For Pros

Can You have Video without Story?

By Dec 03, 2011January 22nd, 2013One Comment

This is james in the Bay Area. I recently bought your book. I appreciate your approach of putting many filmmaking concepts in smaller ‘chunks’ to understand. I consider myself a serious amatuer/semi-pro videographer/filmmaker and enjoy the technical side of dSLR technology. My interest seems to be more around Nature/Landscape filming. Questions:

1) Do you have any extra advice when it comes to creating videos in this genre?

2) I’m always questioning whether my sequence of my shots will flow and be seamless. Should a Nature/Landscape movie sequence always have a beginning-middle-end as the story should as a whole?

Some interesting questions, James. Thanks for writing.

Let’s begin with a key principal: You are the artist. That means that there is no wrong answer to how you make your films if they satisfy you.

That having been said, storytelling is a key component of almost all film. It’s been developed over 115 or so years into something people expect. And I am willing to state with some certainty that films with a strong narrative drive will be more interesting to more people than one without. Which is why in the book I spend as much time on story as photography.

But what if you want to make video without story? What if you are driven by the artistic desire to get the images you see in your head out into the world?

If that’s the case, as you’ve done here, you can take static landscape video and cut it to music that fits your mood. And you’ll find a lot of support for this approach in the film world. Check out the cult movie Koyaanisqatsi (totally non-narrative, just scenery!) or the films of Jim Jarmusch or Nicolas Roeg– both high mood/low narrative filmmakers. Theirs is not action storytelling– which means many fewer people will want to watch it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to the people who love it.

For what you’re doing, my answer to both questions is the same: follow your heart and mind and do what truly feels good to you. It’s your art.

Cut shots off when they’re not interesting to you. Sequence them in a way that feels right to you. Practice shooting and cutting until you’re so good that what you see in your head is pretty darn close to what comes out on video. Or better.


One Comment

  • Sohail says:

    I guess the key word here is "escapism": Take me somewhere beautiful or show me something compelling to the eye. Take me on a journey. It's not quite structured as a story (beginning, middle, end, hero, conflict, resolution) but in a loose sense could be seen as a story.

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