From Screenwriting to Video Production

MattFilmmaking, Video Production, Writing2 Comments

So you’re a screenwriter and want to expand into video production? Of course you do! Screenwriting to video production is a pretty common transition – lots of people start as wannabe screenwriters and end up transitioning their craft into video production. After all, the fields are far from mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite, they complement each other rather nicely, both professionally and emotionally.

Professionally, and most obviously, it helps that they’re interrelated and that you can combine them into a killer package.

Emotionally, video production offers a way out of the house and away from constantly being hunched over a keyboard, with only the coffee pot for company.

Most of the articles here on Filmmaking Lifestyle are centered around working for yourself and setting up your own video production company. Whilst this article will hit on elements of that, it’s primarily aimed at getting your foot in the door using your pre-existing screenwriting knowledge to work for an established video production company.

We’ll look at two ways of using your screenwriting knowledge for video production:

  • getting yourself a foot in the door for a job as a pre-existing video production company.
  • how your skills in writing screenplays are applicable to the video production industry in general.

That said, don’t assume it will be a matter of tapping your heels together and it being a done deal! It’s going to take a lot of hard work. After all, though the professions might work together well, the skill sets of the two only have so much overlap.

Where is the overlap? Where is it lacking?

It’s a tossup whether it’s your skill at self-marketing or your skill with the computer that will help you more. The former will help you showcase your product, while the latter – as a great deal of what makes a good video great is done in post-production – will help you refine your product to where it’s worth being showcased.

Your skills at storytelling and planning a quality story will come in useful. After all, if you can plan out your video sequences and string them together to form an interesting narrative, then you’ll have a skill that many pure videographers struggle with.

But probably the most useful skill of all is that as a writer you’ve learned to self-motivate. Because, just like with freelance writing, video production means that you have to push yourself to get out there, to do the work once you’ve got it, to put in the extra few hours when it’s required and, ultimately, turn a good product into a great video.

Because though a good product will please a client, it is only a great video that will have their audiences raving to their friends about the fantastic video they just saw.

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So in some areas, there is a great deal of overlap – but not everywhere. Not only will you need to learn a new set of skills, you will also have to build up an entirely new portfolio, get new equipment, rebuild your social media image to represent your new direction, and learn an entire set of new rules and regulations about how to protect your rights.

But as I’ve dealt with all that before I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, let’s look at how your history as a screenwriter will advance your video production career.

Leverage what you’ve got to get what you want

Separate from what I mentioned above, you’ve got one more incredible asset – one that people coming from elsewhere don’t have. You’ve already got a foot in the industry’s door.

You can’t underestimate how significant this advantage is. Where other people have to battle it out in the pits of obscurity to get noticed, you’ve got a way to leapfrog all of that. You’ve got an opportunity to compare notes with the experts, to learn from them and, once you’re ready, to show you’ve got the skills to work with them. As the old saying goes, so much in life and business is “not what you know, but who you know.”

So how do you do that?

Simple, you network. You introduce yourself and try to either get yourself invited to a shoot by a local videographer you respect or you start setting up meetings with owners of video production companies that you admire.

The trick is to use your scripts to help you network. Yes, we’re going to leverage your pre-existing skill in scriptwriting to get you a foot in the door making videos with a video production company.

In order to write better scripts, more in tune with the videographer’s intentions, you need to see how things work and speak with them in person. In other words, you explain how it will be advantageous for them if you’re permitted a little peak behind the curtain (as it were).

That is a hard thing for them to turn down.

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And then when you’re there, before you’ve even sat down, you have to wow them with your expertise and your amazing abilities, right? Actually, no – particularly not if you’ve been invited to the set, but even if you’re just having a casual conversation with team this might not be a great idea.

For one thing, though you might have a knack for scriptwriting, that doesn’t immediately mean your video skills are up to par. Further, they’ll quickly figure out that you set up the meeting under false pretences. And there is nothing better at alienating an expert in the field than for some ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ upstart trying to tell them where it’s at in their own field of expertise.

That’s why being humble is the way forward.

It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong (in fact it might be worse if you’re right), because nobody likes a backseat driver. And if somebody doesn’t like you, they aren’t going to use you, no matter how good you are.

Learn to soft sell your video production skills

Soft selling is the better option by far. Soft selling is a marketing term that is all about using “a more subtle, casual, or friendly sales message.” Now, I know you probably don’t want to hear this right now, but you are a sales message. At least when you’re selling your services to a potential employer or client.

Just because you’re being humble, doesn’t mean you’re not demonstrating you’re knowledgeable. After all, giving the right answers is a matter of learning. Asking the right questions; now that is an art. It allows you to learn, it allows you to demonstrate knowledge and it allows the expert to show off what they know.

Besides, you’ve already got a way to demonstrate how much you know and that’s your background in screenwriting. If you’re writing, say, a script for a new promo video for a start-up, as you learn more about video production, you can start including those ideas (e.g. shot suggestions, angles, and lenses to use) into your scripts.

If you have a pre-existing background in video production already, you can even refer to some of your own video samples as examples, to explain what you mean, though obviously only if they’re very good.

Just don’t forget to thank whoever was willing to meet with you, or allow you on one of their sets, for their help and sharing their knowledge – not just privately, but publicly.

People like being appreciated.

The Next Step – Getting Credit

Now you’re building a relationship with somebody in the industry, they’re using your ideas and you’ve got a script that you can hold next to the final product to show it. Now how to convert that into video production work?

Well, you could just ask them. If you established rapport and they liked you, then they might well agree to letting you assist on a shoot. Then you can demonstrate ability, learn hands-on and progress your career from there.

There’s no quicker way to gain expertise than that.

If you’re really lucky, you’ll be allowed to use certain clips in your reel. Your reel being a portfolio of your video production work. You can then use this to advance your career either by getting more jobs with video production companies, or even starting your own company and getting clients of your own.

I hope this guide for transitioning from screenwriting to video production was helpful. We’d love it if you could share this article, and also appreciate any comments, which you can leave just below here.

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2 Comments on “From Screenwriting to Video Production”

  1. Knowing what I know now, I would assume that the transition into video production is much easier, like you said. But, if you have been in video production for years and know the ins and outs, don’t you think you could skip back to screenwriting just as easy?

    1. Hi Valentine,

      I think the two go hand in hand. They go well together. You can be a screenwriter who does video production, too.

      Likewise, you might even just identify as a videographer or a filmmaker who writes, too.

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