How To Write A Video Story
CREATE AN OUTLINE
Although I’ve been a video reporter for many years I am still humbled by how complicated and difficult the process can be. When I begin to report a story I often think, “It will be a miracle if this works out.” I have doubts about whether I can gather the information, get the right video and produce something that people will understand. Everything often feels so dense that it’s impossible to pare down to a relatable, let alone compelling, story.
I create an outline, sometimes in my mind and sometimes on paper. This includes the piece of information, video, or sound that I think will draw the viewer in, then the facts and the elements of the report in the best order.
When I know how to organize the story, I use the keyboard to puzzle it together and create a script that is seamless where the writing, the video and the audio including SOTs and NATSOTs, flow together. After the script is written, I know that I can round the bases pretty quickly. Editing with a decent script and all the video elements is relatively easy. But it always feels like magic in the end, and I’m always amazed when the stories turn out so well.
Every story has:
In TV and video reporting stories generally begin with an anchor, or on-camera lede (lead). In most cases an anchor in the studio will lede (lead) into your story.
If you write the lede in advance, it should set up the story that follows.
Here’s an example:
Finally, good news for the people of Broad Channel, Queens. It’s one of the communities hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy. Now Carina Russo reports that crews of repair workers are going door to door to fix up hundreds of homes.
How do you begin your story?
Remember you come out of that lede.
The story must flow.
Be clear about what you want to say.
A simple 1-10 outline will help you organize the story from the first element on.
Challenges of Video
This is a video story and so video and audio are important. This is why it’s important to think about how you’ll put the story together while you are shooting it.
Start with either:
• Your best video
• Your best audio
• Is your best audio natural sound?
• Is it a strong, emotional soundbite that will grab viewers’ attention?
Draw us into the story and explain the “nut” or the essence of the story in the first or second TRACK. Tell us what the story is about and why we should care. Answer these questions quickly.
Bring in a person using your SOT(s) who has a stake in the issue. You may use more than one. Three is generally too many.
If the story is complicated you may need a standup bridge where you explain an issue. For example: a shooting in Brooklyn leaves a teenager dead. Police are canvassing everyone in the housing development. They are going door to door. You don’t have the video, but you can do a Standup Bridge that says:
The NYPD tells us tonight police will knock on every door in this section of the housing development. They hope that someone who saw something will offer a clue that leads to the killer.
The middle of the story expands it. This is where you have your pros and cons, or develop the point of your story more fully.
In the case of the shooting, you might explain that many neighbors refuse to talk to the police.
• Natural sound helps.
• Soundbites (SOTs) from people with opposing points of view help.
• Clear writing in your TRACK helps.
Use soundbites from your interviewees that help to wrap it up. For example, the grieving mother who lost her son in the shooting says:
“I’ll never get over it. Never.”
Then it’s time for you to conclude.
This doesn’t mean you rehash your story. Don’t forget you just spent more than a minute telling us all about it. Your standup close must take us forward. Tell us what happens next. In the case of the mom and her son you might say,
“Yvette Lewis says she wants to stay strong for her 3 other young children. She told me that she won’t let them out of her sight. In the meantime, police say they need help to track the killer. If you have information, call 1800 CrimeStoppers, Sunny Day City College News