Characteristics of Great Storytelling

Lesson Details

Subject: Storytelling

Title: Characteristics of Great Storytelling



There is not point in making all the effort, taking all the time and spending whatever it takes to create a video or a film if no one wants to see it.

People don't watch movies or videos because they contain important information. They watch them, and more importantly, they stay with them, because the video or the film holds the viewer's attention.

How do you hold the viewer's attention?

We already know that you have to start with the most compelling shot, but what then? 

All too often, video makers and film makers will start with the most compelling shot, but then fall back on a boring and predictable script.

The secret to great storytelling is:

  1. Start with the most exciting shot you have
  2. Now step back and ask yourself, what does a person who does not know the story think when they see this?
  4. Talk to your viewer. Have a conversation with them.  Answer the questoin that you have raised in thier minds with the opening shot
  5. The next shot or piece of narration that you put up will raise another question in their minds - answer that one
  6. And so on to the end
  7. This is NOT a script
  8. This is a DIALOGUE with the viewers
  9. Make the viewer feel that you are talking to them
  10. Have the courage to let the story go where it wants to go - not where you want to take it.


  • Do not write a script
  • Tell a story
  • Tell is as though you were telling it to a friend
  • No writing

In this lesson, we will teach you all the Characterisitics of Great Storytelling through the vehicle of Fluffy The Puppy


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So now you’ve gone out and you've assembled your raw material. You've shot in the five shot way. You’ve got very disciplined, very beautiful shots. How do you put this together in a compelling story to make a compelling story? We’re here in the screening room right now and we’re going to be looking at some stuff that you made. And when you bring your stuff in here, which we hope you will one day, you’re going to want to put something on the screen that everybody wants to watch.

A great story, not just great shooting. How do you do that? How do you make a great story? Let's pretend that instead of going to the restaurant, which we talked about the five thing. Let’s pretend that instead you took your camera and you went to a dog and cat hospital. These are actually pretty good places to go for beginners because who doesn't like dog and cats in particular if they've been hurt a little bit, very compelling. So let's say you took your a camera and you went to a dog and cat hospital to shoot a little one-minute video about that place and while you were there with you little camera the door opened up and a little girl came in with the Fluffy the Puppy.

She’s a little five-year-old girl, she's cradling her injured puppy Fluffy. You got your video camera and start to roll and the little girl comes in crying and little Fluffy has been hit by a car, and she comes up to the veterinarian cradling her little dog and she says “Please Mister can you save my dog? And the veterinarian looks at Fluffy and says “We have to act immediately”. The veterinarian takes Fluffy and puts Fluffy down on the table right there in front of you. Now you remember in the last set of lessons on how to shoot, I said you have to be aggressive.

You can't stand across the room and zoom in. You’re going to come in with your camera you’re going to jam the camera between the veterinarian and little Fluffy, fighting for his life. You’re going to get that camera right on top of little Fluffy. And there’s little Fluffy, the big eyes, the little girl crying, little Fluffy fighting for his life. Just the same thing the veterinarian sees, close upon the face, in this case Fluffy’s face. Well luckily for you and the viewers the veterinarian saves Fluffy’s life and you shot the whole thing. You shot it the way I told you. Close-up on the hands, close-up on the face. Over the shoulder, side-shot. You have a great story here, a great story to tell. Is this going to make a great film? That depends upon what you do with it. And that's our next lesson.

© Michael Rosenblum & Lisa Lambden 2015