Writing your own explainer video (Who needs us anyway?)

Occasionally, we have clients who come to us with their own scripts. Almost every single time the script has to be re-written or we decline the opportunity if they insist. This isn’t because we’re stubborn or because these people can’t write.
In fact, some of them can probably write the pants off us. The problem is animated explainer videos require a very specialized form of writing.
So, if your budget doesn’t allow you to pay a studio like us, or one of our big, bad competitors, don’t worry, there is still hope.
Here are ten tips that address some of the funky things we see in scripts:

1) Tell a story. What’s in a story? Well, a beginning, middle and an end.
a) The Beginning: Your main character has a problem. Her/His life sucks in some way and your product/service will be the answer to this problem. (make it snappy, no longer than 2-3 sentences)
b) The Middle: Your product/service introduced and explained. It’s challenging but try and get one or two smiles in this section – even teenie tiny ones. This is the biggest and often the driest section so try and make it a wee bit interesting. You can do it!
c) The End: Wrap up your story. Now the main character has her life sorted and she’s so happy it hurts.

2) Don’t get too caught up in the story or entertainment. Your goal is to tell people about your product, not write knee slappers. Sure it can and should be fun, but that’s not the task at hand. Use the story structure to tell people about your product in an interesting way. Don’t use your product to tell an interesting story.

3) Only tell people the amazing things about your product. Not everything. Make viewers think, “Holy crapola, I have to get this right now!” The more details you try and cram in there, the less impactful and watchable your video becomes. Get them excited with the video and then hit them with details afterward.

4) Be conversational. Animation is child-like and friendly by nature. Your writing should be the same. I’m not 100% sure but I think it was Elbert Hubbard who said, “A good writer doesn’t write so nobody understands. A good writer writes so everybody understand.” High-five, Elbert (unless that wasn’t you).

5) Err on the side of shorter. For a 60-second script you are looking at about 180 words max. Get the script written and then edit. Don’t do a word count until after your first draft. You should aim to tell your story in 60 seconds and only if necessary expand to a 90-second. Also, read the script aloud when you time it and read it slightly slower than your regular conversational pace.

6) Visuals take time. Some people will write a line that takes about 2 seconds to be read but they have 10-seconds worth of visual story they want to show in that time. Don’t do that!

7) Keep the visuals simple. If you don’t have the budget to hire someone else to write your script you probably don’t have the budget to pay an animator to make you a Pixar short film. So, only have 1 or 2 characters and expect limited movement and detail in each scene.

8) Adjectives are your sweetest friend. Use super descriptive words whenever possible. It will give the sexy animator options when coming up with award-winning visual ideas.

9) Wrap it up tightly. Your main character’s problems are solved and she will live happily ever after. Your call to action, or CTA as we call it in the biz, is next. ie. “Quit being a donkey. Visit our website and register today!” If you HAVE TO cram in more detail, do not add it on the back-end. Your video should end in a smooth, appealing fashion.

10) Get Feedback. And get feedback from people who will be honest and tell you if your script sucks. When it comes to business and creativity, these honest people are like gold. Their feedback may make you cry a little but it will help more than your accommodating friends. Seek people who will be critical. After all, you do want to be a zillionaire don’t you?

And that’s all there is to it. Well, there is a lot more to it but 10 seemed like a nice round number.

Explainer Videos made fresh at The Goat Farm.

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