How to Tell Stories with Video

© Steve Czajka on Flickr. Creative Commons 2.0.
© Steve Czajka on Flickr. Creative Commons 2.0.

It seems like there is a lot of talk nowadays about being a storyteller. But nobody is really telling you how to be one. No worries. I am here to save the day. Despite what Mr. Stefan Sagmeister thinks, you CAN be a storyteller. Here are the top ten best ways to tell story with video. Any kind of video. Corporate videos. Wedding videos. Music videos. You name it.

  1. Start your video with “Once upon a time.” Think about it. Some of the best stories in the history of stories started with these four little words. But don’t feel like you have to use these exact words. Be creative. Mix it up. (e.g. “A long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away.”) Making a promo video for a bank? Start it out…”Once upon time there was a banker named Fargo.”)
  2. Have a sympathetic hero. Find some way to make one of the people in your video the main “hero.” All the best stories have one hero the audience can connect with. In our bank video, our “hero” is none other than the aforementioned Mr. Fargo.
  3. Use a Melodramatic soundtrack. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a powerful soundtrack. Think Spielberg. Think John Williams. A minimum of 3 crescendoing peaks and valleys is a must.
  4. Have a sidekick. Find some way to make one of the people in your video a funny sidekick. All the best stories have really funny sidekicks. Maybe Mr. Fargo in our bank video had an old college roommate who is an accountant that juggles books. I mean he literally juggles books…like five of them.
  5. Use a voice over with a British Accent. Everyone knows that a voice over can really elevate a video to new heights (c’mon, haven’t you seen “Blade Runner”?) But I can’t emphasize enough the importance of making the voice over British. (Unless, of course you can get Harrison Ford).  Look no further than the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and I rest my case. British accents will increase the prestige and significance of your video by at least 23.5%. (Note: if you are making a video for a British audience, you should still make the accent British, just make sure it’s from southern England. That’s very important.)
  6. Have a mentor. Find some way to make one of the people in your video a mentor figure. All the best stories have a wise, old mentor. Maybe Mr. Fargo learned the tricks of the banking trade from another banker in the town down the road.
  7. Center framing. Compose all your shots so that people, places and things are center frame. That immediately evokes feelings of Kubrick and Wes Anderson. Again, elevating your video to new levels.
  8. Have a romantic interest. Find some way to incorporate a romance. All the best stories have some kind of romantic interest. Maybe Mr. Fargo in our bank video meets his future wife when she walks into the bank to deposit the inheritance from her recently deceased grandmother.
  9. Shoot everything at f1.4. We all know that shallow depth of field is the #1 ingredient to make a video feel like a real movie. So be sure to shoot everything wide open. (And for extra measure, throw in as many slider and dolly shots as possible. That’s another hallmark of cinematic storytelling.)
  10. Have a good Villain. Find some way to make one of the people in your video a villain. All the best stories have a really good villain (And by “good,” I mean bad.  Not “bad” like good, as in the song by Michael Jackson. I mean the actual bad. But he’s just really good at it. Nevermind. You know what I mean.) Maybe Mr. Fargo in our bank video had to deal with an evil mayor or something.

Needless to say, make sure your video has a happy ending. All the best stories have happy endings. Maybe Mr. Fargo’s bank grows to be really, really big and now is ready to serve you with a smile and great customer service.

If you’re wondering right now, “What the hell is this guy talking about?” read this. 🙂

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