Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Concepting and Scriptwriting Tips for Family Video Productions


Flickr photo: Meg

Part 2 of a series about capturing the joy of family events on video

Last week I introduced this series about creating videos to capture the joy of family events and special occasions like weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and holiday get-togethers. Now let’s delve a bit deep into the process by discussing the first of four main phases used in multimedia productions – concepting / script writing.

First, try to develop a concept that really captures the spirit and central theme of the event and carry that through when writing narrative dialog and text for titles. Paint appropriate pictures with your words to support that theme, then consistently use them as the main creative inspiration for all parts of the project, including visual design elements and for deciding on appropriate music. Think of your production as a complete concept where every component works seamlessly together.

Also do a little research on your subjects about their personal and family histories, the major influences that helped shape their lives, and who or what is important to them. Then use that knowledge and insight to create an even more compelling, entertaining script as well as for noting possible interview questions.

You might also want to consider injecting a little humor or drama. But be careful not to get too corny or heavy handed. Be tasteful, be subtle, go easy on jokes or critical social commentary, and generally be mindful of people’s feelings. This is after all a celebration of the joy they share and your “cast” will be your ultimate primary audience. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some good-natured fun or tell a more serious story.

Something that many people leave until the very end of a production is writing copy for titles. A professional scriptwriter does not treat them as an afterthought. Instead, they are researched and developed as a part of the scriptwriting process. Titles can be used for everything from the main intro and primary scene transitions to minor segues and credits. They can also be inserted to tell back stories, to describe time/place and to emphasize key quotes. Additionally, titles can be created as still images or animated text and choosing just the right words can add another level of interest or even comedy to a scene. Occasionally, they define and inspire what ends up on the screen. So give them some thought up front during the creative concepting process.

Next we should discuss script formatting and design or art direction notations to describe on-screen action. While these things are pretty simple, they are still important for making your script outline easy to understand – especially when several people are involved in a multimedia production. For that, it would help if you followed a set of universally recognized guidelines like those employed by Warner Brothers and numerous other big studios. Here is a good article on Standard Script Formatting that includes plenty of examples.

Once you have a basic script or outline that establishes your main theme and spells out the flow of scenes, you might also want to create a rough storyboard. This step is vital in communicating a visual style scene-by-scene to large, diverse teams of professional filmmakers. A lot of time, money and hard work goes into them. However, for personal video productions with limited budgets, you can’t hire a Hollywood storyboard artist. But nearly everyone can draw stick figures and that’s all you really need to capture a sequence of on-screen events and titles to serve as visual reference points to make all the individual elements easier to keep track of. To learn more about storyboards and how they can be used effectively for even the most modest home video projects, read my blog article here.

Since this phase encompasses so many aspects of the creative design and storytelling process, we can’t do it justice in one short series of blog articles. But hopefully this has given you some solid direction and I encourage you to learn more about it by reading some books or tutorials on the subject and possibly participating in a filmmaking workshop. There are also some good websites where you can get lots more tips like http://filmmakersworkshop.ning.com, which has an excellent blog at http://filmmakersworkshop.blogspot.com. There is also the Film School Online at http://filmschoolonline.com, http://www.studentfilmmakers.com and many more web sources as well as courses at a variety of local colleges and universities the world over.

Be sure to check back next week for part 3 of this series, which will cover pre-production and planning.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

One Response to Concepting and Scriptwriting Tips for Family Video Productions

  1. Bill Meek says:

    Hi Stefani,
    Your blog is the first I’ve read.Great work! I am determined to dedicate some time to learning this medium(the computer) and I must say it is very interesting and your blog is very inspiring. It must be fascinating learning about people’s lives while doing your work. I have years of recording my family’s life and have never attempted to organize it into a video or even a photo collage.Years ago I did a few murals,4-panel screen-glass etchings that were symbolic stories about people I interviewed.It was great fun. I might try to begin a script or storyboard soon.
    Keep up the good work! And thanks…Bill Meek

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