Video Scriptwriting Part One: Writing a Script After Shooting Footage

Imagine you’re a video scriptwriter in the world of video scriptwriting. Someone hands you fourteen transcribed interviews and a general storyline idea for a video. Each interview is 20-30 minutes long, and the overall video needs to be less than five minutes long. One more thing: you have no video to look at, only the interview transcriptions.

20150413_132545Great video content can help a business stand out from its competitors, and video scripting is a highly important part of making the video. Scripts can be written before or after the primary footage is filmed. Let’s learn how to write a script after footage is shot.

Why would anyone write a script after shooting?

For documentary-style videos involving multiple interviews with several different people, some video directors may prefer to work from a list of interview questions about a particular storyline to get the most candid, unscripted responses. After all of the interviews are complete, it’s up to the scriptwriter to weave together the narrative for the video editor to follow. This is a three-step process: 

Step 1: Transcription

All interviews must be transcribed line-by-line, word for word (“um” and “uh” included) with time code references. The video editor may have to search through hours of footage, so it’s very important for the scriptwriter to reference the time to make each line easy to find. This part isn’t too exciting – anyone who can type fast can do this. 

Step 2: Outlining the Story

The director began the interview process with a general idea of the story to tell. After the interviews are complete and the footage is transcribed, the director will give the scriptwriter some suggestions on how to script the story. Should it have a sentimental beginning or end? What topics are relevant in the interviews to the story outline? From this basic framework, the scriptwriter can begin.

Step 3: Script Assembly

This is where the magic happens. Sometimes the scriptwriter has access to the video clips, making it easier to get a feel for the rhythm of the language. But many times there is no footage available, only the interview transcriptions. Seasoned scriptwriters know how to look for clues in the language to orchestrate the narrative’s rhythm so that it’s intuitive to the video editor.

Think Like an Editor

Video production is a team sport. After the script is constructed, it’s handed to the video editor who makes the shot and transition decisions. For example, if someone is talking about a building renovation in an interview, will the editor choose to show footage of the building with voiceover narration of the lines the scriptwriter chose, or will the editor show footage of the person talking? It’s very important for the script’s narrative to be focused, because “B-roll” footage of the building might be limited. Can you read the script out loud and hear a captivating story? Is your script compelling enough to stand on its own without any B-roll footage? If not, you need to tighten up your narrative. Your goal is to make the editor’s job as easy as possible.

Number Your Shots

Each line of speech in the final script needs to be numbered. The director, video editor, scriptwriter, and anyone else involved will be able to quickly find a numbered line in the script (“I think we should swap lines 4 and 8 for a smoother transition, what do you think?”). Note: the time code still needs to be included.

Many of our clients need help crafting quality videos for their businesses. GlobalWrites has a team of experienced scriptwriters and video production partners to make your videos stand out. Contact us for more information, and stay tuned for our next video scripting post: Writing a Script Before Shooting Footage.