interview by Douglas Eby
"In this new media, there are a lot more opportunities for women."
Producer, writer and entrepreneur Hillary Atkin specializes in broadcast and online content. She has produced A&E TV biographies, is a member of the New Media and Non-Fiction committees of the Writers Guild of America, and writes for the Guild website and for new media trade journal Digital Coast Weekly.
"I'm really hot on the internet and all the areas it's opening up" Atkin exclaims. Contrasting her production experiences in the online environment compared with TV, she says "The big difference is the lack of time and space limitations that traditional media has.
"When I do a TV biography, it has to be exactly a certain length. Whereas a show on the internet could be 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 8 minutes. So that's kind of freeing. Writing for the Writers Guild site, for example, the things I do can be as long or as short as I want."
But, she points out, "every piece of material has a certain feel to it; something feels like it should be short, or feels like it should go more in depth. Also, it depends on the audience that you're gearing it to."
The Writers Guild does an annual study of how many women and minority writers there are for motion pictures and television, and Atkin notes "the numbers are always low. But I feel that in this new media, it's wide open.
"You just need to be able to write well, and whatever you are as far as a woman, or minority, does not matter as much as it does in television."
A study by the Guild emphasized the growing room for creative work in new media, concluding "The Web, although still heavily text-based, increasingly uses audio, video, and animation, and many sites contain features requiring dramatic storytelling skills, character development, humor, and the ability to convey fact-based information in a compelling and entertaining way."
Atkin considers her material "nonfiction entertainment" and says a perfect example of is "the biography-type show where you're basically doing a documentary on a person. So it's true, and nonfiction, yet it's entertaining."
Although she feels this kind of project does allow for creative work, she agrees "there are limits to that within the formats of those types of shows, just as there are to any kind of television show. I've not worked in motion pictures, but obviously there's more room there for more totally creative expression, than in traditional television."
She has found the online or new media area "is not so rigid. It's flexible. And yes, that is liberating, but I enjoy traditional formats, too. There is certainly still room for creativity within the restrictions."
Responding to the question of what activities help her creatively, Atkin says, "I love all kinds of art, and go to see the latest show at [museums] or various galleries. I like to be around the art world and see various forms of creative expression, and I have a lot of art in my home. For instance, over my workspace, I have a big Van Gogh that has three roads going off. I find it inspirational."
She also thinks exercise "plays a big role. I like going outdoors, in beautiful surroundings like near the ocean where you can feel the breeze, and it clears out your head. And I do weight training at a gym. You can get into kind of a Zen-like state doing the repetitions on the machines, and I find that energizes me. I try to work out five or six times a week.
"I get a lot of ideas when I'm exercising, either outdoors or indoors. Also, if there's any kind of debris in my head, that clears it out, and it gives me a lot of energy. And I need a lot of energy for what I do."
~ ~ ~Writers Guild
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