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Always review your needs before writing the script

Planning a video or film for your business is just like planning anything else. The more prepared you are, the better the process will go and the happier you’ll be with the final product.

In video and film, you have an added bonus: the more prepared you and your producer are, the lower you can keep your costs. Follow the steps below and you’ll be well on your way to executive producing your next video or film.

1.   Review your needs.

2.   Hire a scriptwriter and a producer.

3.   Attend a kick-off meeting.

4.   Get your treatment.

5.   Get estimates to produce your treatment.

6.   Review your rough and final scripts.

7.   Be available for preproduction — the time when your producer will locate your existing visual assets (such as photos and video), and map out the production.

8.   Be present at production. Production isn’t the exact follow-through of all planning. Your script is a blueprint. There will be questions you’ll need to answer on the set.

9.    Review your rough and final cuts.

10.  Evaluate how you did!

In this blog, we talk about #1 … internal needs review.

At this early phase, you needn’t concern yourself with hatching ideas for the production. You’re concerned with collecting information. After all, you wouldn’t take your car to your mechanic and tell him or her how to fix it, would you? You’d report symptoms and problems and let them do their job. It’s a lot the same working with media professionals.

Your internal audit of needs and problems will speak a certain, very specialized, language to a seasoned professional. Certainly your input is important, but you’ll find you’re happier with the results if you let your professionals do their jobs once you give them your needs and parameters.

How do you review your needs? Just as your auto mechanic has a routine for diagnosing car problems, your scriptwriter and producer will have a routine based on the following questions:

1.  What’s the video’s primary purpose? Do you want this video to train? Entertain? Excite? Motivate or persuade? It’s important that you keep the purpose simple. One 10-minute video cannot be responsible for more than one objective. There can be “sub” objectives; however, you need but one primary objective or else your final product will suffer from murkiness.

2.  How will the video benefit your organization? Will it help elevate your business in the eyes of the community? Will it help sell furniture? Will it help train staff? Notice the use of the word “help.” Although video is a powerful medium, we in the industry look at it as an aid. A video cannot rescue a business from a bad economy, all on its own. It cannot, alone, reverse sales declines. But it can, like all good advertising, greatly help you and your staff do your jobs.

3.  Is this a first video? A video professional will be greatly interested in the legacy of videos or films (or related media) that have come before this one, and whether you foresee additional videos, such as a series. You should have previous videos available for the writer and producer to take with them and you should be prepared to talk about what you liked and disliked about them. It’s also helpful if you can share favorite videos from other companies.

4.  What is your budget for this video? The writer’s treatment will be based on your estimate of how much money you’ve got to spend. If you give a ceiling figure for how much your new video will cost, you’ll save valuable time by sharing it.

5.  What special concerns do you have about the video? Will it reflect, for instance, a whole new image for your company? Will it mark a turning point in how you train employees?

6.  Who is your audience? Are they male? Female? How old? What are their nationalities? Levels of education? Career expertise? Current knowledge of the subject matter? What’s their current attitude toward the subject matter? Have they seen other videotapes on the same subject? Do they have physical disabilities that affect how they will view the video? Most writers will do as I do — fashion a typical viewer from the information you give them and then write for that person. The more precise your audience, the more targeted your message will be.

7.  How will the audience see the video? In one sitting? In a group or singly? How large will an audience be? Are there possible disturbances or other reasons the audience may not view the video in its entirety (such as a trade show setting)? Is the audience free to leave at any time? Is there a length restriction? Is a discussion leader present with each showing? Will there be support materials? Will the audience provide feedback or questions?

8.  What are your limitations? There are always limitations! Perhaps your company needs to shoot this video in the winter . . . and still provide attractive exterior shots of the building. Perhaps the video needs to be made in July, when most employees are, unfortunately, on vacation. Perhaps the video needs to be made especially quickly. Any concerns you address now could help keep your price down as you negotiate them. If they cause unexpected delays later in the project, you may be less fortunate.

9.  Will this piece broadcast or webcast? Broadcast and webcasting each have special needs. I would shoot a broadcast piece entirely differently than I would a piece designed for the web. In addition to visual concerns, broadcasting and webcasting may affect your bottom line. Stock footage, for instance, can be more expensive when licensed for air; so are narrators, music, and actors.

10.  How will a nonbroadcast audience see this piece? Will it be shown in an auditorium? A $200-a-plate fundraising dinner? A small office? Will it always be shown in the same way? A knowledge of the variety of venues for this video will help a writer set the mood and a producer set technical and artistic direction for the piece.

11.  What is your company’s current marketing position and do you plan to change that for this video? In other words, are you known as the “friendly supermarket”? The “college that opens doors”? A “company on the cutting edge of web technology”?

12.  How would you like an audience to respond to this video? Would you like them to buy something? Believe in something? Know something?

13.  Are there scheduling concerns? For instance, will you, your liaison, and others be available throughout the projected production process? Is there a fast turn-around?

14.  What elements must absolutely be included in the video? Must you include footage of the exterior of the building? An interview with the CEO? Be sparing with this list — the more you add the more difficult you make the writer’s process. It’s much better to open doors for the writer rather than to close them. However, you don’t want to introduce necessary items too late in the process. They must be discussed in the kick-off meeting to avoid delays and cost overruns.

15.  Who is the project liaison? Videos are only successful if there is good and plentiful communication. Your writer and producer will need ample access to information — if you can’t provide it, make sure there’s someone who can. Also, you and/or your liaison will be required at other key points during production and postproduction. A representative should attend every shoot and at least one editing session. This person should probably not be the CEO, but should be someone who has availability.

16.  What background items do you need to share with the writer? It’s better to provide more rather than less information. Your writer needs to become an expert on your company for a matter of weeks or months — and can only do that if you provide more than enough information. Keep in mind that research is often not included in the price of a script. If you expect the writer to provide days or weeks conducting the telephone research necessary to begin the script, you will pay for it, generally $600 to $800 a day.

17.  Does this project require legal department approval? If you need legal department approval, make sure that the appropriate people are involved in the script process from the beginning. I’ve been involved in projects that were submitted too late for legal approval — and required significant rewriting that could have been avoided and really boosted the price.

18.  Who in your organization will be involved in the making of this video? Choose carefully who must be included in the decision making regarding this video. The more people you add, the more complex the script process will be. Also keep in mind that your writer will expect you and your staff to synthesize your comments on each stage into one document. An ideal number of people to involve is three or four maximum.

19.  Who is the final decision maker for this project? No good video is made from an unorganized, undirected committee. Make sure there’s a strong decision maker at the helm.

I’ve created a form that helps you complete this information for each and every producer who may be bidding on your project. Write to me to get one (no charge).

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Video 101: Review your needs before writing the script

by susan time to read: 6 min

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