Notes on Telling Better Stories

Notes from breakout session #3 at Echo 2013

Visual Track > How We’re Learning to Tell Better Stories with and without a Budget > Blaine Hogan & Bjorn Amundsen

Church videos are the worst! How we’re learning to tell better stories with and without a budget. Developing story structure, how to do awesome interviews, and creative ways to execute so we never have to see a bad video again

Presenters are staff at Willow Creek Community Church

Why are church videos so bad?
(Audience answers) Committee direction / tight schedule / in house talent / no budget / campy imitation

Narrative stories have a 4-act structure

  • Act 1 > introduce the characters / desires / flaws and inciting incident
  • Act 2 > progressive complications / character chooses to grow or stay the same / what the hero would become if they don’t overcome their obstacles
  • Act 3 > crisis > character has to choose after all hope is lost
  • Act 4 > resolution > the audience has been changed by the story


  • Don’t present the solution without developing the problem > spend more time in acts 1 and 2 than in 3 and 4.
  • Be inspired but copy process rather than product
  • Concept and pre production is important

Example: The Scared is Scared, a video made based on a story told by a child. Unfortunately, my notes neglected to include what this video illustrates. But it is an awesome video and could easily illustrate many things. Worth watching for sure.

Example: Easter 2013, a church video with a budget (made by the presenters)

  • Consideration of how to let people feel what the subject felt without having to shoot a reenactment
  • People submitted log lines
  • A extensive pre-interview was held with the chosen subjects so that the to understand the feeling they needed to convey
  • The interview was re-written a story with 4 acts for reference
  • Direct eye contact was achieve with special cameras that show the other person. A similar affect can be perhaps be achieved with video conferencing tools.

Example: The Tomato Pastor, a church video with no budget (made by the presenters)

  • Let your constraints inspire you
  • The team was nearby for a different story
  • The video was to promote a service opportunity of packing seeds that would be used in this ministry
  • The subject didn’t speak English, so the video does not show him speaking. His words were re-read later by someone else with a suitable accent.

A few links of interest

Your job is to make your protagonists suffer to the point where they have only one way out, where only one thing can transform the suffering into a solution: change. ~ Karen Woodward


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