Barbie and Oppenheimer finding your hero

Finding the Hero of Your Story

 I get that a good video should have a story. But when I shoot video of my buddies during our bicycle rides, the camera is fixed on the bike facing front or back. Who is the hero? How can I make a video that doesn’t suck?

–Carlo

The “Hero” of any video is the person the story is about. Oppenheimer is about, well, Oppenheimer. And it would be a totally different story if it were called Barbie. So finding the  hero is a pretty important question.  If your video was a movie, whose name would you want to see on the title?

Heroes are not assigned to you. You have to create them (for fiction) or discover them (for documentary.) But the choice of hero is always yours.  Who do you want it to be?

Let’s look at the hero in two imaginary examples from your bike video, Suppose your hero is Emile, who is recovering from a broken leg and may not go the distance. What does the epic video entitled Emile look like?

While the bulk of your shooting might still be from Gopros stuck to a bike, most of your Emile video needs to illuminate the story of Emile and his leg. Your cameras needs to favor Emile and his struggle to get through the trip. Maybe an interview with him or his doctor before and after the ride. Maybe capturing what happens when the road is steep. Maybe staying back with him if the group gets ahead, or watching the group praise him over beers when you’re done.

That’s a very different story than the video called Frank, in which Frank visits from America and rides through the Alps on a bike for the very first time. The Frank video might include an interview with him about his dream and how he saved up. His fears of being in a strange country. Maybe you strap a camera to Frank’s handlebars that shoots just at his face, so when he talks about the scenery, it’s captured separately.  You might shoot him separately at view stops, talking about what he’s seeing and how different it is back home. And drinking with the guys in a pub after, making friends despite his fears. The resulting video will be way different from the video called Emile.

Anyone can be the hero of your video. You, as the director, just have to pick the right person. Who interests you on your trip, and why? What about their story speaks to you? Then ask yourself:

  • Who’s doing something especially interesting on this trip?
  • What is their struggle or challenge?
  • What can I shoot to show viewers the whole story?
  • How do I prep for those extra elements?
  • What’s a win for my hero at the end of the video? What’s a loss?

The hardest part about finding the hero is realizing that not everyone’s story is interesting enough to turn into a video with their name in the title. Start with the best stories– the ones that excite you the most. As you go through the various members of your bike trip over the years, you’ll get better at finding and telling their stories, and you may even be able to make the less dramatic ones very entertaining.

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About The Author

Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman, president of LA-based Custom Productions, Inc., is a prolific producer, writer, and director, known for over 200 diverse media projects. He is also the author of the best-selling book "How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck," taught globally from middle school to graduate level, and available in 9 languages.

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