Drawing Out a Story on Camera

Here’s the thing: drawing out stories is truly an art form. You have to know SO MANY things in order to get the right people telling the right stories at the exactly right time and in such a way that they will actually connect with your audience’s heart. 


Nonprofit Film School courses dive into this material with greater depth, but here are some ways you can make sure that you are finding and telling your stories in the best way possible: 


Trust your Instincts.

Everyone has some level of intuition. Did you come across a story that moved you emotionally in some way? Chances are, that story will move others as well. Keep a file where you store story ideas and then tap into it when you are looking for inspiration for your next video.


Engage in the Conversation.

The more you act like you’re interviewing someone, the more they’ll behave like they’re being interviewed. Meaning, they’ll try and polish their answers, they’ll be aware the camera is on them and they’ll exhibit nervous behaviors. Chat with your interviewees the way you would talk with an old friend. Respond to what they’ve just said and then let them respond back. Don’t simply read through a list of questions. That won’t get you anywhere near someone’s heart. 


Roll the Camera without Fanfare.

There should never be a moment in time where you obviously start shooting an interview. Discretely push record on your camera and keep talking like you would normally talk. Begin the interview with casual chitchat about their day and ease your way into asking more in-depth questions. Phrase your questions like: “tell me about when…”, etc. These open-ended questions allow your interviewees to explore their own stories and clarify their thoughts and feelings in their own words. Pretty soon the interview will be over and they won’t be sure when it ever started. Which means you did it exactly right!


Empathy Always Wins.

OK, this sounds really basic, right? Wrong. When I was a counseling student, we had to complete five hours of our own therapy. I thought it would be easy to find someone to connect with. Nope! The first two counselors I tried were clearly much more focused on their own objectives than actually hearing my heart. One barely looked up from her notepad the entire 50 minutes I was in her office. I kept wondering what she was writing about me. 

It isn’t that hard to show someone you care. Be present in your interviews. Engage them verbally and nonverbally. NEVER TAKE NOTES (I have been forever personally wounded by this). Make sure they know their story is being very well taken care of by you and that they feel totally safe to share how you’ve helped.

That last one is really the key. I have no doubt that your organization has amazing stories to share, and I have no doubt that you can share them well. Be intentional, be honest and be empathetic. You’ve got this.