- April 1, 2018
- Posted by: admin
- Categories: Broadcasting, Video Production
Well-crafted video and film can bring glory to God.
Inspiring media can lift pressure from the teaching pastor’s shoulders of having to bring all the creativity to the worship experience. Just as importantly, powerful testimony films illustrate the ways lives are being changed through your ministry. This demonstrates return on investment to people whose primary gift is investing financially into the local church.
One of the most discouraging aspects of producing original media for ministry is the feeling we get when a film we worked hard on fails to achieve emotional liftoff. Perhaps it’s a video designed to encourage people to sign up for small group that only generates interest from a couple dozen respondents. It’s enough to make you want to throw your hands in the air and give up.
One of the most discouraging aspects of producing original media for ministry is the feeling we get when a film we worked hard on fails to achieve emotional liftoff.
Many times these kinds of misses arise not from a lack of effort, but from an insufficient understanding of how to build connection with the viewer. Great media projects start with a set of clear guidelines for success. Once those directives are locked in the producer executes against those standards ruthlessly.
A first step in building that kind of connection with the audience is to clarify exactly which audience you’re targeting with your project. (And no, “everybody” is not a target.) Is the film designed specifically for the congregation, first-time guests, or for people outside the walls of your church? If you haven’t clearly identified your target, you’re far less likely to hit it.
… make sure your film focuses on the perspective of the viewer, rather than the perspective of the ministry leadership.
Next, consider what motivates the members of your target group and why they should care about what you’re trying to communicate. Finally, make sure your film focuses on the perspective of the viewer, rather than the perspective of the ministry leadership. If content creators aren’t careful, projects can quickly devolve from engaging to mini-sermons or informational tracks in video form.
Another common scenario is when a video developed specifically for social media just doesn’t get that many views, likes or shares. While it’s unreasonable to expect everything we create to go viral, social media can give us concrete metrics for gauging a project’s effectiveness, helping us evaluate what’s landing and what’s missing the mark.
If your videos feel inconsistent in quality, you may want to consider taking more time to clearly define success for a specific project before starting production. For instance, ask yourself and your leadership about exactly what the project should achieve? Are you hoping the film will inform, or do you want it to inspire? Is the plan for the media to move people to action? If so, exactly what action steps are you hoping to prompt? Should the viewer will make a phone call, visit a website, attend a service, participate in an event, or give financially? Locking the answers to these questions will help ensure success before you even begin the writing stage of your process.
Is the plan for the media to move people to action? If so, exactly what action steps are you hoping to prompt?
Some additional clarifying questions should include asking where exactly the project will be seen. For instance, is it created primarily for a worship experience, for YouTube, social media, broadcast television or movie theaters? Based on your answer, next ask what the most effective length of the project would be for the format? And finally, discuss the appropriate investment of resources for the video, based on the potential impact and results. If you’re not crystal clear in your answers to these questions, you’re very unlikely to achieve the results you’re hoping for.
For the vast majority of media teams, the media project type most likely to break the heart is a testimony short film that doesn’t make that hoped-for emotional connection. Personal narratives are the most complex type of original projects churches can undertake, and there’s not a media ministry on the planet that hasn’t experienced this kind of letdown at one time or another. The good news is that the more we grow and learn as storytellers, the better our creative batting average can get.
The more we grow and learn as storytellers, the better our creative batting average can get.
While telling powerful, inspirational stories can seem like something close to a mixture of magic and luck, there are practical ways we can increase the probability of success in our storytelling. If your testimony stories aren’t making the kind of impact you’re expecting, a good first step is to evaluate your story structure. As hard as it is to believe, the basic rules of story that we utilize today date back to a little over 300 years before the birth of Jesus. Ignoring or violating those story guidelines usually leads to films that fail to have an emotional liftoff.
Another common mistake church filmmakers sometimes make with personal narratives is when they fail to distinguish between a sequence of events and a narrative arch. Good storytellers have to ruthlessly cut away a myriad of extraneous details in order to find that one narrative thread that tells an actual story.
Good storytellers have to ruthlessly cut away a myriad of extraneous details in order to find that one narrative thread that tells an actual story.
It can feel cold to exclude major characters or chapters in a person’s life, but it’s ultimately the job of the storyteller to craft and shape the story into something that brings deeper meaning from within the prosaic nature of life. Conversely, your story subjects will almost never be upset with you for telling a great story from their collection of days and moments.
Next, begin to evaluate where your story seems to be missing the mark you’re aiming for. Do people care if your protagonist succeeds? Consider how your edit illustrates the unique character at its center. Remember, we fall in love with characters for their weaknesses and limitations more than for their beauty and strengths.
Does the climax of your story leave the viewer unmoved? Show the obstacles that were standing in opposition to your character. Does the story just sort of run out of gas at the end? Craft a real resolution that shows how your character is distinctively different than they were at the beginning, illustrating how God is shaping their future.
While a fuller exploration of storytelling is beyond the scope of this article, making sure your entire team has a grasp of the basics of what makes a great story great is essential to recognizing, developing and crafting powerful testimony films. Producers wanting to learn more should consider starting with Robert McKee’s seminal work on the subject, aptly titled “Story.”
Creating media that builds connection and inspires a response is not easy, but it can absolutely be learned. Don’t settle for the first draft of a project: revise, improve and articulate the lessons learned for the next project. Just as importantly, look for online communities and church media conferences that will help you and your team grow.
Look for online communities and church media conferences that will help you and your team grow.
Once you’ve made that investment your ministry can begin to reap the rewards of hitting the mark consistently, which will open a wealth of opportunities to reach both your congregation and a wider world.
Alex Schwindt is the Film Team Director at Hope Community Church in Raleigh, NC. He also does freelance media creation and consulting through Alex Schwindt Media.