Writing for Video

It all starts with pre-production. This is the most important part of production because a well-planned out project has a far better chance for success. Let's look at some areas of pre-production.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming involves a group of individuals throwing out suggestions and working off others. This happens in two phases. In the first there is a creative, spontaneous flow of ideas and suggestions without judgment and evaluation. Record these ideas onto a white board or easel paper. In the last phase, the group analyses and explores the ideas to form a final coherent idea.

The Project Proposal

The project proposal is an overview of your project. It includes all of the information to accurately describe what the final product may look like. Include detailed descriptions of locations, characters, plot, theme, intended audience, approximate running time, and budget and time parameters. Usually you use about 1 page per minute of the project.

The Script

The script is the natural evolution of the project proposal. It is a way of organizing everything that will happen (and when) during the project in intimate detail. It not only has what the actors may be saying, but voice over narration, shot types and length, cutaways and inserts, scene setups, lighting techniques, etc. This is the master blueprint of the project. Every member of the team should have a copy of the script and should refer it often. It must be written in a broadcast style while envisioning each scene in the minds eye. Use an active voice and simple sentence structure. Write at no more than a grade 6 level. You don't need to use descriptive dialog because you have the imagery for support. This also allows the talent some creative license in front of the camera. This will add some personality to the characters and dynamics to the action. When envisioning the scene that is being written, setup it up with an establishing shot. This is typically a long shot of the location and it sets the scene. Use medium and closeup shots after that.

The Storyboard

Storyboards are used to more visually relay a story line to the team. Its emphasis is on imagery rather than text to describe the story flow. This can be useful to help describe visual attributes of a story line that are difficult to describe in a textual way. A scene is laid out as a series of sketches on paper. Each time the camera changes its angle or POV (point-of-view) a new sketch is generated. These sketches are then tacked up on a wall as a series to relay the story line. This is used mostly in the animation world.

Location

Make sure that all locations are scoped out during pre-production. It is important that your script describes the settings correctly. Make sure everyone arrives early and is setup, tested and ready.

Pitfalls

Don't be unorganized. The more the project is carefully planned and thought out, the greater its chance of success. A carelessly planned project will take 3 times as long as planned for. A carefully planned project will only take twice as long :-)