A Creative Exercise for Writing Your Video Script

A Creative Exercise for Writing Your Video Script

We know what you thought last summer: You’d kill to get a video on your landing page.  What a hook, right?  You know video increases your chances of getting on the first page of search engine results.  You know video can drastically increase time on site and reduce email campaign opt outs.  You know customers find it a lot easier to buy when they know more about a product. And your Spidey sense tells you they would rather watch than read.

But last summer, you were daunted.  Time, money and writer’s block stood in your way.  You felt pressure to be “viral” and instead got cold feet.

That’s perfectly understandable.  That’s why we’ve put together these five creative yet practical tips to help you prevail in World War V.

1 – Think Big.  Get High.

Don’t jump to conclusions.  We’re referring to big, high concept ideas.  Video’s natural advantage over other media is speed of engagement.  Big stories simply accelerate this speed of engagement.  Have you ever wondered why there are so many crime, hospital and pitched legal battle shows on TV?  High, life or death stakes accelerate engagement.

As an example, let’s say you’re producing a video for a pizza chain.  Which sounds more exciting?

A:  Pizza delivery guy is stuck in traffic, sweating it out because he knows if he’s not there in 30 minutes the pizza is free.

B:  Pizza delivery guys is stuck in traffic, sweating it out because he knows if he’s not there in 30 minutes the aliens will attack the Earth.

Assuming he makes it on time, both versions need about the same budget.

2 – Twist and Shout.  

Big ideas need big execution.  You’ll need to stack the script with these big moments. Audiences reward entertainment value.  And they will reward unexpected creativity more than they will penalize low budget production value.  Just keep reminding yourself – ideas are cheaper than water.

Continuing the above example … the pizza delivery guy arrives at the secret counter-alien-terrorism-unit headquarters right at the 30 minute mark.  Which sounds more exciting?

A:  The elite counter-alien-terrorism-unit guy (we’ll call him ‘Kiefer’) grabs the pizza, flips open the lid, grabs a weird looking piece of pepperoni off of it, the pepperoni morphs into a thumb drive, he slams the thumb drive in to a computer … only to have it instantly crash global defense systems leaving the planet vulnerable to attack.

B: ‘Kiefer’ grabs the pizza, flips open the lid and screams as he notices an army of wind-up alien mice eating the pepperoni drive.

I think both are OK.  And again, both versions need about the same budget.

3 – No Lights, Cheap Camera but Yes to Action!!!

You know it.  I know it. There needs to be action.  Fighting, martial arts and shocking explosions are all appropriate here.  In the interest of safety, I’m not suggesting you stick an M80 into a pizza. But I am suggesting your video will perform better if the pizza delivery guy – trapped between an army of elite counter-alien-terrorism-unit guys and an army of wind-up alien mice – has to fight his way out.  We all love an underdog, right?

How do we get around our lack of trained fighters, choreographers, stunt people, etc.?  With hot camera moves, smash cuts between VERY different camera angles, expressive visual effects and goofy sound effects.  This is not naturalism.  This is having as much fun with the production process as you are with the concept and letting that spirit spill over to the audience.

Please try this at home.  In your kitchen, hold a tray of lasagna at about chest height.  Aim a directional mic at the spot in front of your feet.  Turn the tray over so that the lasagna falls onto the floor.  Apply that sound effect to a fist hitting a beer gut.  Let a Ziploc of tomato juice explode on the punch and soak the gut’s white t-shirt.  Classic cinema?  No.  Shareable?  Yes.  Click thru for a coupon for a pizza in 30 minutes?  Absolutely.

4 – Kid, I’m Gonna Make You a Star.

All blockbusters need star power.  And as video marketers, we can’t afford it.  We probably can’t even afford our town’s version of Ron Burgundy.  And sadly, Bela Lugosi is long gone.

But who said the star needed to be a person?  Couldn’t – and shouldn’t – our product be the star of our video?  That hasn’t been done since the unrated version of the first American Pie.  But I would strongly recommend it.

Cut to: Our fearless underdog pizza guy trying to fight his way to freedom with just a car full of pizzas.  Off the top of my head, he could use them as:

  • a throwing star to take out a bad guy (Enter the Dragon style)
  • a shield (300 style)
  • an alien-acid-rain blocking umbrella
  • a facial disguise
  • a spare tire (for the ride he came in on)
  • a Frisbee (in the end, he saves the world by taking the alien mice for a round of Frisbee golf)

Obviously, I don’t expect your picture car to ride on a pizza wheel.  But with a little “make up” and careful camera angles, you can get the point across.  On the other hand – it’s probably very easy to get pizza Frisbees produced.

5 – The King’s Speech

Blockbuster movies also have classic lines.  “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”  “Hasta la vista baby”.  “The D is Silent”.  The list goes on.

Assuming you’ve written exciting dialogue for your marketing video characters, you have an important production decision to make.  Do you record the dialogue on location or during post?

The former gives you perfect sync, but can really slow down production.

The latter raises sync problems (assuming you’re not springing for a professional ADR studio) but opens a world of creative possibilities. If your sync won’t be perfect … how bad do you want it to be?  You can probably do a decent job simply lining the lines up against the picture – and avoiding static close ups as much as possible.  Or you can go campy, deliberately set the lines all completely off, and bank on the audience’s undying love of 70s anime and Hong Kong action films.

How about casting?  The actors recording the lines don’t actually have to be the same as the ones on set (dubbed anime, anyone?).     Back in our video – should we cast ‘Kiefer’ as a gravelly tough guy?  Or find an 8 year old on helium?  How about pizza delivery guy?  College dude?  Sultry woman?  Android?  How about the mice?  For both the mice and the pizza, sync isn’t an issue.  But the casting is important.  I’m thinking ahead to the end of the film – the big emotional payoff.   Pizza delivery guy makes the winning Frisbee golf shot with the original pizza from the first scene.   The pizza lands in the basket.  We push in for a close up.  The pizza says “Boy, that hit the spot.”

What do you think?  Kevin James soundalike?  Gilbert Gottfried?  Yoda?  (With the line rewritten, “Boy, the spot that hit.”

In Conclusion

Allow your enthusiasm for your product and marketing to be contagious.  Today’s media savvy audiences prefer being on the inside of the joke, than on the outside.  They reject brands that take themselves too seriously.  So go rent Toxic Avenger, then grab your camera and have more fun than a barrel of 13 Monkeys.

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About Our Contributing Author - Gary Lipkowitz
Gary Lipkowitz is the Chief Operating Officer of GoAnimate. Previously, he was the COO of Wego.com in Singapore, a price comparison travel search engine. He also served as an advisor to Idol Films, a Hong Kong-based film development company during this time. Prior to Wego, he was assistant vice president with Mediacorp Raintree Pictures, Singapore’s feature film studio, concentrating on film financing and international sales. He was also a strategy consultant with Yahoo! Southeast Asia, advising senior management on a variety of strategic, operational and financial issues. Before moving to Asia, Gary was an award-winning corporate television writer/producer in Chicago and Austin. He also wrote, produced, and directed the English-language adaptations of over 20 anime franchises for ADV Films. He holds a BA in economics and psychology (magna cum laude) from New York University, an MFA in film/TV from Northwestern University, and an MBA (with distinction) from INSEAD.

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