I pursued that in screenwriting and continue to do it through programming.

What do screenwriting and programming have in common?

  • There are more similarities than differences. Screenwriting and programming are artistic creations disguised in methodical process’ you repeat throughout the story of your product. Login screens and opening acts are on in the same. A great opening shot and a killer landing page garner similar criticism when done correctly or done terribly. The user experience inside an app correlates with the emotional range viewers/readers have upon reading the script.
  • This quote resonates with me in both fields:

“We humans like to know where we are headed, but creativity demands that we travel paths that lead to who-knows-where.” ― by Ed Catmull, from the book Creativity, Inc.

How have you felt leaving scripts on the table and diving into an entire new language (programming) ?

  • Screenwriting taught me a lot about patience. And not just external patience but internal patience. About being willing to admit that the experience you want isn’t linking up with the product you’re displaying. It’s a terrible feeling when you write something you think is emotionally gripping and important and for someone to read it and tell you they don’t find it gripping at all. That they in fact find it unoriginal and lazy. That fucking sucks, and I’ve had to take those shots and rethink things multiple times. Rewriting 100s of pages and drafting for months (even years possibly decades for others!) attempting to create a product that tells a gripping enough story to make you read the entire script in one sitting. This is the same way a developer might write tests and refactor code, attempting to simplify complex ideas so people outside of the world you create in the code can be understood by other developers, product leads, and clients. The same way a programmer may want their application to be used without any bugs or confusing UI, screenwriters hope for the thoughts they associate with the words written match the feeling a reader gets when scanning the pages for the first time.

Looking for the story, how is storytelling the link in truly creative work?

  • At puricode our goal has always been to solve big problems by asking the right questions, whether that be for clients or our own in house projects. With this in mind I think we think of storytelling as the core of how we discern really amazing products with just alright projects. Narrative is an incredibly powerful marketing tool, but an even more powerful product creation tool. Creating things like user stories are incredibly powerful tools that pull from the idea that is at the core of screenwriting and other artistic disciplines.

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