Directing and Talent Tips - Information for all production industries
Write for the spoken word.
By Jim Powell
At the end of an audio session, have you ever had the script returned to you from the
talent covered with marks and wondered, "Whats this?" Ever wonder what the
Marking the script gives the voice-over or on-camera talent the same directions as the singer receives from the score on a song sheet. They guide him to the pace, the tempo, inflection, the pauses and other movements necessary for speaking correctly and consistently.
As your English teacher instructed you how to diagram sentences, the talent also diagrams the script to help break the overall thought or goal of the sentence into smaller segments which are easier to present in speech patterns. The first step in diagramming is made by placing vertical marks between phrases and sometimes between words in difficult passages or even between syllables in difficult words. The next step would be to underline important words, such as the product or idea, to give them more inflection. Some words may be circled to give them emotion. This is sometimes referred to as "adding color" to a word.
In addition, there are a vast amount of marks made by talent that they individually develop and only know the meaning.
Here are a few guidelines which can help you, the script writer or director, assist the talent to improve performance when dealing with scripts.
1. Write for the spoken word. Some words used in writing do not translate well when spoken, for instance using the words in this phrase, "all oil analysis." In this example, when similar vowels or vowel glides are used consecutively, it is very difficult to pronounce the words without breaking the pace of the sentence. A helpful technique: When you finish writing a passage of your script, speak the passage into a tape recorder and listen. Does it flow well?
2. Double space all narration. Not only does this give the talent more area to use his for marking notes, it also provides easier reading ability. Advertising specialists point out that "white space" is as important in transmitting or conveying information from written words to the brain as the words themselves. Space between lines increases visual clarity.
3. Do not use upper case consistently. IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO READ THIS SENTENCE THAN IT IS FOR OTHER SENTENCES IN THIS ARTICLE. When you use capitals throughout, it slows the pace. The brain takes longer to "compute" the information. Even headlines in newspapers today have changed to using lower case compared to 30 years ago.
4. Write out numbers. Consistent pace is important in delivering effective communications. When numbers, such as "423," are written numerically, the speaker has to slow his reading pace but maintain his speaking pace. Interruptions in either pace can slow, impede or cause incorrect speech (i.e. stumbles, stutters and wrong inflections). When the numbers are written out, such as Four Hundred and Twenty-Three, the reading keeps pace with the speaking allowing for consistency.
5. Do not mark for the talent. Allow the talent to mark the script with the above markings. If you mark the script, it may confuse the talent in his understanding of what you want. This is because different talent will place different meanings for the same mark.
Therefore, place your ideas and direction for pacing and inflection in parenthesis at the head of the scene. The talent can then mark his script to perform according to your directions. NOTE: Your directions may not be noticed if you place them in the video directions column. Place them in the narration column.
6. Type no more than one minute per page. For the most part, this is for the producer or director. It allows for timing of program length.
7. Review the script with the talent? When directing your talent on delivery, go over the script pointing out the important words and areas on which you would like pacing and important inflections placed. This can be done either before recording or page-by-page during recording. Ask your talent for the method that works best for them. This will give you the best results.
In the Real World
The above suggestions are useful in many circumstances. However, as we see in the "real world" of business, medical and other technical writing, necessary multi-syllabic words, acronyms and newly conjured words may work against these guidelines.
The next suggestion, then, is number 8.
8. Hire an experienced talent. Hire a talent effective in performing the necessary speech required for your program. This does not mean that the talent must have a degree in the subject mater. He just must sound as if he does. As in.. "Im not a doctor, but I play one on tv .."
Copyright Jim Powell 1998. All rights reserved
(Jim Powell, a voice-over and on-camera talent, with more 30 years in broadcast and business television is Life Member of ITVA. For more information about Jim Powell or his services, call (800) 283-7686.)