Scripted vs. Non-Scripted Corporate Videos

Believe it or not, I honed my skills as a corporate video producer/director during my tenure as a wedding videographer. In particular, the skills I learned shooting, directing and editing love story videos. Learning how to elicit emotion, ask probing questions, and juxtapose answers from disparate interviewees is the hallmark of any great love story video, and as such, they were perhaps the best training I got for the commercial documentary style work I do now.

table-readA key aspect of that documentary style is going into the interview and producing the video with no formal script. Actually, for years I proudly held this as a key differentiator for my services. Through the process of discovery with my clients, I learn the right questions to ask to elicit the right soundbites needed to make emotionally engaging and provocative videos.

But as the size of the organizations I work with grows, I’ve grown fonder of having a more “scripted” approach to video production with some of the clients I’ve served. Now that I’ve done both, I see that each has its place, and each has its pros and cons.

Non-scripted

Pros

  • Provides the strongest feeling of authenticity.
  • Increases the possibility of having those fortuitous moments when someone says or does something that is better than anything you could have thought up.
  • Provides a broader array of information and topics that can be utilized for future videos.

Cons

  • Yields significantly more footage to log and sift through.
  • Longer editing times, not only because of the increased logging time, but now you have to juggle around all those various soundbite to construct a “story”.
  • Greater chance of not getting a strong opening or closing statement—you know…when someone says something so profound and eloquent that the moment you hear it you know right then and there it will be the ending of your video).
  • B-roll shots that best match the soundbites from the interview have to be planned for and shot another day if you want to maximize the best fit between what was said and what you shoot as b-roll. (Note: I absolutely know that if the shoot day is long enough and the interviews short enough, in many cases you can get adequate b-roll the day of. I do that all the time. But, even in many of those cases, there are times I wish I could get better b-roll than what was available to me based on the time and locations that were planned.)

crown-caliber-set

Scripted

Pros

  • You know from the get-go that you will have just the right opening and closing. In fact, messaging in general will be exactly what the client needs.
  • Significantly reduced editing time since you’re editing to a script.
  • You can create a very specific shot list for every shot of the video, thereby ensuring you get the best visuals and b-roll you need.
  • Reduced revisions since the video was shot based on the client’s pre-approved script.

Cons

  • Inexperienced interviewees coming off stale, stiff or generally uninteresting.
  • Interviewees sounding like they’re reading or reciting a memorized line (thereby deducting that feeling of authenticity). It takes a skilled interviewee or actor to deliver scripted lines without having them sound scripted.

A Hybrid Approach

One approach I’m doing with some clients is a hybrid between the two. First, I write a script for the video that meets all the necessary objectives and messaging. It has a strong opening and closing and flows well.

Once that script is approved by the client, I create a set of questions designed to elicit answers that will in essence yield the script I wrote (or very close to it).  If there are specific soundbites I want to hear, I get the most eloquent interviewees to each recite it verbatim, in their own words. I direct them in such a way to minimize the “scripted” sound. I still keep the door open to ask questions that may yield those fortuitous nuggets I mentioned earlier. If I hear something great, I make a note of it for me to reference in the editing. If nothing of particular interest comes from the extended questioning, I make time code notes as to where the “scripted” questions end. That way in the editing room, I’m not sifting through more footage than I have to.

Keep in mind that there are some videos that will absolutely require a script. Explainer and animation videos, 30-second commercial spots, and of course, narrative work, all require pre-written scripts. But if you tend to be more of a documentary-style video producer, the hybrid approach is a method I strongly advise trying.

How do you handle your doc style corporate interview shoots? Share in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Scripted vs. Non-Scripted Corporate Videos

  1. As usual, thanks for the post.
    A quick question, in an earlier post before the new look, it showed a slider that you use. What is the slider?

  2. Some great thoughts here on the validity of both scripted and non-scripted content. As someone with a background in broadcast news, my natural tendency is to shun scripted content as “fake” or “inauthentic” and to always go unscripted for a more “authentic” approach. But I’ve come to realize that often-times you need the tight, clear focus that a script can provide. Your hybrid approach is a great one. It gives you the best of both worlds and provides a bit of an insurance policy in case your interviews don’t go as planned. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  3. Great post. What I’ve done sometimes is let them read their prepared/scripted statement, and then ask follow-up questions, honing in on what I think are some important details or elements that didn’t seem to come across well.

  4. I constantly juggle with how much scripting I use in a production. As a video producer that works with a company specializing in both corporate healthcare marketing and private fundraising initiatives, I bounce back and forth between heavy scripting (and storyboarding) for some clients, and non-scripting interviews and b-roll for others. Thus, the hybrid approach of capturing authentic soundbites while maintaining a concise message works well most of the time. It’s a balancing act to manage, to be sure. But an experienced producer should be able to guide a non-scripted interview where it needs to go to acquire the proper soundbites; I’ve asked interviewees to repeat answers, or have asked to clarify and isolate certain bites, knowing that what they said was almost perfect, but not quite.

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