In this article, we’ll cover:
- Start with an Outline
- Distill, Distill, Distill
- Use Sluglines and Visual Descriptions
- Write Conversationally
Well, the answer varies depending on the client and the situation.
Often if we are working with agencies- who have a deep understanding of their client’s brand and a background in writing creative, they will provide us with a script and it’s pretty much good to go. Our job then is to provide suggestions, possible edits, opportunities to replace some written words with visuals, or maybe just a second set of eyes to refresh the language.
Other times, we are told something like: “hey, we know we need a video, we know it needs to cover our value proposition and our company mission statement and we know we want it to be 2 minutes long…but…how do we get started on a script for our video?”
Those are the two ends of the spectrum and we deal with everything in between. First off, we are happy to write the script for you. It helps you avoid the dreaded blank screen and flashing cursor. We give it a shot and let you give us notes on it. Or you take the first shot. It really up to you and your comfort level. Some people enjoy writing scripts, others don’t. Let us know and we’ll work with you to get there. Because scripts are the foundation of the rest of the project. It’s important to get it right. If you want to write your own scripts, here are a few rules of thumb that we use when writing scripts for video:
Start with an outline
It’s called “rough draft” for a reason…
Your first shot is, well, a hot mess. It’s usually a long, rough, confusing outline — and that’s totally okay! Be clear about your video’s overarching message, your marketing goals, and your audience. And if you have the appetite for it, try and break it down into acts. ACT 1, ACT 2 ACT 3 are usually all we need for a short video. The 5 W’’s are super helpful as well, but don’t feel you have to use all 5 of them. Act 1 can be WHO, Act 2 can be WHAT and Act 3 can be WHY (your WHY being the most important and WHEN being the least- adding too many WHEN’s often makes the video too timely)
Distill, distill, distill:
We joke that when we need to edit a script, we start by “killing all the adjectives”.
No sentence should be longer than 16 words. Shorter sentences break the information up into smaller, easier-to-say units. Sentences loaded with dependent clauses, lists and exceptions confuse the audience, especially when they are trying to follow visuals. They are also hard to read on a teleprompter and sound awkward on a narration.
This is the most common edit we make on original scripts- finding things that that can be ‘shown’ rather than ‘told’. Most people are used to writing without visual support. So they over describe scenes and allow their sentences to drag on. In that sense, we don’t really change your script, as much as remove the parts that can be demonstrated visually rather than verbally. When writing scripts for video, less is usually more.
Use sluglines and visual descriptions:
Sluglines are brief descriptions of the time and place that a scene occurs.
They come at the beginning of a scene and tell the reader whether the action takes place in an interior or exterior, and just general notes that help the reader share a vision for what a scene will look like. A sample slugline for a marketing video shot in a studio might read simply:
INT STUDIO DAY:
Or, a slugline for a how-to video:
CU HANDS OVERHEAD SHOT
A visual description might include references to graphics, transitions, colour schemes etc. We usually put visual descriptions in square [brackets] and slug lines in CAPS and on screen graphics in whatever these <things> are called (triangle brackets??)
One of the most counter intuitive (but very important) things I learned in writing scripts for corporate videos was how to tell your client’s story in a conversational way.
Clients are used to using their very best grammar when they write in their professional life. But we have to drop some of that formality. Think about how you talk to someone face-to-face. Lots of contractions and warmth (if you met someone for the first time, you’d probably say “hi, I’m Brigitte ”, not “Hello, I am Brigitte Sachse, CEO of Bee Video Productions”).
Don’t think of your script as just another form of corporate content. Think of it as a conversational piece. Do away with all but the most accessible business jargon (consider your audience- there are certain “insider” words that will work). Rethink all long difficult words, or lists of any kind. I always advise people to read your script into a voice recorder. Put on your best ‘narrator’ voice. The minute you do that, you’ll see exactly what I mean. Your script will surely flow better. Want more tips and tricks to writing your own script for video? Or, do you need a video production company to do it for you? Get in touch with Bee Video Productions today. We’d be happy to help!