Start with the script

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Making a video is lots of fun. It’s creative. It’s playing with cool tech toys.

It also takes time and it costs money. However it takes more time and costs more money if you don’t get it right the first time.

The starting point for any video production is the script. This is where you create, plan and start to shape your vision for your production.

Making a video without a script is like building a house without a blueprint. No matter how many resources and personnel you throw at it, it will be a mess.

The script is also where you can tinker without blowing the budget. You can play around with your ideas and revise the structure.

Occasionally clients will tell me that they will write the script for the production. Understandably they believe no one knows their business like they do. This is a doubled edged sword. Yes they know their business but are they too close to it to be able to explain clearly to the uninitiated.

Often the trouble with marketing is we assume knowledge and use jargon which is lost on the unfamiliar. Insiders talk about what they do and forget that the audience is more interested in how that will benefit them. An outsider with script writing skills can bring a fresh perspective that resonates with the target audience.

When clients write their own script, what invariably is delivered is a script for an audio production, not a video. It only contains the commentary.

The most important part of a script for a video is the visuals. What is going to be seen at each stage of the production? How will we use the visuals to enhance the message and provide layers of information that extends beyond just the commentary?

When writing scripts I format the document into two columns. One is for the visuals and one is for the related commentary, music, sound effects (the audio).

This is useful because it allows the client to “see” what we will be showing in the video. A good script will be able to understood and “seen” by any director. It will clearly explain what is being shown at each stage.

If the script requires someone to write at a desk you need to clarify the vision. Is it a wide shot of a woman in a messy home office typing at a laptop that is partially hidden by the piles of papers on her desk?

Is it a close up of old fingers gently holding a fountain pen that scratches across a faded note pad.

Each describes someone writing at a desk but each is a completely different shot and feeling. It is during the script writing stage that you can clarify the vision and the emotion intended.

When productions are more dramatic and require actors I’ll get a storyboard drawn to make it clear how the scenes will be framed and how and what is in each shot. This also allows the client a better opportunity to understand how the production will come together.

Also be aware of the cost of what you may suggest in your visuals. The four words – “Indians attack the fort” could add $1million to the budget of a production.

In preparing for a shoot, I’ll use the vision column as my shot list. This means I can simply tick off each shot as detailed in the script. You need to make sure you have enough scenes for each part of the production. One shot for a minute’s commentary is not going to work.

So whenever you get excited about making a video, think about the script. It all starts there.

If you are looking for some creative solutions to get your clients to take the critical next step, give us a call on

About Geoff Anderson

About Geoff Anderson

Geoff Anderson is the owner of Sonic Sight and has been producing videos for 30 years. He is an author, presenter as well as a video producer.

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