Telling a story in video

The cool thing about all this technology is that now anyone can create just about anything and share it with everyone else.  Most of it goes unnoticed by the vast majority, but that’s not why most of us create.  Most of us create out of some intrinsic desire to imagine, to create, to make something – and if it’s enjoyed by others, that’s just a bonus.  In addition to simply sharing events in our lives and things we see with others – the modern equivalent of the slideshows many of us suffered through in the 1970s – lots of people are creating short documentaries, experimenting with animation or filming techniques, or simply telling stories.  I’m sure nearly everyone has used a camera  to document some aspect of their lives.  But have you ever thought about using video to tell a story?

So what does every story need?  It needs a plot, with a beginning, middle and end.  You’ve got to introduce the story in a way that piques interest, by creating an environment, sketching out interesting characters, or describing a situation.  Preferably you’ll do all three – providing the setting, one or more characters, and a mood.  In video, you’ve got the added benefit of using music, sound and lighting to make up for the pages of text you are prevented from including.

Next, you have to create rising action.  The situation gets more complicated, and the first inklings of a problem or conflict begin to develop.  Eventually there is a climax, and the problem resolves in some way, and everything gets wrapped up.  And then you need some kind of theme to weave into the whole story – what’s the overall message?  Is there a teaching point, or something you’d like to communicate with the entire story?  A moral?

If you think about every movie you’ve ever watched, you’ll see these elements, and you could probably add a whole lot more detail.  There’s a certain formula.  There are cultural differences – I think American films all tend to wrap up in a satisfying way – good triumphs over evil – whereas in European films you might be in for a rude surprise.  I’ll let you decide why that is.  And I’ve noticed Central Asian films all tend to end somewhat abruptly for my taste – i.e. you decide how it ends.

So I thought I’d give it a try myself.  It seems easy enough – all the same elements as the story your grade-school teachers taught you to write – only it’s on video.  But just like its stubby-pencil equivalent, it’s more difficult than it seems.  What made it more tricky was the fact that the story was being filmed as it happened, and I intended to package it into its parts later.  But that also meant that depending on how the events unfolded, I would be unable to go back and capture footage that would be more appropriate to my story.

I started filming the story of five fledgling birds that ended up in our courtyard.  Though none of them could fly – which we already found odd and of concern, one of the five was much smaller than the others.  So the question was, “Do we intervene or not?”  It was only after the real-life story played out that I did the research to figure out that these were blackbirds, and they are not supposed to fly for their first week out of the nest.

As the saying goes, “if I had known then what I know now”, the footage would have been different.  But this is what I ended up with, in case you’re curious. Like always, suggestions, complaints and gripes always welcome.

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