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Towards A Creative Process — What Was The Question?

The Need For A Creative Process

Jumping in head–first to writing your script — INT. MAKING IT UP AS I GO ALONG, DAY. — isn’t a very good way to spend your time. Maybe you’ll have some fun, or crack out some lovely LOL–inducing bants, but this is the same thing as deciding to build a house and then jabbing a two-by-four into the ground as you text your friend to come over to watch the game. Maybe it’s worth adopting a creative process for writing?

Writing the script is important, but it needs to happen when the groundwork has been laid and you know what it should be and where it should go, sparing you the pain of spending vast amounts of time taking stabs in the dark. Fortunately, there’s a reasonable creative process that can lead you to writing a script that is close to the mark and requires minor revisions rather an entirely new concept.

The originating source of the need for this piece of content that you are going to write can come from various places. Whether it’s a communications firm, agency or corporate client, or your company’s internal desire to create an advertisement, you need to identify various pieces of information. These will form the basis of your brief and treatment, and serve as the guiding principles to which you will test your creative project through its journey to completion. A “great idea” is a great idea only if it fits the project, otherwise you’ve got a stink bomb on your hands just waiting to go off — someone at some point will figure out that this idea doesn’t do what it’s supposed to accomplish, no matter how fun, clever, trendy or other quality that makes you love it.

Ideally, you’re writing in the context of a regular advertising/marketing process and someone has prepared a brief that outlines the critical points, detailing the product or service, the strategy, the final output and any contextual information that helps you find a creative idea that fits the purpose. Unfortunately for many of us, writing for online is outside of this traditional order because of the massive proliferation of demand for content creation and the speed of getting it done. People often don’t know what they want, what they’re asking for, why, or how to ask, and you are in the position to make content that is vague or tangential to an existing (and undisclosed) campaign. They just want it done. So rather than say no to business, you carry on and figure it out by building your own brief.

Two Critical Questions

The two critical questions you need to find the answers to are “What is the objective of the film?” and “Who is the audience?” Without this basic information, which can be surprisingly difficult to pin down, you are taking wild stabs in the dark. Your creative process needs to have a minimum threshold of engagement, and these two questions are undeniably the most important.

“What is the objective of the film?” is really asking what is the point of the film, what are we trying to accomplish? What message should the viewer have received by the time it’s finished? In traditional television commercials, this will often be to buy a product. So you could have an objective like, “To announce the launch of our new toaster, now available at Argos.” Or a brand film for a bank could want “to convince the viewer that Jumbo Bank is highly engaged with customers on an individual basis”. A good objective is clear and understandable, with only one thing it is trying to accomplish. Content is generally quite short, and the motion image more an emotive than logical medium, so conveying multiple messages can be extremely complex and is generally a bad idea. Some clients have a laundry list, so you can attempt a short, secondary message, but I would strongly discourage you from taking on more than that. I wouldn’t.

“Who is the audience?” is the second critical part of the equation, as in “who am I talking to?” Young single moms? Teenage boys? People working two jobs? Retirees? Each of these groups gives you an entry point into imagining what they might find engaging and how you might speak to them, and the more specific the categorisation the better. If I told you that the video was for “anybody and everybody”, you would find yourself in a much more difficult spot. The result would probably be less than inspiring, unable to take a step in any particular direction as you’re trying to always satisfy all parties. If there are secondary audiences that you don’t want to alienate, then you can write with consideration to give them a point of emotional access, but you have at least established a starting point of to whom you are trying to speak.

There are a few other important criteria that it is best to clarify if you can before heading into coming up with your creative idea that will eventually lead you to your script, but you can often wing it with just these two. We’ll discuss them when we get to writing a treatment.






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