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You’ve got some interviews lined up for a company video. Maybe you’ve already got a list of questions. But will you be able to turn those soundbites into a compelling story? Before filming, you may need to do some brief writing. Namely, a short creative brief, conduct some pre-interviews, and develop a story arc. As a professional video scriptwriter and producer, here are a few of my top tips for some writing that will help your video end product.

  1. Creative Brief. What’s the look and feel you want to convey? Who is your target audience? And what are you trying to get them to feel and do after watching the video? What are the delivery specs and what platforms will it play on? Who has final approvals? What’s the budget and timeline for delivery? Detailing the answers to these questions is essential before you roll on any footage. Often, I like to add storyboards to my creative briefs, so everyone can discuss looks and agree on a visual style. You can use tools like Storyboarder Plot or the more high-powered Frameforge. You can certainly reference other videos on YouTube, but be careful. If you don’t know the budget and timeline of those projects, you could be setting a goal you can’t achieve. And don’t forget that even a crappy sketch can help everyone on the team visualize the look!
  2. Pre-Interviews. Whenever possible, conduct pre-interviews. If you’ve pre-interviewed someone, you can build rapport in advance of lights-camera-action. You can also get a sense of key stories and anecdotes and how to approach your questions. You’ll also get a sense of their personal style, which will again help you conduct a better interview. A solid story arc drawn from these interviews should include a brief introduction or back story, a key challenge or turning point, and a resolution. And ideally also an opening hook. (I’ll leave that for another post.) By pre-interviewing your subjects and thinking through your story arc in advance, you’ll get better soundbites and avoid missing an important element.
  3. Story Arc. Now that you’ve got the lay of the land in terms of who your main characters are and the stories they can tell about your subject, you can start to lay out a possible story arc. This doesn’t mean you can’t stray from this idea once you are in the editing room. But a solid story arc can help you decide which questions are most essential when you have limited time for interviews. You can also start to understand what additional visuals you might need to tell the story, whether they are stock images, archival content, or b-roll.  For my video projects, I like to have these elements in my story arc:
    1. An opening hook—something to grab the viewer and get them into the story.
    2. Background – an extremely brief explanation of what we’re talking about—which can come from interview soundbites or a narrator.
    3. Central challenge or conflict – every story needs some tension, even nonfiction. What created change in the central character’s life? What did the product do to change the world of the customer?
    4. Resolution – Some final thoughts or a resolution of the central challenge gets you to the end.
    5. Call to Action – If you are making a fundraising or advocacy video, there may be something you want viewers to do after watching. “Get involved by clicking this link” etc.

You don’t have to be a Hollywood screenwriter to make your interview-based nonfiction story better. But you will find that doing some writing in advance of filming will improve your video storytelling and impact. In an upcoming post, I’ll talk about taking the story arc plan and transcripts and turning them into an editing script.

For more details on video scripting, see my LinkedIn Learning course http://bit.ly/HowtoScript

Sky at Sunset 1. Compelling Images.  Photos have been proven to increase click-through rates, and video is a highly searched medium on the web. And most organizations have access to digital photography, and even can make their own video clips. But one of the downsides of the digital revolution is Volume. When helping organizations produce effective multimedia outreach, I’m often faced with trolling through literally millions of photos that an organization has taken during various events in order to find the ones that might be effective in a marketing or fundraising video. Try to have someone go through images as soon as they are shot—or have the photographer curate them and only send you the best selects. Consider opportunities to crop and focus on what really conveys your mission, who you serve and how you do it. Here’s a great resource on how to design and use still images more effectively, from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC)

2. Compelling People. Personal stories are one of the best ways to connect an audience to your content. But getting authentic video interviews can often be challenging, even for experienced interviewers, if you are forced to conduct interviews in a conference room or other impersonal space. So your interview technique is critical. In my Art of the Interview classes, I go in depth on some of the tools of the trade, but here are a few areas to focus on:

-Build rapport at the start of the interview—preferably before the person walks in, by conducting a phone pre-interview. But worst case, chat with them before they come into the room with all the lighting and cameras.

-Memorize your questions so you can maintain eye contact at all times with your subject

-Create a “story arc” so that there is a beginning, middle and end to your questions, and both you and your interviewee have a satisfying conversation

-Don’t interrupt—with your voice. Rather, if an interviewee is going on too long, you can break eye contact and get a little squirmy. This will let them know they need to stop, without ruining your audio track for editing.

4. Cross-platform Story Strategy. When starting a communications project, consider different iterations that could help different communities you can reach through different mediums. You might tweet a great photo of a successful well-digging project in Africa. A video clip of the same project can be posted to Youtube and your Vimeo channel.  If you can boil your story down to 6 seconds, consider Vine–the new app for iPhone (promising to be released soon for Android) that allows you to make and post mini-videos. (Here’s a good explanation of how to make this platform work from @Mashable.)  An extended video of how the project came about, with interview clips from the well-users can be showcased at your annual meeting. A teaser 20-second clip can become an email embed for a fundraising campaign. The list is as endless as your imagination and your ability to organize and plan at the Outset of production. You can make a planning form like this ADeLouiseStoryPlanDoc when mulling all the possibilities for a project.

4. Organized Media Assets. Cross-platform storytelling is all well and good, but the problem is often wrangling all those image assets from multiple sources throughout your organization. Most DSLR’s (and even many prosumer video cameras) will create non-unique and sort of gobbledegook (technical term) labels for your images that don’t tell you anything about them. Lovely stuff like IMG_4033 and DSC1050.MOV. You can use a number of software systems to batch rename your files so that they include the original name, but also some useful information such as the date shot and the initials of the photographer/videographer.

Adobe Bridge is a handy batch renaming and organizing tool. It comes with Adobe Creative Suite and can work with your photo and video assets too.

If you need something free, you can try the Amok Exif Sorter, which I haven’t personally used but comes with high marks from the “Mythbusters” guys.