Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Deconstructing a package

I often hear young people say their goal is to work for a network. Very soon I'll tell you about what these people do during an average day (and if you think it's a cushy, dream job, you'll be in for a rude awakening.)

But anyway, it is generally regarded that people who have made it to the network know what they're doing, and they're very good at it. That said, there are people working in local TV who are just as good as those on the network.

So what's the secret handshake to knocking out a network-quality package? Well, the best way to do this is to deconstruct a package so that you can analyze exactly what makes it so good.

To do this, you must first find a package that really stands out. So roll your tapes or VCRs on networks that you like until you find a package that just blows you away.

Now, get a legal pad, play it back, and transcribe the entire thing into a normal script.

More than likely, you'll be surprised to see how much it looks like the packages you do every day. But if you look closely, you'll no doubt see elements that you often forget or simply don't consider.

-Natural sound: Great pieces always have great nat sound breaks. How many does this package have, and does the reporter write into or out of them?

-Standup: Is the reporter just standing there holding a microphone, or is he actually doing something. Does the standup help the story shift gears or make a transition?

-Sound Bites: Are they typical, or do they really add something special to the story? Do they create a mood, set a tone? Are they the usual sound bites you expect to hear, or has the reporter asked an out of the box question?

-Graphics: Do graphics support the story, and add an element you hadn't considered? Remember, show and tell.

-Music: You won't find this on many stories, but it's another element to consider for some pieces.

-Writing: The big "X" factor. Did the reporter obviously watch his video and sound bites before writing the script? Did he write to the video, write to the bites and nat sound? And remember, a package begins with a solid intro, so don't forget that as well.

Now get a script from a package you've done recently and deconstruct it. Did you take advantage of all available elements? How does your writing compare with the network piece? And did you do a standup for the sake of doing a standup, or did it add to the story?

Do this a few times with network packs and you'll begin to see a formula. You may never get to the network, but there's nothing that says you can't knock out network quality stuff.

1 comment:

turdpolisher said...

I always give new reporters this tip from NPPA.

Before you go out to shoot. Tell the story in one sentence. Name/Emotion/Object.

If you can do that, your story will be focused and you won't spend all day spinning your wheels. You'll see the oppertunities for those golden moments that tell the story for you.