Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Crafting a story through editing

When I work with my video students, teaching them to tell a solid STORY is probably the most difficult thing to do.

We all know that stories should have a beginning, middle and end. When you are a great storyteller, that comes naturally. However, students need to follow a formula to take them through the process of telling a story through editing. Telling a story chronologically is one of the easiest formulas for students to follow.

I want to share an example of a video one of my sophomore video students produced:

For this video, he set out to produce a story about a fashion show at our school. He went to the show, filmed, and came back to class to review the footage. He called me over to look at what he filmed. It looked nice - but it was basically medium to wide shots of models walking on the runway. There wasn't much to work with to tell a compelling story.

After a discussion, we talked about changing the story angle to show the PROCESS of what goes into putting together a fashion show: the beginning, middle and end. The end was easy - the fashion show itself. However, he needed to go collect footage of the creation process of the clothing to have the beginning and middle of the story.

He went to the fashion design class to collect footage. After returning with the footage, the storytelling process naturally fell into place.

What is the first step in the process? Probably designing, but the students weren't designing on the day he filmed. Instead he started with the creation process: sewing.

He started with this shot:

He loved this shot, so he decided to lead with it. This shot is great for two reasons:
  1. Visually it is interesting because it intrigues the audience. We aren't really sure what we are looking at.
  2. It also has great NAT NOISE. I always want my students to use nat noise to start their story. It draws the audience in with sound.
Following are just basic sequences of the creation process. I talk to my students all of the time about shooting and editing in sequences. Check out this blog post to learn more.

Over-the-shoulder shot
Close-up of the hands
Structurally, we have the beginning and middle of the piece put together. We see the beginning (symbolically the thread on the sewing machine), and we see the clothing being put together. The clothes they were making were not the ones worn in the fashion show, but that doesn't really matter at this point. We are crafting a story through the magic of editing. This is the middle.

The natural ending for this story is the fashion show itself:

This worked ok as the end, but it lacked a sense of finality. However, he found it when looking at the footage from the START of the show:

How does a fashion show naturally end? With applause! He captured applause from the start of the show, but didn't have it from the end of the show. Doesn't matter. He used this clip as the end of the story. It gives it a sense of closure.

This story exemplifies a great first step for this student in the storytelling process. It has a natural arc. It has a beginning, middle and end. Story.

Think about this easy process when telling your own story through video. Other ideas? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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