Mind Your P’s and W’s of Storytelling

In my last post, I addressed this issue of professional artists calling themselves storytellers. That’s the new “in” term to use as a descriptor of what you do as a professional artist. As I wrote, I’m just as guilty. But although this post and series is dripping with cynicism, I don’t want to create the impression that I don’t think we are indeed storytellers. I absolutely believe that much of the work we do can authentically be described as telling stories. Whether they be love stories for wedding clients or customer testimonial stories for corporate clients.

On set for a Mighty 8th shoot filming a client testimonial.
On set for a Mighty 8th shoot filming a client testimonial.

If you’re going to call yourself a storyteller, you might as well keep some important tips in mind when telling your story.

The Five W’s of Storytelling

When I go about producing a video for a client, my path to telling their story involves keeping the Five W’s in mind. I think you will find these W’s rather common sensical, but you’d be surprised at how much a difference it makes when you are intentional about answering these questions?

  • WHO: Who is the story about? Who will be in the video? Which clients and/or employees will help tell the story the best?
  • WHAT: What is the story you’re going to tell?Are you telling the story of the history of the company? Are you telling a customer testimonial?  Get really specific.
  • WHEN: This is more of a logistically consideration. When will you shoot the video? Have you coordinated the time schedules of all involved? Have you determined the best time of day? Are you familiar with the lighting conditions during the time of day you plan to shoot?
  • WHERE: This is another logistical question. Where will you shoot the video? Once you’ve chosen a main location, where in that location will you shoot. Conference room? Office? Outside? What are the lighting, audio and set design issues that come into play? All that has to be taken into consideration.
  • WHY: Why is this video being made? Why is it important? I can’t tell you how important this is. You could argue this is the most important question. Many commercial videographers approach a video with the objective of making the coolest looking video they can, but don’t take the time to consider why it’s being made and what they want the video to achieve.

Stillmotion’s Four P’s of Storytelling

Great minds think alike. 🙂 It turns out those amazingly prolific and talent filmmakers at Stillmotion have a similar set of parameters. They cover it in their Storytelling Series they created for Vimeo. If remembering five things is too much work for you, Stillmotion only has four things for you to remember: People, Place, Plot and Purpose.

Next up we’ll get valuable insight from one of the most successful video marketers in the country. Stay tuned.