So you’ve been asked to write the script for the next company production. You’re an experienced copywriter and the team knows you can deliver; the thing is you’ve never actually written a script before. It’s a very different skillset to writing for a blog, a press release or web copy, so here are my 5 top tips for writing great scripts:
1. Knowing the right amount of words
Duration is so important these days and obviously the more words you write, the longer the production is going to be. We work on the 3-1 rule of thumb — three words is equal to one second of duration. So, every 180 words gives you one minute of dialogue. These days we aim for film durations in the 90-second to two-minute range, but this doesn’t mean you need to aim for 270 to 360 words. You need to allow for breathing space in there as well. If you get to the end and you have three pages of dialogue, the end result is going to be too long and the likelihood is you’ll miss the mark completely.
2. Think visually
While some forms of writing allow you the time and space to get everything down on paper and go into greater detail about aspects of the subject matter, scripting isn’t like that. What you have that works in your favour is the use of visuals. Be it live-action, a ‘talking head’, photos or animation, you can use visuals to tell as much of the story as the words. Part of good scripting is being able to think visually as you are working. Even if you have just a few ideas, it’s worth noting them down as you can quickly start reducing the word count.
3. Think about the language you use
I believe there is a big difference between the language you need to use for something that’s being read compared to something that’s being spoken. A lot of scripts we see have been written like they are going into an annual report. It’s really important to think about who you are writing the script for. Try to use language you’d be comfortable using yourself and make sure you read and re-read it before you send it out. Always think about the audience and use language that’s going to resonate with them.
4. Grab the audience as quickly as you can
Our attention spans are becoming shorter, so you need to grab your audience from the word ‘go’. You have a few seconds to get people interested before they start to wander, so make sure you connect with them right upfront. Don’t open with big ‘fillers’ or unnecessary dialogue — get straight into it. Most people have their call to action at the end, so if you want people to get to that point, you have to give them good reason to get there.
5. Be entertaining
The biggest question you need to ask yourself is ‘would I enjoy watching this?’ If you get to the end of your script and the answer is ‘no’ then go again. Re-read and re-write as many times as you need to. I find that the first draft of a script is vastly different from the one that ends up getting used. Sometimes even the driest content can be entertaining if the balance of narration and visuals are working together. If it’s boring, your audience will switch off and it will have been a wasted exercise.
Script writing can be a fun exercise, but if you’re stuck, we can always help you out. Contact Lush – The Content Agency for more.
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