Corporations make a common misconception when designing a video for their marketing campaign, often assuming that the piece must be scripted, which isn’t necessarily the case. Every brand has a message they’re trying to convey and a set of values and guidelines they must uphold, but does that necessarily mean you should run off a script?
When we say you shouldn’t have a script, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a plan or overall sense of direction, it just means we’re not holding our subjects to tee when they’re on set. Without giving everything away all at once, here are three things to consider in deciding whether or not to script your next video:
Most of these points are true when we’re conducting an interview-style piece with a director asking questions off camera. The subjects we select are almost always real, tried and true professionals of their craft, not actors. Why? Because it makes our jobs SO much easier. These people aren’t faking it. They’re telling it like it us, and it’s up to us to ask the right questions the right way to get the answers our clients are looking for.
Say our subject is an artist and our client wants an emotional soundbite about the emotion the artist feels when drawing. We’d ask them to recall the first time they started drawing, which automatically creates an organic moment of inner thought and reflection, virtually guaranteed to yield a better response than any scripted answer we could’ve come up with. In these situations, it’s more about recognizing the key message we’re aiming to get and strategically allowing the subject to spit it out naturally and organically.
Real people vs. actors
Perhaps one of the more controversial aspects comes with your choice of subject. Of course, actors are experienced and can easily ad lib or work from a script, but if you’re looking for the most organic responses to your questions, choosing a real professional in the field might be the way to go. For example, if we go back to our artists scenario, we’d select a professional artist that fits the criteria we’re looking for instead of an actor to fake it.
Actors can only make up so much, because in reality, they don’t know what it’s like to work in that field unless they’re a master method actor and have an arsenal of knowledge to work from. More often than not, after a while they’re going to be stumped and you won’t get what you’re looking for. A real professional doesn’t have to make up a story. They’re telling you what their job is really like based on their experiences. From a filmmaking perspective, this is a much better alternative and is much more enjoyable to watch.
If your company uses them, social influencers can also make great subjects for these videos, as they tend to have a special touch when it comes to discussing brands and their respective key messages. Plus, they’re professional, fun to work with and make your job 10x easier.
Let’s not forget the script itself, which can be a nightmare if the person you’re working with isn’t experienced on camera. No knock to scriptwriters, but if you want an inexperienced actor to work from a script, the script HAS to read well. It needs to flow, avoid big words and tongue twisters and needs to use conversational language, meaning it shouldn’t sound awkward or robotic. Not to mention, these scripts would have to be memorized, which allows more room for human error.
From this perspective, you’re much better off preparing a set of talking points and general statistics to familiarize the person you’re working with, with the brand. Too many times we’ve seen people stumble across words or skip an important word and have a difficult can’t get back on track.
Unless you’re shooting for a feature film or recording for a news outlet, it can be helpful to allow for some flexibility within your project. A lot of these shoots happen over the span of a day or two and sometimes you really don’t know how things will play out until they happen. If you have a script, it makes it a little more difficult to change things and the subject can be completely thrown off. If there’s no script, you’re free to change things around to achieve a stronger flow and chase what concepts work best for you.
Flexibility also gives the director a lot of creative freedom, which can be invaluable on the set of a production. When a subject responds to a question, a director might hear something they like, or might have a follow up question that’s too good to pass up. Having flexibility allows the director to go off the beaten path to pursue a storyline which wasn’t visible before. While it might not always pan out, it’s almost certainly worth spending the time and allowing the director a bit of free rein.
Some brands will flat out halt a production if there isn’t a script, and that’s okay, as long as they’re confident in the people they’re working with and have a clear vision of how they want the production to look. Even still, I believe every brand should consider an unscripted video at some point in their brand’s future. Who knows – maybe it’ll even become the next viral video.