What goes into developing one of our award-winning travel scripts? John, our head writer divulges some secrets… 

When TM’s travel writers are out socially, they often get asked that age-old ice breaker, “so, what do you do for a living?” When they answer, the questioner’s eyes usually light up with all sorts of romantic notions, until our writers explain exactly what goes into writing a video script. We’d love to send our writers out in the field, but when you’re producing quality, in-depth video content at scale it’s simply not feasible.

Pre-shoot Planning

Pre-shoot planning starts in our production department, which examines each destination from a data-driven viewpoint, primarily around visitor numbers, search demand and other data sources. Spreadsheets of the highest-ranking attractions, neighbourhoods and places are compiled, and permissions are requested from local tourism boards and attractions.

Every city has a story to tell, but it’s not always clearly told through the data. And that’s where our writers first step in. After looking through the lists of prominent attractions, neighbourhoods and other points of interest (POI’s) – which are the meat and potatoes of our scripts – our writers look for the wider themes and personality traits of the city. Imagine that the city is a quilt; the big panels – the museums, galleries, beaches, palaces and cathedrals – are POIs, but it’s the little things which often stitch the big pieces together and make that city so unique. Our writers set about creating a thematic shot lists, requesting footage of specific cafes, meals, streets, vantage points and local oddities. For instance, when we compiled our shot list for the Malaysian capital KL, we directed our shooters to capture as much of the city’s acclaimed street food as possible, as well as the city’s incredible street art.

Our scripts are often assigned to match up with our writers’ prior travel experiences and interests. Some of our writers have an affinity with the great outdoors and adventure travel, while others revel in culture and history – that makes allocating destinations like national parks and European cities a no-brainer.

Shooting Phase

Once our shooters are on location, video conferencing and other modern communication methods makes it easy for them to check in with our production team and writers, allowing them to report on unforeseen challenges and call for support from HQ as required. All of our team in the field are great at thinking on their feet and often find unscheduled opportunities which sometimes are impossible to plan in advance. Again, our team in HQ is able to support the shooters and chase down any permissions or logistics required to allow for these unplanned gems to be used in the final videos if needed.. Best of all, our shooters email us their favourite images from location, whetting our appetite for what’s to come!

Script Development (post-shoot)

Once the shoot is complete, a hard drive soon arrives back at TM headquarters. When the FedEx van rolls up our writers eagerly get underway familiarising themselves with the footage, with other members of the production team stopping by to look over their shoulders to see what’s on the screen.

Writing a script is very much an engineering project, with the fundamental architecture built logically around geography and prominent themes. It’s a painstaking process to complete an initial draft, during which time the writers have gone down numerous historical, cultural, and culinary rabbit holes to combine meaning and helpful information to the footage and breath life into a new script. The next step along the writing process is the writer’s room, where the script is read aloud and reviewed line-by-line by members of the writing, production, video and management teams. After the script has been tightened up in the writer’s room, it goes through a thorough fact-check before being sent off for client approval.

Once our clients’ suggestions are taken on board (and any necessary arguments resolved) the script is emailed to our voiceover artists and musicians, whose voices and musical styles we try to match to each destination or region. This gives our travel videos an extra layer of authenticity. And while all this activity is taking place, our video department is busy assembling a rough cut. 

Even though the script may have left the writers desk, they stay close to the project at every step, checking on the voiceover artist’s pronunciation of place names, providing input into the music, and reviewing progress before the edit is locked off. By the time our writers have completed their assignment, they often know a destination better than someone who may have just returned from there.

Our videos are designed to inspire our client’s customers, but we often find our writers and their production teammates end up equally inspired. It’s not uncommon to walk past their desks, seeing them looking up flights and accommodations. And sometimes, they’ll even take the leap and hit the book button. And when they return and are asked, “what was it really like,” it’s not surprising that they often answer, “very familiar, like I’d been there before.”

To learn more about what happens to the footage once it’s been sent back to our post-production team, check out how we choose the right tools to manage and process the footage. For more information on our general content production capabilities, head to our pages on video production and custom content services.