Tonje Lilleås

How to tell a story in 15 seconds – #15secondfilmfestival

You might remember that I was one of Canon Nordics creators for #24hoursofnorth this summer. Now Canon Nordic has launched a new campaign; #15secondfilmfestival. The contest is open to all and has great prizes. In this post I therefore give you a few tips on how to tell a story in 15 seconds. I can’t wait to see what all you amazing creators come up with!

For sale: baby shoes, never worn

These six words tells a whole story, and are said to be written by Ernest Hemingway. You might think it’s impossible to tell a story in only 15 seconds, however I think that Hemingways story proves that it’s not about the length.

You can interpret this very short story in many ways. Maybe the baby never was born. Could it be that they passed before ever needing shoes? Or was it that the shoes were pink and it turned out to be a baby boy whose parents didn’t want to wear pink shoes? The family could have been crazy rich and had way too many shoes for the baby? I don’t know. But the magic of these six words is exactly that they are enough to tell all these stories. And that’s the clue when telling a story in your 15 second film as well. You have to share just enough for a story to be told, but you don’t need to tell it all.

Three tips on how you can tell a story in 15 seconds

I’m really excited to see what people come up with for the #15secondfilmfestival. And I’m obviously working on my own contribution, even if I’ve had a bit of difficulty getting started. Even if it’s a super interesting and motivating project, it’s tricky to come up with an idea that works. And so I thought I would share a few tips on how you can tell your story in 15 seconds.

Perfect your message like an elevator pitch

In business they talk a lot about the elevator pitch. And even if you’re not going to sell anything with your story, working on getting the message of your story across as precisely as possible, will help make it easier to know how you can tell the same story effectively through video.

Beginning, middle, end

This applies to all storytelling actually, but even if your story is just 15 seconds long you’ll have to have a beginning, a middle and an end. In short you have to set the mood, present the theme or problem of the story, and wrap it up or leave us with a cliffhanger.

Write a script and a shotlist that follows this recipe and it will be much easier to see what works and what don’t.

Keep it simple

If the shot isn’t necessary to tell the story, cut it. You have to be brutal about killing your darlings. Remember that this isn’t the directors cut, keep it as simple as possible. Make sure whatever shot you decide to keep in the film is helping to tell the story.

And a bonus tip to wrap it all up; make the film you would like to see yourself, don’t think about what you think will give you the most likes. Oh, and please tag me in your video (@tonjelilleaasphotography) so I can see what you came up with! Good luck!



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