Save This Script, By John Morley and Mark Suszko
Each installment of this series is a scenario in which a writer/producer team is confronted with a problem script. The scenario, written in screenplay format, revolves around a typical client management situation that can lead to a problem script. Join John Morley and Mark Suszko in this first episode as they Save This Script!
Great videos start with a great script.
Sometimes, the scripts aren’t so great.
We’re script doctors; come, watch us operate.
In each installment of this series, a writer/producer team is confronted with a creative challenge. The scenario, written in screenplay format, revolves around a typical client management situation that can lead to a problem script.
The problem script itself can then be read, followed by some back-and-forth as the creative team rises to the challenge.
Each installment ends with the finished “makeover” script being pitched to the client. Brief commentary then further explores the strategies and insights that drove the script make-over.
FADE IN: INT. BOTTOM LINE PLUMBING, PRESIDENT'S OFFICE - DAY The company president, PHIL, sits across his desk from MARK, who is a principal in Glendower Productions, and sits taking notes.PHILWe've been doing radio spots for years, but now want to take it up a notch with a 30-second TV spot. MARK Are you targeting a particular type of customer? PHIL We know it's the ladies who call. A lot more often than the guys. A lot of it is referrals from happy customers, too. MARK And what's most important to the ladies? PHIL Speed. They need it fixed the same day. MARK You can do that? PHIL Whatever it takes. I got stories... MARK Is there anything from the radio ads we need to keep; anything that really rings a bell with customers? PHIL We want a clean break. It's TV. We can be creative, y'know. So how 'bout this: A lady is telling her friend about us? MARK Good. Gives it that third-party endorsement feel, ties in to referrals. Phil pushes a piece of paper across the desk toward Mark PHIL My wife likes the idea so much she wrote the script for it herself. You might have to jazz it up a little with that special effects stuff you guys use, but since we wrote the script, there should be a break on price, right?
“30” seconds TV
(2 WOMEN AT A TABLE,
Client’s suggested script)
(MIDGE) “Say, Betty, how are you doing? Haven’t seen you here at the book club for a while.”
(BETTY) “Oh, Midge, I’ve been too busy trying to pick a plumber who is both experienced and affordable, and who does the work fast, because I need some repairs done to my bathroom…”
(MIDGE) “Well, you should call 555-5432.”
(MIDGE) “Yes, 555-5432 is the number for Bottom Line Plumbing”
(BETTY) “Bottom Line Plumbing? You mean the ones located just south of the Olde Tyme Mall on Route 123, corner of 123 and North Ash Tree Street? With convenient off-street parking?”
(MIDGE)”Yes, and did you know, they charge ten percent less on the first Monday of every month, when you show your frequent caller card?”
(MIDGE) “And, Bottom Line has been family-owned and operated for thirty years, with licensed and bonded plumbers who all take a certification from the Plumber’s Institute of technology?
(BETTY) “No, I did NOT know THAT! Well, now I know the best place to call for a plumbing repair is Bottom Line, at 555-5432 ! But how did YOU know all of that?”
(MIDGE) “Maybe because I married a plumber!” (BOTH LAUGH)
(NARRATOR/JINGLE) “Great plumbing service in the shortest time, sit tight and call us: Bottom Line”.
INT. GLENDOWER OFFICE - DAY Mark, and another company principal, JOHN, are reviewing the client-provided script. JOHN It's meant to be ironic, right? MARK Not unless "jazz it up with special effects" is the new code for irony. Who TALKS like THAT!?!?! JOHN Wait. That's just the tone people associate with the early days of TV. Retro-chic is cool. MARK It's cool when it makes the audience nostalgic for something they think used to be better. This kinda on-the-nose crap never worked. It's more like a catalog of bad examples of clunky writing. JOHN It would be asking a lot of our audience to know about early TV stereotypes, get the reference, and get that it's a parody. MARK Yeah. My point: They use so many brain cells figuring out the joke that they miss the message. Also, we're using most of the time just setting up the gag, and not selling... They stare into space. JOHN At least he's clear on audience. So, what do ladies really like? MARK A Mercedes convertible? JOHN Spoken like a guy. How about a wedding? MARK We're not selling romance, John. JOHN But we are selling grace under pressure and reliability. MARK That's a more... elegant way than Phil put it... JOHN But they are critical at any event. A wedding is a highly stressful event for the ladies, and your friend Sarah shoots weddings, right? MARK You are so non sequitur. JOHN And I'm sure she would have a customer who would like to save a few bucks if we could just use their wedding party for extras in a few stills. MARK Wherever you are going with this, just have a rewrite ready for us to pitch in our next meeting, and... JOHN Budget is an issue. Yeah; yeah. INT. BOTTOM LINE PLUMBING, PRESIDENT'S OFFICE - DAY Phil sits across his desk from John and Mark, who are well into their pitch. JOHN The ladies love looking at each other's wedding albums, right? So this gives them a logical reason to be talking. Looking down onto the book, we don't need to show the room. MARK You just see hands turning the album pages and the photographs full screen. JOHN And if your business card is in the album, that would be the strong ending visual saying "happy customer." The graphic leads right into saying the all-important phone number. PHIL And all this story in 30 seconds? MARK You said "be creative." The images flip by fast, about 8 of them. John passes a copy of the rewritten script to Phil.
Rewrite of client-provided script FADE IN:
Photo in a wedding album being leafed through on a coffee table. It shows a typical wedding party group shot, except that it includes a plumber in a Bottom Line uniform proudly displaying a large pipe wrench.
MIDGE: Such a lovely dress… um…there’s a plumber in your wedding album.
BETTY: Sure. Turn the page.
Album photo of a doorway framing a harried looking middle-aged father, half-dressed for wedding, pointing back toward the bathroom.
|BETTY: That’s my dad, on the morning of our reception, in their backyard.|
Album photo of ring bearer pointing to a guest bathroom, holding nose.
BETTY: The toilet in the guest bathroom was stopped up.
MIDGE: I would freak…
Album photo of slightly grim mother on telephone.
BETTY: Or my cool and collected mom would just call Bottom Line plumbing.
Album photo of Bottom Line plumber working on the toilet, taking all precautions to keep the area clean.
|BETTY: And before the first guest even arrived…|
Album photo of father, in a tuxedo, doing a test flush of the toilet as a proud Bottom Line plumber looks on.
…everything was fine.
Album photo of plumber eating wedding cake.
BETTY: So of course we invited him for cake.
Album with Bottom Line business card inserted as if it is a photo.
|MIDGE: And his business card?|
BETTY: That Bottom Line plumbing phone number is a wedding memory I need to keep: (555) 555-5555.
JOHN Let's do a read-through so you'll see how it works. Here's a binder we'll flip as we go, like it's the album... (After the read through.) PHIL So my guy's a hero. MARK And we show it rather than just tell it. That's the power of video over radio. JOHN It's still a variation on your two-ladies-talking idea. We made it more on-point. PHIL So it's still my wife's idea? MARK Well... based on her idea, yes... PHIL Great. So I get my discount for writing the script for you! MARK Tell ya what, we've saved you the cost of sending a video crew out to shoot this, because it's all stills except for the hands turning pages in the book. We can save even MORE if we use your house, draft your family members for the wedding party members. There's no acting or audio needed, and your wife can be a star in the commercial. I'd have two women voice talents record the voice-over, for their timing and clarity. So we are effectively saving you as much in production as a first draft script would cost. With a little editing, we can turn the whole thing around for radio use as well. PHIL So my wife can get paid for the script.... MARK Feel free to pay her just as much as you would like. JOHN ...And so concludes our "Game of Thrones"... FADE OUT
Our thanks to John Morley and Mark Suszko for collaborating on this training session for “Save This Script.”
Los Angeles, California USA
John Morley is a seasoned veteran. Over 20 years of writing for a living has taken him from Gainesville Florida, to Atlanta and on to Los Angeles. In addition to writing for corporate events, print and Web sites, over 300 of his video scripts have been produced, by clients including Home Box Office, Georgia Pacific, CitiBank, Mattel, Pioneer Electronics, and most of the Asian car companies, including Toyota, Lexus and Nissan.
He has conducted seminars on scriptwriting at numerous industry events, and he taught informational scriptwriting at California State University, Northridge. His script-formatting software, Script Werx, is used around the world by writers working for corporations, government agencies, non-profits and television shows, including Saturday Night Live.
Please visit John Morley’s website, Original Vision, for more information about his contribution to the industry and his new book, Scriptwriting for High-Impact Videos.
Title graphic artwork courtesy: Jane Bucci, Fine Art America