Filmmaking is all about story. Much of our work in the past year has been capturing things that are happening as we film: weddings, church spotlights, event recaps, and personal stories. Many times it’s showing up in unknown territory without a complete picture of what we’re getting into. We’ve done this a number of times. Most frequently it’s going to churches on Sundays, shooting elements of the service and interviewing the pastor in about 4 hour time span. There’s no scouting and most of the time we have no idea of what the environment will be like.

The trick is that we can pretty much make anything happen as long as we know the heart of the story. That’s the one non-negotiable. For our church stories, there’s always a unique aspect of their ministry that we’re focusing on: kid’s ministry, small groups, prison ministry, etc. With that angle in mind, we try to think through key shots that we want to capture and questions when we interview the pastor.

The same preparation applies to personal stories. If we can get enough information ahead of time, we can storyboard a number of shots and even have a rough pre-visual storyline to work with. Today we had the privilege of filming a woman who’s facing cancer head-on and decided to let her husband shave off her trademark dreads. She then shaved his head as he wanted to show solidarity in the battle.

We asked just a few questions the day or two before that gave us an overview of where the interview would most likely go. From there we talked through some shots and sketched them out on paper. We were able to recreate those same shots today to help tell the story beyond talking heads.

Once I’m done editing I’ll write another post and include our rough sketches so you can get a feel for our workflow. It’s very simple at this point because the style is so run-and-gun, but the lesson is still invaluable:

Find out the heart of the story and take a few moments to plan and visualize the story before filming.

It doesn’t matter how small the project is, it will give you confidence the day of the shoot knowing what you’re looking for and actually give you a head start on the final cut way before the editing process.

It’s been a challenge to take the time to work it out ahead of time, but the more we do it, the better the end result. Our quality level increases and our stress of the unknown decreases every time we spend a moment to visualize the heart of the story.

Author Matt

I'm a husband, father, leader, and geek whose time is wrapped up in faith, family, film, and travel. I guess I'm a little like the equivalent of a utility player in baseball. I'm happy with not being the best at something as long as I'm always trying to get better.

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