The Story Path in Video Production
Yesterday I heard Willow Allen, author of the Appalachian Trail memoir, Summoning the Mountains, speak at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Swannanoa Valley about life “On the Path.” She spoke about lessons learned from her experience through-hiking the AT and how they can be applied to all of us, as we journey through the world. Hearing her speak reminded me of the collaborative process that we shared when I made the video trailer for Willow’s book.
There are 3 stages to video production. Pre-production, production, and post-production. And like so much of everything in life, the planning that goes into the pre-production ensures that the other stages go much more smoothly. In today’s blog post, I will talk about the work that goes into the pre-production process.
First, I start with a brainstorming session where I listen to the client to get a sense of the overall message, emotional tone, and arc of the digital story they want to tell. This is where we list some of the elements that might be included- possible images, sounds, music, quotes, and feelings that we want to evoke. Willow knew she wanted specific things like the sound of chimes and pictures of cairns, rough stacks of stones that are often found along the AT. We looked at video book trailers of other women hikers and discussed what we liked and how we wanted hers to be different. We agreed to use passages directly from her memoir to give people a sense of both her writing and her journey. I wanted the video to take viewers on the full hike, from the sublime to the deeply uncomfortable. I especially remembered the passages where she wrote about the discomfort of hiking for days in the rain. I suggested that we frame the video with the rhythm of the day- depicting scenes from the trail in the early morning, afternoon and night, which would echo the different stages of her journey.
Brainstorming leads to the next part of the pre-production process, script creation. When I work with a client to create a digital story, we work together to create a video script. The script will usually change during production but I’ve found that it is vitally important to put specific concepts on paper. It’s one way to ensure that we have a shared vision. It’s also a powerful tool to help clients uncover what it is they want to say.
After our initial meeting, Willow selected passages from her book that we could use as the voice-over narration for the story. After editing her selections, I created a script which included the proposed voice-over and suggested images that might accompany it. Video scripts typically consist of two columns with the audio on one side of the page and the images on the other. Once approved by the client, I use the script to create a shot list of the footage we need to capture when we go out to film. Willow and I knew we needed lots of different shots of her hiking and climbing but also doing the other types of activities that life on the trail entails, like setting up her tent, cooking food, reading at night, and writing in her journal. We also knew that we wanted to capture her doing these things at different times of the day. We’d need to schedule shoots for early morning, afternoon and night. Plus try to get the all important rain shots. With our script, shot list, and production calendar in hand we were ready for phase 2- Production.
In next week’s blog post, I’ll write about the Production process.