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11 1/2 Tips for Writing a video script

Friday - April 27th, 2012

Written by: Chad Vossen

11 1/2 Tips for Writing a video script

Writing a video script can seem a little overwhelming if you haven’t written one before. Sometimes our clients prefer to write a script themselves and ask for a few tips to get them going. Here are a few tips we’ve provided to our clients in the past:

  1. Start with samples – Look for videos that you like. Something that you’ve made a connection with in the past. Look for what others in your industry are doing. Maybe someone’s presented a concept that’s difficult to describe in an interesting way. When you find something you like, play it a few times with the video off. Listen to the audio only. Listen to what’s being said. How it’s being said. Listen to the cadence. The verbiage. The pacing. Does it work with the visuals?
    1. And here’s something a little more difficult – Find videos that you don’t like… and find 3 things that you do like about them. It’s easy to slam videos and say “that looks terrible”, “the music stinks”, or “he makes no sense.” Finding the good in the bad forces you to concentrate on things that do work, and that translates into a better video.
  2. Summarize your video’s purpose in three sentences – One of the easiest things to do when writing is to get lost in the weeds. You start writing, and quickly realize you don’t know where you’re going. Summarize what your video is about in three sentences – we call this a log line. Refer to your log line often. Make sure that everything you write relates to that summary, and moves the story along. Identify what the video is about. Set the tone (serious, or funny). Define key elements.
  3. Keep it simple – Start with the basics of what you want to cover. Take a step back and focus on a few key points that you want to get out in your script. Make sure that each of these points are well executed. If you try to make your script say too much, it won’t say anything.
  4. Start with an Outline – Don’t noodle or spin in circles. Draft an outline so you have a clear understanding of where want your video to go. This will help you organize your thoughts as to how to structure your video, as well as help you discover the best method for placing emphasis on certain subjects.
  5. Think of your target audience – As you develop your outline, keep thinking of your audience – about the individuals that will be watching your video. What do they do? What do they care about? Where will they be watching your video? Answering these questions puts you in the frame of mind of the viewer. If they don’t get it, you won’t get them.
  6. Choose your vehicle – So you you have a general idea as to what you what your video to cover. Now how’s it going to be told? Do you want a Host to demonstrate how to do things? Would voice-over and motion graphics work better? Interviews? Cater your script to this tone. For example, an on-screen host may need an introduction written in, where that’s not necessary with a VO script.
  7. Read your script aloud – No. Not aloud in your head. Out loud. Shut the door. Read it out loud to yourself. Are you painting the right picture? Does it flow well? These are things that you’ll notice when reading. Then read it out loud to someone else. Make sure they can follow you and comprehend the message. And ask them a few strategic questions when you’re done.
  8. Wisdom of a crowd - This is a tricky one. Make sure that your writing team is small. Just you and one or two others. Definitely do not exclude anyone, but if more people want to get involved, bring them in during the Outlining phase. Once your digits start pounding away on the keyboard, if there are too many opinions and writing styles, the message can easily get muddy. It’s important to make sure everyone’s on board. And I mean everyone. If there’s someone three steps up the chain that needs to bless the script, get their feedback in an early rough draft round – not the final round.
  9. Filter feedback – Opinions are like… well, you know phrase. If you give someone the script, keep in mind they will then feel obligated to provide feedback. And by feedback, 9 times out of 10, that means criticisms. And while it’s certainly helpful to collect feedback, don’t feel obligated to appeal to every suggestion. Take a stand on topics you feel are important. Don’t go Falling Down on anyone that doesn’t see things the way you do, but explain your position (rationally) once, and if they don’t agree, tell them ‘you’ll certainly take that into consideration’ and move on. The harder you fight for something, the harder they’ll push back.
  10. Finalize your script before shooting – If you incorporate Talent into your script, this is pretty imperative. You can certainly change and adapt on the fly, but just don’t forget anything. Also (if you have time on the shoot), try alternate takes of a script. This enables you to pacify any resistance regarding a segment of the script that may have a tenuous approval.
  11. Think of the visuals – On paper, it’s easy to write about whatever you want. You can describe elaborate sets, or intricate details in a procedure. Just keep in mind that something needs to represent what the script refers to. If you’re writing a script on how to saddle a donkey, you probably want to show a donkey at some point. Or a saddle. And keep in mind how long you’re talking about that donkey. One shot of the donkey won’t do if you’re trying to cover a 3-minute script.
Producing a Video for the First Time

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