I went out to Little Kinmen Island today to do some filming for a couple of vlogs posts. After a long day of shooting I was riding back on the boat and I realized that my narrative was full of holes.
A narrative is like a set of stairs leading up to a series of floors. If any are missing you can’t step up to the next level. In the content collection process so much energy is devoted to developing the storyline — if you just go out and collect whatever comes your way it’s often real hard to put that together into anything thematicly tangible.
Telling a story with video is much different than telling a story with text. With writing, you’re constructing a narrative that’s not assembled in real time, so you can fill in whatever blanks you have relatively easily — “Hey man, I forgot to ask this question during our interview…” With video, if you’re missing a shot or two you’re screwed — your narrative just won’t fit together.
Video is like putting together a puzzle where 90% of the pieces don’t fit and need to be thrown out. The 10% that’s left has to be all there and fit together nicely into a complete image. If there are any missing pieces there’s often nothing you can do.
Even for vlog posts I often put together a checklist of what I want to shoot. I then look at that checklist and make sure all of the pieces align — that all the steps are there and they lead to the top.
Of course, I’m also looking for other elements to add — you can never really predict everything that you’re going to find on the ground — but if I get what I plan to go after, at the very least I will have a self-supporting narrative … which is the only thing I really need.
I went to Little Kinmen to get shots for two vlog entries — one about Kinmen’s abandoned military infrastructure and another about traveling around Little Kinmen itself. I pretty much only needed one shot for the former: the view of Xiamen of the PRC from the nearest vantage point on Kinmen. But for the later video I pretty much botched it. While I got enough shot to put together the vlog, it could have been better if I properly planned it out and made a checklist.
What this checklist should have looked like:
Motorcycle ride to the ferry port
Shots around the ferry port
Me talking at the ferry port introducing my plan
Riding ferry, surrounding scenes
Arrival on Little Kinmen
General countryside shots
A variety of different farms, different crops
Interview with farmer
Village architecture, different types
Main town, shops, restaurants
Drone shots: countryside, architecture, beach, port, military infrastructure
Me describing farming, architecture, military infrastructure …