If you’ve learnt anything about making films by now, it’s probably that story is king.
Story is a word that’s thrown around these days with almost reckless abandon, without much definition or intention. In this blog, we’ll go through some story-telling basics, and hopefully give you some ideas of how to add story into your work. Storytelling is something that requires constant work to master, and only gets better through practice. We can give you a few tips and strategies to start you off, along with some exercises to increase the speed of you learning, but in the end it’s down to you putting the effort in. Let’s get started.
Types of Story
There’s many different theories across many different writers, filmmakers and scholars, about the number of stories there are. Some say 7, some say 13, some say more. Here at Studio 24-7, we like to keep things simple. According to Kate Lee, the UK’s first story-editor and former head of Film Four, there is only one type of story.
A stranger comes to town.
This format is flexible, literal and metaphorical. The stranger is conflict and the town is complacency. Kate is basically telling us that story is conflict. This conflict can be pronounced, obvious, subtle or barely visible, so long as it’s there. In a narrative format, this conflict is usually fairly easy to find. When dealing with recap, event or wedding films story can be a little harder to pin down. Who wants to highlight the conflict at a wedding?
To introduce story to these formats, we must introduce the 3-Act Structure.
In a movie, these points are multi-faceted and complex. In event or wedding films 3-Act Story Structure can be represented by 3 shots.
Beginning – The bride’s dress and shoes.
Middle – Bridesmaids helping the bride into the dress.
End – Bride fully dressed for the wedding.
If you’re looking to improve the quality of your films, and are aiming to have people have an emotional response to them, this is the way to do it.
Set-Up, Preparation, Pay-Off
The set-up is an establishing shot. The subject is established and we are given a little bit of info to indicate what the sequence will be about.
From this shot we can tell the Father of the bride is about to have his first look. He’s facing away from his daughter, and she is walking towards him.
Here we see our subject performing an action that will move them closer to their ‘goal’. Goal is a big word, but in this case it can be as simple as buttoning a coat or zipping a bag.
The bride taps her Father on the shoulder. This is the inciting incident, a plot point causing him to turn and see his daughter for the first time in her dress. We’re ready for an emotional Pay-Off.
This is the end. The action from the preparation leads into a concluding action. The subject leaves the area, we see the full outfit or the burgers come off the BBQ.
As the sequence ends, we are satifsied. On turning to see his daughter, he shows us a visibly emotional reaction, allowing us to experience the moment with him.
As you can see, adding sequences to your film is both easy and beneficial to the story.
By building mini-stories within the main narrative, we allow the viewer a more intimiate look upon the moments that have unfolded before us, the filmmaker. Communicating these moments more clearly creates a better film, and evokes a more emotional reaction for the viewer. This is the standard we should aim for as filmmakers.
If you’re working alone, this means a lot of running around. Live events require you to be rolling pretty much constantly to get the footage you need. To make your life easier, ask if there’s a schedule available. Having the days events laid out on paper will help you prioritise where to be, and what to film.
Capture moments, not shots.