Storytelling in image films is not an easy thing to do. There are 10 points to consider when telling stories with image films, product films or web videos.
This article outlines the most important aspects of storytelling in the context of moving image communication with film and video with a focus on image film.
Storytelling in image film
Commissioned films always decide to tell a story. This four-part series sheds light on the key drivers and decision-making principles behind this decision. Part 1 has explained why the compulsion to tell a story is not always useful for good storytelling in image films.
Once the decision to tell a good story has been made, good commissioned films are followed by a creative struggle to develop the screenplay. The responsibility lies primarily with the producer. Nevertheless, the client should also have a minimum of knowledge to control and evaluate the creation.
This article lists the 10 most important points for successful storytelling in a commissioned film. The checklist is intended both to help improve the narrative quality and to support the evaluation of the appropriate film agency.
The content to be communicated must be suitable for a story. Otherwise, storytelling in image films is not possible. This is the case when a development (before/after) can take place in history and obstacles are overcome.
Why situations do not automatically result in a story is explained in the article Film dramaturgy for beginners.
Content that lends itself to storytelling can often be recognized by the fact that it allows for parallel plots and motif doublings (also known and proven from literature). Especially with a motivation video success stands and falls with the story. If it is untrustworthy (see the article on the CSI check for good storytelling), the film fails. Wigald Boning says about it: “Real creativity only flourishes with complete mental freedom!
Target audience for storytelling in image film
The basic pattern of the story should have a connection to the life world of the target audience. In this way a story continues to have an effect in the unconscious and the insights mature beyond the film and the story. The audience expects storytelling in an image film, unlike in a product film.
Especially with CEO videos, knowledge of the nature, prior knowledge and possible behaviors of the targeted audience is crucial for success.
The genre is the classification of a story according to the form of representation. Every genre has its own peculiarities. The audience usually only subconsciously assigns a story to a genre. Yet it still clearly feels when the boundaries of a genre are left behind.
Genres exist in feature films (western, adventure film, etc.), but also in commissioned films (reportage, documentary, etc.). A particular challenge in all filmic disciplines is the so-called genre mix. Many films fail because of the unconscious mixing of different genres.
If the story were a human being, the structure would form the skeleton and the dramaturgy would be equal to the muscles. The structure of a story results on the one hand from the chosen genre and on the other hand from social and cultural conventions.
The experienced author is always aware that a skeleton can be shaped differently. Whether as a two-legged, four-legged, centipede or even fish, there are countless ways in which energy can be transformed into structured movement and just as countless legitimate ways in which a story can be structured. The same applies to storytelling in image films – there are many ways to tell a story. It’s different with craftsmanship and dramaturgy: here there is only right or wrong.
Successful storytelling uses more than just a single dramaturgical means, depending on the message and the target audience in the course of a story. Image films and product films in particular often differ (unnecessarily) from advertising films.
The aim of the dramaturgy is to make the spectator’s experience as intense as possible.
Like the choice of structure, the use of dramaturgical means requires the writer to combine technical knowledge, talent and experience. The article The top 10 most absurd commissioned films in the world shows what can happen if this is not the case.
In the year 1927 the sound film was invented. Nevertheless, there are still numerous commissioned films that do without speaking actors and thus without dialogue. A narrative voice (off commentary) is usually chosen as a substitute. This simplifies the production of language versions for different target markets.
But the omission of dialogue also means abstraction and thus the renunciation of authenticity and emotions and thus good commissioned films.
Film length for storytelling in image films
A story takes the viewer by the hand and takes him on a journey. Travel takes time. If the film budget allows it, the film length will therefore usually be at least five minutes or more. If, due to distribution channels (keyword media budget), the time limit is not sufficient for an external journey, there is the option of setting an impulse for an internal journey with the film.
For creation and screenwriter this means the greatest possible challenge. The shorter the time window, the more extraordinary and powerful the idea must be from the viewpoint of the viewer, so that it can trigger the echo that echoes in the viewer’s mind long after the end of the film as good storytelling in the image film and still resonates in the cinema.
Alfred Hitchcock is said to have been of the opinion that there was no difference between actors and decor. Those who are not Hitchcock should consider the following: Films transport emotions and information. Emotions arise through identification.
It is much easier for the viewer to identify with a person than with an object. That is why the film needs believable faces. There may be masterly amateur actors (behind whom there is usually a masterly casting agent or a masterly director). Those who do not want to take any risk choose to work with professionals.
What the camera is to the eyes, composition and sound design is to the ears. Film music does not mean adding music to moving images. But to reinforce the story with music.
A good composer knows as much about dramaturgy, structure and genre as he does about musical craft. Like the cameraman, he thinks sequentially. And as with the use of the camera, simplified access to sophisticated digital technology cannot replace the necessary talent when composing music.
Budget for storytelling for image film
At the beginning and at the end of each story there is a budget in the commissioned film.
Those who rely on experience and talent when telling a story on film will have to make a higher investment at the beginning than when hiring newcomers. But because in film – as in every discipline of communication – not only is what is said important, but even more important is what is received (by the audience), a budget that is adequate for the task quickly pays off.