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When I am talking to students or experienced journalists about storytelling, much of them have the same questions: how to start their story and get it better.
Maybe you are setting your first steps in broadcast/multimedia journalism or you might have been creating stories for many years now, I think storytelling can be brought back to ten cliffhangers you can use when you are researching, shooting or editing your story. Storytelling is not only creating a short doc that touches people, it is also about rethinking what we, visual journalists, are doing every day.
Seems obvious right? But it is so important to determine what your story is about.
Who are you going to interview? Write down in one sentence a pitch for your story.
In daily broadcast journalism you are facing tight deadlines. They force you to make choices. Be confident, trust your own judgement. When you have really hot news, it is obvious what your main focus is. Sometimes you have to create that focus. Rely on your experience.
When something is happening in front of your camera, you’ll film the story and while editing you can pick the goods shots and make a story out of them. Start with the most vivid image, the best scene, that will draw the viewer in your story.
But it also happens a lot that you sit at your desk, you have all the information, but you have to create the images and scenes.
What are the shots your really need, you have to have to tell your story. Write them down.
Be creative, what do yo need to show your viewers something. How can the connect with the text you will write.
Think of who your main character is and can he solves this problem. Of course these ‘conflicts’ are more important for a long story like (short) docs than stories you make for the evening news. But still. In the end it is all about people. The might win or lose something.
Something Bob Sacha reminded me about. Stories are about emotions we all know; happiness, try to overcome something, fear, hope, winning losing, loving, hating. What can you add to the story the viewer can ‘touch’. Show him or her a story he or she can connect with. A main character who elicits aversion or on the other hand who can inspire your audience. What is in it for me? What can I learn as a viewer?
Let your character tell the story, avoid too much voice over. You, as a journalist are less important than you character. Sometimes people forget it… Besides that, there is a lot of natural sound; wind, cars, people chattering, doors open and close… everything around us….
How fast are you gonna tell your story? How do you spread your information, what’s the rhythm of your interview combined with voice over and the natural sound. Don’t give away all your information in the beginning. Think about it. And rethink.
Look at this story, found on the website of the New York Times. It is about a teacher, but…
It is great to tell stories, journalism will never die -printm but there are a lot of multimedia alternatives.
Challenge yourself. Get to know the skills first and experiment.
Forget all the tips above and be creative.