Viewfinder Stories

When we create video, we are telling stories, and this is the essence of the craft. With all of the complexities of video production, it is easy for the focus to shift away from storytelling. We often pay too much attention to equipment, technique or crewmembers, while neglecting the story.

If we define time as the period since humans first possessed consciousness, we can say that we have been telling and listening to stories since the beginning of time. There must be a profoundly fundamental link between civilization and storytelling.

We know that stories divert our attention from the daily routine and can temporarily transport us out of our own lives and into another. Stories also illuminate how we share our lives. We can feel joy for another’s happiness or sadness at their misfortunes. When we watch a video on TV that has similarities to our own lives, we can feel validated.

A good story can show us concepts that we didn’t know about others (and even ourselves). By watching a video or listening to a story, we may see new perspectives to help us to better understand our neighbors, foreigners and our perceived enemies.

From the moment that we begin to conceive an idea for a video production, we must reflect upon how stories and humans are related. As we understand more about how humans need stories, we will become better creators of video.

We can entertain and amuse people with lightweight stories. With a bit more ambition, video producers can instruct or enlighten viewers, perhaps showing them how they may gain hope and salvation.

We can create videos to make viewers feel better about themselves – as human beings and as unique individuals. All people need a positive vision for the future, and we often get these from stories. Some may identify with heroes and warriors or anyone who can show how to overcome obstacles. We need stories to help us make sense of life and the world around us.

Stories presented on video help to punctuate life, even if it not the viewer’s life. In our real lives, there are no beginnings and endings, just an infinite succession of events. A video story is confined by the length of time that viewers are willing to watch it. While a few motion pictures exceed four hours, most videos are much shorter. The limited duration of a video story (compared to the seemingly endless experience of real life) provides some structure. Without the confines that video requires, we are drowning in a bewildering sea of actions, feelings and impulses with no meaning. Video stories “frame” real life into manageable portions that have tangibility, involvement and purpose, for us individually or as a society.

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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