Say you’re a writer. And you live in North Wales (not the worst place to be right now). And your favourite production company is based in South Devon. And their producer is based in London.
You could meet for the odd script retreat, of course. And there’s phones, e-mail, texts, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – but what if you want to work on something together? Simultaneously, recorded, organised and categorised?
Enter The Wiki.
What’s a wiki? The most famous example is, of course, Wikipedia. It’s a set of webpages available for editing by anyone with a username and providing an ever-changing information resource.
The name comes from the Hawaiian word for quick, and if you’ve ever witnessed the speed of vandalism following an England football loss, you’ll understand why.
Wikipedia in itself is an excellent resource for writers. While old media snobs may doubt its reliability because it’s “on-line”, it’s actually fantastically reliable – because it requires notability and is policed by its members.
However, this post is not just about the glories of Wikipedia. It is about creating a private wiki for your film company.
So, why would you need a wiki? Firstly, the aforementioned long-distance collaboration. Particularly if your various departments are spread throughout the UK and, indeed, the world – the way that most major comics are created, for example.
We wanted one to keep track of our canon, particularly Atlantean history and culture, to use as a reference for various departments and ensure continuity between the shorts and the films.
How do you get one? There are dozens of wikis out there, but broadly-speaking, they can be divided into hosted or own-server. The Choice Wizard at Wiki Matrix can help determine what you need and compare the most popular wikis.
If you’ve never made a website before, going for a hosted option is probably for the best, though not all hosts allow private wikis. If you want more control and a wiki within your own website, you need to host it yourself.
After reviewing the options, I decided to go for MediaWiki, the software behind Wikipedia, for one reason: it’s the software behind Wikipedia. Therefore, users are familiar with the look and, undoubtedly, some of our collaborators will already have experience of using it.
I have a working knowledge of HTML and FTP, but nothing much beyond that. Therefore, when looking to install MediaWiki, I was somewhat daunted by the fact that the software requires co-installations of Apache, mySQL and pHp (an AMP package).
However, if you have a decent webhost, they will often already have this capability – and so I was able to install with relative ease using this invaluable tutorial.
After that, it was a piece of cake. The software installation process asks basic questions to setup a fully-functioning wiki and then you can edit away just like Wikipedia (though I admit I got scared when I clicked ‘Help’ and realised I had to write that page too…).
Wiki markup language is easy to learn, like basic HTML or BB code, and the comprehensive MediaWiki support wiki has a good markup dictionary. I built a handful of pages, organised them in categories, and added two new users in about two hours, having never used the software or language before.
So, there you have it – long-distance collaboration with relative ease. How could you make a wiki work for your writing and production?