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12/29/2005 - A COMMERCIAL IS THE ULTIMATE SHORT
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Could you tell a story from start to finish if you only had 60 seconds? 30 seconds?
Impossible as that seems, TV and radio ads accomplish this 24/7. Their goal is to sell a product or service in as little time as possible. Since money is a big factor, too, they need to meet their goal with a small cast and-in the case of TV-a small number of locations.
The placement of the commercial within a show is also important since it needs to tap into the mindset and buying power of the audience. You wouldn't, for instance, try to sell baby products in the middle of a football game or try to hawk real estate during Saturday morning cartoons. This would be like entering your comedy short in a contest or film festival that's only looking for dramas. Why? Because the best message in the world will be totally lost if it doesn't play to the right crowd.
Commercials have a lot to teach in terms of brevity-the art of making every word, character and scene really count in getting a point across. As short as they are, however, they are all written in the standard format of Beginning (Conflict), Middle (Complication) and End (Conclusion).
To break it down even further, the first half of a television commercial is spent in presenting a problem and the second half is spent in solving it. This same thing occurs when you write a script. The difference is that instead of selling your audience a product, you are selling them on an idea and a way of thinking that reflects the best of your imagination.
In order to understand how much can be packed into the tiny space of 30-60 seconds, take notes on what kind of ads appear during the following types of programs: (1) a sitcom, (2) a sports event, (3) a drama, (4) a reality show, (5) a movie, (6) a cartoon and (7) evening news. As you watch each one, identify the following and apply your answers to the film short you want to write:
? The age, gender, and number of characters
? The problem
? The solution
? The number of locations
? The length of the ad
? The product's appeal


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