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Top 10 Tips for Directing a Scholarship-Worthy Video

With the popularity of YouTube and Facebook, where posting a video is just a click away, video-based scholarships are becoming increasingly popular for students who have other strengths besides essay writing. Video scholarships provide students the opportunity to highlight an array of skills from directing and editing to staging and production. But remember a video scholarship will require a great deal of time and effort. Don’t assume a video contest will be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. You should be encouraged by the fact that the odds are in your favor when doing a video contest because so few people take the time to enter. Here are the top 10 tips we’ve compiled to help you increase your chances of winning and helpful suggestions to keep in mind before beginning production.

  1. Follow the Rules

    We can’t stress enough the importance of following the rules when competing for any scholarship opportunity, but you should be aware that the guidelines for a video contest are usually very specific and somewhat technical. For instance, there may be a certain format the scholarship provider is looking for (.avi, .mpg, .ram, .swf, etc.), file size restrictions, and surely time restrictions. Before diving in, make sure you fully grasp what it is they’re asking for.
  2. Judging

    Be aware of how your work will be judged prior to writing your script. Will there be a panel of judges or will the winners be determined by voting that’s open to the general public? Knowing this ahead of time will help you in creating the most appealing video for that audience.
  3. Brainstorm

    Begin thinking of a short but powerful story that fits in with the theme of the contest that will really connect with the viewer. Think about your strong points. Are you somewhat of a comedian? If so, humor is a great way to appeal to the masses because people love to laugh. If you’re a great story teller, try tugging on the heart strings of your viewer with an endearing tale. No matter what path you choose, remember to keep your story compelling – you don’t want the viewer to check out halfway through your video. Once you’ve established your storyline, think about a really gripping way to start your video entry. If you can captivate your audience within the first few seconds, you’re well on your way to a winning entry.
  4. Flatter the Sponsors

    Don’t take this as an opportunity to gush over the wondrousness that is the sponsor, but rather as a “tip of the hat” to their company. Think of clever ways to incorporate them in your video such as using their product as a prop or mentioning them subtly in the dialogue. Considering the video will ultimately be judged by their distinguished panel or, at most, they’ll decide who the public will vote for, this can be an excellent and easy way to earn brownie points.
  5. Finalize Your Script

    A finalized script will prevent you from adlibbing or stumbling over your words when you’re in front of the camera. Practice reading your script in front of a mirror to get a feel of what the viewer will see and memorize your lines – viewers don’t want to watch the top of your head!
  6. Test for Timing

    After running through your script often enough that you’re familiar with it, test how long it takes you to read through it. Will it fit within the time constraints? It would be unfortunate to be disqualified after all your hard work for something as adjustable as timing.
  7. Possible Rewrite

    By now, you’ve worked out all the pauses for emphasis and drama you want to include but still find your script flawed – well, change it! Fiddle with your script to remove awkward phrases, cut down what may now seem unnecessary and incorporate suggestions from friends and family. It’s a good idea to practice in front of friends and family members to see how they respond to your video.
  8. Location, Location, Location

    Depending on the contest, where you decide to film your entry is as important as the script. You shouldn’t film in your bedroom if it’s messy and there are tons of distractions going on in the background, because no matter how great your video is something like that could ruin your chances. Instead, choose a plain backdrop like a white wall or a solid-colored door, or possibly setup your equipment outdoors. However, take into account that, just as clothes all over your bedroom floor can be a distraction, traffic can be just as bad.
  9. Begin Filming

    At this point, you’ve polished and perfected your script and have practiced to the point where you can say your lines in a natural and animated way. Finally it’s time to begin filming! It’s a good idea to recruit the help of a friend of family member to do the camera work for you. Consider the importance of good lighting and good audio and be sure to record many “takes” so you’ll have options when selecting a final cut to submit to the contest.
  10. Submit and Hope for the Best

    Once you’ve selected the video that you think is scholarship-worthy, go back and double-check that you’ve followed all of the rules. There’s no harm in verifying that your time and formatting are what the judges are looking for. Remember that not following the rules is the quickest way to weed out entries. Next, depending on the rules, you may send in a copy or upload it for voting to begin. If voting will determine the winning entry, do your best to get your work out there; utilize Facebook and Twitter to your best ability to get your entry votes.

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