Honesty in Radio

You’ve got to be honest with yourself when you write a script.

Take out a stopwatch. Don’t rush your read. Allow for breathing room. Fix what’s not working. (That doesn’t mean read it a little bit faster.)
If you don’t time your script honestly…

  • You will have to ask the talent to read faster than he or she should.
  • You will end up doing multiple takes, hoping by some miracle the read comes in under time.
  • You will get a poorer performance from the talent.
  • You will end up having to scramble to figure out which words and phrases to cut from the script.
  • You will risk having to explain to the client why certain words or phrases had to be cut.
  • You will look unprofessional in front of your creative director, your producer, the engineer, and the talent.

If you do time your script honestly…

  • You will realize what’s not working and have plenty of time to fix it.
  • You will have an easier recording session.
  • You will have a better script.
It’s really hard to kill a line you love to make the script time out right. But it’s better to kill it early and have time to top it or work it in some other way than to have to do it under pressure in the recording studio.

3 thoughts on “Honesty in Radio

  1. Excellent advice. Two additions:

    1) Leave extra room in your script. Room to breathe is usually good, and having time to play with is critical if you want dialogue to sound natural.

    2) Even if your script times out well before the session, have a cut list–lines that will be the first to be cut/revised if you don't have enough time. It will be obvious after a couple reads if you need to make those cuts. Don't let the talent read a script 20 times before you decide you need to revise it.

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  2. I think this posting is missing one of the key elements to why radio scripts tend to end up on the lengthy side. Radio is a thankless & neglected medium. Creative Directors typically don't want to deal with it, and 99 times out of a 100 the client jams as much into it as possible. Hoping it will do the heavy lifting that the TV just doesn't have time for. On several occasions I've been faced with adding an entire new line of VO while I have talent in the booth.
    So having flexibility throughout your script is extremely important. Also, know your client. If they always add VO, account for this. And it never hurts to piece together multiple versions to try and preserve some of your precious concept. That's my 2-cents. Radio is a tough, but if you master it, you can leave with a pleased client and a free-lunch.

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  3. I've had the opposite experience on a lot of radio projects, Anony. It's been good to work on, precisely because it's neglected. Not much input from anyone. I love working on radio for that reason. But I also think, because so much radio is loud and terrible, clients feel okay jamming a bunch of crap in there. Your point, that you should be flexible and plan ahead if you think this might be a possibility, is a good one.

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