A video starts with a script. A script starts with a blank page. A scriptwriter usually starts with no idea where to actually… start. Here’s how I get my brain to turn over at half past lunchtime on a wet Wednesday:
Your eyes are always open
Nearly always. Unless you’re asleep. The point is, everything you see could inspire creative genius, so pay attention and take things in. We live in a visually busy world so look around, think, remember and let things percolate in the back of your brain.
Do the research
You know you’re a writer when your browser history has already covered Pink Floyd, improvised explosive devices and German sewage processors before midday. You’ll be looking things up and finding things out once you’ve started, so stop procrastinating and get on with it. If you’re working to a brief, Google your title and see what comes back. Click around. Be interested. Find things out and fit them together.
Check out the competition
While you’re scouring the search engines, be sure to notice what other creative types are putting out. You’re not going to imitate them, you’re definitely not going to steal from them, but you’re going to learn from them, be different from them and be better than them, which means you need to know what they’re up to. You can’t go against the flow until you’ve found the river.
Always, always, have your technology in mind; think about what it can do and watch how other people are doing it. Every time you watch a video, ask yourself “how’s that shot? why that cut? why that font? why’s that in black and white?”, and every time you script a video, think about how it’s going to look. Even if you’re stating the obvious, keep your craft techniques in mind.
No, that doesn’t mean “faff around on Facebook for an hour, waiting for the Muse to grace you with her presence”. It means get up, away from the desk, and be in a different space, doing something different for a while. You’re not giving up on your writing, you’re just putting it on the back burner and seeing what boils away. Chances are you’ll have the idea you’re looking for once you’ve stopped frantically looking for it, which is usually when you’re in the middle of something else…
Start in the middle
I’ll level with you – I did it when I was writing this very piece. It’s not easy, writing a face-slamming introduction before you even have a clue what you’re actually going to say. Start in the middle, riff off some ideas, then go back and write the introduction and pretend you planned it that way all along.
Remember the plan
Nobody’s content is created in a vacuum. Whatever you’re doing, it’s part of a strategy, it has a target audience and a goal to achieve. Go back to the marketing plan, bone up on the brand identity and put your eyes back on the prize.
John Lanyon is Creative Director at Hurricane Media, a video production and content marketing agency in Bristol, UK. An award-winning filmmaker, John has led campaigns for global brands and is an authority on online video marketing and social media.