The Inside Story: Storyteller Wedding Biographies
Posted Apr 25, 2005

Storyteller Wedding Biographies offer a unique opportunity to the artists who choose to produce them. They are able to give the bride and groom--as well as their family, friends, and children--a gift that is more than just a one- or two-dimensional memory of the wedding day. They are able to give them a living, breathing, walking, talking history that will be cherished for generations to come. (How's that for a marketing pitch, eh?)

Gathering information for a story can be a wonderful experience, as well as an honor for both the interviewer and the people being interviewed. Storytelling can strengthen the bonds between generations and it can enrich the lives of family members.

But how do wedding videographers "tell a story"? Asking questions and editing the answers onto a video, right? Well, yes… but it's not always that simple or that easy.

To be a good storyteller, you must first be a good interviewer and listener.

Just like all the salespeople tell you, to get good information, you must listen to your clients. It's the same thing with video storytelling: you must listen to get the real story. By showing a sincere interest in someone's wedding story, a good interviewer can establish a comfortable rapport that makes the memories flow more easily.

You must also be well-prepared. Preparation means knowing that you're going to need answers, or sound bites, that are in the 20- to 30-second range for most questions that you ask. At first, it will be difficult to hear short sound bites in long answers. I recommend you write them out and then work at cutting them down. It takes a little longer, but it's a good training aid that will help you speed up as you do more interviews.

A good sound bite is something that can be repeated quickly but still carries "the whole spectrum of meaning" of the projected point of view. Let me show you what I mean.

The bride's answer to the question "How did you meet?" was as follows:
"We met at a local restaurant. I was there with some friends, celebrating something, a birthday I think... not really paying much attention to anything. Then a group of guys walk in, nothing special… just a bunch of guys. I don't know what happened, they just caught my eye and he walked past me... and I looked up at him and I was sitting down, and he glanced over his shoulder and he smiled at me… and like, the whole world stopped... and for like one second, it was just him and me and I can see it vividly and tell you exactly what he was wearing... and it was like... I don't know, if there's such a thing as love at first sight, I think that was it."

A quick review and synopsis of how they met might be, "The couple met at a local restaurant and it was love at first sight." Agreed?

Here's the sound bite I used in the finished video: "We met at a local restaurant. He glanced over his shoulder and he smiled at me and like, the whole world stopped. I don't know, if there's such a thing as love at first sight, I think that was it."

What was a pretty decent 45-second sound bite is condensed down to just under 15 seconds, but it still carries the "whole spectrum of meaning" of the original.

You can collect information for your stories in many different ways. You can do so by taking a personal approach to the couple's wedding experience, focusing on their thoughts and feelings, gathering information as a storyteller looking for a good tale to tell.

You can also collect information the manner of a reporter, a historian, or a researcher by talking to other family members, looking deeper into the story behind the story, so to speak.

This method is a bit more time-consuming for you and does carry some risks. It can actually draw attention away from the couple's individual story, and too much information and complexity can make your video difficult for many to watch. However you do it, it is important that the interview itself is satisfying for everyone involved.

I've always preferred the more intimate approach, letting the couple tell their own story of their wedding-day experience. I try to tap into the personal insights they have and their innermost thoughts and feelings about each other and the events of the day. The facts that I gather will establish the objective reality of the moment. The couple's own subjective impressions will provide the ring of truth the story needs. The right question, asked in the right way and at the right time, can bring out great treasures--not high-priced objects, but the stories and insights that give events and memories their personal value.

Next time in The Inside Story, I'll give you my ten tips on how to get the best possible sound bites out of every interview you conduct.