Storytelling

There are a variety of ways to tell a story. Spoken. Written. Visually captured.

And a variety of mediums that assist in telling stories. Podcasts. Blogging. Videos.

I am always, it seems, searching for ways to sharpen my storytelling skills. For instance, I am drawn to this blog as place to reflect and share. I have a running list of blog post ideas. And it isn’t that I don’t want to write – or don’t have the time to write – rather, I like to bounce between mediums when trying to communicate ideas. Some ideas feel like they need to be written (like this one).

I continue to be inspired – and motivated – to tell the stories of the educators I speak to on my Podcast. I can hardly believe I have been producing and publishing episodes for the last seven months. I am scheduling interviews into the Fall with some of the most dynamic educators sharing in this space. I have learned about the mechanics of sound recording, quality human-to-human interviewing and how to engage social media to share. I wouldn’t want to try and tell their stories with the written word – they are best left to audio. In fact, I struggle to find the time to compile show notes because I’d rather use that time to work on other storytelling projects.

My love of video production runs right alongside my enthusiasm for audio and the written word. And with an iPhone 6+ camera always available in my pocket – and inspired by Casey Neistat and Louis Cole’s daily vlogs – I am capturing tons of raw storytelling material. My current approach to filmmaking isn’t focused on spending days and days making an epic film. I enjoy making short and very frequent films mostly about my twin four year olds because I spend most of my time with them.

Capture some footage in the morning. Edit in the evening. Publish and share before the end of the day. This quick and dirty approach encourages me to make something new every couple days. I can experiment and play because the stakes feel low. And while I don’t get a lot of feedback (critical for improvement) from the outside world, I am starting to see growth in my video storytelling skills just based on self-assessment.

I published the Big Swing in November. Stock background music. Everything shot on an iPad. Some tripod footage. Not a lot of planning, just take-a-camera-and-go. Simple and fun. More a memory capture or home-video style than any deliberate storytelling.

The Apple Pie Lapse was shot around the Holiday season. A little voiceover. Time-specific music. Playing around with the time lapse feature on the iPad. Simple and easy. Tells the story of our family and that afternoon almost by mistake. It isn’t very dynamic, but the “time lapse” stage of my film-making process was an important building block in my skill set.

Ski Lessons 2015 was one of the first films shot with my iPhone 6+. So easy to “be in the world” capturing high quality footage with this camera. Short little clips. No plan for telling a story. Just gathering footage that might turn into something, but also might not. Sometimes in the process of gathering film something “out of the ordinary” will happen (like Leo running into me at the end of this clip) and that unusualness will motivate me to make something.

The Creature Birthday Party 2015 was shot in April. This film represents a more deliberate approach to telling a story. I thought ahead of time about how to capture the joy and freneticness of a kid birthday. I used three cameras and two tripods. Time lapse ran throughout the entire party and my plan was to use that footage as the anchor for the story. I knew I would zoom in and out (of the event) with the other cameras to get a closer look at the party. The music helped to hold the storyline.

To the Bridge shot entirely with iPhone 6+. Edits and cuts overlaid with music. Most of the audio from the clips was removed and the flow of the music carried the story. This is another stage in my skill development – the use of music as the central character in the story. Playing with the speed of video inline with music tempo starts to make an appearance here.

That’s Just a Fish brings together a lot of the skills in development. Camera angles. Music in the back and foreground. Music tempo and timing with video. Capturing the feel of a camping trip – summed up in Leo’s words at the end. Also around this time – and without planning ahead of time – I started to think about the editing process during the filming. I’d think – what else do I need to capture this moment? What will be interesting? Thinking about the end while in the present, but with a freedom for the vision to shift is one of the central insights that I’ve learned — and continues to guide my process.

At the beginning of July I made this simple little film, Skywalker Deluxe. Back to basic time lapse, but it is better than any of my previous time lapse-only films because 1.) short time lapse IS the right way to tell this story; 2.) the music perfectly fits and augments the film. Nothing else is necessary. Anything else would complicate the un-complex joy of the first jumps on a new trampoline.

I shot this a week ago on the iPhone 6+. Four minutes is long – so I played around with the linear narrative. End of the day moved forward in time with the music. I wanted to keep the film moving so people would watch it. The music is upbeat and abruptly cut for effect. I didn’t go into the day thinking I was going to tell the story of July 4th, but the footage I captured was interesting so I felt compelled to make something. And it should be said that I like making films – I do….it is fun. But the hidden benefit is having a thoughtful archive of all these moments in my kids’ lives. Wish I had done more deliberate storytelling with the film from their younger years. Even thinking about going back and editing that stockpile makes me shudder.

This is my most recent film, Summer Bridge. I shot and edited it a couple days ago. As with most everything, it was done with the iPhone 6+. I am also starting to carry around a Joby tripod everywhere I go. Helps with time lapses and the stabilization of any regular close shots. In some of the clips above, I slowed the film down to help tell the “summer innocence” story. Music sets the tone, but the audio from many of the clips isn’t lost. This feels important. Unlike some of the other recent films (Saucy Fellows and Elbow Rain), this one took more than an hour to edit. It could have been done in an hour, but I kept tinkering with it (and even slept on it) because it didn’t feel like I wanted it to feel. And while it wasn’t “perfect” in the end – it was done enough to learn from and move on to the next one.

Couple insights strike me as I finish this self-reflection on my film storytelling development.

First…I recognize how privileged I am that I get to play and learn in this manner during the summer. Many of my friends don’t have the freedom to just be creative, learn a new skill and then blog about it. They are too busy with everything else. I am lucky. I also have some pretty adorable subjects!

Second…despite their differences – the written, audio and video mediums of storytelling have a similar flow and feel.

Namely, just do it.

Experiment. Practice. Make drafts. Refine. Get out of the way.

Always be asking, what has this new creation taught me that will help me with the next one?

One thought on “Storytelling

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