A formula for creativity and change-making video – Jordan Melograna

A formula for creativity and change-making video – Jordan Melograna


If you wanted to watch all the YouTube videos that were uploaded in the year 2018, it would take you at least until the year 9859; that’s because there’s almost two weeks of video uploaded every single minute, and the vast majority of that is created by people who would not consider themselves professional video producers. Now this has not gone unnoticed by the mission-driven organizations that I tend to work with, which are nonprofits and NGOs. And many who work in that field know they need video in order to reach the hearts and minds of an increasingly distracted
public, which we just learned about from Yolanda. But their question always is “where do we start?” All too often that answer that they find is: “buy this camera,” or “download this app.” And having those toys, knowing how to use them is good, but knowing what to use them for is really the first step. This is generally what’s missing when organizations approach video; not just what video storytelling is, but what it can do if you tell a compelling story. So in COMMLEAD I worked on developing an approach that can take anyone from A to Z on a mission-driven video, rooted in a formula to make change. I know some of you are probably thinking, “we nominated you for a creativity award, why are you talking about formulas?” And I know that creative people like myself, we don’t like formulas. We want to create without the tyranny of conventions, thank you very much. Of course, what we should admit if we’re being honest, is that we follow rules all the time. There are certain patterns that underlie all human storytelling. We follow them constantly, but we also follow them creatively; they don’t limit what we can do, they actually form a foundation that we can build off of. So a playwright will write in three acts; a songwriter will write a chorus, a
verse, and a bridge; journalists give us the who, what, where, why, and when. We’re always riffing off the same formulas; they form a foundation our
creativity can build upon. And short social media videos that advocate for change need that same kind of structure too. So here are some of my
suggestions for conventions that will help your mission-driven video achieve the impact you’re looking for. (And none of what you’re about to hear has anything to do with what button you’re supposed to push, or what software you’re supposed to use). Alright, can my 5 volunteers please come up? Before you make a video, before you film a single shot, there are five questions that you have
to answer. The first one is what is your goal? The second one … wait for the cue, wait for the cue … we rehearsed this for weeks, I can’t believe something went wrong! Okay, your goal, which is the big picture thing you’re trying to accomplish. For example, “Stop the deaths of whales from eating ocean plastics.” The next thing you have to know is, who is your audience? Who is specifically the people that you
are talking to in your video? For example, “people who care about the
environment.” “People who think whales are cute.” The next thing you need to know is, what is your message? What is the one thing you want everyone to remember after watching your video? For example, “the plastic bags you throw away kill whales.” And what is your target? What is the thing that you’re trying to change, that will help you accomplish
your goal? “Wasteful overuse of plastic that makes its way into the ocean.” And lastly, what is your “ask?” What is a
realistic thing that your audience can do to help you achieve that change? “Stop using plastic bags you don’t need.” Okay, so now simply stating these things of course is not your video. That’s where your creativity comes in; who you interview, what will you reenact? Will you do any kind of animation? And it doesn’t matter if you use an iPhone, or use a professional camera. No matter how you do it, you have to make sure your video includes the answers to these questions. So let’s edit our video a little bit right now, and let’s take the questions and
these answers, and let’s structure them into a story. So I’m making a short social media video, which means I want to open strong. I know my video is gonna be
absolutely brilliant, but the truth is most people are going to watch the first few seconds, so I want to give them something short and simple they can take away. So let’s actually have our message come first. The next thing you’re going to do is you’re going to lay out your problem; you’re going to describe the world as it is. And this is where I’ll spoil a part in any
story: the world sucks. In every story the world sucks because if it didn’t, we shouldn’t be calling for change. So the world sucks, you’re gonna tell the audience why you think it sucks, and you’re gonna be fair about it, but you’re not going to be balanced. The people who disagree with you can, and probably will, produce their own video. Use this time to explain from your perspective why the world needs to change. So let’s have the target come up next. So now it’s only fair to introduce a
solution: the world as it ought to be. It’s your job to show the audience, and this is a great time to mention your overall goal, so I think you’re in the right place. Next, we need to recruit your audience. You need to talk directly to your audience; explain what steps need to be taken to get there. Be specific. How do you get from the world as it is, to the world as it ought to be? So it’s the audience, right there, excellent! And lastly, if you’ve done your
job, the audience is on your side. They believe in you; they believe in your idea; they want to achieve your solution. Ask them to do something, but don’t ask them to do something they cannot do. “Save the Whales” is a great message, but I’m not a superhero, and I can’t fly out to the ocean and save the whales on my own; but it doesn’t mean I’m powerless. And your video will absolutely be more
impactful if you can convince the audience they’re powerful. So give them something that they can do. OK, let’s watch our video. “The plastic bags we waste are getting into the oceans and killing whales.” “In fact, 56% of all whale species have been reported eating plastic they thought was food.” “Just the other day, a pilot whale was found dead in Thailand, and its stomach was full of plastic grocery bags. Whales will continue to die if we don’t take action. Now imagine if Whales couldn’t
accidentally eat plastic, because no plastic gets into the ocean in the first place. That’s where you come in. Americans use an average of one disposable plastic bag a day, but in Denmark, people use an average
of only four bags all year long. Take reusable plastic bags to the store with you. It’s that easy. We can do it. You can start tomorrow by signing a pledge to stop using plastic bags. *Applause* So of course that’s the beginning, not the end, of our mission driven video, but this is a way to answer those five
questions in the structure of story. So, the year 9859 is how long it would take you to watch all the YouTube videos produced in 2018. How many of them call for change? How many of them will actually achieve the impact they’re looking for? The best ideas and most important social movements deserve good stories. So all the storytellers in this room, and all the storytellers out there, there has never been a better time in human history to put these tools of storytelling to work on behalf of the people trying to make the world a better place. We can help them get there. Thank you.

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