ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

“If You Want a Happy Ending…

By August 25, 2015 March 31st, 2016 Strictly Business Blog

…it depends on where you stop the story.”
~Orson Welles

The story is everything, and as the director and/or the DP (Director of Photography), I must have a clear idea and commitment to the story that I want to tell. If don’t, I’ll confuse or lose my audience. When I set out to create storytelling pieces – short form or long form documentary or narratives, I am mindful at all times of the story I want to tell or the message that I want to deliver. Every decision I make from my choice of angle, lens, lighting, music or pacing in the edit room, is made with the story in mind.

Some considerations:

  • Have a story. Stories aren’t just a bunch of pretty visuals strung together on a music soundtrack.
  • Determine exactly what your story is. Be able to describe your story in one sentence.
  • Have you heard the expression “moving the story along”? Think about your story’s structure. Have a title. How will you start? How will you end? Where are the highs and lows? Good stories move and keep the audience engaged. There’s a great book about writing a screenplay called Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It’s all about great storytelling.
  • For short pieces, open with your strongest material or something that will get your audience’s attention. You have about 7 seconds to either get their attention or drive them away.
  • Sequencing – nothing is worse than watching long drawn out video takes. Break down your shots into sequences made up of a variety of focal lengths and/or angles. In the edit these can be cut together in many ways to have the impact you want with your audience.
  • Lens/Angle choices – Yes, different lenses will convey a different message. For example, using a very wide angle lens can force perspective creating an intimacy with the viewer or make them uneasy depending on other factors – lighting, music etc..
  • Camera movement – Cameras movement is a language of its own – tilts, pans, tracking, zooms all send different messages. Each move can change the feel and pace and move the story in different ways.
  • Music drives the story and sets the tone. It’s integral for creating the right mood. Choose the right music for various parts of your story to create the tension, sadness, triumph or resignation.

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