The Structure of a Story


The Art of Filmmaking and Editing


Lesson Info

The Structure of a Story

Basically it's very self-explanatory. If you can show something and deliver the information to a viewer, do it as opposed to telling the viewer something. So basically when we made that point with the nine shots on the screen when we were doing the shot sequencing. I was saying you guys can see all this information. Nothing has to happen, no one has to tell you anything, you get the information, and that sort of takes you out of the mindset of I have to record everything. Because it's a mindset of, the only reason people wanna record everything at a wedding or an event, is because they're afraid to miss something. It's not because they think it's interesting. It's because they capture everything and then they don't miss anything. But then the creativity goes the down, the vantage points, the wide, medium, close, that goes away. And then you lose the impact. So knowing what shots need to be filmed to deliver the message is the trick to not recording everything. So we're gonna do a littl...

e exercise right now. Wanna just show you a random scene with no context whatsoever. Let's just watch this and show you how this concept works. (tense somber music) (PA system mumbling) What is the relationship of those two people? (mumbling) You sure? (mumbling) A lot of focus on the wedding ring. So think about that. Think about the information that just the shot of the wedding ring has. So I don't need her to miraculously wake up outta the coma and say, "Hello, honey. "How are you?" And I always ask people, why are they not brother and sister. And clearly it's the wedding ring. So let's just hypothetically for a second say I don't show the shot of the wedding ring. Well then he's just the world's creepiest doctor. (audience laughing) He's just a lunatic. You gotta be careful also because, Jeff was saying that when you're storytelling, you wanna lead the viewer in certain directions, and if you leave it up to them, their minds can go in directions you don't want them to go and they'll interpret the story differently. So if I don't have that shot of the wedding ring, then it's, the reaction, instead of being oh, they're married, and he's comforting his wife, or having a moment with his wife, it's what's going on here, somebody call the cops, this is weird. So that's the idea. The concept goes deeper, though. And I wanna show you the intro to that film which is about three minutes long. And what I want you to pay attention to everything. Every detail. Just like the nine shots on the screen, his shirt's red, the weather, see how much information you can pick up from this intro. And this is a three minute intro to a two hour movie. And we're gonna see how much information is contained in just this intro. So let's watch this. (papers flipping) (film rolling) (heavy, slow music) (page turning) (pen drawing) (typing) (typing) (page turning) (pen drawing) (children singing opera) (lighter igniting) (typing) (music intensifies with drums) Right up my alley. Let's talk about that. What city are they in? I didn't recognize it. I don't honestly know. Didn't recognize it? Really? Is it New York? Yeah, it's New York. Okay, I assumed from the train that it was. Yeah, so they're in New York. You guys knew that. (audience laughing) All the New Yorkers are like, "Ah!" Let's talk about the guy-- The Seattle people are like, "I don't know." (audience laughing) He shot the city and the subway and, yeah. That exists. What about the guy in the beginning with the, with the glasses typing on the computer, what do we know about him? He was researching anti-depressants, depression, SSRIs. Okay. What else? What else do we know about him? Come on, to be a good filmmaker, you gotta be observant. He has a lab. He has a lab. He ends up going, it seems like he was doing research to develop a particular production. He's a professional. Yes. What kind of product do you think he's making? A pill, a capsule, an anti-depressant. Anti-depressant. Anti-depressant, okay. Anything else, even obvious, that we might know about him. He has glasses. He has glasses, okay. Anything else? Underlining with a red pen. Underlining with a red pen. Used a lot of different mediums to do his research. We have some ... Yeah. Folks are starting to chime in here saying that potentially he's a med student or a pharmacist or a researcher. And YourNameEffects says he was tampering with drugs. Okay. And what kind of lab is he in? Like what category of science would that fall under? Chemistry, I would assume. Chemistry, right? Yeah. But here's the funny thing about show don't tell, he was actually in a physics lab. Because that's the only thing we had access to. But when the viewer sees it, they just see science. We're talking about chemistry, nobody questions it at all. So you gotta think about that. Reality doesn't matter. The story that you wanna tell matters. Let's talk about the guy on the train with the cool sunglasses that I wish I was cool enough to wear but my hair's not long enough yet. What do we know about him? We know that he's traveling on a train. Okay, where's he going? He's got a backpack. What's in the backpack? Full of brown wrapped bags. Yeah, so we can assume ... Drugs. Drugs. Yeah, okay. So that pretty much sums him up. What about the girl? What do we know about her? She seems very athletic. She's waiting for her prescription. Waiting for her prescription. Waiting for her prescription. Yep. What about her mood? Didn't seem too happy. Didn't seem too happy, right? Mm hmm. What about the guy with the 8-ball? Pretty similar. Pretty similar? I kept waiting for him to jump in front of the train. Waiting for him to jump in front of the train. Julianne_NewZealand says what about all the references to suicide. What about all the references to suicide? Very good. Good question. Hold that for a second, because I'm gonna come back to that. That's actually a very good point. Here's the point I wanna make, though. All the information we've gathered, especially that, is true. And here's the funny part, nobody said anything. Nobody said a word. We have all this information. So now I have a two hour movie, those are the four main characters. I as a filmmaker wanna develop those characters so that the viewer has some sorta personal connection so when you see them, you associate. The guy with the glasses is a scientist, the girl is depressed, the guy who's with the 8-ball, he's suicidal, the other guy's a drug dealer. All of that information is there, so now I have an hour and 57 minutes to talk about my story and I don't have to develop the characters at all because I've just done it in a credit sequence without saying anything. And here's the best part about it. What's the movie about? The end. (mumbling) Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. You'll never know until you watch the movie. And that's the point. And everybody in the audience and out there in the internet may think, "Oh, I know exactly what this movie's about, it's about depression and yada yada, those are undertones, but it's not the plot line. So I have delivered all the information about the characters, but I've not given away my point in the story. And that's how you show don't tell. Deliver as much information as you can without giving away your purpose for being there. And a lot of the references to suicide, that is sort of an undertone of the movie, but not exactly. So it was a very good question and point. Sorry, I think, that came up for me too because there was a shot of the book and there were a bunch of words linking to depression but suicidal was in the sharpest focus. Yep. So that's why I kept going to that. And it was juxtaposed with images of the guy by the train. Yes, and me as the filmmaker, I'm leading you in that direction. Because when the plot unfolds, then you find out, oh. And then I give you that ah-ha moment, and that's how you storytell. So let's talk about the structure of a story, and this is the basic structure of a story. We will get into a more complex structure of a story in a second. But beginning, middle, climax, end. This very important, very standard. We know this and we take it for granted. But let's talk about what each one means. The beginning, this is where you hook your viewer. That intro was designed to hook you. So you start, the idea is in you're mind, you're trying to figure out what the words mean, how do they connect, it's the same thing as the moments video where you're trying to find meaning. And once you're doing that, you're playing the game. You're part of the process. And once the filmmaker gets the viewer involved and participating in the film and started asking themselves questions, you got 'em. That's how you hook 'em. You wanna establish the characters, location, but not the purpose. Notice how when we went through the intro, you do not know what the movie's about. You wanna set the tone for the rest of the film. And I said we don't what to establish purpose. Let me ask you, while we're on the topic of beginnings, what's more important, an effective beginning or an effective ending? Beginning. Beginning. Beginning. So much more important. Because if your beginning's terrible, it's going to be very, very tough to get your viewers back. So if you have a strong beginning, most likely they're gonna stick with you until the end. If your ending sucks, guess what, it's over, who cares, they're gone anyway. Pain's over. Anyone, you guys watch Lost the show? When it was on. Mm hmm. So you guys know about destroying people's souls at the end of something. Had they done that the other way, it would have been a lot, well you guys, if you haven't seen it, six years of your life, give me a call, we can talk about. (audience laughing) I'm just really bitter about it. I don't wanna talk about it. (audience laughing) Let's talk about the middle The purpose should reveal itself here. And you wanna get here quickly. Because if people start to, the active viewer that Jeff was talking about with that moments video, that only goes so far. You can play it out as much as you want, but there's gonna come a point where they're gonna say, "Why? "Why am I here. "Why am I watching this?" So if you take too long to get there, you could lose them. Climax. This is the, the entire story leads to this point. And this is the most important part of your story. This is the purpose. And the buildup to the climax is the whole idea of a climax. So if you don't build to it correctly, the climax isn't even gonna exist. You have to build to a climax correctly. So when you look at the structure of a story, which we will get to, you'll see an arch. That's how, that's the idea of a story. So emotions, everything, should mimic that arch. The end. Wrap up. You wanna give closure. A complete, satisfied feeling. The best example I have is eating sushi. You guys eat sushi? Anyone eat sushi? (audience laughing) You walk out of the restaurant, you're not full, you're not hungry, you're just satisfied. Tilth, I like Tilth. So I want to show you a commercial that we did. And I want you to see that the very basic structure of a story is there. And I want to see if you can recognize where the parts are. (sneaky music) Hey, Honey. I thought we weren't gonna do this anymore. Honey, these are due tomorrow. What would you like me to do? I'd like you to come to bed, it's almost 2:30 in the morning. As soon as I'm done, I'll be up. Promise? Promise. Okay. (sneaky music) (soft inspirational music) Hi, honey. So I bought you a gift today. What's that? It's called the On One Production Suite. It's basically a software that takes your 2:00 a.m. photo editing sessions and turns them into easy one-click solutions. This way I won't find you missing late night doing manually what this program can do for you automatically. That's fantastic. Listen I have to finish up this session. See you at home. Okay, great. See you later. (soft music) Check out the clock. Photo session done and already retouched. Am I the best or am I the best? Honestly, I can make more money too. I can take on more jobs. Because basically the overhead just went out the window. I know, and we're the investment. Good night. Good night. (plucky music) (laughing) What? I thought this was supposed to bring us closer together. When he realizes she's gone. When he realizes she's gone. (mumbles) Introduce the premise. Where's the middle? When he's researching, using the photo-- Researching and actually purchasing the product. Yes. That's the point. Get to the point. Where's the climax happen? He's using it. When he starts editing the wedding picture. Mm mm. When he gives the product to her. It happens in bed where it belongs. No one got that? (audience laughing) Dun dun dun! We need like-- It's better when there's 100 people in the room. Somebody always gets it. Somebody's laughing somewhere. (audience laughing) Okay, whatever. But, yes. Because the climax, the idea and the whole take home point of that is what you get when you buy the product. It's not the product itself, you get a concept. So what do you get when you buy that product? Time. Time. Time. Something that can't actually be measured. So when you're making commercials and things of that nature which is a lot of what we're gonna do with the DSLR technology is we're gonna make commercials for local businesses. I always say there's not a company on the planet doesn't need a new commercial. You have to find something bigger than the product. So how much it costs and what it does is almost secondary to the concept of I get more time. That's priceless. That's not, you can't measure that. And then the ending, what's the ending? When she finds that he's missing. When she finds he's missing. Reverse it. End it funny, end it light hearted. Give 'em a little bit of closure. But sorta leaving it open ended. And showing what the product, you're gonna get addicted to it, things like that. But when we're talking about commercials, and I always like to make the point about iPad commercials they used to have where it was, they used to say, you could clearly see it was a child's hand writing, like practicing their handwriting on an iPad, and it was like a 25 second commercial. And it would just say, "Changing the way we learn." And that was the whole commercial. And what happened? What's the psychological reaction that happens after you watch that? You watch it, you process it. First you think whoa that's cool. iPads are awesome. Then you think, well man, it is changing the way we learn. I need to buy that for my kid. What if my neighbor buys it for his kid. And this his kid becomes smarter than my kid. And then my kid ends up working for his kid. And then I end up living in his basement. And it's a vicious cycle. (audience laughing) And then you say, "I'm gonna buy this. "I'm gonna spend $600 and buy an iPad." And then what happens, kid never even sees it. You keep it. (audience laughing) And you just justify it because they sold you an idea. They didn't talk about the million features that it has, they talked about one concept, a child's education which is priceless. Watch commercials. That's what they do. They play on the inner emotions of what you as a human need and then they build on that. And the price and the product is irrelevant. Because if you think about it, the idea of spending $600 on a tablet, it doesn't really make sense. Until you put it on some different pedestal. Then it makes sense. And so in storytelling, you don't wanna give it all away. And I always think of it as a game. It's a play between filmmaker and viewer. You want give them riddles, mysteries, clues. And it's very cool to understand, when you have a grasp on a story and you know how viewers are gonna react. And I always tell people watch stand up comedy. And when you watch stand up comedy, you see that the people in the audience, they paid money to come and laugh. So you would never tell a joke, like Dave Chapelle would never get up there, tell a joke, and hit the punchline and everyone would laugh, and he wouldn't just talk over the laughter. He would let the viewer have their moment of laughter, and then continue on with the show. As a filmmaker, you have to anticipate audiences' and viewers' reactions to certain moments, and know the exact pause, time, beat time, reaction time that a viewer's gonna have, so that they don't, the film's not talking over their reaction, because that's all why they do it. To feel emotion. So you have to know when you want the viewer with you, behind you, or ahead of you. And when you can storytell, you can know how to position people in that direction. And you wanna give them a reason to keep watching. This phrase is carved into my ceiling above my bed so that it's the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see when I go to bed. This is very important. So, let me ask you a question. Do you eat meat? Yes. Okay, good, me too. I'm gonna take a steak, a delmonico. You know what that is? No. Okay, it's a very-- Sounds good. Yeah, it's better than a filet mignon. It's a very, very good cut of meat. Okay. And I'm gonna take this delmonico, and it's usually 20 something ounces, I'm gonna cut it down their middle. I'm gonna marinate it perfectly, I'm gonna cook it to perfect because I'm a chef, not really, and I'm gonna put one half on a really nice decor set up with steel forks and knives and put you at a nice restaurant with candlelight and all the works of service and everything and it's gonna be great ambiance. And I'm gonna take the other half of that steak, and I'm gonna put it in a Big Mac box. You can eat it in your car if you want to. Which one's gonna taste better? The nice one with the nice environment. Good answer. But in reality, they're the exact same thing. The reality of it is that those two pieces of meat is just cut in half and it's the presentation that changes your interpretation of what you're feeling when you eat it. That's all stories are. The presentation of information. A concept. And it's up to you to put the ambiance on it. Put the candle lights near it. And dress it up. Just like we saw with the wedding. We saw the same things two times. One was dressed up and one was not. And this proves one thing, it's not about what you film, it's how you film it. Anything can be interesting if you approach it in the mindset of a storyteller. And just to prove that, Jeff, when we were making an educational DVD for Kevin Kubota, he wanted make these how to Photoshop everyone DVD. You know, I'm a filmmaker and when he pitches the concept to me I think oh wow, exciting, Photoshop for three hours. Let's, great. We've all seen a Photoshop educational DVD, right? (mumbling) But have you ever been entertained by one? Probably not, right? People get lucky every once in a while, but not really. They're not designed to be entertaining. But when I look at that concept, I think, how do we make this entertaining. And so I took the challenge where Kevin accepted and allowed me to do my storytelling thing. Jeff promoted the idea and he was like, "Let's do it. "Let's make an interesting educational Photoshop DVD." And just to prove that anything can be interesting, I wanna take what is innately kinda the most boring thing in the world, just people on a computer teaching Photoshop, dress it up, the same thing, but just told from a storyteller's mindset. I wanna show you the trailer to that and show you that anything can be interesting as long as you approach it from the mindset of a storyteller. Smiles. Big smiles, put your heads together. I wanna bring these by for Cameron to retouch, and I wanna put a rush on them. (boinging) What do you mean he quit? (alarms ringing) (machine powering down) What am I going to do? You come seeking knowledge, yes? You know back in the day, I used to be quite the (breathes) Photoshoppaa. The coffee shop guy said that you're the expert on Photoshop. That is a lot of information, I actually think I'm stuffed. I hope you're not too full, I have dessert. (upbeat rock music) Being efficient is probably one of the most important things you can do for your business. (phone buzzing) What is that? Just my cell phone. Why? Oh, your phone, oh, cool. Can I see? Sure. (phone buzzing) (smashing) It's a cell phone, they can track you. They know where you are. Why did you do that? Satellites. Satellites, phones. You could be a spy for all I know. (upbeat rock music) So you wanna know about cropping. Yes. What are some of the print sizes that you typically make? Rather than having to type in these numbers each and every time, there's a really cool thing called crop tool presets. (swooshing) (dinging) My clients are so gonna love me now. Yeah. Did you have a Photoshop question? You're the guy from the coffee shop. What? The chef? I don't cook. The techie guy? Got a full time IT guy right there. Whatever. (laughing) (knocking) Who are you? You're not a photojournalist, you're a photo-impressionist. The spices you add to your images in Photoshop, all that determines who you are and ultimately who your clients will become. (beeping)

Class Description

Have you ever thought about using your talents, training and equipment to design moving images to tell a story? This film workshop is your opportunity to learn how to become a visual storyteller with Jeff Medford and Ross Hockrow. Whether you're a photographer or an aspiring filmmaker, you will come out of this class with all of the skills to produce web commercials, wedding, birth, family and event films.

Discover what you'll need for your camera bag, lighting, how to shoot a conversation - all during a live shoot! You'll learn how to create a story throughout the editing process. This film workshop is 3 days of non-stop information, all of which will allow you to expand your business and increase your profits.