A Look Into the Scriptwriting Process [Reel Rebel #37]

A Look Into the Scriptwriting Process [Reel Rebel #37]

The scriptwriting process is much more than "I have an idea!  Let's immediately put it to paper and see what happens!"  Although…you know…sometimes that happens.  It's good to prepare, and to have a process, and to test out your work with others before running out and shooting it.  While this makes it sound like you would be sucking out the creative process by giving it a structure, what it actually does is keeps you focused while you're being creative, and steers you away from tangents that could waste valuable time.  And if you have a whole team involved at the script stage, give this past episode of Reel Rebel a look.

Writing the Script for Your Video: Finding Your Focus

Once you get your idea for your video, the next step in the pre-production process is scriptwriting.  Scriptwriting is a very important part of the process, and is much too often ignored.  Here are a few steps to follow:

Outline Your Script

Outlining your script helps make sure you have a complete idea.  It gives you direction, and helps you to begin writing without stopping.  When you don't do this, you have to write a little, stop and think about what you want next, and then write more.  Thinking before you write and outlining your script first will also help prevent writer’s block.

It may be a good idea for you to find a good script template, which can bring a more professional look to your work.  This will depend on the style of script you’re writing.  For something educational (like the video in this post) or a voiceover, this may not be the best way.  For instance, in this video, the script is on a teleprompter, so you need to write with that in mind.

A Look Into the Scriptwriting Process [Reel Rebel #37]

When outlining your script, be sure to remember that your script should have three main parts:

  • Introduction—This portion should grip the interest of the viewers.  It should arouse their curiosity.  If you fail to capture their interest in the beginning, they won't bother to watch the rest of the video.
  • Main Message—This is the heart of the video.  Usually the formula “state, explain, and example” is used.  This means that for each main point, you want to state it, explain it, and give a supporting example.
  • Conclusion—Once you’ve presented your main message, you want to give your video a conclusion.  This is where you summarize the main points.  You want to have a clear call to action and thank your viewers for watching.

Write

The next step in the process is to actually write.  You’ll want to find a place that is relaxing for you and where your ideas can flow.  It is best to find a place without interruptions.  When you finish writing, you’ll have the first draft.  Drafts are important, but this is not the last step in the process.  It is a good idea to workshop your script.  You can do this alone, but it is often good to have others read your script and offer ideas.

You should get others to read it because you may be too close to your script and may not be able to be completely objective about it.  That's why it's good to have someone else tell you where you may have screwed up.

Read Aloud

The first script you write is not intended to remain on paper for all eternity.  Sometimes you write something that looks really great, but when you read it aloud, it doesn't sound that great.  A script needs to be able to be read smoothly.  If you can’t read it smoothly, how can you expect your actors to do it?  Read it aloud, and change portions that are difficult to read.  You should do this until it sounds good when being read aloud.

Scriptwriting is an art form, and sometimes people may need to do things differently.  Applying this process, however, is a good place to start.  It will help you get your idea from your head onto paper in an organized manner.

For more information on scriptwriting, here is a link to Wikihow: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Script


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View The Full Video Transcript:

Hey I’m Stephen Schweickart with this episode of the Reel Rebel and today we’re going to start at the beginning; before editing, before shooting, before storyboarding, before even location scouting. Today, we’re hoping in the Time Delorean and heading all the way back to the scriptwriting process.

Aside from getting the idea, the scriptwriting process is the most preproduction of preproduction. There’s not a whole lot for you to do before this other than make something up and think to yourself, “Hey, this might make a pretty cool video.” But once you’ve done that, you’re free to dive into scriptwriting head first. But please, wear a helmet. We don’t need people getting hurt.

Don’t just start writing dialog. Sure, you may have come up with a couple of cool quips for your characters to say, but when is he going to say it? Before spoken words, before writing action, simply outline your script. This will force you to have a complete idea before just word vomiting all over a page. It gives you direction for your writing and will allow you to start writing without stopping, rather than write a little, stop to think about what will happen next, and then continue. Get all of the generalities out first, and stop that pesky little bugger we call writer’s block before it even rears its ugly head.

Depending on the style of script you’re writing, it might be beneficial for you to look up script templates to give your narrative script a professional look. But if you’re just writing a voice over or something educational like what I’m doing right now, just open up a new Word document and start typing. Chances are, it’s going to go to a teleprompter. It will be for me at least. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, let alone this whole script.

The next step is just to write. Sit down in whatever place is most relaxing to you, and let your ideas flow onto the page. But guess what? You’ll notice I didn’t say this was the LAST step. When you’re done writing, you’ve got yourself a first draft. Drafts are important. You think Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in one try? Of course he didn’t.

So don’t be afraid to WORKSHOP your script. And by that I mean both alone, and with others. Having other people read your script and offer ideas is a great way to get an outside perspective. A lot of the time your eyes will be clouded by the idea of how awesome you think you are, and having someone else tell you that you screwed something up is always good. I’m sure you’ll screw it up so don’t be defensive. It’s constructive criticism, and applying it can only help your piece be stronger. I’m sure, you’re awesome, but likely you’re not perfect.

Finally, and for the love of cake do not skip this step, read your piece aloud. We tend to write words on a page as if they’re going to stay on the page forever, never to pass a human’s lips. This is not the case though, and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve written scripts that look like brilliance on a page, but sound like mush when read out loud. You might feel like a big weirdo talking to yourself, but trust me, if you can’t read it smoothly, then your actors definitely won’t be able to.

Applying this process is a good place to start. But as with a lot of things in this industry, scriptwriting is an art form, and sometimes people need to do things differently. This concept is a great place to start though, and will undoubtedly help you get your idea from that squishy brain of yours out onto a tangible page.

You know the drill by now. This is the end of the video and here’s what you do. Click this like button if you liked it, click this subscribe button to get yourself some more FREE tips, that’s right, we do this for fun, and then share your thoughts in the comments below. But proofread them before you post them. I mean, what video did you just watch...

About the Author -
Chris Atkinson joined ReelSEO in 2011. He is a longtime film and television reviewer, and has almost two decades of experience in the theater industry. He also writes on his personal blog - http://nymoviereviews.com. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • CorporateHeadquarters

    May 1
    I gotta say your entire theme is useless babble.
    I won an Academy Award for a short film.
    I did not use any your advice.
    You are sooooo boring. My advice: just do it.
    JOHN LONGENECKER

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.atkinson.560 Chris Atkinson

      Hi, John, Thanks for the constructive criticism!

      I was wondering how your experience compared with the other 4 writers (Carpenter, Castle…well, you know who they are) on this movie that you won the Oscar for, and how your experience translated to absolutely no more screenwriting jobs for you afterwards?

      And since we cover the extensive subject of YouTube here, I was wondering how your experience translated to 2 videos and 21 views on your channel?

      Any advice from you would be invaluable!

      Of course, that is assuming that you are the real John Longenecker. I'd hate to think this was someone assuming his identity.

  • Paul

    Thanks for the article, Chris – good stuff. Also, thanks for the reply to Longenecker – that was good stuff, too! I laughed so hard I lost my breath!!

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