When we start a new video project, we know that it will involve writing a script. It’s just foolish to go into production armed only with a vague idea of what you hope to get. It’s about as advisable as trying to build a house without a blueprint.
Our first step in the scripting process involves a discussion with the client. During that meeting we’ll determine primary and secondary goals, demographics of target audience, key points, and tone. We’ll also get any background materials they may have on hand and the names and contact information for content experts we may need to talk to.
Once we’ve got all the information together, it’s time to write.
The language needs to be geared to the target audience. For example, we wouldn’t write the same copy for a group of accountants as we would for skate boarding teens. The style and pacing of the information needs to be familiar and comfortable for the target audience – unless we’re trying to shake things up. Then of course a unique strategy is called for. But normally we’re going for conversational and friendly.
Another point to keep in mind is that the words are written to be heard – not seen – by the viewer, with the exception of course of text as screen graphics. Scripting is one type of writing where it is perfectly OK to use incomplete sentences and in some cases and punctuation that would give your high school English teacher a fit. While periods are generally still used at the ends of most sentences, you may use ellipses to indicate pauses or quotes and commas, along with italics, bolding and underlining to indicate emphasis for the narrator or actor.
Some projects require a highly creative treatment, while others are best kept simple and direct. The client’s goals and organizational style may help dictate how the treatment is approached. Whether it falls on the simple side or the “work of art” end, it should meet the client’s needs, not the writer’s need to be creative for the sake of creativity.
Since we direct and produce in addition to writing, we know how crucial it is to have well defined visuals. It’s always surprising when clients tell us they’ve hired script writers who provided them only with narration copy – no visual descriptions. That’s a radio script – not a video or film script.
Once the first draft is done we send it to the client for review. We expect to have a couple rounds of revisions. As a matter of fact, if a client says they have no changes, we ask them (and possibly their content experts) to read it again. It’s important to make sure the copy is 100% accurate and that the balance of information meets their needs BEFORE production begins. A thorough script review is the best way to prevent overage inducing changes later in the production process.
Susan Reetz, of Clear Focus Media, LLC, is a writer/director/producer for film, video, web and print. Her scriptwriting and producing work has earned numerous local, national, and international awards. She also writes feature articles, annual report copy, news releases, web copy, and other promotional materials. She can be reached at 715-212-6239 or Susan@ClearFocus.Media.