For ProsYour Questions Answered

Every Video Needs a Story

By Jul 25, 2011May 11th, 2015Leave a comment

Hey, Steve–

Some of my friends and I shot this film a couple months ago. Since then I’ve read your book,  Could you tell us what we’re doing wrong and how not to make videos that suck in the future?



There’s much more good here than bad, Max.  But let’s see if we can improve it.  It’s 7 minutes long, but everything I’m going to talk about you can see in the first 45 seconds:

First:  This is a great looking video. You’ve cut it in a way that makes it clear what’s going on.  Good scoring.  None of this is easy.  Nice work!

Despite all this, 45 seconds in, I was bored, waiting for something to happen. Anything, really, except more guys walking around an empty building.  What you’re missing is a story. Here’s how to create one:

1)  Every movie needs a hero.  In your video all the characters are anonymous.  We can’t tell them apart by anything other than their clothes or guns. We don’t know what they want, or why they’re there.  Despite your technical skill, we have no stake in the action.

Every story needs to be about someone. That’s the hero. Having a main character gives the audience a way to understand what’s going on– and someone to root for or against. A hero-less video is just decoration. It may be pretty, but the audience can’t invest in it, can’t care about it. Once you have a hero–

2)  Every video needs a story:  In it’s simplest form, a story has a beginning, a middle and an end.  Beginning:  The hero gets into a situation.  Middle:  He struggles through it.  End: He either succeeds or fails.

Your video is all middle:  “The guys roam a factory and have a gunfight.”  We don’t know who, why, or what happens at the end.

Now imagine that you focused on a single hero and added a beginning and end to your middle.  I’ll make up one version now– the possibilities are, of course, infinite:

Beginning:  “A recently fired alcoholic detective (the hero) begs his ex-partner to trust him: a big drug deal is about to go down in an abandoned factory.”

Then your middle:  “The guys (now we know it’s the ex-detective and his ex-partner) roam a factory and have a gunfight (who we now know are the drug dealers).”

And an end:  “The alcoholic detective is shot protecting his partner, and the drug dealers are killed.  On the way to the ambulance, his ex-partner promises to try to get him back on the force.”

Now you have a story.  You have a hero we care about, and a way to keep us involved.  Your video will be much richer and more intriguing.  We’ll care about what happens. A richer story, but It can still be done the same 7 minutes.

Great start, Max.  Add some story to your technique, and you’re going to kick ass.

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