Mambo Media has recently completed a number of short video production projects to support both external and internal messaging goals for our clients, and it has struck me how much time it takes to develop the script for even a short (2 minute) video.
Our client usually starts with an ambitious, high-level goal such as “Create a memorable, humorous piece that may or may not mention our product but has the potential to go viral.” (Great—isn’t that what everyone wants?) We may get examples of existing videos our client wants to mimic, or at least some that they hate and want to avoid replicating, but sometimes this is their first foray into video and we start from scratch.
Mambo starts by brainstorming ideas for general themes and approaches, trying to establish the boundaries of what might be too tacky/risque/inflammatory. At this point, client input is crucial so we don’t invest more time in pursuing ideas they don’t like. If we have a couple directions that seem promising, we have one of our illustrators create simple story boards illustrating the possible major scenes for each video. This has proven really useful for some clients that need help visualizing the finished product. While brainstorming can be done in a day or two, the illustrations can take up to a week, depending on the number of scenes and the number of stories we’re trying to communicate.
Revisions at the storyboard level are quite easy, as a pdf of 10 illustrated scenes can be easily passed around a client team, and we find it worthwhile to invest a good deal of effort here to be sure everyone has the same expectations once the reviews are complete. Depending on the deadline, we allow a couple weeks for this review, to be sure we don’t get derailed later by some VP who too-late reads his email.
Once a storyboard has been approved, our team will take on detailed scripting: writing dialogue, determining characters and locations, and even deciding on a production style (location, studio, real sets or green screen magic, background music, etc). Client review of the scripting is of course necessary, and this is where things can really slow down as everyone likes to wordsmith. Again, ideally we’d allow a couple weeks here to be sure all the project stake holders get to weigh in before we hire actors, book studio time etc.
Finally, even once the client has approved a script, we’ve found that last minute changes are the norm. Actors will make on-set suggestions that improve the clarity or funniness of a scene, and occasionally we’ll find that a scene really drags and cut chunks out as we go. (It’s proven valuable to note these changes somewhere so that you do have a written record for the editor to work from and for additional approval from the client before you get too far into post-production).
So if you add it all up, you may be looking at 6 weeks from brainstorming to finished script, depending on how quickly your client can review and approve. This is the most crucial part of the process for developing a compelling video product, so allowing ample time to do it right will pay off in the end.
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