"Yeah, but I don't just want to tell a story! I want to have a purpose behind it!" I adamantly insisted. During the filming of the Kay's Cross YouTube Series, this topic seemed to come up several times. I love film and want to make a career out of video making and story telling, but I don't want to tell a story just because it's fun. I want to teach and inspire!
For those of you who may not know, I currently work with the LDS Church. Right now I'm working with the team that does Mormon Messages for Youth. One of the main producers in youth media, Lucas McGraw, has been kind enough to give me a chance to edit. The last few weeks I have edited more than I have in the last year. However, every time I finish a rough cut something doesn't seem to fit right.
I showed my rough cuts to several different people and got lots of really good advice. "You're too straight forward," "This part of the video crescendos too much leading to a let down later on," "The topic is explained too many times," etc.
I think I pounded the purpose pretty hard, and some parts of the video were edited really well, but over all something was missing. I wasn't really telling a story.
This Tuesday I got to sit down with my favorite seminary teacher of all time! Brother Lether works for the Seminary and Institutes Department of the Church; he oversees the media made for that department, and represents that department for other media projects in the Church. He has a video editing background himself and I've talked to him several times about it. As we watched the latest cut of the video I was editing, he explained his thoughts. After awhile we decided to come up with a whole new layout for the video.
With a paper and pen in hand, he explained what he would do to prepare a lesson for his seminary students. As one of his seminary students eight years ago myself, I eagerly listened and asked questions. I loved Brother Lether's lessons. I think I can literally say his class changed my life.
So, we planned the video like he would plan a lesson. Without going into too much detail, he taught me that it's better for the students (or the audience) to discover the lesson is for themselves rather than spelling it out for them. BAM! Suddenly it hit me. Video editing is a lot like writing an essay or a short story. It's all about rhetoric. Just as a good essay needs an attention grabber, anecdotes, a way to build credibility, etc. a good video needs the same. And all writing is persuasive at its core, which means there is always a purpose behind what you're reading. However, good writing does not over state the purpose, but hints at and ties back to it in subtle ways.
Our Notes From the Meeting
Rhetoric at it's core really means understanding the writing situation, including your audience. "And when I'm teaching a lesson about the Atonement," Brother Lether explained, "My goal isn't for them to understand the Atonement . . . it's for them to gain the tools they need to learn the Atonement for themselves." What he said hit me pretty hard. "They won't always have a seminary teacher, or a parent, or a young men's/woman's leader there to guide them. I want them to have the tools they need to discover it for themselves."