An actor joked last night about a backstage game they play: challenging each other to deliver the most undeliverable lines with convincing aplomb.
Sometimes there’s no avoiding issue lines about “sewer assessments in Sausalito.” But if you have a script that’s intended to be spoken, read it out loud. Make sure what you’re hearing flows like spoken speech and calls for the right visuals to support your ideas. You may be surprised at the double entendres, impossible alliterations or typos that will magically appear. Doing this early in the process can save valuable time in the studio with talent or after-the-fact fixes that could have been caught in scripting.
If you are reading the script for time it must be read out loud (is a common thread emerging here?) and it must be read slowly - what will seem to be uncomfortably slow. On-screen talent and voice-over artists speak clearly and that takes more time than normal conversational speech. We recently supervised VO sessions for a client against a scratch track they had recorded. We could get the talent to match the time, but it threw off the conversational tone they were trying to achieve. If you are going to hire expensive talent make sure you give them the space to do their job.
Language written for print - in a catalog or brochure - is different from the spoken language we use for on-screen talent or voice-over. Where language for print can be complex, we try to keep scripted language clear, direct and easy to say. We use contractions and we try to be brief. Complex concepts are explained with visuals as well as language. Why else would you use a visual medium for your messaging? Think of every word as precious - make sure every second of screen time conveys valuable information. Throwing in clauses for no reason, flowery descriptives that could be shown, is not using your audiences’ time well. They will likely swipe left, click delete, move on to the next booth, or leave their seat for a bathroom break. You name it.
Then there’s that problem of actually speaking the lines. Make sure your scripts can be spoken. There’s always a story floating around about the CIO or the news anchor who has a speech impediment, so scripts are written to adapt for the condition. But even without impediments some combinations of words are just plain difficult to say. Don’t work Peter Piper’s pickles into your script. Don’t sell seashells by the seashore. If seashells are the product, use some lovely visuals of the beach to tell your story. Everyone loves the beach.