4 Key Elements to an Emotionally Compelling Story
February 09, 2018
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By Michelle Maslanka • Producer

Everyone aspires to tell an engaging story these days. Creating an emotional connection with the audience can be a challenge, but it is going to give you the best possible chance of drawing them in and building a relationship. From a video standpoint, there are key elements to consider. I called on the expertise of Creative Director Craig Bass and Senior Editor and Hunter Kallenbach for their insight into the world of visual storytelling.

  Craig Bass, Creative Director

 Craig Bass, Creative Director

Character

The most important aspects of selecting a character, or characters for your videos, are willingness and enthusiasm. If a candidate does not possess these features, they should not be considered for participation. People who hesitantly donate their time to the project will never be as fluent and candid as someone who has an actual desire to be involved. Let’s take a hypothetical, and assume that we are producing a video about an exciting new robotics project. Jim, the chief engineer on the project is brilliant and a driving force behind much of the work, but he has a difficult time articulating his thoughts, and has agreed to be in the video, but only if you "really need him to be". On the other hand, there is Ryan. Ryan is Jim’s junior on the team, but his passion for the project is unmatched, and he is extremely excited about the prospect of being involved in the video. Unless there is some pressing political reason to feature Jim, Ryan is a much more apt choice. Even if it is important that Jim is included, his time on screen should be minimized in comparison to Ryan’s.

People want to hear from people that are passionate and involved. And, if someone isn’t passionate and involved in being a part of a video project, this will infect their performance on camera, making them seem detached from the message: you never want the story to suffer because of the storyteller.  

   Michelle Maslanka, Producer

  Michelle Maslanka, Producer

Message

The actual message is just as critical; it is the substance of the story. The message may be conveyed through an interview, scripted voice over, or text on screen, to name a few methods of delivery. What is said, and how it is said, can change the tone of the message and the overall piece.

Deciding how much information to disclose is important. Some may want to only communicate high-level, general facts, and that may work just fine in particular situations. But we, as humans, want the details; they generally create a more exciting story. Do not be afraid of specifics. A good story cannot be compelling without a focus on the specific. It feeds our desire to connect and understand. We want to know who did what, when, and what effect this had on them and their world. Basic components of a story include character, setting, conflict, plot, and resolution. In most cases, building your message with these points in mind is going to set a story up for success. Story engages an audience. Story keeps them on the hook. And, story is what is going to move an audience to take action. Focus on story.

  Craig Bass, Creative Director

 Craig Bass, Creative Director

Visuals

When we are filming a project, it isn’t enough to get a camera in place and start rolling. This might cut it with reality television, but it certainly doesn’t make the grade when it comes to evocative storytelling. Each shot needs to be evaluated on its own: the angle and height of the camera, the selection of lens, and the choice of whether or not to utilize camera movement, and what that specific movement consists of. All of these decisions have an impact on the content of the scene, both informationally, and perhaps most importantly, emotionally.

Let’s take, as an example, a scene wherein the subject is contemplating the loss of a loved one. Some might think it best to linger on a close-up of this person’s face, so as to draw from the intimacies of their emotion. Others might feel that it would be better to capture a wide shot, showing the individual isolated within their larger space, suggesting a feeling of emptiness haunting them. In truth, you probably want to use a combination of both. The last thing that you want to do is simply set-up a camera and roll--there must be intention.

 Hunter Kallenbach, Senior Editor

Hunter Kallenbach, Senior Editor

Music

Choosing the right music for your video can be a daunting task. There are so many styles and options it can be difficult to decide what will work best. You can go ahead and choose any old song, but when you watch the video, something just seems off, right? Why does this happen? It turns out that music has a profound influence on how images are perceived. The right song will help set the tone of your video. It will lead the audience in whatever direction you wish to take them. This makes music a powerful component of your video that can strengthen the impact of your message. When choosing a song, think about the tone you wish to convey. Who is your audience and what kind of music would they relate to? What tempo and instrumentation will work best? Music has a way of playing to our emotions. Finding just the right song will help increase the emotional impact of the video and leave a lasting impression on the viewer. 

 

Keep these ideas in mind for your next video project, and you'll be on the right path to create a compelling story!

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