Write, Camera, Action!
Write, Camera, Action! (Broderbund – ages 8-12) isa creativity tool that teaches about writing and Hollywood – two things that, at least in theory, occasionally cross paths. Using this CD-ROM is a lot like playing computer-age Mad-Libs. Instead of plugging in nouns, verbs, and adjectives, you plug in tones, settings, plot twists and dialogue. The computer keeps track of the choices you make as you go through the script; after “writing” each scene you film it, and the computer acts out your version of the story. Sometimes the process is exactly like Mad-Libs – when writing your promotional pieces for the film, the computer cues you with “noun,” “adjective,” etc. – and sometimes it’s more abstract (have your detective deliver a line deadpan, excitedly, or nervously). It’s all fun and cute, but it wears thin quickly, especially because there’s only one story on the disc. The story is a spin on The Maltese Falcon, which seems a strange choice for a kids’ CD-ROM – amorality and back-stabbing are not the usual ingredients for bedtime stories. Write, Camera, Action! offers a tongue-in-cheek take on the story, however, that never gets too serious. Unfortunately, it never gets too interesting either. If you take the obvious choices, and keep the story filled with private eye clich?s (give Detective Sam Shovel’s office a broken-down city motif instead of a pink fur-lined motif, for example), your movie will come out to rave reviews. Be a little more creative and try to break some rules, and the critics will nail you for inconsistency. Is this really a good lesson to teach aspiring young writers and filmmakers? More flexibility and more variety would make Write, Camera, Action! a more fun and more valuable creativity tool.
– October 1996