Villing & Company

Want to Make A Real Impact? Go Off Script.

Watching footage yesterday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s  now-immortal "I Have a Dream" speech during coverage of its 50th anniversary, I was amazed that something I'd heard dozens of times still gave me goose bumps. I knew every word and the cadence in which it was delivered and yet it still had a profound impact on me.

Viewing an ESPN-produced segment on the speech over breakfast revealed an element that I had not been previously aware – specifically that the "I have a dream" sequence of the speech deviated from his prepared notes. That it was uttered simply through the inspiration that he felt at the moment – from the heart – and not from the hand or mind of a gifted speechwriter.

I started thinking about speeches, movies and commercials where the most memorable aspect was never put on paper, think Lou Gehrig's "luckiest man" speech or many of Bill Murray's memorable lines from "Caddyshack". Even the basis of the current AT&T "It's not Complicated" TV commercial series is based on ad lib lines from children.

Reflecting on my own professional experiences through involvement in countless commercials, video productions, feature stories and even new business pitches, it occurred to me how many times the major takeaway was never included in a script. That goes for TV commercials using paid local actors to those featuring celebrities such as Gene Cernan ('Last Man on the Moon') and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. Many of the best lines and scenes in these Villing & Company-produced commercials occurred once the technical elements of the script had been satisfied – when spur-of-the-moment creativity took over and made the final product even better.

Certainly, scripting will always be important in our industry as we all need a blueprint to follow. Scripting is the byproduct of organization and preparation – which is always necessary. Be it for a TV commercial, interview questions for a feature story you are writing, or even in advance of a big presentation to a potential client.

But the longer I'm in this business, the more I realize that there is sometimes no substitute for the spontaneity that results from the adrenaline rush of being in front of a camera, sitting across from an interview subject or standing in a conference room full of suits.

In other words, we should look at any type of script as being a well-planned guide but a "worst-case scenario" of what we are trying to accomplish in these situations. Knowing full well that, like Dr. King, most of us have a little something in our back pocket to make the occasion even more memorable.

Filed Under: creative

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