5 Tips for Creating a Storyline in Video

5 Tips for Creating a Storyline from Jordan Brittley My feet strained to reach the floor as I sat in the fifth row of my home church worship center. Not that I knew what “home church” meant. The video screen came on and suddenly there were children who had to be about my age staring right at me. No smiles. Just bright eyes and beautiful dark skin. Maybe it was a tribal song playing in the background or maybe there were words. But I don’t remember any of that.

I just remember the people.

The people who stared right at me as something stirred in me. A passion? A calling? I wasn’t even sure what those words really meant. But right there my twelve-year-old self decided that she wanted to make videos that would make people want to do something. Anything. Something that mattered. I watched every movie and every church video with a new eagerness. I pulled it apart. As much as a twelve year old can pull apart a film.

A lot has changed over the last eleven years. At some point I did create my very first film. At some point I forgot to go to a class in high school because I was so wrapped up in a film project. At some point I sat on the first row in an auditorium and watched my first fifteen minute film play in front of over a thousand people. At some point someone decided to fly me to Haiti to film a mission trip (which was a lifelong dream that I never thought would happen). But my love for video is still founded in the story of people.

Over the past year, the number of video-related questions that I receive has increased drastically and I am so excited to see a love for video in others. In you. I want to share a few things with you that I hope will not only propel you forward in video, but propel you forward with a purpose. A video without a purpose - a clear, distinct and intentional purpose - is going to wither and die. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the shot or how great the sound effects. Whether people realize it or not, they are only intrigued by video with purpose.

Can coffee have purpose? Can a phone have purpose? Can ____________ have purpose? YES! And it is your job to share that story of purpose in an intentional way with the world.

Below are a few tips for learning to create a storyline with purpose.

TELL STORIES - Tell stories online and to your friends. Let a love for the art of a story stir in you. What details matter to what people? What is the point? What can be gained from the telling of this story? Why?

LISTEN - Listen to the vision of the film. This would come from the person who has hired you for the work. Listen to their vision for their company/organization/small business. This vision is going to drive the entire film, so you want to make sure you understand it thoroughly. Naturally, people aren’t going to communicate this upfront so be sure to take the time so you can tell the story they want told.

ASK QUESTIONS - The people that I work for tend to give me a LOT of creative freedom. I think in part because they trust my storytelling and they don’t want to limit me. I love this. There is really no way to overstate how thankful I am to work for people who trust me to tell their story. But regardless of how much creative freedom you receive, you must ask questions before you ever start filming. Even if it is simply stated, I always (ALWAYS) make sure we are on the same page about the purpose, intention and vision of the video. At minimum, make them commit to a three word description or even a vision statement for the video.

DO THE PREP WORK - The majority of video work happens before the record button is ever pushed. I easily spend 10+ hours on the computer for really small projects after the filming has concluded. For larger projects? I am typically looking at 40+ hours of solid video editing. But most of my work is done before I ever push record.

I go over the vision and develop descriptive words for the project with a purpose statement behind each descriptive word. How can I portray that descriptive word on film? Then I develop a shot list. And while the shot list will change a little bit for different kinds of stories, it will help you to remain founded in what matters for your film.

SELECT EQUIPMENT PURPOSEFULLY - What lens is best for each situation in the story? Do you have a more reserved subject? Give them a little space and shoot with a tighter lens for a cozier frame. Do you have an energetic subject? Put a wider lens on an let people feel really close to them! Think about how your equipment affects the people you are interviewing. This summer I shot a piece for a youth group. While these students were used to video cameras, I knew that my typical setup (z-finder and all mic attachments) might make them a little more uncomfortable. So I took much simpler gear.

I hope this helps as you tell stories!