Final Project Goal:  a top-quality anthropological video.  Most likely this will be 5 to 10 minutes long and be rich and engaging throughout, following the elements of awesome established at the beginning of the semester.

The Elements of Awesome

  1. A Story, which might include:
    • dramatic tension,
    • a core conflict
    • a challenge for the hero to overcome
    • a gap between what is and could be
    • or some other element that engages the viewer
    • an arc – intensity rises and falls
    • character development
    • a theme that might be returned to again and again
    • “codas” – little pieces that recur but change meaning as they recur
  2. Technical Excellence in capturing footage, including
    • appropriate lighting to match the mood and intensity of the story
    • appropriate camera movements (smooth, handheld, pans, zooms, tilts, etc.)
    • interesting and beautiful backgrounds, set design, and costume design
    • aesthetic and appropriate composition and framing
    • appropriate color schemes to match the mood
    • clean audio
    • subtle audio cues that add realism
  3. Outstanding Editing, including
    • appropriate rhythm and pacing
    • good timing
    • appropriate sequencing
    • aesthetic and appropriate transitions

To achieve the Elements of Awesome in about 5-10 minutes we need to move our story very quickly.  Here are some tips for moving a story:

  1. The general rule is show not tell, but sometimes you have to break that rule.
  2. Non-diegetic sound (narration, etc.) can help move the story quickly.
  3. Use real footage/evidence to verify what the narrator says.  Build legitimacy.
  4. (FYI I think this video is wrong about us not being drawn to the characters)
  5. Consider making the camera a character.  Let people talk directly to the camera.

And here is Darius with some specific help for telling a full story in a short film:

Short film cannot be as complex as a feature film.
Topics can still be complex, but plots cannot.
But you still need a Setup, Inciting Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Resolution.

Setup: Character, Conflict, and a Need (“You” “Need” in the 8 part story)
Why should we care?

Inciting Incident: A major obstacle stands in the way. Cross-over into land of adventure.  Status Quo shaken up.

Rising Action: Stakes and tension rise as story develops.  Make achievement seem impossible.  What are the twists and turns that get thrown in the way?  What are the challenges to your argument (for an essay piece)?

Climax: Ultimate Boon achieved.

Resolution: A chance to sit with the ultimate boon and reflect on what it means.

How does this work with a Non-Fiction short?

Sometimes the traditional structure doesn’t work.  What if you don’t like the character?

There are several options.

The Revelation:  Reveal something new about people’s day to day reality.  SHOW don’t tell, using the actual elements of everyday life to demonstrate your point.


The Everyone Story:  Tell the story that is common to everyone and frame it with some astounding insight.  It helps to be as wise as Alan Watts to pull this one off.

The Setup:  Sets up the metaphor of life as dance/play/music vs. journey.
The Story: Tells the story as a journey
The Punchline: Goes back to the setup to reveal life should be seen as a dance rather than journey.

Hero Story:  Find a sympathetic character as a hero to guide us and reveal the main point to us.

Setup: We meet Caine.
Inciting Incident: Nirvan meets Caine and discovers his arcade
Rising Action: Tour of Caine’s Arcade & dad’s business.  Challenge: No customers.  Then Nirvan is there.  Asks to do film.  Posts on Facebook.  Grows and grows to huge event.
Climax & Resolution: The Big Day

Investigative Journey: 

Setup: Show the problem and invite viewers on the journey.
Inciting Incident: Going to the Carnival.  “Let’s get started.”
Rising Action: Data collection and revelations, broken down into clear categories.
Climax/Conclusion: Main point delivered very clearly.


Your Next Challenge

Submit a full shot list and/or storyboard for your project.  This will probably include about 100 shots.*  Due Wednesday next week (8 Days & 11 hours from now.)

Remember, a successful final project will need all of the elements of a story:

  1. A Good Topic
  2. A Theme / Point / Lesson
  3. A Plot – some way of moving from one scene to another or one point to another.

Once you have those elements, it’s time to write the script.  And once you have the script, you need a shotlist and/or storyboard.

By Tuesday next week you need to have your script done along with a full shot list and storyboard.  You probably will not have time to storyboard every shot, but aim to at least have your shot list done.

* The average shot length in top movies is 2.5 seconds.  If you are making a 6 minute video, you will have about 144 shots.  I expect most of you will be submitting a shot-list of about 100 shots.


This Thursday and Tuesday Next Week:

I will be out of town for 2 conferences.  Please meet and do the following:

  1. Share your stories, scripts, and shot ideas.
  2. Workshop ideas.
  3. Offer help and collaboration.
  4. Share inspiring examples of outstanding work.



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