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The Root of the Story

Storytelling is as old as the hills. Humans have always shared tales of fear and hope, compassion and courage, pathos and humour, crossing the boundaries of age or race or gender, showing the world who we are, and peering at it through the eyes of others.

Video is the medium that connects a narrative to its audience, bringing us all a little closer to each other. Forging this link is the job that writers and videographers and editors undertake. We keep ourselves out of the picture while inspiring the people in front of the camera to let their story unfold.

Everyone’s story matters

Big Red Oak’s videos have shone a spotlight on caregivers who deal with unbearable circumstances and on children who find comfort in camaraderie despite their challenging disabilities. We’ve helped protect the safety of tow truck operators and celebrated the charities that try to alleviate poverty. We’ve learned about stem cell research and medical breakthroughs that are making a profound difference to patients. We’ve clarified financial protocols and humanized complex technologies.

It’s actually a fascinating process. Beyond the logistics of cameras and lighting and editing, our purpose is to uncover the emotional core of a person or situation and present it in a way that viewers will understand. And, like all the best lessons in life, getting to the root of the story is something that can’t be taught but can be learned.

Capturing the footage: the interview

An interview begins by satisfying our own curiosity. We want to find out everything we can about the person we’ll be meeting. This includes the shoot location as well: seeing where someone lives or works tells a story, too.

Many people feel uncomfortable in front of a camera. It’s our task to encourage them, put them at ease and draw out genuine responses. Rather than asking them directly how they feel, we craft questions that will show their true emotions. We don’t anticipate their responses or jump in; we listen intently and assure them that we hear them. That we see the world from their perspective. And that we truly care about what they say.

Putting it together: the edit

The same qualities of curiosity, empathy and listening apply to the editing phase. We approach it with fresh eyes and ears. Whether we’re working on a poignant human story or highlighting a product or service, we look for the sound bites that answer the questions we have in our heads; and, then, like a jigsaw, we assemble the pieces to reveal the whole picture.

And that’s the magic of it all! Creating the story arc, luring in the audience, giving the information that they can understand, empathize with, and connect to.

In short …

It’s said that people learn nothing new by talking, but they learn everything by listening. Being curious and present. Staying in the moment. Letting a storyteller know that they are heard.

We can haul in the production gear, adjust the lighting, set the stage … but if there’s no real story, it’s like a beautifully wrapped box that fails to deliver on the promise of wonderful things inside. The root of the story is the gift. The gift of bonding humans together through the art of storytelling.

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
– Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou reads her poem, Human Family, against the backdrop of excerpts from some of our storytelling videos:

Big Red Oak Documentary Reel