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Re: Save This Script By John Morley and Mark Suszko

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Mark SuszkoRe: Save This Script By John Morley and Mark Suszko
by on May 25, 2012 at 5:36:51 am

Thanks, John.... I used to do a lot of scripts in radio, since back in college... and one of my most anger-producing peeves is about forced dialog that would never happen in real life in a million years.

Nobody walks around in real life talking to a friend or neighbor out of the blue, unmotivated, about some business by spelling out their number and address, and especially not by repeating it. Stilted copy is deathly dull. And saying phone numbers in spots today is I think a waste unless they are mnemonics of some sort.

In the original plumber-supplied script, the ladies talk like Stepford Wives, not real people. Their language is inauthentic to any kind of characterization you'd expect. They are just a "Mary Sue" puppet for whatever the client originally wanted to say by narrator, but he thought a dialog would be more "fun".

Dialog is a reactive, inter-active, evolving process, not just trading memorized speeches back and forth like it's still 1930's radio theatre.

In less than 30 seconds, we have a lot of work to do. We have to create characters and a reasonably believable world for them to inhabit, and a situation for them to deal with. And you can't get away with that old stage trick of starting out the scene by having one of them say "well, here we are in (whatever)...." I have NEVER heard a real person ever say that anywhere. You know where you are, if you're not senile.

You're going to be skeptical, but really, when I work on a spot like this, or even a training video, I'm not happy until I find a way to wedge an abbreviated Campbellian "Hero's Journey" story arc into it.

Some of it might have to be telegraphed by the art direction or other nonverbal visual cues or sound effects and music. You have parallel story-telling tracks going on in any GOOD video: you have the obvious dialog and main character action happening, but also the visuals in the foreground and background, and actions implied just offscreen, all of that working together, the parts leverage each other. That's when you're using ALL the power of the medium to full advantage, not just reading a radio play to a camera.

So when we go to the wedding idea, we've created a legitimate reason for two people who know each other to spontaneously start discussing plumbing in front of us. We have a plot arc right out of Aristotle's "Poetics", with a deadline and an obstacle to overcome, and a catharsis for the people in the story and us the viewers. The incongruity of the plumber in the album is an awesome "hook", and is both humorous and it's an instant puzzle for the curious viewer/listener to decode. You feel rewarded for attention when you "get" the punchline and "solve" the riddle. I feel that aids overall message retention.

We could have also written this as a testimonial from one customer straight to an off-camera interviewer, more documentary style. That would have been my back-up plan if the budget was lower than it already was. But it's that unexpected VISUAL of the plumber in the wedding party photo that is the entire key. Sometimes, you think of that first, and write "backwards" from that to create the conditions that make the ending happen. But you can't bend reality too far just to make the whole timeline work. Then you get the Plumber's "original" script again.


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