My strategies to make better stories’
My strategy is to create better stories, no matter the medium. I'm sure you've heard, and I know I've heard, focus on the story. The gear doesn't matter. Story is king, and yeah, like all of these one-line quips about story. And we know those are true, but we don't know exactly how to shape a story just because somebody says a one liner. It doesn't really fit into a 10-minute YouTube video. I haven't seen anything on YouTube that really does story justice. And I think it's just because it's so easy to grasp the concept that story's important, but it takes a lifetime to master. I know it takes a lifetime to master because sometimes you see like multimillion-dollar Hollywood films go to the movie theaters and they fail. Like, they just bomb. And so we know that it's really, really hard, but I've developed a few strategies for myself to make sure that I'm creating a story that is both good to me and good to my audience. And yeah, this works for me, whether I'm writing, doing photos, or do...
ing video. So let's jump in. I like to start with a basic structure in mind. And my basic structure is always the same, a beginning, a middle, and an end. Super basic. Right? So what happens in the beginning? A beginning is usually setting of the scene, setting of the characters and then the middle is the character arc or what happened. And then the end is usually a victory or a fail, but basically, the emotion or the cause and effect that happened as regards to the middle, the what happened because of the journey that we've taken. So that's not a perfect analogy of story, but it's what works for me. And I'm gonna give you an example of how that works on a real video. I like to use Casey Neistat as an example because a lot of people know him and I really like his movies. So usually, his stories start out with, he usually jumps right into the middle, usually an action part to kind of grab you and hook you and get you to watch the whole film. That's a YouTube technique, but it's also a really helpful technique to get people to enjoy the whole story. So in the beginning, after he's done his hook, he starts out with a time lapse. It's usually some wide shots. He usually gets closer and closer till eventually, he's talking to the camera. And he sets up, "This is what I'm trying to achieve today." So for instance, in a film that I just watched recently, rewatched, he lost a drone. So he's like, "I'm gonna go find this drone. If I can, I'm gonna go find it." And that's the beginning. So then he travels, in the middle part, he starts traveling. He makes his journey to where the drone is. He flies another drone to see if he can see it. He finds the drone. He's very excited about it. And then he postures about how can I get that back? And then in the last act of his little movie here, he basically says, "I can't climb out there and get it. I'm super stoked. And this is kind of a to be continued, I'm gonna find a way to get it." So he lets us know that in this journey, he has found a solution. And that's the end of that film. So even though this is just a vlog, and something that he did every single day, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And because of that, I think it made it really interesting. So how can we use the video example from Casey Neistat when we're shooting, maybe a photo set, a photo set of a trip? So let's just say, you're going to Alaska. You're gonna do an entire trip to Alaska. So you could do a photo set that lasts, say two weeks, over the course of this trip to Alaska and back. And it could start, say, with your planning, you're packing, you're loading up your van. You're excited about it. And you could take photos of the people that are with you and maybe even yourself kind of getting ready for this trip. The middle could be you traveling to Alaska, doing the ALCAN Highway. You could do wide shots. So you're setting the scene, and close up shots of eating a hot dog 'cause there's only gas station food to get on the way to Alaska. And then you could also, in the middle, include getting to Alaska, and of maybe some map shots of where you're going next. And then the final act could be you've gone on a hike, and you're shooting this journey that you're doing on this hike and it's wonderful, and you get to this classic Alaska vista of maybe a glacier. You come back home, you're tired, you shoot some blisters. You shoot the way home. You shoot your friends, looking dirty and tired. And then maybe the final shot is victory. You guys are back, at the car, and you see like maybe a sign that gives you some sort of indication of you're back where you started in Alaska and this is your Alaska journey. So starting with the planning the trip up there, the victorious hike. So you see how it's all there, there's the beginning, the middle and end, just like the Casey Neistat video? I feel like Instagram has taught us that we need one banger photo that sums up the entire trip, and you should still shoot that photo, and you probably should still share that photo. But there is value in doing an entire essay of photos that shows the beginning, middle, and end. If you want to have more interesting photos and videos, do more interesting things. So I have a lot of messages asking me how to shoot better photos. And my answer is almost always the same. It's just go do more interesting things, and shoot photos of that. So for instance, coming up with a story is really hard. That's why, again, Hollywood films costs so much, 'cause they have to have somebody write a story that they imagined in their head. That takes a lot of time and effort. What I do is I let my curiosity lead. So I wanna ride a mountain bike across some ridge. That would be a lot of effort, and maybe do like an overnight camping trip. That sounds interesting to me. And maybe it would be an interesting story. Let's go see what happens. Let's shoot that. Maybe make a video of it. Maybe just shoot photos. You could do a whole number of things, one of my last videos, I put studs on a motorcycle and went up a snowy mountain road, towing Alex Stroll on skis. So like that was something I actually wanted to do, and I thought it would make an interesting video. And to me, it did. So you don't have to come up with these things on your own. You can just go do the things that your curiosity is leading you towards. I think there is a tendency to just wanna shoot what's right in front of you without making this story. So shooting a video of an unboxing of some new camera gear. Great, I'm not saying it's bad, but there's so much more that you could shoot videos about. Or maybe maybe you're shooting photos of the lake near your house at sunset. Again, great, but let's try and find some things that really make us excited to find out. You could shoot photos of that lake, but maybe you could shoot photos of a brand new kayak on that lake that you're just demoing because you've always wanted to try out a kayak. You see how that's more interesting than just your typical sunset photo? And maybe you don't have an interesting story that you want to be a part of. Maybe you're not comfortable shooting your own story, but you probably know maybe, let's say, a disabled athlete that's doing some epic, 50K trail run. Shoot that that sounds really interesting. Or there's all sorts of people who are doing cool things, or have interesting stories, whether it's your retired grandpa who was in the Vietnam War. Maybe his story is interesting. Maybe you could go shoot a photo essay about him in his office and his medals and kind of learn his story. And you could have the writing of that in a caption be part of the story for the photo essay. There's a number of things that you can do to come up with more interesting stories, your own or somebody else's, but you don't have to settle. Make a story and share it. So I feel like this is a theme of the whole workshop that I'm teaching here. I keep saying it, make your stuff and share it. I mean, I've already said this, but it's the most important part of storytelling, is doing it over and over again because you're not gonna get good at this first go, second go, maybe not even 10,000th go. You have to do it so many times. Now, the thing you're gonna feel is a serious resistance to finishing your story, especially, if you get a really good story, there's gonna be other things that pop in your head to do. It's gonna feel like, ah, I'm not so sure this is a good story. And look, it doesn't matter if it's a good story. The practice is more important than the end result for the first several hundred times you do this. Go out and do it over and over again and commit to doing it. Look, it's gonna feel so boring when you shoot a story that you're not into, and you get back to the computer to edit it if it's video. It's gonna feel super boring to edit photos. If you get back to the computer, and it was like something that you just went out and shot on a whim, and you're like, "This is gonna be a good idea," and you get back and it doesn't look good, but you need to finish. You need to completely do the whole process so that you can recognize next time what story is better, and so that you can recognize, I don't like the way that this is setting up and you can adjust. But you don't get to quit halfway through and still learn the lesson of how to do stories. That resistance you're gonna feel? That's normal. Do it over and over again. These are some of the principles that I use and that help me design and create a story that I'm proud of, and that I know my audience wants to hear. So hopefully you can use those and go create something that you're proud of.