Part 2: Scripting tips for your Academic Research Film

Scripting tips for your Academic Research Film

In today’s article we’ll be looking at the different approaches and methods you can take to scripting your research film. A script gives your research film a proper structure – a beginning, a middle and an end. It ensures that the content flows properly, and therefore engages, and it gives the presenter confidence in what they are delivering; they know they are not going to get lost or run out of steam. In practical terms, it cuts down on production time as there’s no waffle or extraneous material, so you can use your edit time much more efficiently.


However, before you the process of scripting you have to choose the format, and that decision in turn, is driven by what resources are available to you, and how comfortable you feel you are with your own production and editing skills.


In the last article we talked about how different camera/microphone set-ups would drive the creative and open up different opportunities and challenges. For example; a built-in webcam and mic might  lead you towards a more traditional, presentational approach, and a more mobile, or hand-held camera could allow you the platform to create something a little more cinematic in scope. Whatever decisions you decide to make when it comes to selecting your resources both have benefits and disadvantages, but primarily, this decision has a direct impact on how you write your script and how you structure and present your data, academic research and findings.


Choosing your presentational style is essential


With a more traditional presentational type approach (usually utilising built-in webcams), you’ll be delivering directly to camera, and you may, or may not choose to have additional slides or videos to accompany your presentation. This approach tends to give you roughly three-options in how you format and present your script on screen, and it’s worth mentioning the advantages and disadvantages to each, before moving into the detail.


Option 1 – A fully-fledged, word-by-word script


A fully scripted video presentation is a good starting point, particularly for people who are not necessarily comfortable in a presentational scenario. The obvious advantage to presenting your research film in this way is that you are not going to miss any detail out, however, reading directly from a script can come across as a little dry or unengaging, so we’d suggest that if you decide to use this approach, then you’ll need to put in plenty of practise in your spoken delivery. Another essential tip for this, is write how you talk. Read your script out loud and whenever you stumble or if it doesn’t make sense, refine it until you can read it in a natural way.


Option 2 – A flexible, rough bullet-point plan


If you are feeling brave, then go for a simple bullet-point approach. This will be as close to making it up as you go along as you’ll get, so it relies on your expert knowledge to fill in the gaps. It’s also the most conversational, which will mean it’ll be the most engaging too.


Option 3 – A detailed, written plan


This is a good compromise between Option 1 and Option 2. Not quite a full word-for-word script, but rather an outline that consists of detailed notes and bullet points, and has a full structure of how you want the talk to progress, all laid out in advance. All the detail and data is still in there for you, but this approach allows for flexibility if you decide to go ‘off on a tangent’.


Structuring your research script


So you’ve chosen your presentation style, now it’s time to start planning what it is you want to say. To begin with, start with the questions that your research initially set out to answer. Identify the challenges and issues that the sector faces. Set up a sense of scale. Is this a global issue, or something that impacts on a smaller level. Illustrate how these questions have an effect on our surroundings.


Once you have cued these questions up, it’s an ideal time to show how your research is the solution to these problems, so a brief explanation of the concept is ideally placed here. But don’t go into too much detail yet, keep it short. This initial setup of the challenges and your solutions are the ‘hook’ that keeps the viewer engaged as you go into further depth within the video (It’s like the teaser or pre-credits bit at the start of your favourite TV show).


Now you can go into detail – explain the processes, your methodology, the type of research or experiments you ran, your data and findings and the implications. But always keep in mind your viewers and make sure the language you use is suitable for your intended audience. Ask yourself – ‘Will they understand the jargon?’, ‘Can I or do I need to put this in layperson terms?’


Finally, reiterate and summarise. Explain again what the problem and challenges were, and how your findings are the solution to that specific problem. Suggest the implications and impact this might have, and invite the audience to find out more with a ‘call to action’. That could be as simple as an email address or URL, but it’s imperative that there is something for the audience to ‘do’ next, otherwise the video serves no real purpose. It’s worth restating that it’s key to identify the objectives for your research film before you start any type of production.


In our next article, well give you some practical tips when it comes to filming your research film; the things you need to consider before you press record; what to consider during your delivery and a few simple guides to the post-production process.

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