Let me tell you a story…

Home videos are stories from our lives.

Remember that time that we went to the beach? Or when we went on holiday to that place? Or when little Johnny won that award? Or it was little Angela’s birthday?

We’re often tempted to show the climax of the story, but we should be telling the whole story. I don’t know about you but on the first day of school my Facebook feed is flooded with pictures of people’s kids off to school, often for the first time (it’s less exciting when they’ve been at school for years already). Those photos of the kids in their new uniforms is the climax of the story, it’s how we’ve been taught to take photographs, but filmmaking is so much more.

How do we tell a story?
A story can be as simple as showing some things that happened — chronological order is a good place to start. The story tells us who the story is about, where it takes place and what happened. Maybe it tells us why too. But we can do better.

How do we tell a good story?
They talk about a good story having three ‘acts’.
Act one sets up the story, telling us who and where, but also sets up some kind of goal to achieve or problem to overcome for one (or more) of the people. Stories don’t normally happen unless someone is trying to do something.
Act two shows the characters striving and struggling to make progress on their journey.
Act three shows the final result of the struggle and ties things up.

We’re familiar with this structure from Hollywood films, often they involve explosions, hospitals and all sorts of things that look exciting but we’re glad don’t happen to us in real-life. What we may not be so aware of is that our lives are full of little stories.

The gripping tale of Angela and the pony
Let’s imagine the story of little Angela riding a pony for the first time.
If you start with the climax then it will just be a shot of Angela smiling on a horse — that’s the ‘Kodak moment’. We won’t know it was her birthday wish, we won’t understand that she was scared, or that the whole family had to drive for an hour to get to the farm. A great recording of this story might have her blowing out her birthday candles and then blurting out that she wants a pony, shots of sleepy kids getting bundled into the car at dawn, her excitement about seeing the ponies turn to fear when she gets close and sees they’re really tall, getting her helmet on and looking nervous, and only then having that shot of her happy and smiling as she rides the pony.
By itself the climax shot says “Angela enjoyed riding a pony” but with the whole story it says “Angela dreamed of riding a pony, had a big adventure, conquered her fears, and her wish come true”.

We have a huge advantage — in Hollywood they have to write scripts so that things seem believable, out here in the real world everything is believable because it actually happened. Beyond that, family life is about people struggling. Kids struggle to avoid bedtime, eat more ice-cream and to grow up and find their place in the world. Parents often struggle to survive the whole process!
We are literally surrounded by struggles, some make great stories to make a video about.