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5 Keys to Shooting Better Videos and Short Films

I was shooting videos and short films back in the days of half-inch black and white, reel to reel recording. Since that time I’ve written, directed, and produced at least a thousand for a long list of projects and clients. During that time I’ve learned a few things about producing videos that connect with audiences and inspire them to action. Here’s five key secrets:

1. A great short film is about emotion, not facts. If you want to share facts then print a brochure or give the audience a handout. Video is about emotion. It’s about telling a compelling story, and you don’t do that with facts or figures. Always think about the emotional angle if you want people to respond.

2. Become a great interviewer. Most of your video presentations will involve interviews, so learn how to put people at ease, make them comfortable, and get honest, authentic answers. Make sure your crew isn’t distracting. Particularly if the interview is about a sensitive subject, make the location a safe place in order to win the person’s trust.

3. Watch other short films and videos. Here’s a few we’ve done recently at Cooke Pictures for various clients. Watch other good ones on Vimeo and YouTube. Learn what current styles look like. Stay with the times. Stay up on shooting and editing techniques. Nothing is worse than a video or short film that looks like it was shot 10 years ago.

4. Learn to write. Writing is where it all starts, and yet most filmmakers dismiss it as a skill they’ll never need. Even if the video is improvised, you need to make good notes, and get your ideas down on paper. The old theater saying, “If it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage” is true. Even if you never plan to be a professional writer, learn to recognize good writing. It will have a huge impact on your ability to tell a story.

5. Learn to sell yourself. There are enormous numbers of talented filmmakers out there who aren’t working because they don’t know how to sell themselves. You need to inspire confidence in potential clients or investors, so start practicing how to pitch your ideas well. This blog post on how to pitch your ideas is a good place to start.

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Phil Cooke is the founder and CEO of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles (CookeMediaGroup.com) where his team helps church, ministry, and nonprofit organizations engage the culture more effectively through media. He's a filmmaker, media consultant, and author of "Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media."