Film Tip: Focus on your story

When filming, think ahead about the story you want to tell.



Structure your Story

Just like any good book, a video should have a beginning, a middle and an end. This is known as the “narrative” of the video. The shots you choose to film help tell the story and bring the viewer into the narrative. The narrative is the story, and the “story arc” is the building of the narrative, moving the main character (protagonist) or situation from the beginning to the end.

Even non-fiction videos and documentaries should have a narrative, a beginning, a middle and an end.


Think about the beginning. It is your opportunity to hook your viewers and draw them into your film.  Think of a strong introduction, establish the tone and draw your viewers into the story. Choose strong opening shots to capture your audience’s attention.

At the beginning you are setting the scene, so you should start with some “establishing” shots that show the viewer where the action is taking place. For instance, if the video is taking place in a school, you may wish to show the outside of the school in a “wide shot”, or show the school sign. Maybe the action is taking place in the playground of the school, so you then show a wide shot of the playground, with children playing.

Next you will be introducing and developing your characters, so if you follow your wide shots with some closer shots of your “protagonists” (main characters), this will draw your viewer into the story.

story arc storytelling film movie

The middle:

This is the main core of your story. You have set the scene and established the characters. Now your story unfolds and it is your job as a director or filmmaker to engage your viewer so they care about what is happening and about your characters, and to build tension. Your story will most likely build towards a climax or conflict.

As the action and tension builds, you can increase the pace of your movie, through editing, shot choice or camera movement.

Use a variety of shots to tell your story, show your viewer the faces of the characters and their reactions (“reaction” shot). You can use “cutaways” (quite often close ups, anything that “cuts away” from the main action) to show the viewer what a character is doing, and “Point of View” (POV)  shots, to show the viewer what a character is seeing.

The end:

At the end, round your video off with a conclusion or a natural ending.  The action after the climax or crisis will fall or slow down, so the pace of your video will slow down too, and your choice of shots will be different. You may use wider shots, and hold them for longer to show the new situation.

Tips: Your choice of shot is very important. If your shots are too wide your viewer will feel disconnected from the story, if your shots are too close, they may feel disorientated and not know what is happening. Although you can use this for creative effect if you wish.


Choose an angle

Give your video an angle. I am not talking camera angles, I am talking about the theme or point of view you are choosing for your movie.

What would you like your audience to know? What would you like them to remember after watching your video? Ask a question that your video answers. How do you want them to feel?
For example if you are filming a football match, do you want to focus on one of the players, on the teamwork and camaraderie of the team, or the fans and the wider community?

Choosing an angle means that you will have an idea of what footage you will need to capture while you are filming, and during editing you can cut out anything that doesn’t support what you want to say. This will make your job as a filmmaker easier, and really makes your videos more engaging and appealing. A strong angle and a good story is what draws people into what you have to say in your film.



Films are made up of shots, sequences and scenes.  

A shot is an individual piece of footage with no cut – a single continuous recording with the camera in one position or angle (sometimes containing a camera movement)  

A sequence is a series of shots that are linked together.

A scene is a group of shots or sequences with something in common – for example filmed at the same location or the same set up, or have some other common theme to draw them together. A scene may consist of a single or multiple sequences.


Free Downloads and Resources!

This Quizlet will give you a few ideas of how choosing a particular shot can create a feeling in the mind of your viewer:

Creating a Film Sequence: Meaning in Shot Selection


When storyboarding your movie, you can use the Storyboard Template

Framing Guide

Shot Selection Guide


Lotti Kershaw is a former integration aide/education support officer with a background in broadcast television, and for the last three years has been running her own video production company.

Lotti has worked in broadcast television in the UK, on programs for the BBC and major network television channels. She has credits on various TV programs, and has worked in many genres including documentary, drama, music, entertainment, live talk shows, reality TV, music programs and feature film, at different stages of the production process from pre-production to post production and even broadcast.

Rock Paper Video runs filmmaking and animation workshops for children. See our latest workshops here