By now, you probably know that at Corduroy Media, we’re pretty gung-ho about the collaborative nature of our work. But if you stop by our video production studio in Oakland, there is always the chance that you’ll find one of us working alone in a room with the door closed. As much as we love big brainstorming sessions, there are occasions when focus and solitude are required to help great ideas sprout like little seedlings.  

The early stage of script writing is one such occasion. While it may seem simple enough to just shut the door and start writing, it can be quite a challenge. The door itself is easy to close, of course, but creating headspace for script writing means redirecting the brain away from thoughts of marketing, sales, production, new gear, and…well, everything else. And what’s even more important than all that is letting go of the idea of perfection, the number one creativity killer.

While that may not sound like very much fun, the truth is that writing a script for a commercial or brand video is actually kind of great—as long as we keep a few important things in mind:

#1. The creative process is messy

Not messy like mud. Messy like imperfect. We think of those early stages as a sort of mind-dump of ideas, some of which will be goofy, ridiculous, or just plain wrong.  But it’s important to let them flow anyway. The ideas that don’t work can always be edited out later. If instead, we waited around for perfect stories to come to us complete and fully formed, we’d be waiting for a very very long time. So we’ve learned to embrace the messiness of the script-writing process.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 12.05.10 PM

#2. Ideas come from everywhere (and none of them are new)

The more script writing we do, the more we realize that no idea is completely original. Everything has been done before. But when you’re open to the creative process, you find ways to transform “old” ideas into “new” ideas. If you’ve hung around our blog much, you may have heard us talk about Austin Kleon, whose book, Steal Like an Artist, we refer to often. To jumpstart the script writing process, we give ourselves the freedom to do just that: steal like an artist.  We might watch a number of inspiring videos and give ourselves some time to think about why we love them or how we can adapt, modify, or add a twist to successful formulas and make them our own. The next thing we know, a script idea is beginning to sprout.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 12.03.50 PM

#3. First draft goals are not final draft goals

The goal for the first round of script writing is to check the boxes:

  • Do we have the right tone?
  • Have we established the characters?
  • Do we mention or refer to the product (if applicable)?
  • Does the script hit the client’s pain points?
  • Is it close to the right length?

If we can answer yes to most or all of these questions, then we’ve got a really good start. The goal here is not to come out of the locked room with a script that’s ready to show the client. The goal is to come out with a first draft that’s ready for feedback from the team.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 12.07.05 PM

#4. The real magic happens in collaboration

Although the script-writing process often begins in isolation, it never ends there. At Corduroy Media, we’ve discovered that the magic happens in the collaborative sessions that follow a first draft. That’s when aha moments abound. Sometimes there are just two of us in the next round of editing and refining the script, and sometimes it’s the whole team, but regardless of the number of us in attendance, these sessions always end with a better, stronger script.

We don’t mind if our clients think our scripts happen by magic

By the time we share the script with the client, it has usually been through several rounds of revision. But we don’t tell the client this. We just smile and say thank you and accept all praise given for our poignant and impressive “first draft.”