When Photographer Ansel Adams would come to a scene, he would begin the mental process of previsualizing the scene he was about to capture via analog film.
Although he was capturing a single moment in time, the process of developing the skill of previsualizing a story – no matter if it’s through stills, audio, video or a combination, is a critical muscle to develop and work on a regular basis.
I was reading on Transom.org about utilizing this very skill for producing audio stories.
The mind is a wonderful theater for the listener if the storyteller has done their job well. So it’s important for us who use the various senses to tell the subjects story to do so the best that we can.
That requires us to imagine the story in advance. This would be a result of our preproduction research of a topic we have settled upon to develop into a story. No matter the topic, we should have some sense of how we want the story to unfold and be told.
Rob Rosenthal’s article on Transom.org about this topic has some great advice regarding this process that he teaches his students.
As storytelling journalists/producers, we’re supposed to enter the field to find the story, not impose one. Although I agree with this, I also think it’s important to envision what a story could be in advance so that you’re not trying to create a story blindly.
It’s my opinion that storytelling is more or less an advocacy platform. Through the use of visuals and audio, we manipulate and develop the components to tell our subjects story.
The idea is that, in essence, you should imagine how the story might eventually be told — sketching out the narrative.
Rosenthal suggests the following in that process:
- In my wildest storytelling fantasy, how would I like to tell the story I’m producing?
- What’s the most narratively compelling way to communicate both the factual and emotional truth of the story?
- What might work as the beginning, middle, and end?
- How can I be sure to capture conflict, tension, and other dramatic elements?
By imagining the story in this way, you end up creating a “narrative to-do list”.
Although Rosenthal’s take is towards NPR style production, the same principles can be applied to the visual storytelling aspect to add greater depth to the subjects story.
The other resource I’ve begun to use is The MediaStorm Field Guide which they created and can be purchased and used while out in the field.
According to their website:
Designed by MediaStorm’s award-winning multimedia production team, this handy field guide will assist professionals and students in their multimedia field reporting. The field guide includes checklists and tips for still photography, video, and audio field reporting for multimedia storytelling.
A very reasonable price of $10.00 gets you a to do list in all aspects of producing your story in the field. My only complaint is that, although a great resource to have, the printed version is via print on demand from LuLu.com and it took awhile to get. I wanted a true hard copy instead of the electronic version, but as I think more now, I should have gone the PDF route as I could print it out should something ever happen to my one physical copy.
As storytellers, we can have all the acquisition equipment we can afford, but without a game plan to tell our stories, we will fall way short of the mark in professionally telling our stories that will move our audience.
These two resources have become an invaluable aid in my continued process as a multimedia journalist/storyteller.
I recommend using them as a part of your own work. They have helped make a difference in the quality of the work I’ve already produced since utilizing them.