Org Member Spotlight: Screentakes Digital Publishing

Emily Bailin, NAMLE Student Advisory Board Member, recently interviewed Jennine Lanouette, Founder and CEO of Screentakes Digital Publishing. Screentakes Digital Publishing launched in 2013 with the goal of producing the work of authors and filmmakers whose content might be more optimally represented using a combination of text and visual media, rather than being limited to text in a print book or a one or two hour time frame in a film.

When did your organization launch and why?

I launched the Screentakes website in 2013 as a way to take resources I have used in my screenwriting classes over the years that were languishing in my files and make them available to people via the web. I also started making short videos of lessons on screenwriting principles that I had presented in my classes. This was all a preliminary effort towards the main goal of making multimedia ebooks to recreate my script analysis lectures in digital form using text, photos, video, audio, graphics and interactivity for more than the 15 to 20 people able to show up in a classroom. I launched Screentakes Digital Publishing in 2014 for that purpose.

What does your organization do? What are it’s main goals? Main projects?

Screentakes Digital Publishing is a producer of media-rich ebooks. Currently, the focus is on converting my own classroom lectures into digitally distributable screenbooks. But we have a larger goal to produce the work of other authors and filmmakers whose content might be more optimally represented using a combination of text and visual media, rather than being limited to text in a print book or a one or two hour time frame in a film.

What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?

It was my goal from the beginning to make my multimedia ebooks available across platforms and devices so that a teacher would be able to assign them knowing that all students could get access regardless of being on a Mac or PC, or not owning a tablet. I was lucky to be put in contact with a book designer and programmer, Dan Visel, who had been looking for such a project to try out his own ideas for cross-platform, media-rich books. He has done a remarkable job of creating a nearly uniform experience for web streaming and Android and iOS apps. We’re hoping with these three platforms, we have covered most devices out there. Since the ebook industry overall has made almost no progress towards agreeing on a set of standard formats and platforms, the cross-platform nature of our media-rich ebooks, as far as we have seen, is pretty unique.

The other thing Dan has succeeded at doing is creating a “discussion forum” in the books, sort of like a user comment section on a blog post, so that a teacher can have his or her students comment on the material and be in conversation with each other about it. One of the benefits of this is it makes for a dynamic engagement among students and the teacher without eating up extra classroom time.

What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?

This month we are releasing our first two ebooks, which we are now calling “screenbooks,” of my script analysis lectures on The African Queen and Thelma & Louise. They are chock full of video, photos, audio clips and interactive graphics that are integrated into the narrative flow rather than being supplemental to it, effectively showcasing a very new type of learning experience.

What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?

One thing I have been struck by over and over in producing these screenbooks is the degree to which, as I worked with integrating all the media into the book, I would find myself continually cutting down the text. Faced with the visual content, it would become abundantly clear that there was no need for all those words I had initially written. This became for me a profound process of letting go of the tyranny of pure text and really learning to have confidence in the power of visual communication.

Why is media literacy important to you?

I have come to believe that our brains were made to communicate visually. Perhaps the written word these last few millennia only evolved to be an interim communication method until we could create the tools necessary to enable us to get our ideas and stories across in a manner more conducive to our natural powers of perception. For me personally, it explains why often I am more drawn to, and comfortable with watching films than reading books.

Feel free to tell us anything else about your org, your mission, your staff?

I have been lucky to build a capable and dedicated team in a short time. As a start up operation releasing our first two products, we are looking forward to getting the feedback from our users that will guide us as we continue to develop our screenbooks.