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The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Your Film Project

Film production is full of useful toolsets. Cameras, cranes, gimbals, lighting, microphones, software, etc. They all exist though to support one thing, the creation of a story. As Pixar states, “Story is King.” It doesn’t matter if you’re creating a wedding video, corporate promo, or feature film, story is what engages the audience at a level that can leave a lasting impression. I’d much rather watch a 3 minute short narrative or documentary on Youtube, with an excellent story, edited by a teenager in iMovie, than a 2 hour feature film from a major studio that is devoid of a basic story arc.

It’s not just a touchy feely art thing though, it’s business. If you're a company looking to create a video to really engage your audience, you have to engage them emotionally. To be honest, people invest in their emotions. Whether they are investing in a product or experience, it’s the same. If they feel something, they are far more likely to deem a purchase worthwhile. So, going into a new project, know what you’d like your video to help people feel. Whether that emotion is happiness, sadness, hope, desire, triumph, etc. The same goes for us as content creators. We love to tell stories that create tangible feedback from our clients and their audiences. That really all hangs on how well you engage your audience and and get them invested in your stories.

Instead of simply documenting or presenting information, tell us something, take us somewhere. Have at least some sort of beginning, middle, and end. For example, I’ve seen many beautiful “nature” videos. Grand vistas, vast deserts, towering snow capped peaks, and misty mountain lakes shimmering in a crisp autumn sunrise. While the visuals intrigue, my reaction is something to the effect of, “wow, that’s pretty,” but then I move on with my day and usually never think of the video again. Beautiful images and high production value will grab peoples attention, absolutely. Story and connection to character/subject will keep them watching. Now, imagine those same grand images, but this time a young boy with a backpack and walking stick enter the frame, eagerly following a small trail that curves around the gentle sloping edge of the misty mountain lake. He is followed by his father, the early sunlight glancing off the dusty brown rim of his worn leather cowboy hat. Their destination rises in the distance where jagged peaks rise from the forest, reaching towards a clear blue sky.

Each year, since his son was old enough this father and son make this trek. The same trek the father used to make with his father. Through voice over, we hear stories of family, adventure, and danger as they pass through open meadows, under ancient pines, and past roaring waterfalls. The images we see could be nearly identical to the ones without the father and son, but now we have context. A reason to care about the forest, the lake, the mountains. It means something to them and suddenly it means something to us. This could be a documentary or narrative, but this could just as easily be an ad. Shoes, gloves, specialized walking sticks, whatever. It may be an ad for the shirt the father was wearing, or the son’s backpack. We could see a logo or tagline at the end, with almost nothing specifically featuring the products for the duration of the video. Instead, once again, what we have now is context. What people felt for the story and it’s characters will bleed over to the product, which in this case, helped the father and son fulfill their family tradition.

So, which would be more effective? A lone hiking boot on a white studio background, slowly rotating while they show off it’s techy features or seeing the adventures you’ll have while wearing the hiking boots? Websites excel at offering tons of detailed information quickly. Film is a medium best utilized for story.

We all have our strengths. For some, it’s shooting, others editing, producing, production design, etc. If story is not your strong point, then find someone who has that strength. Investing in an effective storyteller for pre-production, production, and post production will make all the difference for your project. Your videos will end up being far more effective and ultimately, far more successful.

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