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The Digital Naturalist is an inspired forum for video, film, and multimedia with a cause. It brings together an elite panel of experts to analyze what makes digital storytelling successful, establish helpful guidelines for advocacy groups, and shine a light on the most effective and inspiring work being produced today. Through analysis, forums, interviews, and personal accounts, we hope to help nonprofit organizations and the creatives working with them better communicate the most pressing, complex issues of our time.

Try This!

If your video is comprised of interviews, try to get your b-roll after you’ve recorded all or most of the interviews. The reason is that inevitably the people interviewed will say certain things that may inspire the kind of b-roll you’ll want to shoot. Read more bladeronner.com.

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Monday
Jan092012

Lessons from "On Directing Film"

Day One Stories by Prudential/Everynone

I just ordered a fantastic little book on Amazon, thanks to MediaStorm's recommendationOn Directing Film. I'm not very far in, but one lesson keeps bouncing around in my head, and has made it nearly impossible to watch anything without analyzing the hell out of it. It's actually been a fun little journey.

In the very first chapter, author/playwright/screenwriter/film director David Mamet writes about the way Einstein suggested a movie should be made-- otherwise known as his "theory of montage":

"This method has nothing to do with following the protagonist around but rather is a succession of images juxtaposed so that the contrast between these images moves the story forward in the mind of the audience.

"You always want to tell the story in cuts... A shot of a teacup. A shot of a spoon. A shot of a fork. A shot of a door. Let the cut tell the story. Because otherwise you have not got dramatic action, you have narration. If you slip into narration, you are saying, 'you'll never guess why what I just told you is important to the story.' It's unimportant that the audience should guess why it's important to the story. It's important simply to tell the story. Let the audience be surprised."

Mamet functions in a different world than ours, because he can control every aspect of the story being told-- from the situations to the very characters living out those dramas. Our filmmaking is much different, but the same rules of good visual storytelling apply.

So next time you're inclined to cut back to a talking head-- and I know this can be really tempting in the advocacy/issue-reporting world-- think about what other visuals could more strongly portray that character's words and add some depth and complexity to the story being told. It takes good planning before the shoot, a clear, focused head during the shoot, and mindful and creative editing afterwards.

Here are a few videos that illustrate this idea really well:

http://www.dayonestories.com/#/lindaThis is a gorgeous film. Not once do you see this woman talking in a sit-down interview-- instead, you get a rich montage of her life, her surroudnings, and metaphorical images that create an emotional understanding in the viewer. Well done, Everynone

Soldier Home - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

Another beautiful example of what you can do when you think outside the obvious. You do get some sit-down interview shots with this one, and that's usually okay (and necessary) in issue-driven pieces-- but notice they don't linger there longer than they have to. Instead, they focus on making the other scenes as rich as possible-- from the symbollic focus change at :20 to the lit doorbells at 1:05, which makes viewers realize how precious such an inanimate thing as a doorbell must be to this character. That's truly powerful storytelling by Luceo Images

Joe Soll has spent half of his life searching for his birth parents, in the process he uncovered a mystery that’s haunted him for years. See the project at http://mediastorm.com/training/broken-lines

 

How does one illustrate a sad and painful adoption story? Old family albums. A dark, rippling pond. Feet shuffling through dead leaves. A man, alone at a table, working on a Sudoku puzzle. Einstein must be smiling down on MediaStorm today-- especially TDN's Tucker Walsh, who filmed a hefty portion of the images being juxtaposed in this film.

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Reader Comments (1)

Completely agree with this post. I love how in the "Soldier On" video you can pause it at any given time and it's a beautiful still photograph. "A series of cuts" is an interesting way to think of it- do you recommend first putting together the images and then telling the story? Or telling the story and then adding the images to match?

February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Andersen

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