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How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck

For Video that’s Relatable, Tell Specific Stories

I am starting a video to show on my son’s bar mitzvah. The video will play at a brunch with approximately 200 people, but I worry that the main audience– the ones who will love the video and will be truly entertained– are only the closer family members.

So who is my audience? I can do a beautiful video of my son’s life that can be entertaining, inspiring and loved by 20 people, but how do I make it entertaining for 200 guests? Do I make two videos, one for each audience?

–Isaac

Great question, Isaac.  And one that comes up at weddings, graduation parties, and first communions, since all gatherings today seem to have a mandatory video moment.  Not a bad thing when the video is fun.  An opportunity to duck over to the bar when it’s not.

You’re right to be sensitive to the target audience. “Who is this video for?” is the very first question you should always consider.  The answer here is easy, since you never want to do a video 90% of the people in the room watching will hate.  Unless you’re hiring a lot of extra bartenders,  the whole crowd is your target audience.

This sounds counter-intuitive, but the key to general acceptance is being very specific about the stories you tell.  While only the most fiercely devoted great aunt will tolerate interminable soft-focus montages of baby picture after baby picture after baby picture, everyone in the room loves a great story.

If you tell a specific story about your son’s special relationship with his Grandma who taught him to make chocolate chip cookies, we’ll all relate to it because we had a grandma too.  If you show video of him telling the camera where babies come from on the eve of his sister’s birth when he was 5, we’ll all find it funny or touching because it will remind us of our kids.  If you have that video of him nursing a baby hummingbird with his mom when he was 8, we’ll all get choked up when it flies away because we tried to help an animal once too.

These specific stories make us feel something from our own lives, our own experiences. That makes them as entertaining as any TV show or movie.  If you don’t have video from back in the day, you can interview your daughter about the Thanksgiving the dog stole the turkey and your son chased him down the street to get it back.  Use more interviews, plus the photos and videos you do have, to support the tale.  Great stories = great video, every time.

My final advice:  keep it short.  You may think you need a 10 minute video.  You don’t.  Even four minutes may be too long.  You can always post the extended version on YouTube– with even more baby pictures– for the 20 relatives who want more.

3 thoughts on “For Video that’s Relatable, Tell Specific Stories

  1. A gleaned a lot of gems from your post, Steve. and you’re quite right that even 4 minutes would be too long, heck with the shortness of attention spans these days you are lucky if you can keep people engaged for more than a minute

    ~ Particia

  2. Thank you! hahaha. That's possibly the best advice I've ever read in a video blog post. Give people something to connect to, and keep it short. People seem to be incapable of keeping it short thought. I can't count the number of clients I work with that tell me they want a 4 minute video because anything past that is too long and then when we get to the final and its 6 minutes, they just can't possibly lose 2 minutes in there somewhere.

  3. Absolutely, knowing your targeted audience is key… age, gender and ethnicity, If it’s mostly a family audience and people acquainted with the family, then the video should appeal to the majority. Just don’t make it too long. Those who are not that familiar with the family their attention span will probably be short, unless or course you know how to make the video entertaining to people in general.

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