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CastGuide - part 2: Scripting and pre-production


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Some of you might have heard the quality recordings available thus far, and thought about making your own. This is the second in a series of articles about how you might go about it.

 

In Part 1, we looked at selecting a topic and preparing the structure of your piece. Here we discuss the specifics of what you end up saying. You have your ideas, this is where we look at how to express them.

 

The art of scripting a short news story, or assembling and commenting on film footage, is far from an exact science, but there are a number of things that are well-known in the industry, and can easily apply to the sort of informative pieces you might record here. Putting the words together isn't something that I can teach you. Some things just sound right, others not quite right. The only way to find out is to try - read your ideas aloud, read them to other people, record rough cuts and listen back. This is a case where "practice makes perfect" really does ring true.

 

We're not expecting professional-quality recordings, but there are a few things you can do in planning to make you sound better. I can't give you a step-by-step guide to script your recording, since each will be different, but I can give you some advice:

 

  • Get it in writing. Whatever you are planning to say, write it down. You won't necessarily have time to think while actually recording, so it's important that not only do you have something to refer to, you know instantly what it's supposed to tell you.
  • I have already mentioned accuracy. It's okay to be a little vague, or gloss over a few details, as long as you aren't too vague all the way through, and the details you skip aren't too important. What's important is that what you say is correct. If in doubt, clarify it with someone knowledgeable, or leave it out.
  • The rules of grammar in English are numerous, complex, and often contradictory. Don't worry about them. Nobody will care if you boldly split an infinitive, or use a preposition to end a sentence on, but they will care if they can't understand what you're telling them. KISS: Keep It Short and Simple.
  • You're not scripting a 20-second headline for the news, so using jargon isn't a problem, in some cases it will be necessary, but you must explain it. It might be easy to talk about an "allocation questionnaire", but at some point early on (preferably at first use) you should explain that it's part of how the court decides what to do with a case.
  • Make the connection to the person on the other end. Don't refer to what "people" will find when "they" go to court, address your audience directly. Refer to what "you" will find when "you" go to court. Always try and relate everything you plan to say to your audience. Answer the question "How does this affect me?" before they have to ask it.
  • When referring to numbers, remember that you'll have to read them out. Don't think about the range of penalties being anywhere from £16 up to £39, they're "thirty pounds or so". Don't talk in terms of 1.45 million, but "almost one and a half million".
  • Leading questions can be good. Use a couple to introduce your piece, or throw one in occasionally to move from one section into another. They work wonders, as long as you don't overdo it.
  • Once you know what you're saying, add a brief introduction to the topic at the start, and a short summary at the end. The introduction is much easier to write after you've done everything else.

 

Phew. That's a long list, but we're not done yet. Once you've got your script, start reading aloud, do a dry run, get someone to listen to it - if you can, record it and listen to it yourself, with some company. Which takes us nicely onto the actual speaking bit. >> Part 3

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Never give in ... Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. Churchill, 1941

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The pre-production process is an important stage in film making, regardless of the size of the budget -- especially if you don't have a budget! The first thing you do as a film maker is to "breakdown" the script.

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