Storytelling in image films ensures an increased impact: Whenever it is a matter of increasing awareness or changing the company image or products, skilfully narrated videos shine. Because they generate measurably higher recall values of the target audience through increased identification. That’s why today hardly any client and even less any video production can avoid dealing with the question of how to tell a corporate video in the best possible way.
At this point, clever foxes might ask themselves the heretical question of why a successful film production makes publicly available in a film magazine what is usually only disclosed to its own valued clients in a locked meeting room.
The answer is as simple as it is logical:
Storytelling grows from three areas of expertise. First, it requires the necessary knowledge. Second experience. And third, talent. While know-how can be acquired through diligence and experience can be earned through perseverance, talent – even in commissioned films and especially in image films – is an unfair thing. Because talent you have. Or not. Knowledge and experience alone have never made an outstanding video. That’s why video productions shouldn’t be afraid to share expertise and experience.
- What does Storytelling in the image film
- How do I identify quality storytelling?
- What content is suitable for a story?
- The link with the reality of the viewer’s life
- Conscious and unconscious preconditioning
- Art comes from skill
- O-tones or off-commentary?
- Minimum film length
- Stumbling block amateur actors
- Music and sound design
What does storytelling mean in an image film?
To kick things off, let’s look at the wildly popular term storytelling. Everyone and anyone is talking about it. Everywhere, corporate storytelling combined with moving image productions is considered – for good reasons – a kind of secret weapon. But what does storytelling mean in image films and commissioned productions?
A picture is worth a thousand words. A film is worth a thousand pictures. But only a good story makes a film an unforgettable experience.
The smart one is the one who knows how to look at buzzwords in a differentiated way. Especially when they are trendy. This also applies to the collective term storytelling. Define the designation1 we don’t do for commissioned clients what filmmakers do in feature films. But, with regard to the tasks of a corporate video, as follows:
Storytelling for companies is the emotionalized telling of facts according to the rules of dramaturgy for a chosen target group. The content to be conveyed must be subordinate to a desire to make a statement, and it must be possible to structure it in a meaningful way, without losing credibility in the process.
Good storytelling in an image film is therefore not an end in itself or an artistic justification. It is always a tool that has to work towards a clearly defined goal.
How do I identify quality storytelling?
Quality storytelling is easy to spot, even for the uninitiated. Unfortunately, however, only when the final product is already in place. Whether image film, product film or web video: If not only the image content moves, but the film story in the video moves – or even: touches – the viewer, the goal is fulfilled.
But how is it possible to recognize in the phases leading up to the finished film whether you are on the right track in terms of storytelling and thus on safe ground with your production partner?
The easiest way to do this is with the help of a checklist (see also the infographic in this article).
Based on 8 criteria, the narrative quality of an image film can be easily assessed. At the same time, these points can also significantly assist inexperienced contract customers in evaluating a film agency or video production that is right for them.
So what are the key drivers and criteria for good storytelling in corporate video?
Content must be able to be told as a story
Not everything can be told as a story. A story must always have a beginning, a middle and an end.2 This is not only on the timeline. Beginning and end must be recognizably different for the target group. Ideally in such a way that when the story starts, it’s not already clear that the goal will be reached anyway. For many decision-makers in marketing and corporate communications, this is a conflict of objectives: they want to entertain, but without drama, please. But dramaturgy, without which there can be no exciting stories, strives for the opposite:
The aim of the dramaturgy is to make the spectator’s experience as intenseas possible. 3
Because authenticity is a high value in corporate video, you may have the courage to forgo storytelling where there is no story. A product film about an industrial production plant must inform – if you turn it into a Hollywood story, you may lose credibility with your target group.
Situations are not stories. Conversely, a story is always dynamic . It always shows a development (before / after) and problems that need to be overcome. A situation, in contrast, is a static actual state.
Link to the reality of life of the target audience
Storytelling has to “click.” Literally online. But also emotionally. What is always meant by this is building bridges to the reality of the viewer’s life.
The best story remains powerless if it leaves the target group cold. A good story is therefore always linked to reality. This connection may be immediately apparent. Or even just be there as a perceived link.
Challenges from a world that the viewer knows convey the message in an image film with storytelling more successfully than stories about challenges in realities of life that are unknown to the target group.
Conscious and unconscious preconditioning
Expectations play a decisive role in almost all professional – and also private – life situations. Almost without exception, anyone who watches a corporate video starts it with some idea of what to expect in the film. This preconditioning can be based on a whole range of elements, for example it is derived from the image of a company, or on the basis of one’s own experiences with other company videos.
Surprises are not only allowed in storytelling. They are obligatory – but not those of a qualitative nature! Videos do not only have to face a comparison within their own genre (image film, web video, product film, documentary, etc.). The conformity of the content to the expectations of the target group in terms of content and form are also a success factor in corporate storytelling.
Benchmarking is part of every video concept. This pulls in comparable videos and is based on the expectations of the addressees. Consciously refusing to meet expectations is not a sin, but not knowing the expectations of the target group is!
Art comes from skill
If a story had to be described as a human being, the structure forms the skeleton and the dramaturgy is equal to the muscles. The structure of a story is determined on the one hand by the type of film chosen (image film, product film, web video) and on the other hand by social and cultural conventions.
What is remembered has a lasting effect.
The experienced author is always aware of the fact that a skeleton can be designed in different ways. 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. The craft of dramaturgy is different: here there is only right or wrong.
Successful storytelling uses more than a single dramaturgical device in the course of a narrative, tailored to the message desired and the target audience. In this respect, image films and product films often differ (unnecessarily) from advertising films.
Art needs craft more than craft needs art. Videos can have artistic potential. But there is only room for this when the craft is 100% mastered. Anything else is a risk.
O-tones or off-commentary?
In 1927 the sound film was invented. Nevertheless, today, a whole 94 years later, corporate videos are diligently conceived and produced that dispense with speaking people and thus with original sound and dialogue. A narrator’s voice(off-commentary) is usually chosen to replace the original sound recording. This is also because it is cheaper to produce language versions for different target markets.
The omission of dialogue always means abstraction and thus the renunciation of authenticity and emotion – and thus makes storytelling considerably more difficult. Conversely, O-Ton is a challenge for amateur actors. But writing off-voice also needs to be learned.
Minimum film length
A story takes the viewer by the hand and takes him on a journey. Travel takes time. This is why almost all directors fail guiltlessly at telling a story in a 30-second TV spot. Short videos with storytelling are the most challenging possible for a screenwriter. But brevity also hides potential for conflict between authenticity and entertainment.
The smaller the time window available for storytelling, the more extraordinary the igniting idea has to be from the viewer’s point of view. Because only in this way can it trigger that echo that the viewer perceives as good storytelling.
Storytelling takes time because it involves building up the storylines first. Time is money. If the budget is not enough to tell a story, other film forms, such as reports or documentaries, promise more success.
Stumbling block amateur actors
Alfred Hitchcock is said to have been of the opinion that there was no difference between actors and decor. The reality in corporate film is different:
Storytelling ensures high recall values. The reason for this is called identification. The audience identifies with the characters in a story. That’s why successful corporate videos work with people in front of the camera and rely on believable faces. As a professional, you don’t like to say it, but it’s true: what’s real in a film or video is what looks real. If you have to play a role in an image film as a layman without the necessary talent, you are not being authentic, you are disrupting the film experience.
The characters in a corporate film carry the story. People who appear in corporate videos should be allowed to be themselves – but never have to act. Employees are welcome and permitted as extras. As a performer, no,
Music & Sound Design
What the camera is to the eyes, music and sound design are to the ears. Film music does not mean adding music to moving images. But to reinforce the story with music. The impression that the soundtrack leaves on the viewer contributes significantly to the emotions.
Even if the licensing of music as a budget item may seem high at first glance: Sound design and music are as important as the filming – but much less cost-intensive in terms of their effect.
The musical backdrop, sound design and music, whether licensed or original composition, are an essential part of the dramaturgy in storytelling. In addition, the price-performance ratio is extremely attractive in view of their emotional impact.
References and Sources:1 See: Storytelling – on the astonishing career of a misunderstood key term; 2 Aristotle, Poetics: “A beginning is that which does not itself follow something else by necessity, but after which something else naturally occurs or arises. An end, conversely, is that which itself naturally follows something, and does so necessarily or as a rule, while nothing else occurs after it.”3 Pierre Kandorfer, Textbook of Film Design.
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