Two Required Elements For Emotionally Moving Films (That Feature Real People)
You’re a filmmaker for a reason.
You have a purpose.
For many of us, our why’s as filmmakers center around impact.
To create stories that affect our audiences.
To move them — emotionally.
But, that’s much, much easier said than done.
Especially so when you’re not working with actors, but telling the stories of real people….right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think.
In other words, he’s a Story Expert (re: nerd), and why we’re so darn excited that he’s sharing his expertise at two upcoming workshops (the first is happening next week — check it out here!)
We recently chatted with Patrick about this very topic — creating emotionally moving films when working with real people — where he shared the two required story elements.
1. First up, you need a character that wants something beyond what they have.
That want — desire — connects your audience to your story.
We’ll get to why in a short minute, but let’s take a super quick pause on desire, and chat characters...
At this point, you might be thinking, “Character? I thought we were talking about non-narrative films — I don’t have characters, I film real people”
It’s important to understand that the term “character” describes any subject, including those in non-narrative films.
And by thinking about the people in your film as characters, it helps create a mental shift where you can take an active role as the storyteller in how you develop and communicate your characters within your film.
Okay, back to desire..
So, why does desire matter so much?
Imagine you’re at a toy shop. You see a little boy that is really excited about a toy on the shelf. It’s the first time he’s seen the toy in-person, and it’s even cooler than he ever imagined. He has to it.
Instinctively, you’ll want him to have it too.
Does the boy need the new toy? Chances are, he doesn't. But in the shop, you can feel his energy — it’s infectious — and so you can’t help but want it for them.
It’s how we’re wired as humans.
Desire paves the way for empathy.
And just like you wanting the boy to have the new exciting toy, when there is a character in your film that really wants something, your audience wants it for them too.
In a corporate world, it’s the founder or employee who is incredibly passionate about the work they are doing...
In a wedding film, it's the couple who are so in love and so excited about their wedding and what it means...
And in a documentary, it's the person who is willing to put it all on the line because they believe so much in the idea or cause.
Regardless of genre, creating a moving film is about having a strong desire as your way to create empathy between your characters and audience.
2. Once you have found a character who desires something, there has to be an obstacle in their way.
There has to be a conflict.
Think about every TV show you watch. At the beginning of each episode something happens that creates tension. Are they going to find the missing person? Will they escape before the bomb explodes?
Conflict is an essential element to every moving story because it gets us to pay attention. It gives your audience a reason to keep watching.
In other words, a story without conflict is...
And certainly not moving.
Because without conflict, without something to overcome, audiences aren’t hooked, and we really don't feel it nearly as deeply when they achieve that thing.
Wondering how do you find the conflict in, say, a wedding film?
That’s where you have to stretch yourself as a filmmaker.
Maybe it might rain, but the wedding is outside. Maybe there is a present that the bride and groom did not know about, and we’re waiting to see what their reaction is going to be.
In other words, it does not have to be a massive conflict, just enough to raise a question, to create some tension that keeps the viewer interested...and watching.
Now, it is not always easy to find the conflict. It involves listening, paying attention, and thinking in terms of story.
When you take the time to identify the central conflict, and share it along with the desire of your characters, the films you create are guaranteed to move your audiences...and your ‘Why’ as a filmmaker will be realized, time and time again.
If you’re interested in hearing Patrick speak more on telling meaningful, impactful stories that drive action in the context of non-narrative films, grab your workshop tickets today.
The first workshop covers what it takes to make an emotionally moving film with real people. Say you're doing a case study or you're making a sales film, corporate commercial, or wedding film.
Instead of scripting it, you want to be able to find, develop, and tell a story that people actually feel and remember — and ideally one that delivers on your client’s goals.
Patrick will show you exactly where to look and what to ask to find and develop desire and conflict. We'll cover the other two elements that are required for a strong character and how you can draw those out. And he’ll cover the other 5 plot points, beyond conflict, that help ensure you have a film that engages people from the first to last frame.
The second workshop is going to be a deep dive into just that one specific niche of case study videos, which are becoming huge for filmmakers.
Patrick will be focusing on things like how do you find the right characters? How do you develop that story? How do you go beyond just having somebody talk about why a product is amazing and actually make a compelling video that somebody wants to watch?”