Tips to Understanding Storytelling in Short Form Video

Black Diamond Equipment is known for making top-of-the-line outdoors equipment for skiers, snowboarders, and climbers. Recently, they launched their video series BDTV Season 1, which is going to be compromised of short videos about people who they believe embody their core values. These videos are a great examples of storytelling using short video format and deserve further examination. That way you can apply the same learnings to your own video work.

Immediately we are introduced to our character Henrik Westling, and it is very clear that he and his story are going to be the main driving force of this narrative. We are taken through the narrative in fairly formulaic ways that go overlooked by many when trying to create videos. 

The Want

Within the first 30 seconds of the film, we learn exactly what Westling's goal is in life. He truly loves exploring and finding new terrain that people have not explored. He starts by mapping out the 178 summits in Jamtland, Sweden. The easiest way to think about this action is the "I want song" that starts most if not many musical theater productions where the character is vocal about what they want to achieve by the end of the play. This same "song" is used here, but in a much more narrative format. It comes in the form of a voiceover from Westling himself.

The Setback 

Here is the part of the story where our character is well on their way to achieving their goal. In this instance it's Westling's love for skiing that drives him to hike up the summits in his region and ski down them. He craves and seeks adventure. Then, a wrench is thrown into his plans and he is forced to make a choice: does he continue to pursue his dream or choose to do something else? This is akin to "the ordeal" as outlined in the "Hero's Journey" by Joseph Campbell. 

Our central character is tested by this new world he has entered, and is now required to make a decision. Do they keep pushing forward or turn back and go back to their old life?

The Realization 

This is the point where our character has made a clear-cut choice. They have chosen to pursue and commit themselves to achieving "the want" they originally established in the first part of the video. It's in this section where we as the filmmaker can choose to show triumphs, absolute lows, and voice the characters thoughts and feelings on the journey so far. 

The Resolution 

This part speaks for itself. I'm not one who likes ruining good videos or movies, especially when they are worth your time to watch. This is the part where the story comes to an end. Our character has come to the end of their journey and has found a resolution to their want. I think a key element to keep in mind here is that not every ending has to be happy. We get caught up in that far too often, and good stories don't always need a happy ending in order to be good. 

You can find Westling's full story here.

By following this condensed version of storytelling we force ourselves as filmmakers to trim a lot of the fat, so to speak. We don't get caught up in all of the details that major features have, but instead we choose to look at what is important to our story. If there is anything to take away from this article it's that stories should be simple, and the important parts of the story that allow are character to change are what pushes it forward. 

Are there any videos or films you've come across lately that you think are great examples of storytelling as a short video?

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Thomas Busby's picture

Amazing video, thank you for sharing Fstoppers.

oscar diaz's picture

Also be sure to check out the african attachment. They make great videos for Salomon. Thanks for sharing this.

Chuck Eggen's picture

Thanks for sharing. I love these video shorts. Helps ignite the creative process.

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Anytime Chuck! I'm the same way, I spend a lot of days on vimeo finding stuff. Whenever you check out someone now on there look at their "likes" you'd be surprised at what you find.

Mike lamentola's picture

I think this is the most influential example I've seen in a while. It's the story of Filmmaker Matty Brown. I like that Every motion, and image compliments the story, emotion etc but there is so much uniqueness to how it is done.

I feel you rarely see a noticeable personal style from filmmakers today but I can see it being more common in the future.

Nice post!