Why We Do Drafts

By September 30, 2015 No Comments
a yellow cartoon duck with smiling eyes and a chubby demeanour

When we quote a job, we’ll say how many drafts are included. That’ll usually be drafts of a script, and drafts of an edit. Sometimes, it seems people aren’t quite sure of why we do that, or what constitutes a draft. Here’s why and what!

When we’re making something, it’s a mix of our vision and the client’s vision. Those visions will never immediately 100% align. It’s impossible for two people to think exactly the same way. If I say, “Think of a duck,” you and I are picturing two different ducks. Maybe mine’s black, and yours is green and tan. Maybe yours is a pond duck, and mine is Daffy. Making a collaborative or responsive creative piece is about understanding each other as much as possible – and understanding comes from communicating. Drafts are the things that let us communicate. They give us something central and real to discuss.
Image: a wooden mallard decoy duck to demonstrate how varied our ideas of ducks and drafts can be
In our official terms (read them here), a draft is defined as, “any video file, document, or sound file submitted to a client, on which notes can be given back to The X Gene. The final draft is either that draft which requires no further changes/notes, as stated by the client, or the maximum number of drafts as stated in the quote/by these terms – whichever comes first.

Here’s an honest truth: the first draft of anything is shit. Well, maybe not shit, because The X Gene is great at scoping what someone wants before we begin – but certainly not what the client exactly pictured. That’s good! It’s never going to be! The first draft is the starting point. We present that first draft and give the client a formatted Google Sheet, and ask them to go over it second by second, and tell us what to change. Be as specific as possible! The more changes, the better!

From that, we reshape the video or script, refining it with our own knowledge of copywriting or editing as we go, and then draft 2 is a big improvement. So many times, a client will exclaim, “Oh that’s much better!” When done properly, draft 3 is usually just a polish – a couple of timing changes, or a few word swaps, say.

Where it goes wrong is when clients don’t take the time to really look over the drafts we send them. If we get only two or three notes on draft 1 – sometimes none! – we get nervous, because in all likelihood, those changes will trickle through after draft 3, when suddenly the client has looked closer and noticed, and then we have to charge extra.

Back to our terms, “all jobs requiring editing or standalone motion graphics/animation include two rounds of revisions, which is three drafts, in the quoted price, unless stated otherwise. Any changes outside of these three drafts will be quoted and, if approved, charged accordingly.” It feels lame to say it, but in drafting, haste makes waste. A video is probably a pretty expensive line item, so we try and encourage our clients to take some time, sit down with a coffee or thickshake, and dedicate an hour or so going through the first and second drafts with a fine toothed comb, jotting down the timecode and exactly what should be changed. Then, wait until the end of the day, look back over those notes and confirm they’re what’s needed.

Maybe there’s a hesitation to tell us what to do? One of our favourite clients gave copious, detailed notes with exactly what she wanted as a result, and at first apologised. We rejoiced! Those notes told us exactly what to do, and so we knew that when we were finished, we’d done exactly what was right. The only time that goes awry is when a client changes their mind and reverts back. Flip flopping is a nightmare. So don’t be afraid to know what you want – and be specific about it – but take the time to ensure that you and your stakeholders are all agreeing that your duck is the same as our duck.