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Telling Engaging Stories

The following blog is a collection of thoughts on observations of a presentation at Sydney Video Makers Club that was recommended by Stewart Gordon of Brisbane Movie Makers.


What does an engaging story need?

The final presentation was by Ruskin Spiers, President of the Sydney Video Makers Club, on the topic of “Telling engaging stories”. Ruskin’s theme was that we do not tell enough stories in our videos. He believes the best way to engage your audience is to tell a story, whether it is a 60 second advertisement, a drama or a travelogue. All these stories need a beginning, a middle and an end. Ruskin believes that the members of his club, the Sydney Video Makers, are telling better stories now than they did 5 to 10 years ago. The putting of a good story on video can require many people; perhaps

a) 1 or 2 people have the idea and draw up the script,

b) About 4 are involved in pre-production and casting,

c) Some 12 people are involved in the shoot, and

d) About three are involved in postproduction.

Then, of course, there may be 40 or more who will be the videos audience and judge its

impact and quality.


Scriptwriting is often the first, major stumbling block for amateurs in the process of making a movie. Ruskin mentioned the scriptwriting format program, Celtx, however, you still need

the inspiration to create the words that you type into Celtx. Then even when you have the

script, you can have different interpretations of that script. As an example of this, Ruskin

mentioned the world-wide competition run by Sony before the release of the film, Django.

The script of a scene from the film was given to teams around the world to create a video.

The variety of the interpretations of that script were quite amazing, with the Australian team winning the competition.


Ruskin then discussed the activities of his club which consists of 65 members. About 60% of

their output is scripted dramas; 25% are travelogue and 15% are documentaries. Ruskin

believes all these genres should be scripted. A documentary should tell a story so a script is

needed even if the documentary is a “as it happens” documentary.

The Sydney Video Makers have 4 competitions per year for individuals a

The Sydney Video Makers have 4 competitions per year for individuals and teams. There are

4 teams in the club with fixed numbers of about 8 people. The positive aspects of the teams

are the social aspect, the mixture of interests and the pooling of equipment. The negative

aspects are the production standard (technical) does change very much and the roles played

by team members does not change; there is movement inertia.

To tackle the learning side of our hobby, Sydney Video Makers sought professional help from

online sources such Lynda.com. Whilst in the making of dramas and comedies, the teams

sought professional actors from such online sites as Starnow.com.

Ruskin then introduced a concept that few had heard of, the Logline. This is a 26 word max

description of the movie and its key characters. It contains:

The Protagonist,

The Goal,

The Antagonist, and

The Obstacle to be overcome.

We should all think of summarising our own videos with Loglines especially if we put them

up on YouTube or Vimeo sites. It would help our potential audience decide if they want to

view our work.

Throughout his presentation, Ruskin showed short videos made by club members. Often

these movies were short one minute advertisements. Many thanks go to Ruskin for not only

joining the Combined Clubs meeting, but also giving us an insight into the activities of a very

active and professional group of movie makers.


Thankyou Stewart for sharing these observations. Clearly BMM shares some similarities with this club.

Glenn Bruce.

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