Strategic Thinking, Tactical Decisions Lead To Great Storytelling

This is a video about a wonderful non-profit organization that helps women escaping hostile situations, in many cases from countries oppressive to women.   The strategic goals of this video production were to; 1) highlight the effectiveness of Sarah’s… an Oasis for Women.,  2) showcase the path to self sufficiency the residents of Sarah’s follow , 3) give thanks to those who  supported the organization and expand the number of supporters for the future.

The organization celebrating twenty years of service to women in need, and was founded by and receives a good portion of its funding from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, (CSJ) St. Paul Province along with many individuals.


Here’s how the tactical decisions came together as with most videos you have to deal with resources, technical issues, and policies.

  1. In many cases we did not want to use images of current residents to preserve their anonymity, this pointed us toward using stock images.
  2. We wanted to capture sound and video at a large dinner using an iPad, this gave us decent video, but we battled some sound issues.  We decided to go with the soundbites in the piece because they carried the story and were from members that supported the strategic goals.
  3. We interviewed the executive director to showcase the continuity of leadership to layout the funding environment for the future and closed with a thank you for donors and in doing so a means to donate on the website.

This was a combination of internal staff and Give It A Think productions working together to build a heart warming, story about success in seemingly impossible situations. We did this cost effectively, with creative use of resources, video editing and showcasing authentic individuals.

Video Is Not Just Pointing A Camera

Sure video can be easy to produce; have a smartphone, point and shoot right?  Well kinda.  Plenty more goes into “video”.  Most video, not all, but most is not point and shoot.   Why is it important to consider everything from setting to lighting?   Because viewers make judgments at the very first second they see an image,  Sorry, that’s just human nature. Nothing is going to change it, but the way do deal with it is accommodate that detail when considering your video, whether it is a major announcement, or a quick snapchat.

Call me crazy, but I'll bet this shot would've looked much better.

A photo posted by Jim Long (@newmediajim) on

NBC News shot set up image from Jim Long, NBC News videographer via Instagram.


Tips For Creative Video Editing

I was looking at some recent job descriptions for editors and they didn’t include something I think is essential in a video editor and that is the ability to be resourceful without many resources.   Here’s what I mean.   I was covering the High Point Market, it’s a large furniture and interior design show in High Point, North Carolina.   I passed this very small exhibit space in which a new manufacturer was displaying their sole line of chairs.  Ironically, very very big and very very beautiful chairs.

The name of the company is Bruce Andrews Design.   They only make one type of chair.  Their exhibit space was small and they had a total of 3 chairs in the space.   Ok that’s not a lot of visuals to work with and I was under significant time constraints.   So I grabbed a quick interview, and some product shots wondering how this was going to come together.  This was not a prepared shoot.  As I go through this show I look for things that catch my eye, stories that others are not covering.   It is not the kind of shoot where you have planning meetings and an agreed upon storyboard.  This is a classic “news gathering” shoot where on the spot resourcefulness will determine whether you have a good final piece.

Below you see the final video where I used soundbites from the interview and visuals shot on-site edited with stills from The Bruce Andrews Design website. What made this interesting was the story behind the chair.  The video highlights this story using some creative video editing.  I combine music, sound effects, video and still images to draw the richness of the story and the product.  Of course the thought process and finding the right elements take a little time.  It did, however, turn a potentially bland piece into one that holds the interest of the viewers and transports them into the richness of the chair.   Isn’t that the essence of storytelling?

Bruce Andrews Design – A Chair For Royalty

If you are really into the details of creative video editing, here is how I added a little ah ha to the piece with some motion graphics.

Pull From Past To Be Creative Today

I was trying to figure out a creative way to tell the story of a new product introduced at the High Point Furniture Market. There are plenty of products introduced at markets and trade shows, they all get to sound the same. In this case, Designer Tina Nicole of Nathan Anthony furniture shared the inspiration for the Elan Swivel chair was the historic art period called the Dutch De Stijl. One of that period’s most popular artists was Piet Mondrian. Even if you are not familiar with art you might recognize Mondrian’s style using geometric shapes and primary colors.

Piet Mondrian

Mondrian Design

Nicole’s inspiration turned out to be mine as well. I researched a bit of the De Stijl period with both images of 1920-1930 Holland, sourced a song that wrapped the visuals in the time period and used Mondrian’s image to set the foundation for what was to come. Once that tone was set I needed to transport the viewer to today, a quick zoom pan edit into a scene from Nathan Anthony’s showroom at High Point Market with text indicating location and dateline Fall 2015 (see :20 mark). I retained the closing lyric of the 1930s music here because I wanted to ease the viewer into the present and give them time to read the text. This edit was essentially the “time transition” which set up the next edit that completed the “time transition” and set the tone for today’s modern twist on the old inspiration.

To make this “time transition” complete I used a cut edit with a flash transition (see :25 mark). I’m a former music DJ, and I went with a bang audio edit that does several things for the scene; 1) Audio shock, kind of a wake up edit, 2) Strong down beat to get the viewer immediately into the music track and present time period. 3) Audio complemented the visual flash so both the visual and aural senses were receiving the same information.

If you really want to get into the details, listen closely, what I wanted to do was come close in song choices at this critical edit point. You’ll notice that the edit at the 1930s tune was on a high note from what sounds like a clarinet and the beginning note for the present day music was in that same note range with probably a keyboard instrument. Yes this is the kind of creative process that turns what could have been a solid straight news-style piece into something that has more depth, interest, and let’s call it storytelling appeal. Hope you enjoy it. It was produced for one of my clients who sends me to furniture shows for content marketing stories.

How To Eliminate Voice Over Narration in Video Storytelling

Getting a story to be told without any narration requires the right combination of planning, on-site spontaneity to capture what you haven’t yet thought about, and lots of listening as an interviewer. In this video taken at the High Point Market furniture show, I interviewed two creative directors of Ambella Home a manufacturer of fine furnishings. The focus was the front room of their showroom. That room was a display of nature, color and style. The great part about how this came off was the way we did the interview as a two shot using a single camera. It gave them a chance to work off each other creating good pacing and allowing the viewer to feel like they were part of the conversation.

As I saw them carrying the dialogue and the topic, it was easy for me to listen for ways to take the next question deeper or understand that a specific issue was covered and it was time to move on.

Warm Tones Combined with Neutral Colors and a Touch of Nature for Ambella Home from MFS on Vimeo.