September 3

Documentary Filmmaking: Self-Taught Video Maker Creates Documentary Short Based on Emotions

Video Storytelling: How To Make Any Story Your Own.

.CAMP – More than boxing from Lewis Masei on Vimeo.

Video Storytelling Explained

It’s a tale as old as time: a father lovingly passes down wisdom to his son, which then defines the son’s life.  How many creative ways do you think this beautiful story has been told through the eons?  Thousands of course, from TV shows like Father Knows Best to movies like The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006).

This is always the storyteller’s challenge, because when you boil any film or novel down to its’ plot essence, the story itself is never actually NEW.   On the surface, stories might seem unique because the setting, location and details are all different, but there really are only so many core plots.  They’ve all been done before, which is kind of a punch-in-the-gut admission to the novice video storyteller.

So, how do you tell a story in a fresh way? Well, you have to be brave enough to share what’s deep inside of you.

Make a story your own by inserting your details, emotions, and heartfelt honesty.  (Or your client’s details, emotions, and heartfelt honesty.)

Beyond plot, a story is always about emotions. The most popular stories are the ones that go the deepest into the emotional heart of the audience. Since everybody has a father, we all have a tale to tell and done artfully, our story is sure to touch people, since it is universal.

Film maker Lewis Masei created a documentary short to share a client’s story that related to their business.   Using emotionally-laden stories about your business is a very effective marketing technique that can create a true bond with customers.

I thought it was beautifully done on many levels, I am thrilled to be able to share it with you in this post as an example.  I think virtually any businesses would benefit from a similar video.  So if you are a filmmaker, this is a wonderful style and format to suggest to a client.  If you’re a business owner, start thinking about which life story your business could use in this fashion.  THIS is your business story and sets you apart in the market.

What is it about this documentary that makes it good?  This is what we study here at Video Production Tips.

image from documentary of boy and his father
Still frame from .CAMP, More than Boxing documentary.

What goes into a quality documentary?

A lot.  It can seem overwhelming to the beginner.  Most folks learn video production by starting out figuring out cameras, lighting and editing.  Obviously to make any video, you have to be familiar with these things, but I promise most viewers don’t care nearly as much about the technical details of a film they’re watching as they do the emotional value.    In fact, I’d say an emotionally gut wrenching show that’s technically crummy would win more viewers than a technically perfect, yet emotionally sterile video.

Lewis Masei does both quite well in his documentary short, CAMP.  Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s just under two and one-half minutes long and is well worth your time.

By using sequences of different fathers and sons at different ages, Masei shows the generational nature of fatherhood.  This alone is enough to make it a tearjerker and if you notice, none of the narration mentions this.  It is just told VISUALLY, which of course is the epitome of visual storytelling.  He didn’t have to TELL the audience, he SHOWED the audience.  

The lighting is a dramatic style, mostly dark with bright highlights.  To get this popular look, your shots need to have potions that are virtually black, but then other portions where the exposure is at – or near – 100%.  This is fairly advanced cinematography and I thought it looked lovely here.

I thought he used just enough camera movement and editing effects to spice it up, but not so much that  I wanted to scream:  “Not every shot has to move!”

As someone who teaches video making, I say there are no hard and fast rules governing creative decisions in the same way there are for technical decisions.  Artistic choices made while writing, shooting, or editing the film are another way to make it your own.

I always encourage folks to develop their own style and assure them that no video is ever PERFECT.  Novice filmmakers always deeply wish to create the perfect film, but there’s no such thing.  In part, that is because film and video is enough of an art to provide creators with the liberty to do just about anything they want, and these days, some preferred styles are what filmmakers of old would have thrown in the trash.  Amazing to me how that has worked, but that’s another post!

My point is, quality filmmaking is often in the eye of the beholder.  Different people like and expect different styles.

lewis maesei and video camera
Film maker Lewis Maesei examines his shot.

Masei is 24 and currently lives in Melbourne Australia.  He is a self-taught filmmaker with three years experience.  He made this video for a local client.

“I started making 1-minute travel vlogs for Instagram with just a go pro and slowly transitioned into narrative filmmaking. I learnt everything I know about filmmaking on YouTube. I’m entirely self taught, picking up skills here and there all over the internet. I’m still learning and enjoying the journey.”

He hopes to make feature films in Hollywood in the near future.  I always like to encourage young filmmakers and documentary enthusiasts.

This is how he described the video project to me.

The project came from a small business in Melbourne called “.CAMP”, which is a boxing/retail online store.   They wanted to make a film dedicated to their father who was the biggest inspiration for how their love for boxing started.  So we came up with a story to showcase how their father’s actions influenced the true meaning of hard work and dedication and how boxing taught many life lessons, filtering through the 2 following generations (his son and then his son passing knowledge to his grandson).  It closes off with a shot of the 3 generations walking into the sunset to show their strong connection.

The video was narrated by voice artist Raymond Shinault.

raymond shinault head shot
Voice Actor Raymond Shinault.

Raymond is someone I went to high school with, so we go way back!  I think his narration talents are absolutely outstanding.  Raymond is also self-taught.  He began developing and honing his skills as a voice actor back in 2012.  He now has over 1000 paid jobs, so has seen wonderful success.  I am so happy for him and admire his determination and hard work.  After performing extensive research, Raymond not only transformed himself into a gifted and sought-after pro, he was also able to design and build his own professional in-home recording studio to support a thriving voice-over business.


Tags

documentary film, documentary film making techniques, documentary filmmaking, documentary storytelling, documentary style video production, how to tell a story using video, video storytelling


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  1. Such an outstanding piece ! Well done to all involved including the client CAMP. Great cinematography.

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