Three Rules to learning Digital Storytelling (Part II)

Rule #2 Find a Story you connect with

Throughout most of The Five Obstructions, it is unclear why Leth subjects himself to this tortuous exercise. But at the end we discover that this is a therapeutic process to help him come out of his depression and get in touch with his real emotions in the storytelling process. Von Trier wants Leth to produce something honest from his heart, not his head.

I only started making videos six months ago, and before that all my creative endeavors were creative writing, dancing and doodling. With these hobbies it was fairly easy to me to access my heart and enjoy the process. But in making videos, I got caught up in the gadgets, the software, the codecs, and more.

After watching the Five Obstructions film I recognized that I needed to find an honest story to connect with. I made “Bare Loss,” a video about a very recent miscarriage in high chroma-key (as we had decided that week).

Making Bare Loss made me forget about using the Flip, Final Cut Pro and my iMac. I was so connected to the story that when I started editing the visual decisions became obvious. The music, the lighting and the crops I used were all part of my story, and it was a very intuitive process: trying out editing tricks to find what ‘felt’ right and helped convey the story. It was making something from my heart instead of my head.

It is true that technology is getting easier to use and practically anybody can do a video. But with so many stories published, the tools become irrelevant and the craft of the story emerges — even if most people are unconscious about them.

We look for digital stories that either create empathy through emotion (such as, anger, laughter, sadness, etc.), or are timely and relevant (like the South Asian tsunami and the Virginia Tech shootings), or that are personally related to us (a friend, a family member, a classmate perhaps). This is no different than any other medium.

In order to create these stories one must really connect with the message and let it carry you through the shooting, the editing and the compression.

Thus, when I think of teaching digital storytelling to others, four important components come to mind:

1. Learn the craft of a story: voice, point of view, plot and characters
2. Learn the how the metaphoric power of the visual elements: the picture plane, fonts, color
3. Learn the rhythm: pacing of the visuals and music (or lack of)
4. DO IT

These components make up the language of digital storytelling and are part of crafting the message. The tools (the camera, the editing software, lights, etc.) are much less important to teach because they are becoming so easy to manipulate that just having a project (with some constraints) is enough to pick up a camera and try it out. Technical know-how allows you to have more tools to express yourself, but it is by far the least difficult element in digital storytelling.

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