I m p o r t a n c e   o f   a   s c r i p t

The three most important components to a great film. Script, script and script. What makes truly great creative video content? Alfred Hitchcock used to wind up his leading actors on the first day of filming by arriving on set a little late, slap down the final script on his chair and announce “Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s another one in the can.” Of course, what he wanted to draw everyone’s attention to was the importance of the script to the film. There are many, many films where a weak or non-existent story completely hobbles otherwise fine performances and camerawork. On the other hand, some modest films become very successful simply because the script was so good.
It’s the same with advertising. Most TV commercials are banal to the extreme, but the best are witty, funny or moving simply because the script had an idea that was elegantly expressed. And the scriptwriter knew what he left out was just as important as what he wrote. Here’s a good example of a very short ad (just 10 seconds long: these are the hardest to write). It featured the wonderful, late Wilfred Hyde White, a silver-haired genial elderly gentleman sitting in the back of a Rolls Royce holding a bowl with some apple pie. He is also holding a pot of cream and he starts pouring it onto the pie. Talking to the camera, he grins and simply never stops pouring. “I’m normally the most disciplined of men,” he intones with mellifluous elegance, “but when it comes to St.Ivel’s Pouring Cream, oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear…” Brevity is indeed the soul of wit. How brilliant to be able to say everything about a product in just a few words and generate a belly laugh at the same time.
Please don’t ever think that your online video content is anything other than TV advertising. Of course it is. You have an audience, a product or service to sell or a message to impart. They may want to visit your website, but you still have to apply all of the rules of advertising because quite simply, you want them to do something. The worst option which I see time and again, is to let a film crew create a quasi-documentary about your organisation. This is such sloppy and weak marketing. Let’s be straight about this. Documentaries are for TV channels, not websites. They owe their existence to their subject matter which by definition is interesting. Homeless children. Sex trafficking. Arms deals. These are suitable subjects for documentaries, not Joe Bloggs’ Accountancy Practice. This content is only interesting to Joe Bloggs and possibly (but not probably) his wife.
The video itself should be no longer than two minutes long because on average, 50% of viewers will have tuned out by then. This is more than enough time to create a strong, emotional response in the viewer that gives such a positive first impression that it would take a catastrophic mistake elsewhere on the website to be overturned. Once this scene has been set, the rest of the website can present more rational information that confirms the propensity to buy.
In a way, you can’t blame all of the video production companies that do this. They have filmmaking skills but no experience in the advertising or marketing industries. And let’s face it. Writing a script takes time and some skill. It requires an idea in the first place, and a certain command of English to polish it. So here’s a suggestion to all of those art colleges offering media and filmmaking courses. Insert an advertising module, so all those poor graduates will be able to create something that doesn’t just move, it can then move something else off the shelf.

< A script doesn’t just refer to spoken words, it’s about what you see as well. The point is a script comes from the mind, not the camera. (film by Forsman Bodenfors/Folke Film)


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