February 20, 2022

Make Better Nonfiction Video With This One Simple Trick

A friend of mine shared a hilarious cartoon recently on Facebook about what the field of astronomy would look like if information were delivered through clickbait.

Nail. Head. Hit.

So I left a reply thanking him for the public service and suggesting the application of these techniques in other inappropriate areas — nonfiction filmmaking, for example 🙂

The journalism professor in me is right properly “offended” by the whole clickbait thing. But other parts of me are wondering how much this particular discourse is harmful if, in this example, I actually give you one simple trick for making your nonfiction video better.

There are some “simple” tricks. Not tricks, really. That’s just the operative clickbait word. Instead, if I deliver actual useful technique that is both simple to achieve and effective for your purposes, then I have given you good measure for your click. Obviously, the problem is that so much clickbait does not deliver.

So now I have given myself a challenge. Give you one simple trick. Something real. Something useful. Something effective.

Here it is: Get closer.

What Robert Capa said about news photography applies in many respects to nonfiction video: If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

What I like about that one simple trick is how complex it is (ooops). Yes, proximity is important when you’re feeding the beast of an emotional medium. Filling the frame with information is basic. But more, it’s also about empathy. Making nonfiction video is a full contact sport. You need to be present in the subject’s space — physically, mentally, empathetically.

I failed. I have not given you one simple trick. What I hope I’ve given you is something to think about.

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