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Script or Treatment?

Before you begin actually shooting your video, you really ought to have a plan, some sort of blueprint that will ensure that you successfully achieve the vision you've outlined in your pitch. The question is do you need a script, a treatment or just some narration and a storyboard. That's going to depend on the kind of video you've decided to make and the story you're planning to tell.

Story Basics

Video production is just another way to tell a story. Even when our main objective is to inform or educate, television programs and movies do so through stories. What equipment you need, what shots you decide to use, the format you want to shoot on, all of those decisions should be made based on the best way to tell your story.

What are the characteristics of a good story and does your story have them? To know this, you might start by taking a moment to remember the stories that you yourself have liked. What did you like and why? Do you like them because they're funny, poignant or scary? Perhaps they made you angry or made you think about the world in a new way? My guess is you remember and admire stories that either inspired you or provoked a strong emotional response. The best stories do both.


According to the dictionary, to inspire means to inhale, to influence by example, to bring about or to stir to action. A good inspirational story encourages us to move forward with our lives despite the difficulties and obstacles we have to face, it may teach us how to deal with our problems, help us to move on despite them, encourage us to act or awaken our muse.

We read about people we admire, who overcome great odds or maybe just everyday mishaps in part because we are looking for ways to navigate the obstacles in our own lives. But we also do it, because we enjoy the emotional response we feel as a result of our identification with those people or characters.

Emotional Response

A good story allows us to share a character's feelings, even if it's just for a moment. Through stories, we are able not only to witness, but to experience someone else's hardships, humiliations, triumphs, etc., without living through any of the physical consequences. We can laugh, we can cry, we can scream in fear and live to talk about it.

The emotional response we get from a good story has another benefit; it helps us to remember. A child is more likely to stay away from a hot stove after burning his fingers than he is after his mother tells him to stand back. And so it goes with stories. The emotional response associated with an experience (even an experience that we are only hearing about second hand) helps us to remember the lesson.

Central Premise

Every good story makes a point. The academic term for this is central premise and it is defined as the insights and realizations that are revealed while the main character attempts to navigate through the difficulties and obstacles that crop up throughout the course of the story. Your character may ultimately fail to overcome these obstacles, but there is always a lesson to be learned from the attempt. Telling stories is one way we find meaning in life's struggles and share it with others. When a story causes you to see the world in a new way or confirms something you always suspected or felt to be true but couldn't quite articulate, then the teller has successfully conveyed the central premise.

Tuesdays with Maury is a book about a man dying from cancer. He dies in the end, but not without teaching the author many lessons about facing death and living life to the fullest. The central character of that book inspires the storyteller and the storyteller inspires the reader. Because we come to care about and identify with the characters, many emotional responses are provoked within us throughout the course of the book. The reader comes away having learned many lessons and feeling inspired.

Inspiration, emotional content and central premise are so closely linked that it's sometimes impossible to pry them apart. If the story does not allow the audience to share the character's feelings and does not provoke an emotional response, then the audience is unlikely to understand or perhaps care very much about the point of the story. The inspiration doesn't take place, and no lesson is learned, let alone remembered.

While you write your story, try to keep in mind the following questions. What is the specific realization you, as an author, are trying to communicate within your story? How did the events and the experiences described in your story affect you? What did you learn from them?

Finally, a Push For Economy

Meandering plots might work in an art house screening, but not so much on the web. Your story will be more effective if you are able to stick to the one or two main points that you want your story to make. So as you revise that first draft cut out everything that doesn't either further the plot, or articulate in some way the realization you or another character had as a result of the actions and events described in the story.

The DIGITAL STORY COOKBOOK, from which most of the basic storytelling notes were taken, can be found at the website for the CENTER FOR DIGITAL STORYTELLING. This site can give you more help as far as your storytelling is concerned, and has lots of examples of good stories made specifically for the web.

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