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nature video

Can a nature video tell a story?

 I followed the link in my Kindle version of your book and
started going through your story analyses: Hero, Beginning, Middle and End. This is fascinating to me and I want to do better with my nature videos.

I like to go to a place, do a shoot, then a short video like a daily
journal. This one is an example–but it got 17 loads and only five
total plays, which means I need to think better about the Green Pools
as my “hero.”

I look forward to your thought!

–Sandy Brown Jensen

The video looks beautiful, Sandy. Nice shooting.

But you’re right that as a story, it’s lacking. Story needs 4 elements:

a Hero— who is the story about?

A Beginning– where we are now;

A Middle—some challenge or journey;

and an End: What is the result of the journey?

The problem with making a green pool your hero is that it’s essentially unchanging. It doesn’t move. It’s the same beautiful pool when you arrive in the morning as it is midday, as it is when you leave. Which means, at least in this version of your video, there’s no story.

Many have tried to turn scenery into a story. But scenery videos, even stunning drone videos, just don’t pull us in like a story does. Heroes take journeys. The Grand Canyon, as majestic and awe-inspiring as it is, is exactly the same canyon every day for millennia before and millenia to come. It’s not an exciting character.

If scenery isn’t the answer, can we even make nature stories? Luckily you’re not the first to ask this question. Filmmakers have been figuring out to tell nature stories for as long as there have been moving pictures.

Disney and others who make mass-appeal nature video often solve this problem by anthropomorphizing animals, thus giving them a hero—and a story (see March of the Penguins or Planet Earth). So how about one of those pond-fish as a hero? Or a frog? Or dragonfly?

Another time-honored way of putting story in nature video: make yourself the hero. Shoot and narrate your journey into nature. Did you live by the pond for a month like Thoreau? Scale a mountain? Journey to the Antarctic? You can also document someone else’s journey. In either case, nature becomes the setting (or the antagonist) but the story is about your hero’s challenges in visiting this strange world.

If you really want to shoot only nature stuff and have story,  consider time-lapse video. A plant can be your hero if you show its entire life from seed to death—a complete story that might take a minute on-screen, but takes weeks to shoot.

You also have the option of saying “screw all this story stuff” and shoot what you want. You’re the artist! Lovely pictures are no crime—they’re just not story. If you do a non-story video, enjoy! But prepare yourself for what is likely to be less involvement from an audience because there’s no followable tale for them to hang on to.

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How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck: The Video Course

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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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