Effective scriptwriting is more than knowing how to write a video script. You also have to know how to format your script so someone can produce your video.
In the episode, I tackle the burning question of how to format a script. And more specifically, which format to choose?
Read the Transcript
Thanks for joining me today. And my burning question is what format do I use for my video script?
What to Write in a Video Script
Before we dive into what format to use. It’s important to go over what belongs in a video script because I think this gives context as to why there are specific formats and why those formats need to be followed. All right. So what belongs in a video script? You have your verbal and your visual message on the visual side, you have your scene headings, your scene descriptions and your character descriptions. These are described in present tense. What we would be seen. Visually. The audio side, this will include your dialogue or your narration.
And it also includes music and sound effects.
Now that’s a lot to keep track of. So if you were to just write all of these down on paper without a specific format, it would be very hard to hand your script off to someone in production and then for them to follow it. That’s why there are specific formats that are used when writing a script.
How to Format a Script
Which formats do you have to choose from?
The first is the screenplay, and this is what is used for movies and TV series. I think this format is what most people envision when they think of writing a script. Screenplays look a lot like a manuscript. You have this giant script that’s probably like a hundred to 110 pages long. The first page will be your title page. And then as you’re going through the script itself, you’ll see everything arranged on the page in a very strict format. Screenplays do have a very strict format. The way things are arranged on the page, the format you’re using, the margins. All of these have set standards. And if you don’t follow these standards, chances are no one’s going to read your script.
I’m not sure if this is the exact reason, but I do know that. With the formatting requirements, each page is about a minute on screen. So I think having this format helps people one figure out how long your movie is going to be or your TV series. And two, I think it helps them figure out. If the movie is going to be interesting within a certain amount of time, because no one wants to watch a movie where you have two hours of just nothing. And then the last 10 minutes are suddenly action packed. That would not be a very successful movie.
But again, I cannot say with certainty whether this is the reason or not, because I do not have a background in screenplay writing. I do have an interest though. And on a personal note, I would like to write a mini series someday. I am quite a ways off from being able to do that, though.
How to Read a Screenplay
Okay. Going back to scripting formats for marketing videos. So the screenplay format. The way you read it is a lot like, you would read a book or something, but again, you have this very strict format that has to be followed.
And by using this format, it’s very easy for the production team to see what should be happening and where you open with your scene heading you have your scene description, your characters need an introduction. Whenever you introduce a character and you’re referencing them, you have to capitalize.
Their name or, whatever you’re calling them. And this is what tells people, okay, this is a character. And then later, when you want to give them dialogue, you have to write a heading let’s say the character’s name is Frank. You’re going to write Frank, underline it. And then Frank’s dialogue will be under that. It almost looks like it’s centered on the page. And then the whole script is formatted that way.
Now, if you think of the length of a normal movie, it’s usually at least an hour. So following the strict format keeps everything organized.
Could you format your marketing video script as a screenplay? You could. Is that the best format? No.
AV Script Format
That brings us to our second format, the audio visual script. This is also sometimes called the two column video script. And depending on the software that you’re using, if you use any script writing software, it will also be called the multi column format. But the idea behind it is the same.
Instead of having this manuscript looking document, what you have is it’s more like a table. You’ll have two columns or three, again, depending on whether it’s the two column or multi column format. The visual elements all go in one column, and then the audio elements will go in the second column. If you have a third column this is used for adding like an image or something.
If I’m scripting something like a tutorial or even a selling video where I need to reference a very specific image, like a screenshot, I will add a third column to my script and then I will drop the image into that third column. So that way, when someone’s reading my scene from left to right they know what is being described in the scene.
Regardless of how many columns you have the AV script. As I said before, it looks a lot like a table. You have boxes, and this is how you separate your scenes. You don’t necessarily have one row, one scene though, you open up the scene at the beginning and then that scene could be going on for two or three rows. But the visuals within them will change. And then when you need to start a new scene, you just add a new scene heading.
Keep Your End Goal in Mind
When you’re writing a script, it’s very important to think of what your goal is. When someone is writing a screenplay, their goal is to create a movie or a TV show that will entertain people. And I think the format of a screenplay lends itself well to that. With a marketing video script, though, your goal is to either sell or educate people. And by nature, it’s going to be a shorter video.
How to Format a Marketing Video Script
The AV script I think is perfect for what you’re trying to accomplish in a marketing video. The AV script format is also more flexible than a screenplay is. And it’s definitely more forgiving in terms of mistakes in the formatting than a screenplay is. And that’s because there isn’t really a strict format for the AV script. You have the two columns. Yes. You should label your scene headings. But the rest of it. Yeah. It’s just not as, it’s just not as strict as a screenplay is.
That’s another reason why I think that AV scripts are better for marketing videos. There’s enough of a format that anyone who’s producing, the video can follow the script and actually make the video, but it’s not so rigid. So anyone could write a video script, put it into this format and they can get a video produced.
When I dabble in screenplay writing I actually use script writing software to do the formatting for me. I tried to manually format a scene once and I’m pretty sure I spent more time doing the formatting than I did actually writing the scene.
With the AV scripts that I write, there is software that will do the formatting for you. But personally, I don’t use it. I have tried it before. It there’s a company called Celtx that has script writing software for both screenplay writing and, they call it the multi column script. I’ve used it. I liked it, but for me, I find it easier to do my script writing in a Google doc, because I think it’s easier for getting feedback from my clients.
Celtx does have a collaboration feature, but their software and their program are very much for people who know video.
So for my purposes and my client’s purposes, I find a Google doc is just easier.
I realized that I’m talking about how a script is supposed to look and it’s a lot easier to know. How something should look when you actually look at it. So I’m going to link an example of a screenplay and an AV script in the show notes.
I’m also going to link to the AV script template that I have on my website so you can download it for your scripts.
All right, let me go ahead and summarize. So for any kind of video. You need to form out your script to keep everything organized, because there are a lot of moving pieces.
In script writing, you have the screenplay format, which is great for movies and TV shows not so great for marketing videos. Then you have the AV script format, which is great for marketing videos because it’s easy to use, it’s flexible and it still keeps everything organized.