5 Techniques for Visual Storytelling

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Storytelling is important in today’s digital age and becoming a more visual storyteller can help you succeed in your career. Whether you’re a speaker, filmmaker or video marketer, Phil Cooke’s https://philcooke.com five storytelling techniques will help you share powerful story-driven media.

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Do you have a message or story the world needs to hear? As a Hollywood producer and media consultant, I offer advice for leaders and creatives each week on filmmaking, digital media, publishing, strategy, communication, leadership, culture and faith – to help you get from where you are to where you want to be in your career.

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**More about this episode: ** 5 Techniques for Visual Storytelling

We are a visually-driven generation. Today, toddlers have iPads and play with cameras. We grow up with cameras in our phones, and people document every aspect of their lives. Just as important, more and more creative people are opting for a career in photography or filmmaking.

How can you increase your ability to see what others don’t? How can you capture more compelling shots? Here are several important keys to “seeing” at a higher level:

1) Watch TV or movies with the sound turned off. With the sound turned off you don’t get into the story, and you start focusing on the shots. Framing, composition, sequence, editing – how it builds the scene. The only condition here is to be sure you’re watching something that was very well directed and captured.

2) Slow down. Slow down. Really look at the people you pass on the street. Notice how the sun hits the side of a building at sunset. Watch people’s behavior at check-out lines. Start to notice, then start thinking about how to recreate those scenes.

3) Go to museums. They are the showcases of the visual.

4) Start using presentation software in your talks. Keynote, PowerPoint – once you become a skilled speaker, visuals can elevate your communication.

5) Experience life. Most directors today don’t know anything about life because they spend it in front of screens. They haven’t traveled, haven’t experienced difficult jobs, and haven’t been in challenging situations. Go on a short term missions program, hike through Europe, take boxing lessons, or start a conversation with a homeless person. What you experience will transform the way you look at things.

Filmmaking legend Werner Herzog, in his wonderful book “A Guide for the Perplexed” puts it this way: “The best advice I can offer to those heading into the world of film is not to wait for the system to finance your projects and for others to decide your fate. If you can’t afford to make a million-dollar film, raise $10,000 and produce it yourself. That’s all you need to make a feature film these days.

Beware of useless, bottom-rung secretarial jobs in film-production companies. Instead, so long as you are able-bodied, head out to where the real world is. Roll up your sleeves and work as a bouncer in a sex club or a warden in a lunatic asylum or a machine operator in a slaughterhouse. Drive a taxi for six months and you’ll have enough money to make a film. Walk on foot, learn languages and a craft or trade that has nothing to do with cinema.

Filmmaking — like great literature — must have experience of life at its foundation. Read Conrad or Hemingway and you can tell how much real life is in those books. A lot of what you see in my films isn’t invention; it’s very much life itself, my own life.

If you have an image in your head, hold on to it because — as remote as it might seem — at some point you might be able to use it in a film. I have always sought to transform my own experiences and fantasies into cinema.”

Everyone looks, but few really see. The greatest directors understand the power of a compelling image and how it can impact people. It’s never too early to start.

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