The Inside Story: The Art of Video Storytelling
Posted Jan 1, 2005

Wedding videography, by its very nature, is a storytelling genre. Many of you, I'm sure, have said your videos tell stories. Photographers pin everything on lines like "Every picture tells a story" and "A picture is worth a 1,000 words." Many videographers have taken that idea one step further by adding the coda, "…so imagine what your wedding video is worth!"

If wedding videography is to separate itself from its more established ancestor, photography, we must fully develop the storytelling aspects of our genre. Storytelling has been described as a "cinema of the mind." I love that phrase and find it especially applicable to wedding videography. What we must do as video storytellers is make that "cinema of the mind" reality for our viewers.

I've done that by practicing what I preach. For years now, my entire wedding video business has revolved around just that one thought: storytelling. I produce what I call "Storyteller Movie Biographies." I offer only two coverage options, the Storyteller and—frankly—not the Storyteller. Simple as that.

What I'll be discussing in The Inside Story is what has worked for me. I'll look at the who, what, when, where, and how of video storytelling—five of the six angles that comprise the basic tenets of journalism. I'll explore and discuss each, because to understand them is to understand storytelling, in a videography context or any other.

Of course, journalism majors will immediately notice I left one of the tenets out: the why. Let's address this one now. Why use the storytelling approach to produce wedding videos? Well, the simple answer is that stories have been told since the beginning of time. They are part of the narrative of life. They connect generations and are the vehicle that carries our history and traditions, and our notions of the future as well. Storytelling, regardless of the medium, is the best tool we have for preserving the past—not just recording what happened, but enabling those who weren't there to re-create it in the cinemas of their minds. The new frontier of wedding video is no different. Much more than simply a mechanism for recording or documenting, wedding video is a dynamic new tool for telling some of the most important stories of our lives.

By incorporating storytelling into your production arsenal, you'll be exploring more fully what wedding videography has to offer. You'll be pushing the creative envelope of the genre and creating something that family members in 20, 30, 50, or even 100 years will be able to watch, be inspired by, and connect with. They'll come to understand why their great-great-grandparents got together—because their great-great-grandparents will tell them why.

Martin Scorsese has said that telling a visual story is a lot like arranging flowers. You know flowers, and if your business is arranging flowers, you probably have your own preconceived notions about how flowers are arranged, and you certainly have the skills to arrange them effectively. But you also have to let these flowers speak to you, and tell you what this arrangement should be.

This, essentially, is what you do as a wedding video storyteller: you walk into a situation and you try to find the structure in it that will reveal itself to you. And don't be misled by those who tell you that every wedding is the same. There's a unique story that will emerge if you pay attention to it; you just have to listen as hard as you can.

Many of today's wedding videos are short on story and long on action. They simply document the day. I want to give those who view my work the time to absorb and reflect on what they're seeing. I want them to experience the same journey of discovery that I had divining the storyline and putting it together. I want them never to lose that sense of wonder about their wedding experience.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin your own journey into video storytelling. I'll also be discussing these in upcoming installments of The Inside Story.

Stories show us patterns, and help us make connections. They work on our imaginations by providing meaningful connections. Telling a story can be much more powerful than any marketing pitch. In a perilous economy, a story can serve as a competitive tool that defines a company's sense of self and its position in the marketplace.