Video Profiles: Stories Waiting To Be Told

A video profile introduces an audience to an important person. Whether that person be a former president of the United States, a movie star or a high school shop teacher, a video profile treats the viewer to an inside look at the story of the person being profiled. Profiles like the ones seen on VH1’s Behind the Music, A&E’s Biography and E!’s True Hollywood Story look back through time at the lives of rock stars, actors and other famous people. Through a combination of personal interviews, old clips and photos, the viewer is given a backstage pass to the interesting and exciting lives of celebrities. Regardless of who you profile, the goal is the same: to tell the story of a unique and influential person’s life.

You don’t need a rich or famous subject to make an intriguing and worthwhile video profile. Anyone with a story to tell will do. You might profile a grandparent for an upcoming birthday celebration or family reunion. You might profile your boss for the annual company banquet, or your nephew’s championship soccer team for the big awards dinner. Video profiles can be simple and fun, or they can be profound and meaningful. They’re a great way to honor important people in your world.


At the core of an interesting profile is a person with a story to tell. The trick is to get your subject to tell his story in an interesting way. Most people become animated when they have the opportunity to talk about themselves. That enthusiasm is contagious. It engages the audience and breathes life into the profile. The task then is to find those questions that unleash the subject’s passion. You do that by asking the right questions and allowing your subject to answer. Should you discover that it’s not quite that easy, try keeping these tips in mind.

  •  Stay out of the way. The person you are interviewing is the story, and she knows her life better than you do. Allow her to tell her story in her own way.

  •  Maintain a conversational tone. Try not to grill your subject like an investigator, have a conversation with him about his life – allow your subject to speak freely and at length in response. You can always shorten answers that are too long in post production.

  •  Listen to the answers. Don’t get so caught up in asking questions that you forget to listen to answers. If your subject senses a lack of genuine interest, he may stop talking.

  •  Ask follow-up questions. When you hear what your subject is saying, you can ask appropriate follow-up questions that can add detail to the story. The uniquely personal voice of your subject may be lost if you make her adhere to a strict list of pre-fabricated questions. After all, it’s her story.

    Production Elements

    Video profiles lend themselves to many production styles. From simple talking-head interviews to copy stand work, from Super 8 film clips to videotaped reenactments (if you’re really ambitious), creative opportunities abound. Here are a few elements that you might include to keep things interesting.

  •  Old photos. Even in the age of video, a picture is worth a thousand words. A few black and white photos can speak volumes. Pictures of your subject as a child set the scene for the story of his or her life. Old family albums are gold mines for material. Even old pictures of the city where your subject grew up can add interest. Place each photo on a copy stand and record it to tape to gather shots for B roll.

  •  Film clips. At its simplest, transferring Super 8 film to video requires no more than your camcorder, a projector and a white wall. Film footage of your subject learning to ride a bike or blowing out birthday candles is good for adding interest to your profile.

  •  News tidbits. A newspaper headline or snippet of video from a news broadcast can provide the context for the life of your subject. We can all relate to certain historical moments. Identify your subject’s place in history by attaching his life to moments we all remember.

  •  Interviews with friends and family members. You may find it interesting to interview several people who know your subject well. On Biography, A&E uses interviews of spouses, children, producers and co-stars to round out a celebrity’s story. Many times, these other interviews provide the bulk of the content. An added benefit is that this takes some of the pressure off of your subject. Even if he doesn’t interview well, his story can be told by those who know him.

    Start at the Beginning

    Generally, the story of one’s life begins at birth and proceeds in chronological order. When viewers see an individual’s personal history, they gain insight into the way that person thinks. They have the ability to learn what makes that someone tick. This background grabs the attention of the audience and provides interesting and little-known facts about the subject. Where was she born? Was he an athlete? Was she in student government? What was his first job? What was his worst job? How did she meet her husband? Questions like these allow the viewer to get to know the person being profiled. As we learn of the individual’s triumphs, we begin to understand what makes the person who he or she is.

    The best stories aren’t only about the successes, but about the obstacles the person overcame, as well. What was the lowest point for him? How did he overcome hardship to get where he is today? The answers to these questions usually reap great rewards, and can reveal something amazing about your subject that no amount of research ever could.

    Lastly, you’ll need a good closing. Barbara Walters closed her celebrity profiles by asking stars how they would describe themselves in a word. You might ask your subject for a personal motto or philosophy of life. Maybe it’s what he says to himself when times get tough, or an image that comes to her mind when she faces adversity. A question like this will produce a unique and powerful answer that can provide the perfect ending to your profile.

    Why Profile?

    Video profiles enrich our lives by offering personal insights that help explain the vast and complex world we live in. For many, a video profile provides a way to gain insight into worlds they might otherwise never experience.

    Every person you meet has a story that is waiting to be told. Each life is like a ready-made video script waiting to be produced. So find an interesting person and make a profile.

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