Create a Video Outline

The Basics of A Story: What, Where, When, Who, Why, How?

During preproduction, ask yourself:

  • What story are you trying to tell? What story are you leaving out? And why?
  • When did the incident, event or violation you are referring to happen?
  • Where does the story occur?
  • Who will appear in your story?
  • Who will tell the story?
  • Why are you telling this story?
  • How will you tell the story?

You may find that you will have more than one answer for each of these questions.

Why are you telling this story?

For advocacy-oriented video you should be absolutely clear from the outset why you are telling your story, as both a filmmaker and as a social justice advocate. You also need to determine clearly who your audience is, and what they will find persuasive or compelling. On the basis of this you should choose the most appropriate story to tell.

How will you tell your story?

Will you be following a particular chronological order or sequence? Will you concentrate on a character, an issue, or a place? Determine how this story can most effectively be told, and how you can ensure that it will be interesting to watch, responsible to the people who participated and help create the change you want to see.

Has your story been told before?

At this stage, you may also need to do some research about other videos, films, books, websites, and other forms of media on the subject – these sources may also help develop and enhance your own project.

Preparing an outline for your video

During pre-production of an advocacy video, you will establish a clear goal and audience, and begin developing the most effective message and messenger for this audience.

At this stage, you should prepare an outline or working script. An outline is the architecture of your proposed film—a sketch of the audio and visual elements that will make up the finished film, arranged in order, illustrating the storyline of your film. From your outline you will work out what shots you need to shoot in any given location, interview or activity. A well-thought-through outline is particularly crucial in the case of human rights and social justice filming, where there is not always the opportunity to go back and get reshoots of the material.

Preparing an outline will help you to think of what you need to tell your story in a compelling and dramatic way. You do not have to stick to it once you come to film and edit but it can act as a guide to help you think about creative ways to tell your story.

What’s Next? Choose Audiovisual Content to Best Support Your Message

Exercise: Deconstruct the audiovisual components of a film

Choose a favorite film and watch it with a critical eye for the different audio and visual elements that go into it. Make a note of all that you see, using the lists above as a guide to potential components. You’ll likely be surprised by the variety of different inputs that go into even the simplest film.

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