How To Tell More Engaging, Compelling Stories

Recently I attended a one-day workshop with the rest of my team on documentary storytelling. The speaker was Bestor Cram, my instructor last summer at the Maine Media Workshops and also the owner and Creative Director at Northern Light Productions. Throughout the day, he shared some great insights into the process of non-narrative filmmaking that I readily shared on my Twitter account.

The first five tweets center on structure and story:

These next two tweets focus on technical considerations of documentary production: 

I really liked his points about establishing the world and giving the viewer a sense of time and place before diving headlong into the dissemination of information. When working in short-form documentaries it can be a challenge to pull back the throttle a bit on pacing and let the story breathe.

Here are a few other noteworthy items from Bestor's presentation:

  • Utilize graphics more in your documentary. 
  • People are waiting to have their breath taken away by the unexpected.
  • Voice is not always your friend. How can you find additional languages (other than voice) to tell a story?
  • Record as much as you can of life as it unfolds. Mic up your subjects and weave that audio in with your sit-down interviews.

What have you learned during your experiences as a filmmaker? Be sure to share your thoughts in the Comments section.