When it comes to broadcast production, scripts are good. Storyboards? Also good. They help you devise a structure for your campaign, a plan for production, and a blueprint for hiring the right director and production company to bring the vision to life. However, I prefer to view scripts and storyboards as guides, rather than boundaries– because if you’re too rigid about what’s on paper, you might miss the happy accidents that elevate what ends up on-screen.
Happy accidents are exactly that, accidental moments of inspiration that make you go, “yeah, that would make the spot better.”
I’ve sat in numerous casting sessions where we’ve given the talent some latitude with how they interpret the script. We get a chance to see what their improvisational skills are like, and occasionally, they modify a line to be funnier, more impactful, or simply more natural sounding than it was in the original script. They don’t always get the part (hey, it’s a tough business), but usually by the time they leave the audition, we have a new script that, with a small tweak or two, is a step up from the one we walked in with.
Happy accidents also happen all of the time during location scouting. Recently, we did a shoot in Minneapolis, where we were looking for an older home with one of those pull-down attic staircases. We happened to be in a home that had a kitchen we loved for another scene, and while getting a tour of the house and unattached garage, we noticed a staircase leading up to the attic area of the garage. It happened to have a push-up door, but in the end, the scene was more artistic, and the action of the door made the physical comedy even funnier.
The best part is that happy accidents can and will happen anywhere over the course of production. Editors, prop and wardrobe departments, graphics people, music and sound designers, recording studios– if you’re working with pros, they’ll be contributing ideas instead of just taking orders and pushing buttons. The trick is to be flexible enough to have an open mind to suggestions and spur-of-the-moment brainstorming. Saying “yes” to everything isn’t the pre-requisite here—being objective is.
Yes, you worked long and hard on your script and storyboard, and yes, you spent a lot of energy getting the concept sold through the agency and client. But it’s always worth another call or two to your colleagues and clients to pitch them on a new idea you have. I don’t know of too many clients who don’t want their agency team to call them and say, “hey we have an idea that’s going to make the spot even better.”
Concepts are fluid. Taking the analogy to the extreme, they’re living organisms, that when allowed to grow and mature over time, will be better than you thought they could be when you were writing your first script.
Remember, it’s not finished until it ships.