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Think Ahead as a Storyteller

Lesson 25 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

Think Ahead as a Storyteller

Lesson 25 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

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Lesson Info

25. Think Ahead as a Storyteller


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Spark That Inspired Me


What Are Family Films?


Gear for Family Films


Camera Settings for Video


Frame Rates & Slow Motion


Picture Profiles & Color Grading


Settings for Audio Capture


Lesson Info

Think Ahead as a Storyteller

Thinking ahead as a story teller, maintaining continuity. This one is something that I think it's a tricky one. But when you have clothing changes, it's sort of like, "okay, well the kid was wearing that, but then, now they're wearing this," that's continuity. Maintaining continuity, shooting through transitions. This little girl, later in this film changes into swimmers, bathing suit. So I got just a clip of her putting the last part on. And it's just thinking ahead as a story-teller and making sure you have the footage that you need. And not to get kinda lazy and be like "Oh well that part doesn't matter because it's not an emotional moment." But it does matter, so you need to shoot it. You need to know when things are changing, changes are happening, anticipate that and shoot it so that you have that to use if you need it. So I'm going to cut to my laptop and just give you a little demonstration of this film and all of the times when I was anticipating the changes. We'll just start ...

that again, I think we're losing, or we don't have audio on it, This one has-- Eighteen. (mother laughs) This one's tied too. Oh boy! Get some fruit. Whoa! Whoa! (mother laughs) That's 81. All right. How many of these are--? You gotta let her have a turn too. (Mother laughs) Done. Bam! (mother laughs) It's gonna be two cookies Can I have (mumbles). You're turn, okay mom? That's enough for me. All right that's enough? Done. What about one for mommy? Bite my finger off. Can mommy have one? One more kiss. Okay, I wanna talk about this little moment right here. Maintaining continuity can happen through what you're shooting, shooting in the moment. It can also happen when you're editing. It's the two things, they come hand-in-hand right? So being really mindful of changes and the things that you're doing, but also when you want to show multiple angles of something, you can use footage that might not be exactly the same as the exact moment. So this example, I think mom is asking the little girl for another chocolate chip. The little girl is feeding her chocolate chips. So I, a little bit later, happened to shoot this moment where mom gives little girl a kiss. Mom's asking little girl for a kiss, but they're in the same position. So I noticed that when I was going through the footage and I was like "Oh that can work." Because they're in the same position, I can just flick between this and over here and then it looks like I just wait until mom gets close to her and then flick over to the exact same moment but almost where then she goes in for a kiss. So in this instance, this is more like an editing part of maintaining that continuity and just making sure that when you're doing something like that it's a really exact moment. So if you're changing your camera positions, making sure that the people aren't drastically different in the same moment. (gentle guitar music) So this kinda goes back to B-roll, but, again this is transitioning. We know that we're moving into her room, so I'm getting B-roll of her room. (gentle guitar music) That's good! You have, done as soon as your method-- (gentle guitar music) So I don't super love those two together, cuz it's like the same movement twice. That's not my favorite so don't do that. (gentle guitar music) It's easy to be the passenger and be like "Okay, yeah we're changing locations now, so I can have a break." But you don't get a break, you need to have some clips showing that so you can introduce... It's not jolting to move to the next location. This is just part of that maintaining, thinking ahead as a storyteller, being really mindful of the shots that you need to transition and you don't need to film in the car the whole time. You just need a few things. One of my go-to's is the mirror. I always say "Can I sit in the passenger side?" Driver parent in the driver seat, one of the parents is stuck with the kids. Don't care. So they're like "Oh I guess I'll squeeze between the car seats." Yes you will. So I will sit in the passenger seat so that I can turn around and get clips of the kids, and maybe a little bit of the driver, and the mirror outside the window. So there's several options but it helps add to that. But you need to think ahead and know the part of the story. Those things are important. (gentle guitar music) And this whole going into the burger shop and getting the food and it was like, I wasn't sure if I was going to include this scene, I ended up doing it cuz there are some cute stuff that happens. But it was like, "I'm gonna shoot this just so I have it." And shooting it in a way that its just a part of... It doesn't need to be literal always. It doesn't always need to be literal step-by-step moment that happens from the car to the shop. Just enough, just a little bit. (gentle guitar music) So it would be really awkward if, just all of a sudden, we were at the beach and she was changed. If it just went straight into that, it wouldn't be as good, I don't think. The problem that I come across, is that people don't realize I need to shoot that. And so I'll be over somewhere shooting B-roll, not that I need them to come get me, but it's a challenge when you're on your own, to always know what they're doing, what's going on. And also, especially when I'm shooting B-roll, I kinda get lost, and I think in this moment it was really quickly I saw her getting dressed and I was like "Let me just get a little bit." And I just need the end, I don't need to see her whole getting dressed. I just need a little bit at the end of her putting it on and then that helps. (gentle guitar music) So we were ending and it was the sunset. I needed an ending so the sunset of the car leaving works for that. So, it's again, thinking ahead as a storyteller, making sure that you have footage to open with, footage for the beginning, the middle stuff's easy. And then making sure you have footage to use at the end to end your film, cuz a lot of times, I'll get to the end and I'll be like "Didn't really do well with that ending. I could've done better. I could've spent a little bit more time." And it's usually the hardest because you're tired, And you're just like "I'm just done. I'm ready to go," but taking the time to intentionally shoot a clip, or three, or five that will give you options to choose from when you're ending the film. This film, in particular, was hard from a storytelling point of view because I had found out right before I went, the mother contacted me and let me know that her and her partner were separating. But they wanted to still do the film, because they really wanted to show their children a united front. And they really really wanted to have a film of them all together as a family before this big change that she knew was happening came up. So these kids are always gonna have this and that's super special.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Shot List Worksheet Template
Shot List Worksheet Example
Ideas for Your First Film
Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Adam Nicholls

Worth a watch! Courtney provides a clear and organised class, she is also very passionate about what she does which is always nice to see. She has a great back story which is fantastic. This course is good for beginners who have some knowledge in photography and want to learn more about video. I would recommend that people do not refer this class to the bible of filmmaking as I feel you can expand further on what Courtney teaches. Some useful tips for beginners but some methods I personally feel can be taught differently. I feel a gimbal is a useful bit of kit if used correctly. You can still use a gimbal when in manual mode providing you follow the basics rules! Obviously if Courtney prefers not to use a gimbal then that's also fine but I wouldn't discourage students from exploring useful filmmaking tools. Slow motion can be achieved with 50/60fps however I feel other frame rates should have been discussed like 120fps. I liked that Courtney engaged with the students as it gets them involved and will help them remember what they have learned during the class. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your knowledge

a Creativelive Student

Courtney's work is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I feel lucky that she has chosen to share her process and that this class is available! After watching all the videos and trying my hand at this video thing, I am feeling really encouraged and inspired to do more- both personally and professionally. I appreciate the way that she breaks things down in the video and that she shares her thought process. A really great course!


Courtney’s course completes me! I have storytelling “holes” in my film previously, but this course helped fill those holes to create a flow and a film with emotion. Not only is the course wonderful (and well worth every penny) but Courtney is wonderful as well! I had such an amazing experience at Creative Live!!!!

Student Work