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The script is the foundation — the verbal description, the dialogue and instructions — for a creative project that will involve many people over a long period of time. The script will change and evolve and develop, of course. But after listening to the pitches, the people who will be involved in the project want to read the script. They want to be guided verbally through a visualization of the finished project to help them decide whether to commit to it.

If you don’t have a script, we will not be able to plan your part of the production phase of the process. A script will let us find potential problems before they occur during shooting or when it is too late to solve them.

To use an architectural analogy, the script is like the floor plan and the sketch. You haven’t actually built the thing, but the script shows the intention: the structure, the characters, and the overall movement. And all the dialogue, of course.

What does a script look like? It can look and read like an essay, paragraph following on paragraph. It can look more like this web page, with lots of short sections with subheadings. It can have lists. It can look like a Shakespeare play, all dialogue with a few stage directions. It can be a poem, with short lines.

It can be a combination of all the above. It doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as the format is consistent and it uses words to help the reader see and hear the final project.

We are going to take several class days to look at your scripts. That will give us about 15 minutes per script, on average, though some will take more time than others. It is important that you understand the value you can get out of listening to a discussion of someone else’s script. If you’re listening, you will get far more out of the 290 minutes we talk about everyone else’s scripts than during the fifteen minutes that we talk about yours.

On or before Friday, February 13, send your script to me via email.

The script specifies what will be audible and visible on the screen when people watch your finished video. This document will have all the words that the actors in your video will speak, including voice-overs. It will also have any text, if any, that will appear on the screen. It may also have some stage directions.

Starting at the beginning, after the title sequence, what will we see and hear?

In addition to the voices — dialogue or narrative voice-over — a shooting script will also note instructions about technical and dramatic elements such as sound effects or use of props.screenplay

The rule of thumb is one page of shooting script per minute of screen time. That’s “page” in the old-fashioned sense of an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper and “script” in the format on the right — lots of white space so that the actors can more easily pick out their lines.

If you are aiming for a four- or five-minute video, you should write a script for about five or six minutes that you can tighten when you edit. Aim then for five or six pages (if it were printed out).

As with all our documents for this process, your script can be edited at any time.

Script formats

Your scripts will probably be best expressed by using one or several of these formats:

  • straight paragraphs as you would in an essay, article, or report

This format will work well for a documentary video or video essay that relies largely on a voice-over narrative.

  • traditional dramatic play format for dialogue (example on the right and your Odd Couple script)

This format will work well for a scripted video with multiple characters interacting.

  • lists and tables. For example, your table could have these column headers: scene number, scene name, time, setting, actors, action, basically an expanded shot list (see below)

This format will work well for a music video where the music determines your structure and the lyrics are half your script; the other half is the images we’ll see on the screen: setting, actors, action

  • storyboards – especially if you are doing a mash-up, your script may resemble or be able to use storyboarding techniques. Here’s what the Wikipedia has to say about them:

Storyboards are … graphic organizers such as a series of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of previsualizing a motion graphic or interactive media sequence. … A film storyboard is essentially a large comic of the film or some section of the film produced beforehand to help film directors, cinematographers and television commercial advertising clients visualize the scenes and find potential problems before they occur. Often storyboards include arrows or instructions that indicate movement.

In creating a motion picture with any degree of fidelity to a script, a storyboard provides a visual layout of events as they are to be seen through the camera lens. And in the case of interactive media, it is the layout and sequence in which the user or viewer sees the content or information.

Note this phrase: “find potential problems before they occur.” If you can’t draw, you are welcome to use words to describe the scenes.

Sample scripts

the Odd Couple script that you will rehearse

sample script from Wikipedia

Simply Script’s movie scripts

narrative coherence

Does the story hold together and make sense in our world? Is it probable or at least plausible? Is it implausible but enjoyable or interesting?

narrative fidelity

Does the story match our own beliefs and experiences? Does it portray the world we perceive that we live in?