NOTE: We’ve altered the format a bit; and you’re in the script now. Read on:
Fade IN: INT. THE EARTHWORM UNDERGROUND, ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES - DAY Jacob, president of the local chapter of The Earthworm Underground (“TEU”), stands next to a large compost bin, talking with MARK, who is a principal in Glendower Productions. MARK “Worrell the worm.” I assume that’s an off-the-cuff suggestion? JACOB On no, He's our spokesworm. National wants this to get Worrell's name recognition way up there. MARK So he's animated? JACOB He was created by this artist who's the son of a national board member. In fact, Worrell’s copyrighted, and only this artist can draw him. MARK So you’re targeting the kids with this? JACOB Oh no, everyone benefits from worm composting. MARK Is there a specific message? JACOB It’s an Earth Day thing. We want it in heavy rotation the three weeks before Earth Day. MARK But it doesn’t necessarily need to be about Earth Day? JACOB Well sure. Earth Day. Earthworms. It's a natural. MARK What specifically is the tie in? JACOB I’ve been reading this book on marketing. It says benefit to the customer is most important. So here’s what Worrell can say about benefits from worm composting. Jacob hands to Mark a page containing the following:
(WORRELL VOICE): “ Hi, Kids, Farmers, and Restaurant owners! I’m Worrell the Worm, and I’m here to tell you it’s that time of year again, when we celebrate Earth Day! How will YOU help Mother Earth on her birthday? Well, you could start a worm farm of your very own; it’s easy AND fun for the whole family, school, or office! We’ll show you how with our “Worm Wise” Information pack, that tells you how to do it, with a magnetic bumper sticker for your car and plus, great information on how worms make your soil healthier and promote good drainage in rainy seasons, and how we can compost your kitchen table scraps into great free plant food that substitutes for chemical fertilizers. We even make a plant pest remover called “Worm Tea” that can help your house plants. And, you can learn about the abuse of pesticides and fertilizers that can hurt soil microorganisms; they’re my friends. Like the millions of useful soil bacteria that live in just one teaspoon-ful of dirt! And did you know that if you practice no-till post-harvest field preparation, you increase your soil’s ability to hold storm water and reduce wind-blown soil erosion by 15 percent or more? Did you? Talk to your local municipal park board or golf course grounds staff about having me come visit your park or golf course to make it worm-safe! I even come to schools to teach kids all about the secrets of soil. So call to order that Worm Wise Information pack, and find out all about it!”
MARK And this is a thirty-second spot? JACOB I know we can’t fit it all in. MARK Does your book say anything about “selling the sizzle instead of the steak?” JACOB I’ve heard of that. MARK Thirty seconds is more of a sizzle length of time. JACOB There’s plenty of sizzle in what you have there. MARK We may need to take it up a level. What’s a gee-whiz fact that these benefits lead to? JACOB Everything grows better. MARK What’s the biggest operation using worm compost? JACOB Entire golf courses use it. MARK There’s some sizzle. JACOB Schools do everything from including the students in composting cafeteria waste to buying local. MARK Localvore is starting to sizzle. And what do you want the audience to do? JACOB All of it. Raise worms, use compost, reduce chemical fertilizer use. MARK Is there a specific call to action; an easy thing to do right now. JACOB That worm wise information kit is something we want in everyone's hands. INT. GLENDOWER OFFICE -‐DAY Mark, and another company principal, JOHN, are reviewing the client-provided source material. JOHN If the animator isn’t coming out of our budget, this could be sweet. MARK Illustrator. JOHN You mean no animation experience? MARK Zilcho. But we can get a base drawing with an insert of the mouth in several different positions. JOHN Great. So we have it all covered except for what the spot is actually about. MARK They do have this ant farm thing with a glass side that would let us shoot some worms burrowing through the compost heap. JOHN And stock footage of golf courses, school kids, and backyard gardens shouldn’t be hard to find. MARK Sizzle. Sizzle. JOHN That Earth Day thing bothers me. A non-profit usually doesn’t have budget for something that works only three weeks out of the year. MARK So give it a tag. The last ten seconds shows the Web address for getting the information kit, and the voiceover--that can be changed at any time--can say Earth Day, Merry Christmas, or whatever. JOHN We could record three different tags while we have the voice talent in the studio and deliver all three versions for what’s already budgeted. MARK Or pitch it as an upsell? JOHN Dollar signs. Let’s do this. INT. GLENDOWER OFFICES –DAY Mark and John are mulling options JOHN So those benefits we were talking about fill the screen, while Worrell talks in voiceover about how earthworm composting helps to make them happen. Here's the script, so you can read along.
John reads his Buried Treasure script:
|Worrell, dressed as Indiana Jones, talks to the camera in his underground office.||WORRELL: In my underground adventures,|
|The shot loosens to reveal a tunnel leading out of the office, then zooms into the tunnel.||I’ve seen treasure.|
|Burrowing worms inside a glass-sided compost bin.||It’s created by my friends here.|
|Begin a montage of plants, vegetables, flowers, and grass.||And it’s good as gold for making plants grow, making grass greener, and reducing dependence on expensive chemical fertilizer.|
|The montage ends with a beautiful flower arrangement, then a pull back reveals it to be in a restaurant.||My fellow earthworms break down scraps from restaurants,|
|Happy kids are eating in a school cafeteria.||school cafeterias,|
|Kids at home scrape off dinner plates into a bin for table scraps.||and kitchens of all sizes.|
|Montage of farm crops, lush green golf courses and well-tended backyard gardens.||Then leave behind a wealth of benefit for farmers, golf courses, and gardens of every size.|
|An establishing shot of Worrell in his office shows that it contains an open treasure chest. The camera goes in close to reveal it contains a Worm Wise information kit, with the URL superimposed.||Discover treasure for yourself, in the “Worm Wise” information kit, Download it now from www.WorrellWorm.com.|
|ANNOUNCER: And just in time to do something nice for Mother Earth on Earth Day. That’s triple-w, dot Worrell: w – o – r – r – e – l – l; worm: w – o –r –m dot com.|
MARK You lecture our client on "sizzle," then show actual worms? JOHN That is the product. MARK And it's verdant abundance in a pollution-free environment we're selling. JOHN Okay. Worms are to be seen only as cute, cuddly, illustrations. MARK And montages are for cowards who can't make up their minds. JOHN Or a time-proven way to engage multiple audiences. MARK It's that "multiple" word. A farmer audience; restaurant owners; golf courses ... those are specialized audiences you don't target with TV. CAROL, a college intern, enters with a SCRIPT, showing a few red marks. CAROL I finished copyediting. JOHN Catch anything? CAROL Mild nausea from the thought of seeing worms cut next to people eating. MARK Yeah, we’ve had that conversation already. JOHN I meant punctuation or grammar. CAROL I was told interning is a way to get experience, and hoped that meant more than just wrangling commas. MARK Carol, while we appreciate initiative ... JOHN Ya wanna write? CAROL Communications is my major. JOHN Great. Finish up your "real work" of logging that footage from yesterday, then take the rest of the day to write us a Worrell the Worm script. CAROL It's only another hour I'm here. JOHN You're the one who wants to write. INT. GLENDOWER OFFICES –THE NEXT DAY Carol has been called in for her pitch. CAROL I hope you like it. JOHN Is it any good? CAROL It's good. It's good. MARK Before we hear it, tell me you have read and signed the deal memo, and you understand if we like it and use it, we’ll own it, and pay you only the amount listed in the memo. CAROL So we're all formal all of a sudden? But sure, I read and signed it. JOHN Its for everybody’s protection and peace of mind. You don’t want to learn about deal memos the hard way. Now, let’s hear it.
Carol performs her Farmers’ Secret script:
|Sunrise on a farm. Lights go on in the kitchen window of a distant dark silhouette of a farmhouse while it’s still barely light out.||ROOSTER CROW AND MORNING AG REPORTER ON A TINNY CLOCK RADIO STARTS REPORTING MARKET NEWS. DOGS BEGIN TO BARK IN THE BACKGROUND.|
|Machine shed doors opening to reveal tractor. Farmer enters with a thermos of coffee, clambers in and fires up for a day of plowing.||(Grizzled farmer voiceover) When you’ve farmed long enough, you get an appreciation for what works. And how to work with nature.|
|Tilling rows in a stubbly cornfield, the equipment passes under a high, overhead camera as it jibs down to the surface of the disturbed soil; we see red wigglers waving around on dark, fertile earth.||The newest tool on the farm is old as dirt itself. They work 24 hours a day for free, and never break down.|
|Two hands in close-up hold clumps of earth; one dark, moist and rich, one pale, dry and brittle. Titles under each hand identify “With Worms” and “without”.||They’ll increase your soil fertility, plus its ability to absorb rainfall, and they like corn as well as beans, grass, and anything else you grow. Working with them reduces your fuel and chemical costs, too!|
|Cut to graphic slate with web address and Worrell in bib overalls with a pitchfork.||Get the free fact book on how to put vermiculture to work for YOU.|
|Visit WorrelWorm dot com for details, and get “Worm Wise”, today.|
MARK That reads like a spot I’d like to shoot. Pretty morning shots. Copeland-esque music. I'm feeling all Norman Rockwell inside. JOHN I remember some smart person telling me the farmer audience is too small. MARK Audience yes, but this is an icon. Who knows more about soil than a farmer? JOHN Got it. But you're showing and telling rich furrows of farmland. The audience needs to have the dots connected back to their garden and their table. MARK Consider your dots connected. Here's my pass at the script.
Mark reads his Smart Mom script:
|Interior of a middle-class kitchen: MOM is having coffee with her sister, AUNT SALLY. Huge bowl of blooms on table.||SALLY: Wow, your green thumb’s been working overtime on the garden: these flowers are huge!|
|BOBBY, 10, and his sister ALICE,9, enter kitchen in farmer’s hat and overalls costumes, run to hug and greet AUNT SALLY.||MOM SMILES, (refilling her coffee): Well, I have some “little helpers” with that…|
|ALICE in close-up||BOBBY & ALICE: Hi, Aunt Sally! Hi!|
|BOBBY in close-up||SALLY: Hi kids! Are you playing “farmer” today?|
|Wide shot, everybody as SALLY reacts.||ALICE (Indignant) No, we don’t PLAY farmers-|
|BOBBY: We ARE farmers, for REALl!|
|KIDS TOGETHER: We’re worm farmers!|
|MOM & SALLY 2-shot, kitchen Cabinets in background between them roll into focus when mentioned.||MOM: It’s true: their farm is in that cabinet there: scraps go in, my potting soil comes out.|
|Still the 2-shot of MOM & SALLY||SALLY: Those are your “little helpers?!?”|
|BOBBY and SALLY 2-shot with open cabinet showing worm box decorated with Worrell cartoon stickers.||BOBBY: We started it for Earth Day!|
|ALICE in close-up, holds up the information packet.||ALICE: We learned how from Worrell the Worm!|
|DISSOLVE TO GRAPHICS WITH BOOKLET AND CONTACT INFO, WORREL SMILING AND WAVING.||VOICEOVER ANNOUNCER: Get your free “Worm Wise” information packet and see how easy and fun farming can be.|
JOHN Well, that’s three scripts when the client asked for one. How are we going to choose? MARK Well, I could break the Fourth Wall and ask Creative COW readers to do the picking for us. JOHN They're all early drafts. I would not be comfortable pitching any one of them. MARK So, let’s have readers vote for which script moves ahead and gets "saved" in our next episode. JOHN We're kinda asking them to do our work for us. What’s in it for them? MARK Well, we can give away a copy of your script writing book. FADE OUT
TO THE READER:
Which of the three scripts you would like to see rewritten and pitched to the client in our next episode of Save This Script? Reasoning behind your choice, or additional comments, will also be appreciated. We’d really like to start a conversation!
This client scenario is a very common one: wanting to cram everything into one spot. There are two main drivers for this behavior: one is false economy, the other, multiple stakeholders inside the client organization, lacking an ability to whittle down multiple goals into one, so they throw it all at the wall hoping some part of it will stick.
There is a mindset that it is cheaper to make one, catch-all spot, than to diversify and build a multi-spot campaign. I would say that the opposite is more true: a catch-all spot that is too bloated to catch and hold any one key audience, means you spent the ad buy money for nothing. Less is More in these cases; better to sell the heck out of just one or two copy points, than to throw the audience a handful of worms to untangle.
The unfocused “committee” client is tougher to handle because you may not have any insight into their internal politics, and you don’t want to step into that minefield if you can avoid it. But, careful probing questions may hint at what the various stakeholders each need a spot to do, and from that, you can try to weed-out the elements that plain won’t work, or up-sell them on more targeted products.
Two of those up-sells that I would suggest for the Worm people would be a direct-mail and video loop aimed at the restaurant business, using their own convention circuit to concentrate the audience. Being non-broadcast, you have more time to cover more facts in these kinds of pieces. A similar campaign could be directed at the golf industry and marketed thru golf-related media and conventions. Finally, the farm audience is a large one but still a niche and very seasonal, compared to a general broadcast audience. I think a better bet for reaching them is to play a video and have a marketing presence in state-wide farm equipment shows or the county fair circuit, as well as posting that video in appropriate online venues. In thirty seconds, subtracting the introduction and call to action, you really only have fifteen to twenty seconds to hit your sales point. My script chose to focus on two of the client’s many issues: I portray the worm farming as a fun kid activity with a purpose, and I sell it to the moms as a gardening aid. If the mom doesn’t buy-in, she’s unlikely to let the kids start their worm farm, so I’m steering this in Mom’s direction first, with the gardening benefit, while secondarily hitting the kids angle and (against my better judgment) squeezing-in the Earth Day reference the client was excited about. That’s all I’d dare try to cram into a spot like this, with any hope some of it sticks.
We mention a Deal Memo in passing: there are dozens of threads in the COW forums where the entire problem would have never happened if the parties wrote a simple, plain-English memo, outlining the expectations, deliverables, and the specific payment terms in advance. Don’t leave key issues to chance or verbal “understandings”. Carol will know exactly where things stand, no matter what happens to her script, with no hard feelings on either side. And we’re protected from future IP issues.
Mark is right on target with his upsell ideas. Too often, inexperienced clients get excited about a single tactic without thinking through a big-picture strategy. So they usually appreciate you pointing out that no craftsperson would have a one-tool toolkit. And no organization should rely on a single tactic to get their message out.
Typically, the organization’s whole story is on their website, preferably with strong calls to action that are easy to see and respond to. The site can showcase videos and print pieces that can also be used self-standing at events, or as direct mail pieces. Then the TV spot is the tool that drives traffic to the website.
This big-picture thinking helps to counter the “while we’re at it” syndrome that makes clients think everything needs to go into a single video or TV spot. With a single purpose—to create the sizzle that excites viewers enough to visit the website for a worm-wise information kit—the TV spot can be more sharply focused. And the client can be assured that viewers can get all the information they want, along with a little sizzle along the way, encouraging them to want more at every step of the process.
My Buried Treasure script uses “borrowed excitement.” Without saying “Indiana Jones” (massive copyright issues), the fedora hat and six-shooter evoke what has become a recognized cultural icon; and the audience then knows to expect the associated high-value treasure and exciting adventure.
The “underground” aspect is a natural and the metaphor opens up an entire vocabulary of words such as discover, treasure, wealth, and so on. So the borrowed “sizzle” is established in the visual, taking no additional screen time, and the literal sense of the words deliver the message, while their allusion to buried treasure reinforces the creative approach and tongue-in-cheek fun.
Carol’s approach, the “Farmer’s Secret” script, uses the effective “ask an expert” approach. The additional benefit is having a rugged, down-to-earth spokesperson who balances out what could be considered a trendy, new age reaction against established farming conventions. The effectiveness of Mark’s “Smart Mom” script rests on using an “expert” from a more familiar setting. And taking advice that sisters would give each other can be more convincing than hearing it straight from an advocacy group or a guy on the TV. The pretty flowers make clear a benefit, and who can resist cute kids?
So hard to choose. Please help by posting your vote. And a few words on why you chose the one you did would also be appreciated.
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.
Title graphic artwork courtesy: Jane Bucci, Fine Art America