Video scripts tend to be formatted in a very specific way. A stakeholder like a producer, director, technician, or actor should be able to look at a script at a glance and find what they need. “Formatting is so important,” says Swertlow. “The biggest thing that distinguishes a novice from a professional is the formatting.”
Sluglines are brief descriptions of the time and place that a scene occurs. They come at the beginning of a scene and tell the reader whether the action takes place in an interior or exterior, the specific locale of the scene (such as on a street, in a restaurant, in a studio, etc.), and whether it’s day or night. A slugline for a marketing video shot in a studio might read simply:
INT STUDIO DAY
Likewise, a slugline for a video segment with an on-camera host gathering testimonials from people on the street might be:
EXT STREET DAY
And so on.
Action lines show what is happening in the scene, what the characters are doing at the beginning of the scene, and provide the director and others an idea of what the initial shot should look like. For instance, if a marketing video opened on a host in a studio, the action could be:
Open on the studio with the host already at their desk. The materials for a product demo are visible to one side of the screen, on a separate table.
Dialogue is usually the bulk of a script. It includes not only words spoken by someone on camera, but also voiceovers and on-screen text like bullet points or chyrons, i.e., captions on the bottom of the screen. The names of speakers are usually centered in scripts so that directors and other stakeholders can immediately identify who is talking.
When writing a script, know what not to put in. “You can absolutely over-script,” says Swertlow. “I’ve had a producer say, ‘You’ve overwritten your action lines. That’s directing.’” Be sure that you only have the action lines and direction that you need. You don’t necessarily need to write down every gesture, movement, or pause that a character makes.
A script is a framework for creative workers, and each member of a production team has a lot to bring to a video. Actors can bring charisma. A set designer brings feel and mood. A video editor brings pacing and timing. Leave room for other good work by other creators involved in the video production.