How to Know When to Script Your Video

I'm often asked about writing scripts for non-fiction and commercial projects, mostly in the business world. Clients ask questions like "How long should my script be?" or "Do I write the script or do you?" or any number of other questions and my answer is always the same:

You don't need a script.

Let me clarify... You should know what you want to say, or better yet, what you want your message to be. Your producer should also have some kind of storyboard or outline for what your video might look like in the end but…

That doesn't mean you need a pre-written piece of text just to read in front of a camera. The exception is when your commercial or website video uses actors to portray a scene or sketch. Then, yes, you should have a script and I often write those for my clients as part of their package or sometimes as a standalone service.

However, if your video is designed to reach your customers directly, then I firmly believe you not only don't need a script but should run the opposite direction from anyone who says you do.

Viewers (read that "potential clients") respond best to people who sound real.

The best way to achieve that is to use a "Question & Answer" format on camera. I ask the questions, you answer the questions, and I'll keep asking the same question in different ways until I feel like you've delivered a unique, believable, and relatable answer.

The best thing you can do to prepare for a shoot is to write out a list of bullet points or snippets of text that you can send me in advance. That lets me know what needs to be said. That's the "message" of your video. From there, I'll turn those around into questions written specifically to pull the best possible answers out of you.

For example, if you want to read this from a script: "We are the number one provider of bulk lumber in Washington State," I'm not going to let you say that on camera. Sadly, no one cares. They want to hear why you, your product, or your service matters to them and they want to hear it from someone who's passionate about what they do. I would most likely ask you something like "Tell me why you started doing this in the first place" and see what I got, then ask again if I didn't feel the answer was compelling.

To make a long-winded answer much shorter... Viewers have to believe you.

Unless you're an Academy Award-winning actor, they're not going to believe the person reading from a script. They will believe you if you speak from your heart. If you're worried about stumbles and stammers and "umms" and "uhs" and pausing for too long, don't be. That's exactly why editing was invented. That's also why it's handy to have the interviewer and the editor be the same person. It's my job to make you look and sound amazing. That's what you hired me to do, and that's what I'll do.

Here's an example (albeit an extreme one) of what happens when scripted delivery goes very wrong. I did not make this video.

Here is an example of a completely non-scripted video where subjects spoke from their heart. No, it's not perfect, but it's real.