Focus On the Big Picture

What's your favorite book? Mine is The Princess Bride by William Goldman (or was it really S. Morgenstern). I love the story, humor, adventure, romance and clever writing style (which was of course before style had ever been established.) 

Then the movie came out and I was devastated. So much of what I thought was great about the book, wasn't in the movie. How could this be?!?!?  It took me awhile to understand it, but the basic truth is this: 

A video is not a book. 

We may want it to be. But it isn't. You can't put everything in your video. It's such a different way of telling a story. Oh sure, there are words and stuff. However you're hearing and seeing it, not reading all the particular details. I wanted all my favorite details of The Princess Bride intact for the film and in the process lost sight of something: I forgot all the beauty, adventure, romance and comedy the story delivered.

You see, Rob Reiner did a terrific job of capturing the big picture. He knew how the whole story ended. He understood the story. He created memorable moments. Lots of them. (Have fun storming the castle! Inconceivable! Prepare to die!) Each one taking the audience to the ending. 

 A baby leopard traveling in a car is rather memorable.

 Classic Hollywood Director Howard Hawkes (The Big Sleep, Bringing Up Baby) says, "A good film has three memorable scenes to advance the story and no bad ones." That's the goal. Creating memorable moments and focusing on what's essential to the end. Or as my college composition Strunk and White flashback would put it: Make every word tell. 

Pixar's Andrew Stanton (the writer of Finding Nemo) says a good story delivers a punch-line. It's like telling a joke. There is a point a purpose with a clear ending. The story also has to connect with the audience. They have to care. Your video can't lose sight of that. But sometimes we do. 

We think everything is important in our video, but it's not. Some things are only important to us and not the audience. You have to leave some stuff out and keep your eye on the big picture. The story. Why? Because every little detail slows the story down. Sound Designers say that if you use all the sound that is technically and realistically found in a big battle scene, what you end up with is mud. Great on-air personalities have to avoid the tangents and eliminate frivolous facts and information. Otherwise the audience loses interest. 

You have to be willing to strip away everything that is unnecessary and leave only what is essential to the story. A memorable moment. An intriguing fact. A key feature. A problem solved. The beginning, middle and end. 

"You have to strip away everything that is unnecessary and leave only what is essential to the story."

So... What's That Mean For You?
It means your video should focus one memorable moment that connects with your audience, not a bunch of facts that make you feel warm and fuzzy. Just one. Your next video can focus on another. It takes discipline and patience. Each video is not a book or a brochure. No one is sitting down to read it. They are watching and listening to it. It's part of your plan. You have to resist the urge to put everything in it. Your video can't be like Uncle Carl in a speedo (as an old 2002 ad for Snow Summit put it. "Just because you can cram it all in there doesn't mean you should...That would be like Uncle Carl in a speedo. Just plain wrong."  (Don't worry no picture of THAT but you can click the link to the spot)


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About the Author
Mark Seignious, M.A., realizes his last name is a bit of an eye-chart. But, it rhymes with genius. Of course, after reading this post or others, you'll immediately just rhymes. . He enjoys writing for Slate and Main plus shaping young minds as an Associate Professor at the University of Northwestern- St Paul. When it comes to water activities, Mark only wears board shorts or a wet suit.