Discussing selection from Friedmann’s “Writing for Visual Media”

This is where we’ll talk about chapter 2 of Anthony Friedmann’s Writing for Visual Media.  I uploaded a scanned version of this to eReserves, but I did a quick Google search and was surprised that the book is available here on Scribd, so if you’re interested in checking out the rest of the book, feel free. Chapter five might be particularly useful since it’s about PSAs and ads. More after the break.

 

As I mentioned/talked about a bit in class last week, I don’t think this is really that great of a book– or maybe a better way of putting it is it doesn’t seem like it’s really a fitting book for this level of class. Maybe if I was teaching an undergraduate version of the same class it would make some sense, but it seems awfully watered down/simplistic for a graduate course. And a lot of this book is about things like writing long scripts and writing for television– interesting, maybe, but not what we’re up to. But at the same time, I think it’s one of the only books like this on the market right now.

One of the more curious things about this book for me is the ways it kind of crosses into (but not quite!) the terminology of rhetoric– I suspect you can see what I mean with some of my annotations in the version I scanned and shared via eReserves. But the main reason I assign this is because the steps he’s outlining here are what I’m looking for in terms of the analysis document for your PSAs.

21 thoughts on “Discussing selection from Friedmann’s “Writing for Visual Media”

  1. Adam Czarnecki

    Speaking of Scribd, for what it’s worth, the entire Lessig book (which contains the reading for later in the week) is also available under the Creative Commons license, which I thought was appropriate: http://www.scribd.com/doc/47089238/Remix

    I can see what you mean about almost expecting to see this as an undergrad book, but I did find the 7-Steps useful. It almost serves as a checklist, of sorts, to keep you on-track. For me, something like this can really help pull my thoughts together after talking about things in the abstract for so long, which I think is what happened after I read this one in terms of “applying” what we know about rhetoric and the creative process.

    In fact, I can see an exercise for future iterations of this class (or similar ones) where students are tasked with coming up with a kind of “list” like this one on their own, without reading this piece first. (I’m glad I can say this now, after we’ve read it!)

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  2. Molly McCord

    I think this is a fairly helpful piece, especially as we’re thinking about how to frame our PSA Assignments. Friedmann seems to highlight the need to narrow down the target audience as much as possible since the problem varies significantly depending on the intended viewer. I almost think the “Communication Problem” and the “Target Audience” should be co-steps instead of two separate steps; they really seem to depend on each other and seem to be equally important (at least in my mind).

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    1. Lisa Pignotti

      I agree. This reading will be very helpful in creating the analysis of our PSA. Defining a target audience is influential in not only defining the communication problem, but also defining the strategy. It is all very interconnected. I didn’t realize the depth at which you can define a target audience. By including both demorgraphics and psychographics, you can really create a comprehensive view of the objective and potential strategy.

      He does give a nod to pathos and logos which I appreciated: “It is always important to communicate emotionally to an audience in the visual media as well by reason and logic” (29). He goes on to discuss that the “mixture” of the two varies depending on the target audience.

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    2. Jonathan Furlette

      I agree that this piece is fairly helpful, and serves as a sort of “bare bones” version of some good tips to writing for the digital world. I agree with your point above Adam, the “7 Steps” does work as a sort of checklist; after working in the abstract or “conceptual” world as an artist, it is refreshing to have a list to review to ensure that I have covered all the bases. I do agree that this book could benefit from some editing and does not seem to be written to the master’s level, but is an excellent reminder of some of the basic principles.

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    3. Tracey Sonntag

      I also got a kind of “ouroboros” feeling from the seven steps; before reading this, I wouldn’t have been able to say how can you define your need before you identify your target audience, and how the objective is so closely related to the identified need.

      One thing that really struck me was the concept of catching an audience’s attention with humor, and how that relates to commercials. I’m a really bad advertising target, since I can usually remember commercials I’ve seen but often can’t tell you the brand–or even the product–the commercial was made for!

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  3. Danielle

    As others have already said, this will be useful for laying out the PSA assignment; it’s always useful to have a “step by step” explanation for how to do something. Although, as Molly points out, some of these steps may not really be chronological, as following one step may require you to follow another in the process (for example, it might be hard to define a problem without considering the target audience).

    I did appreciate that Friedmann explained the complexity of addressing the communication “problem,” acknowledging that these are not always as straight forward as they may seem. The “PSA for battered women” example explained this very well. With any given problem, there may be different layers to address. As Friedmann contends, “all mediacommunication can be summed up as a combination of informational, motivational, or behavioral objectives. The mix or proportion of one to the other is infinitely variable.” (21)

    I’m already thinking about this in terms of the University Writing Center PSA. The problem isn’t as simple as saying, “we need to get more people to come into the Writing Center.” The problem is not necessarily that people don’t know the Writing Center exists; there are many layers to the problem. For example, some students are embarrassed to come into the UWC because they think they’re terrible writers, while others can’t come in because they’re commuters with busy schedules that don’t line up with the UWC’s operating hours.

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    1. Jonathan Furlette

      This is a good point Danielle, and definitely something to consider for our PSA assignment! I guess a good question to ask is what would make the Writing Center a more inviting place for students to come to improve their work, and almost as importantly share their ideas. I agree that there is probably a great deal of embarrassment that comes along with going to the writing center for some, though everyone can use help with their writing; even if it is just to have another set of eyes give it a “once over.” That might be something to focus on when constructing our video, how to make “the Writing Center” a more inviting and accomodating place than it already is.

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      1. Danielle

        I’m glad you see what I was getting at, Jonathan. I wasn’t sure if it made sense. I think taking that kind of direction with our video could work, but this is something we can talk more about with the group. :)

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        1. Adam Czarnecki

          You’re right that there are many layers and probably many “kinds” of people we could target with the PSA. Surveys may help identify the most commonly cited reason students have for not visiting the writing center, the results of which would dictate what angle we took. We can talk more about this in our group, but, do you happen to have access to that kind of data already, other than anecdotal evidence?

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          1. Danielle

            Unfortunately not. I helped put together a survey last year to try and answer these kinds of questions, but it hasn’t been circulated (at least, not to my knowledge). My assumptions about why people do/don’t come into the writing center are really just based on my experience working there.

    2. Lisa Pignotti

      I agree, Danielle. The problem is often complex because the audience needs are often quite complex. His laws of media communication created an interesting formula for addressing primary and secondary audiences.

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    3. Jennifer

      Danielle, you make a good point which makes me wonder if each of those “layers” isn’t a different target audience and can ONE PSA reach each of these audiences without diluting itself to the point of ineffectiveness. How many layers can really be women into one PSA?

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  4. Seth Taylor

    I’m the type that always wants to get right to work putting the final project together. So Friedman’s steps seem extremely laborious to me. Having said that, he does seem to have the genuine objective of making projects consistently successful, and I appreciate that. I think this kind of heavy focus on “preproduction” probably makes for building good habits that lead to positive results. Also, he seems to be taking mainly about client projects where one can’t just let their creativity and inspiration run the show.

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    1. Jennifer

      Seth I’m not sure I agree with your comment about the creativity. It’s been my working experience that the client often relies on the creativity of the artist/professionals to help them bring a concept they are trying to sell to life in an engaging way. I think that professionals in a given industry can get locked inside certain familiarities and stagnate themeselves…if that makes any sense. But you’re right in that you can’t just go “hog wild” either.

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  5. Molly McCord

    I totally understand your perspective on “just getting started,” Seth. I actually started likening Friedmann’s Seven Steps to a kind of outline. When I write an essay, I don’t usually take a lot of time developing an outline beforehand…I usually just want to jump right in. This is my personal preference, though I do encourage my students to use some kind of outline (I don’t require it, though). Friedmann’s Seven Steps do seem a bit laborious to me, too, but I also understand the point. I can see how careful consideration of target audience and objective ahead of time can lead to a more focused and relevant PSA.

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    1. skrause Post author

      I’ll say two things about this whole “let’s just get started” sentiment of things. First, a lot of writing pedagogy tries to push back against this by insisting that students begin first with plans, prewriting, research, etc. When it plays out in classes like first year writing, some of this is “overkill” in my view and it also makes the writing process a little too linear. But the concept that writing is a process with different steps and stages and that writers don’t have the whole thing “in their head” is important.

      Second, when it comes to doing collaborative work and work with video and audio production, this “plan ahead” stage is critical. Collaborators need to know what everyone in the collaboration is thinking, and the only decent way to do that is by getting things down for everyone to see/comment on. And when it comes to video and audio: the costs, time, and inability to just “add a few more words” or what-have-you mean you need to plan stuff out as much as you can– thus things like scripting, storyboarding, etc.

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      1. Danielle

        I think what Dr. Krause is saying here makes a lot of sense. I’m usually the type to want to have my arguments carefully outlines before I write anything, anyway, but I can see why this is especially important for a collaborative assignment–and especially for an assignment that involves media. It’s not as easy to go back and make changes when all the filming for the video has already taken place, which is why having everything planned out carefully is important. I can see how the Friedmann’s steps could seem laborious to those whose writing process doesn’t usually entail outlining, though.

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      2. Molly McCord

        I completely agree that the planning and “pre-writing” stages are necessary when completing the kind of collaboration-based work that the PSA involves. I could see how things could be very messy if everyone wasn’t already on the same page, so to speak, by the time of the actual video production part. This is an instance where I can truly see the difference between words-in-a-row writing assignments and audio-visual writing assignments. Like Dr. Krause notes, it’s more complicated to revise and edit a video than a paper-based essay, so the pre-planning makes a lot of sense.

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  6. Jennifer

    I’m a detail and listmaking nut, so, I actually really liked this article. I don’t really mind or care that it’s written on perhaps a less than “graduate” level, I’m more concerned with what I’m pulling out of it that’s going to translate to a “real world” skill. At my job last year we wanted to make some training videos, we had no idea where – or how – to start. This article, combined with a reasonable amount of thought would have allowed that to happen and perhaps saved us the cost of an external contractor for the work. Between this article and the work we’ve done with Audacity we Wevideo, I’ve made myself a storyboard template that incorporates these layers. Is it earth-shattering? Nope. Will it help me in work situations when my work day is basically semi-controlled mayhem to remember details and plan thoroughly before I start investing time into a project. Yes.

    The first sentence I hi-lighted in this article is on pg. 17, “Scriptwriting is preceded by a great deal of thinking.” I think this is very true and, for me at least, was the case with my “This I Believe” piece.

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  7. Jennifer

    I found the comment on pg. 36 under Step 6. a bit suspect, “Corporate clients frequently ask for communication objectives to be put into a video that clash with the medium.” If the Corporation is hiring an agency, wouldn’t they rely on the “professionals” to make some of those decisions for them? I wonder about the validity of Friedmann’s statement here. Did that strike anyone else as odd?

    Reply

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