Story is King
By Braden Storrs
In editing, the software is the tool, but the magic happens in the storytelling. It doesn’t matter what level of production you are at. From a home movie to a feature film, story is KING. You may “just” make corporate or wedding videos but if you can tell an engaging story while doing so you can create something people can really connect to. I’d much rather watch a 3 minute short film on Youtube, with an excellent story, that was edited with iMovie, then a 2 hour feature edited with Avid that is devoid of a basic story arc.
It’s not just a touchy feely art thing though. The likelihood of people hiring you again, or hiring you at all, can hang on how well you engage your audience and and get them invested in your stories. Try to remember this on upcoming projects. Instead of simply documenting, tell us something, take us somewhere. Have at least some sort of beginning, middle, and end. Even something as simple as a nature video, if done properly can inspire people. On the other hand the same subject can feel completely flat and pointless. It doesn’t matter how cool you think your camera is. People shouldn’t have to ask themselves why they are watching or if it is worth it to continue. If they are going into their “left” brain and just analyzing everything then you’ve lost them. Give them a good reason to check out of reality for a while. Now this is much easier said than done of course. Individual editing style choices, music, dialogue, etc all combine to tell a story. There is no magic fix, you just have to get out there and start working. Hopefully getting better and better. We just need to remember that is what we are, storytellers.
Here on the blog and in the Final Cut Pro X Editors Facebook group we obviously put a lot of emphasis into software techniques and how-to stuff. That’s one thing though that is a benefit of FCP X. It usually gets out of your way and lets you tell your stories instead of having to constantly be pining over the software. In short it is FAR better to be a Craftsman Storyteller then a Software Technician. Technical mistakes, while obviously not desirable, can be often forgiven by viewers if the story stays engaging.
I highly recommend reading some good books on storytelling and getting a good understanding of that side of your craft. Alex Nibley is a Professor of Film Production Analysis and has two excellent little books out that can help get you going: Good Stories Well Told Volume 1 and Short Film Cheap Tricks. Also, I really like the book Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. It is more geared to writing literature but many of the principles of storytelling carry over.
Here’s something else to help you get going. It’s a good look at some editing techniques that can aid in storytelling and make your videos more powerful. Follow the link below: