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What does TechSoup know after six annual Storytelling campaigns over seven years? NONPROFITS BENEFIT FROM EXPERT FEEDBACK WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR DIGITAL STORY.
As an example, the submissions to Storymakers 2014 revealed a huge range of expertise. Our winning entries were of the highest level. Their production value was top-notch and more importantly, the storytellers thought critically about how to introduce their topic and grab your attention. That the good news.
The bad news: the majority of the 226 submissions had room for major improvement. As a nonprofit storytelling critic, I would lose attention watching many of the videos. The narrative slacked; the sound may have got wonky and I got distracted.
Furthermore, many nonprofit focus exclusively on the 3-6 minutes digital video. But with the rise in super-short videos and platforms like Vine (6 seconds), Instagram (15 seconds) and SnapChat (10 seconds), nonprofits need to take these questions into the equation
The bottom line is that storytelling is a difficult craft even with smart phones (sometimes more so). We realize that many nonprofits could benefit from receiving feedback from an expert WHILE they are developing the story, DURING the production of the video or AFTER they submitted a video (let's call it a first cut submission). Chris_DLT alebez and myself will choosing the lucky participants to receive feedback for up to one hour in this branch from an expert storytellers.
We will be asking expert videographers to review a short video that has already been submitted to #Storymakers and provide concrete, practical recommendations on how to improve the video. That "Q & A" part between the expert storyteller and the nonprofit submitting to #Storymakers2016 will occur in this branch. Our first "Expert Storytelling Q & A" will occur Wednesday, May 4th in this thread.
If you're a nonprofit interested in participating, fill out this form.
Lewis Haidt Senior Manager, TechSoup Online Community and Social Media @lewisha
As part of TechSoup's #Storymakers2016 campaign, we are hosting several Expert Q&A Workshop Sessions within the TechSoup forums as a way for selected contest participants to share their Storymakers submission or work in progress, and get feedback from an expert story maker.
Hey all. I'm happy to participate in this forum and would like to be as helpful as possible.
First of all, making films is not easy and if it was we all probably wouldn't be here on this page today. I want to comment this filmmaker for putting his work out there for a public critique. That's pretty brave. So I'm going to start by posing some questions and then, depending on how this goes, I will go deeper into this specific project.
My first question, which every single person who makes these projects needs to answer, is who is this for and what are you trying to make them feel? The best nonprofit films figure this out at the very beginning before they even shoot one minute.
And to be clear, this is for anyone to answer!
I will just jump in here to say that I had a hard time figuring out what was the intention of this piece. Are we meant to be inspired to begin a practice of contemplation? Was it meant to show the nuances of the practice? Also who is the man who at the center? When a viewer is asking these questions, it is a problem because then they are less likely to pay attention to the subject matter.
Hi Everyone, I'm the senior manager for the forums as well as our Storymakers 2016 campaign.
The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is the first nonprofit to be chosen as a workshop recipient. Their founder, Jeff Gerund, was not available to join right now, but anyone is free to jump in and folks from The Center will stop by at a later date.
Liz, I, of course, cannot speak for the Center. But as a viewer, I see this as a strong opening/introductory video.
My question would be: how you plan a series of short (under one minute) or long (equal length 3-5 minutes) to support such an introductory one?
Thanks for offering your insights.
Every piece, no matter the length, should have a purpose that leads to the whole. At Stone Soup Films, we call it "whetting the appetite." So for this film, I would have a short that would just give a sense of the founder (or subject of the film - I'm just assuming this is his org) and his motivation. Like a short on what his life was like before he starting meditating and how it changed afterwards. Then you could do another piece on what are some of the practices you can use, like what would it feel like to get started? They could all look and feel like the longer piece (black and white is nice btw, sets it apart - plus decent lighting and we love the extreme close up when used sparingly)
a couple of other just general things:
Titles and graphics MUST be created with a mobile audience in mind. When you have white letters on black - as in this piece - it is very important that they take up a much larger portion of the frame than they do here. It's fine on a desktop but if you were watching it on your phone you would not be able to read it.
Dipping into black to cover edits is tricky. It's tough on the viewer since usually that signals a subject/topic change. And these transitions are long - it's a pacing issue too. I understand that technically this filmmaker did not have anything else to cut TO (like broll or stills or even graphics) so that is tough. Try not to set yourself up for this - there are plenty of other options like two camera angles or going from wide to close or showing information, or even a quote - on the success of meditation while he is talking etc.
Yup. Still me.
Since I run a nonprofit documentary house whose sole function is to produce and donate these pieces to worthy organizations I just can't help but share our philosophy!
Don't be afraid, like they are doing in this piece, to show a narrow aspect of your program (always better to go deep rather than wide) but keep in mind that there will be some questions if you don't explain where you are to the viewer. Like you can show just a parent teacher meeting at a school but it should open with a text that is super clear like "For the first time, Juan is in charge of running the meeting with his parents and his teachers. He prepared for a week." or something like that. Then you are all right there on the same page when you get into the action.
Also it is important for the viewer to be able to relate in some way, human to human, with what they are seeing. Finding a common humanity is critical - that should guide your decision on who to film and what they should be saying. For example, if I knew more about Jeff in this piece - anything personal, really - I would be more likely to connect and buy into his vision of meditation and its value. That's just human nature.
And it doesn't have to look super professional! If it's a good story people will hang in there. One of my favorite shorts was done on a shoestring, by kids, in an afternoon:
This reminds me of once, during my college radio show, the mic was broken and I didn't know. So if you were listening, there was music for like 7-8 min and then long periods of silence. For TWO HOURS. No one called in to tell me! It was so funny - I basically just talked to myself in a room the whole time. Like a crazy person.
I applaud the efforts of TechSoup to ignite and encourage people to tell stories worth telling and put them on a larger stage through the contest. The need for this work is just getting bigger and bigger - we need everyone on board to help meet the demand.
Over and out! thanks.
Liz, thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience.
And for nonprofits participating in #Storymakers2016, if you want feedback (and every nonprofit should get feedback on their digital story so you don't feel alone), this is the thread to use. We hope it gets really, really big and unwieldy with tons of useful tips and encouragement.
Keep those stories going.
PS: As soon as our video is ready, we'll link to here Story Center's Joe Lambert's powerful talk on Participatory Media and why nonprofits really need to ask for feedback. Joe also gave a powerful lesson to those of us who give feedback: we need to really, really slow down, pay attention and share respectful, encouraging responses. It's about creating a safe space for trying and voicing. This was part of our SFTech4Good Storymakers event.
My name is Jeff Genung and I am the co-founder and President of Contemplative Life. The film selected for this piece is actually for Contemplative Life rather than the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. I do serve on the board for them as well.
We plan to use some short clips that help highlight the value of contemplative practice and also introduce them to our non-profit http://contemplativelife.org/. Our objective is to connect people and communities with transformative practices. Our objective is to use these for fundraising and for our public launch.
This film is for donors and users that might be interested in contemplative practices. It is designed to introduce http://contemplativelife.org/ to the public.
Thanks, these are very helpful points. I like the idea of a before and after and short clips that relate to the longer one.
Great questions. The piece is meant to broaden the nature of what it means to be contemplative and to inspire the viewer to want to know more about what it means to be a contemplative.
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