Tag Archives: video storytelling

Communication and those annoying interruptions

I had an “ah ha!” moment in October 2007. And it changed at least two things for me:

      1. the way I view interruptions, and
      2. my approach to church communication.

I had been reading the fifth chapter of Mark’s gospel.

Jesus heals demoniacJesus is on his way from a boat landing into town when a man possessed by a legion of demons interrupts him . Jesus stops and heals him.

Next, Jesus is telling stories to a crowd of people when a man named Jairus interrupts and begs Jesus to come and heal his sick daughter. Jesus stops what he’s doing and heads toward Jairus’ house.

Jesus heals

On his way, a woman who had been ill 12 years comes up behind Jesus and touches his cloak in hopes of being healed. Again, Jesus stops and deals with the interruption. He says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

A light bulb came on in my head. I realized that a lot of good stuff happens on the way to doing something else. And if I’m too busy to stop and deal with the interruptions, I might just miss what God’s trying to do with me and through me.

And then I recognized how much I’d been immersed in these stories from Mark’s gospel. Jesus used storytelling as his primary method of teaching. Perhaps I should do the same.

As a church communication guy, I spent a lot of time and energy  relaying information about programs and ministries, calendars and events. Now I began to see that telling a story is much more effective than reciting facts, dates and bullet-points… especially in spiritual matters.

I began refocusing my work. My new passion was telling stories and helping others tell their stories. On the church website, in the weekly TV program, and in every other channel of communication, we began to feature the stories of how people were living out their faith in their day-to-day lives.

You can see the first 50 or so of them here. And still more here.

sharing the faith

As a congregation, Richmond’s First Baptist Church was on the way to something else. Ten months earlier, Dr. Peter James Flamming retired after serving 23 years as Senior Pastor. The Pastor Search Committee was still interviewing candidates for his successor.

We were dealing with an abnormal level of angst and anxiety in the congregation. I don’t claim that the stories changed all that. But I was an eye-witness to softening hearts as people recounted their experiences with God. And many of those who heard, read and watched the video clips melted into God’s grace as they resonated with those stories… many of which involved dealing with some sort of interruption.

As Mark tells it, the folks who were around when Jesus healed the demon-possessed man were more concerned with the pigs than the miracle (I talked about that in a previous post).

But the healed man went around that part of the country telling the story of what Jesus did for him. And Mark says, “All the people were amazed.”


Producing video vignettes

In September, Richmond’s First Baptist Church is embarking on a year-long every-member mission trip. The idea is to encourage every person in our congregation to get involved in at least one mission project right in the metropolitan Richmond area, where most of us live. We’re calling it KOH2RVA – Bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.

The Communication Ministry is involved in many ways. One of the most important is reporting on the mission projects that our members do throughout the year. And one of the ways we’re going to do that is by producing brief video clips on the projects as they unfold.

We’ll post them on the church website, include them in our Sunday morning television broadcast on WRIC-TV8, and show them on the big screen in the Dining Hall on Wednesday evenings while folks are having dinner.

Producing a 3-5 minute video vignette that includes interviews and footage of people involved in mission projects requires about 15-20 hours of work.

A video editor operating an AVID video softwar...
A video editor operating an AVID video software editing system in an editing suite. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Five brave members of our video crew have stepped forward to volunteer in the effort. Each one will take an assignment to cover one project at a time. They’ll shoot the video, conduct interviews, and edit the final piece. Next week, we’re going to have a little orientation and brainstorming session to coordinate our work. I’ve been working on some guidelines for them.

If you’re involved in this kind of documentary video production, the guidelines may be helpful for you, too. Here are some excerpts:

KOH2RVA Vignettes

  • Answer the questions, “How is Richmond a little more like the Kingdom of Heaven because of this project?” “What difference is being made in the lives of the participants (both ‘do-ers’ and ‘receivers’)?”
  • When possible, conduct the interviews in the midst of the action.
  • Show the action, not just the BTF (Big Talking Face).
  • Show us their faces (facial expressions tell the real story of what’s going on).
  • Show us the context (Wide shot, Medium shot, Close up).
  • Shoot action-consistent sequences that illustrate what’s going on.
  • Use interesting angles (don’t shoot everything from eye-level height).
  • When you think you’ve shot enough b-roll, shoot that much more. You’ll be much happier with yourself when you get into the edit room.
  • Remember the audio! Carefully mic the interviews. Record good nats sound.
  • Use a music underscore to enhance the emotional impact of the piece.

Interviewing: the key to a great story!

An interview for television.

  • Keep your questions short.
  • Ask only one question at a time.
  • Endure awkward silences. This is totally counterintuitive. We want to keep chattering and asking questions to keep people feeling comfortable, but sometimes, you need to shut up and wait. Ask your question, then sit there quietly and see what comes next. You’d be amazed how often this technique yields powerful results. (http://matadornetwork.com/bnt/13-simple-journalist-techniques-for-effective-interviews/)
  • Have a list of questions, but don’t be a slave to it. Be flexible and respond to the situation as it unfolds.
  • Listen. A common mistake is to be thinking about the next question while the interviewee is answering the previous one, to the point that the interviewer misses some important information. This can lead to all sorts of embarrassing outcomes.
  • Ask open-ended questions such as “Why” and “How,” or use phrases such as “Tell me about…” (http://www.mediacollege.com/journalism/interviews/)
  • Ask interviewees to answer your questions in sentences rather than single words and phrases. This will allow you to edit the piece using only the voices of the interviewees rather than having to insert narration, which explains the question. You might give the interviewee an example to help them understand, such as, “To help me in editing, I’m going to ask you to give your answers in complete sentences. Such as, if I ask, ‘what color is the sky?’ you would answer ‘The sky is blue” rather than just saying, ‘blue.’”
  • Don’t interrupt. This can upset the subject’s train of thought.
  • Keep quiet while the interviewee is talking. Give non-verbal responses that let them know you’re listening and engaged, but don’t say anything until they’re completely finished with their answer. It is difficult to edit out your “right” and “I understand” and “uh-huh” remarks in the background.
  • Close the interview by asking, “Is there anything you want to say that I haven’t given you a chance to say?”
  • Don’t be in too big a hurry to turn off the camera and pack up. Some of the best sound bites come at the very end, after the interviewee is comfortable and knows it is over. “Be strong, have courage, and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm  27:14)