Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Packages need a beginning and an end

For whatever reason young reporters always seem to have problems starting a package and finishing it. I see lots of pieces that flow nicely thru the middle, but often have an awkward beginning and an abrupt ending. A package should grab the viewer, but not be jarring.

First things first, let's start at the beginning. What's the first thing you write when you sit down to knock out your script? Well, if you're looking for the first line of your package, a sound bite, or a piece of nat sound, you've missed the obvious. A package starts with your anchor intro. Often you see an anchor intro a piece and then a reporter repeat the same words in the beginning of the package. That means the anchor lead-in was an afterthought. Remember, the intro is part of the package, like a cover on a book.

So, always write your anchor intro first. And none of this, "Big news at City Hall today. Joe Reporter has the story." Put some thought into it. A good intro is part information, part tease. You need to hook the viewer. "A big development at City Hall today could cost you some money. Joe Reporter tells us who might have to shell out a few bucks...and why." Okay, so you've gotten a little info in there, teased the viewer, and set up your story. Which you don't have to start by saying, "A big development at city hall today.'

Now, the start of the package. Personally, I love nat sound. It's a smooth way to start a package, it sets the scene, and it gives the director a little wiggle room in case he's late punching up your story. Sound bites are more abrupt. Standups? I really don't like them at the beginning of a package. A bridge shows off your talent and ability to think in the field, and also offers you a chance to shift gears in the middle of the story.

Which brings us to the end of the package. I'll bet 90 percent of rookie packages end with a sound bite and a sig-out, as if the reporter can't even think of one more line to wrap up the package. And that's what you need at the end if you don't have a standup. Something to tie it all together. Going from a sound bite directly to a sig-out is just too abrupt, like that ending of The Sopranos where they just cut to black. (Don't get me started on that.)

So make sure your package has a definite beginning and end, and don't just slam something together because you have to. Very often your beginning sets the tone for the story, while the end ties everything up neatly for the viewer.

TVNEWSGRAPEVINE, copyright 2011 © Randy Tatano


1 comment:

turdpolisher said...

TONE! It's the single most important part of the story. It's the emotion. It's what hooks the viewer and drags them through the piece wether they want to see it or not.

Take the first 5-7 seconds to set the mood. You'll be surprised how the rest of the story comes together.