My good friend Stone Crandall is a uniquely gifted photographer. He also studied film-making at CU Boulder and was a videographer for Warren Miller. He has a real knack for the short film. Over a cup of iced tea one day I asked him if he’d help me think through what makes a good short film. My motivation for asking the question was this: Most people who lead outdoor ministries or mission organizations don’t have a ton of time or money to invest in an outdoor ministry video but if they could grasp some of the basics then at least they could make B grade videos to promo their programs. I have distilled our conversation into “5 Steps to Making Effective Outdoor Ministry Videos”:
This is by no means definitive or all-encompassing but if you want to make a simple and effective outdoor ministry video, here are 5 simple steps.
1. CREATE A “TREATMENT” FOR THE SHORT FILM YOU WANT TO MAKE
This includes deciding on your protagonist, antagonist, set-up, conflict, pay-off, and through line. Although it is a documentary, it still is a story being told and needs all the elements and doing a treatment helps get everything started on an organized and focused foot. For example, you’ll need to have the following elements:
- Protagonist: Name, age, characteristics of a person you want to highlight in your story
- Antagonist: What obstacle, enemy, or antagonism has your Protagonist had to face and/or overcome? Could be a physical, emotional, spiritual, personal, internal, or external antagonist.
- Set-up: Telling the story of your Protagonist through the eyes, interviews, etc. of the Protagonist himself, his or her family, friends, etc., who can tell the story of how the Protagonist has dealt with the Antagonist. You probably want to go back in the story to talk about the past, before the Protagonist had to face the Antagonist, painting a picture of their life before facing the Antagonist, during the time they had to face the Antagonist, etc.
- Conflict: Telling the story of how your Protagonist and/or his family, friends, community, etc. had to deal with or face the Antagonist (could be an accident, difficult relationship or circumstance, or even possibly themselves living a self-destructive life). In this section you want to give specifics of the real conflict that has caused the Protagonist to face the Antagonist. Include the first reactions of the Protagonist and his or her family, friends, community had to the Antagonist… whatever real life drama, emotional reactions that the Conflict brings up…
- Pay-off: Tell the story along the lines of how hope has come from the tragedy, or how God has or is getting the glory for the character or fruit of transformation that has happened in the Protagonist’s life as a result of working through the Conflict.
- Through-line: The story as a whole needs to have a thread that ties it all together… telling the story of a person (who the documentary is about). Their story includes an element of past, present, and whether or not the story points to a uniquely hopeful future or an ongoing conflict that deserves our concern and intervention, etc.
2. START GATHERING INTERVIEWS OR TESTIMONIALS
If you are filming an interview, make sure that the eyes of the interviewees are always in focus. Put the interviewees in an environment where they will feel comfortable to talk and open up. Set the camera up in front of the individual but then have the interviewer sit next to the camera and have the interviewees look off-screen to the interviewer. (this creates a non-threatening shot). Or if you want the person to be talking directly to the audience have them look directly into the camera (often times this feels uncomfortable to people though).
3. SHOOT A LOT OF “B-ROLL” FOOTAGE FOR “FILLER MATERIAL”
B-roll could be video of kids interacting in their community, a youth worker interacting with young people, the backdrop of a sunset or street scene, someone serving someone else, people praying or worshiping, etc. (this is usually the candid fun stuff to shoot).
4. SHOOT MORE INTERVIEWS OR ASK MORE QUESTIONS TO GET GOOD TESTIMONIAL QUOTES
Don’t be afraid to ask a question, let them respond, and then remain quiet. Often times somebody will give you a pretty stock answer first and then without you saying a word will delve deeper into what they meant. Or even if they say nothing it is often in these moments that people can speak a lot with their eyes.
5. SHOOT A VARIETY OF SHOTS
Shoot a variety of shots. Long shot, medium shot, medium close up, close up. Often times people are afraid to shoot close-ups. Don’t be afraid of this, it helps us connect emotionally with the people being filmed.
IS YOUR PROGRAM WORTH PROMOTING?
What a blunt but important question. Sometimes I think people forget that just because you have a quality program people are going to find you. That’s just plain naïve in my book. We all need to ask ourselves, “Do I believe in what we are doing? Do I believe that when we take people out into the wilderness they are going to have one of the best experiences of their lives?” If you answered “yes” to these questions, then your program is probably worth promoting.
CAPTURING THE ATTENTION OF POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS WHO ARE TRAPPED IN AN AGE OF AMUSEMENT
But remember that we live in an Age of Amusement and people are plagued by distractions. If we really believe that people who take part in our outdoor programs will be radically transformed, then we need to go to extremes to inspire them to sign up and go on our trip. Your relationship with potential participants will always be the most important part of recruiting people for your trips. But maybe its time to think about some other ways to promote your outdoor ministry and capture the attention of potential participants who are trapped in our Age of Amusement.
I’m in the process of collecting a bunch of links to outdoor ministry promo videos that people can refer to as samples. If you have one, please send it along to me. In the mean time, here are a couple outdoor ministry videos for your viewing pleasure:
- Decide today to pull together a team of creative friends who could help you produce a high quality outdoor ministry video for program.
- When you’ve produced your short film, please send me a link and I’ll help you promote it!
- PLEASE share your thoughts and opinions by commenting below.
- If you like this post, please share it with someone and check out the “Related Posts” for more outdoor ministry posts that you might like.