Learn a video storytelling style which is truly mind-blowing
And few people can actually do.
Next week I talk to a documentary class about storytelling. I have a treat in store for them, in the shape of Adam Westbrook.
Adam is a non-fiction film maker, but he’s a bit like a stand-up. Remember the sketch show, ‘Whose line is it anyway’, where comedians are given random lines and turn them into belly ache yarns. That’s Adam, except he’s material leans to serious subjects with a sprinkling of humour.
You have to watch this first to understand what I mean. It was one his first films, The Long Game Part 1: Why Leonardo DaVinci was once a loser
Adam makes use of abstract material, sound cues and music to make deeply watchable films. You could say he’s mastered UGC to make compelling videos. He’s been making them for well over a decade and some since I knew him back in 2006.
And a couple of years ago, The New York Times came across his work and he was invited ( he turned them down first) to make the Emmy nominated Infektion.
So how does he do it.
Well, Adam consumes a lot of books on film making and lifts styles and philosophies from fictional films, and as he admits whilst you might be able to distil his approach, it’s a creative grind that yields lesson no. 1.
Whatever you’re trying, however you’re doing it. Start from start. That means, you have to go for it. You’ll get critiqued, but it’s a necessary part of growth.
Lesson 2. As you begin to consider the type of story you want to make, distill it into one idea/ sentence. This is something Sydney Pollack talks about. That’s the spine of your story. Stick it on a postit on your mobile if you have to, because you don’t want to stray too far from it.
Ok so with those two ideas settled. Time to make the film.
Adam has two broad approaches; nothing radical about this, other than to demo there is no fixed regime. Sometimes from an idea he searches for the visual schema. Sometimes he writes the script and then sets about the task of creation. That’s lesson 3.
Lesson 4 is breaking down the film into constituent parts. In film again, you’ll have beats, scenes and sequences.
One of the easiest ways to describe a beat is to look at a much larger composition called a scene where multiple ideas might play out, like a scene in which someone’s making a cup of tea accompanied by flow of dialogue. The beat might be that unit of action as someones standing at the sink filling up the kettle thinking of what to say.
If you watch Adam’s film’s you’re pretty much find them. Importantly by acknowledging these units, he can spend time perfecting them and it all starts with the initial visual. You have a limited amount of seconds to catch your audience and then use that beginning to form the thread, like this film of Adams.
Lesson 5 is working and building up each scene, beat, so on their own they become almost meme like. It sounds weird but watch Adam’s films, and as you yourself experiment remember lesson 1. What anyone tells you, creativity is a conflict; you’ll get it right and some wrong, but continue to ride the bike.
All the great filmmakers start from the grind of making something work, effectively figuring out that storytelling is essentially problem-solving and cognitively that can be a exhausting.
But here comes the biggest lesson of them all that I’m sure you’ve noticed. None of the material here is shot by Adam. In fact the whole film could cost zilch. And that’s what makes Adam and extraordinary film maker.
In my next post, I’ll pull out the i/v with relevant parts to Adam describing his work.
Hi my name’s is David and I specialise in forms of storytelling and one I refer to as cinema journalism. It’s where cinema and journalism collide. It’s not one genre, but something that audiences define when they watch a piece of work. You can learn more about it from my postings