Filmmaking For All: Tell Your Story Through Video | Dan Mace | Skillshare

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Filmmaking For All: Tell Your Story Through Video

teacher avatar Dan Mace, Peak Your Perspective

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The Class Project


    • 3.

      The 7 Story Archetypes


    • 4.

      Who Cares?


    • 5.

      Crafting Your Story


    • 6.

      Translating Your Story to Video


    • 7.

      Gearing Up


    • 8.



    • 9.



    • 10.



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About This Class

If you want to know how to tell an effective, compelling story through video this class is for you.

Going further (...if that does sound like you) you’re likely an avid video consumer - online videos, features, tv shows, shorts - and nothing is more exciting to you than a well executed story. Us humans have told and valued good stories since the beginning of time and since the birth of video, it has been one of the most impactful ways to tell one. 

This class shows you how to do just that. 

Key lessons include: 

  • Knowing your audience 
  • The 7 types of stories we tell
  • Finding YOUR story 
  • Crafting your story - Research & Writing!
  • Translating your story to video 
  • Building your War Chest - Picking the Right Video Mediums 
  • The Gear you Need - from your smartphone to more
  • How to arrange & edit a gripping story - what goes where!

Their are two reference videos to watch before taking this class! Here they are: 

1. Getting to 368:

2. How i Escaped an Indonesian Prison:

Your Teacher: Dan Mace is a young, multi faceted, multi award winning film director. His journey kicked off in advertising where he directed a line of well acclaimed commercials and shorts. Leaving advertising in 2016 and moving into the online space, he experienced a meteoric ascent on Youtube to 700k+ subscribers over a period of 2 years. Dan’s work now lives primarily online. He is known for his incredibly high quality films and unique, impactful techniques when it comes to the art of storytelling. 

This class is perfect for aspiring filmmakers, directors, editors, cinematographers or anyone who is keen to take their video based storytelling to the next level. Even if you’re a beginner with no videos to speak of yet - if you want to start off on super strong footing - this class is for you too.

You’ll walk away from this class with a clear vision for your own videos using the method I've developed over the last decade of practice to great success. 

All you need for this class (besides a good story) is a basic understanding of camera gear and editing software like Premiere Pro.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Dan Mace

Peak Your Perspective


Dan Mace is a young film director born in Cape Town, South Africa and based in the United States. Dan reached meteoric success as a commercials director, winning three young directors awards at Cannes and being rated one of the top 6 young film directors in the world by Shots magazine. He then went on to work on project 368 with Casey Neistat and now makes videos on his own Youtube channel with plans to move into long form content, soon! 



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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Humans have told an highly valued great stories since the beginning of time. Since the start of video, it's consistently been considered the most impactful way to tell one. My name is Dan Mace and I'm a phone director and YouTuber, currently living in Los Angeles and I'm going to teach you how to tell an effective and compelling story through video. Videos have always been my way to communicate my personal experience and my perspective on the world around. In the decade or so that I've been doing this professionally, I've directed short TV Ads, documentaries and music videos, winning multiple awards at festivals like Cannes, as well as being rated as one of the top 6 young phone directors in the world by Shots Magazine. Well, every great pieces, usually the combination of many different well executed elements. The story is where it starts. If it's a great story and you tell it right, your bounds of gravitation. My advice to anyone is, the story is where you start to, when you finished all the lessons that class project is to create a three to eight minute video telling your chosen story using the methodology I detail in this class. The key learnings in this class to take away are the seven types of stories we tell. How to find your story, each time. How to craft your story for video, and how to arrange a narrative story based edit to make it interesting and only reveal the answer in the right way and in the right place. All you need for this class besides a good story is a basic understanding of camera gear. You can make use of your phone too, and a basic understanding of editing software like Premiere Pro. I look forward to seeing you in the next class. 2. The Class Project: The project to complete in this class is to create a 3-8 minute video telling your chosen story, using the methodology I detail in these lessons. The story can be about you, something personal to you, maybe you like me and you really love your sausage dog, see it's on my hat, or it could be about something in your neighborhood, but what's highly important is that it's close to home. Either way close to home is essential, you are the storyteller, you are the narrator. When you are done, you'll upload it to the Skillshare project workspace as well as YouTube with the #HOWTOTELLYOURSTORY, #SKILLSHARE." I'm going to tell you why I'm so excited about this project and why this project is so important. Storytelling to me was my way in which I could express the way I see the world, it was the first introduction that I had to really being able to communicate an idea and narrative by creating something that's all encompassing. It's so beautiful how you're able to really move an emotion through utilizing sound effects, dialogue, and music coupled with arithmetic edit, I personally struggle to communicate my story in any other format other than videos, that's my reason for truly falling in love with this format. Stories truly have the ability to be able to affect mass change, to change the way that people see the world and understand a simple idea. Time and time again, we've seen or felt the way movies make us feel, now think about something in your environment, in your neighborhood, or something personal to you, choosing to tell a story about you or your neighborhood is a great constraint as it forces you to work with something you're familiar with. Lastly, your video will be light on time and less expensive. Three quick tips is to not overthink it, makes sure that you tell one story, not two stories, focus on the simplicity, and three, things that aren't related to this video, leave it out, use it in the next video. Before moving on, make sure to check out two videos in the resources folder of this project. The first one is called GETTING TO 368, which is my story of my transition from being a film director, moving to New York and starting to work with Casey, nice data 368 and then becoming a YouTuber. The second story is called Escaping an Indonesian prison, which is a true story I tell about the time I escaped jail in Indonesia. Watch these videos for reference before launching into the next lesson. Cut it. 3. The 7 Story Archetypes : Let's talk about where stories come from and how to find them. The cool thing about stories is that they all begin with your perspective. We've seen the same story told time and time again, romance, tragedy, drama, horror that are all similar at the base but what differentiates them is the storyteller behind them and in the traditional film making sphere, you've got a director and a script writer and in this case, it's you. Now I want you to take the time to think, pen and hand, stay off the Internet obviously other than on the Skillshare site but stay away from any other influence. Just get a book, your pen and write down a bunch of topics that come to your mind when you think of the term, story. Pause this video until you do that. It doesn't matter how long this takes. I'll be here when you get back [inaudible]. I wish it could have been a fly on the wall seeing all your great ideas. I'm really excited to move on. Now that you've got a few roundabout ideas, I'm going to tell you what every great story involves. Firstly is a simple three act structure known as an arc, the beginning, middle and an end. This sounds highly simple but it's actually the most complicated part, sticking to the simplicity of the narrative. Now this next part should help you narrow down on your idea. There are seven different human archetypal plots that make up 99 percent of all stories told ever. One, overcoming the monster. Two, rags to riches. Three, the quest. Four, voyage and return. Five, comedy. Six, tragedy and seven, rebirth. Now, ask yourself, which one does your story fall into? Just some examples off the top my head, if you look at fighting the monster, this could be overcoming the fear of public speaking for the first time. It could be paying off a debt. It could be achieving great mocks in an exam that you were really scared to write or beating and illness and if you look at comedy, you could tell the story about the one time that you've got locked outside your house and then ended up having to sleep on the street, with that. That might also be a thriller, depends, it's through your eyes or something more inspirational. Rebirth, a time you fell down and you build yourself up and here you are, strong as ever. Cool. Before moving on, make sure you write down your idea, then draft a basic beginning, middle and end and lastly, identify which of the seven human archetypal plots your story fits into. 4. Who Cares?: Who cares about your idea? Who cares about your story? We're going to answer the why. Why should people care about what you have to say? From one viewer to 10 million, it is highly important to know who you're making your videos for. I'm just going to give you a quick demonstration with the two reference films that you've already watched. If you start out with getting to 368, what I used here was three simple parts. I want it to be current, relatable and engaging. What was important for me there was that I had just started working with Casey, and I said he's a super big YouTuber. I was on his daily vlog which created a lot of relevance around the Don May story at the time. The best story to tell was my story, my journey, how I got there. What I did there is I went through the comments section of a lot of the 368 vlogs, and found all the questions that were post to me, about me, and I made sure that I intertwined a lot of those ounces within the script so that I kept it engaging, I kept at current and most importantly, kept the story's simple, gave the audience what they wanted. I answered the questions that the audience were directly asking. Secondly, which is a bit of a different story because I told it 10 years later after it had happened. The story about me escaping from jail in Indonesia. What was very important here was not to step on any toes, to not be one-sided or bias about my opinion of what happened. But rather deliver the story and let the audience come to their own conclusion. Interpret which side of the binary code, wrong versus right, they see themselves on. I had to know my place when telling this film. I am not Indonesian. I do not 100 percent understand the culture. I could just tell the story from what happened through my eyes. This is a big tip to hold on to moving forwards. Know your place. Nobody expects you as a filmmaker to know absolutely everything. Just tell the story that you know. That's why I didn't create any conclusion like Indonesia is this or is that. I could only comment on my experience that happened there. In this day and age, a great resource we have is fellow creatives. They're everywhere. Watch the ones that are very successfully telling the kinds of stories that you want to tell. I always say this. It's the doers, the guys that are out there in the ring that are the people that you want to follow. How did they phrase thing? When did they make use of a disclaimer? What parts of the story are left for audience interpretation? Then you can move into finer detail like how they utilize music and sound to alter an emotion. But we'll get into that later. Remember the big why. Who you making this video for? What are they looking for? What are they interested in? Remember to know your place as a filmmaker within the story. Never step on the wrong toes. Lastly, look for other examples of how similar stories are told. 5. Crafting Your Story : Let's jump into crafting your story. Context, not too little, not too much, it's important to give the viewer the full picture. Context is essentially setting the stage for your story. It's setting the viewer up, describing to them why this is important, why this is a unique incident, and how something like this could possibly happen. In the Getting To 368 story, I had to describe what filmmaking meant to me, how important it truly was for me, because it set up the ark with filmmaking essentially helped me transcend through the burdens of my conscious mind and get into a really great space when I moved to New York. In the Getting To 368 video, I had to explain my personal love and rise, which is where I came from to contextualize where I was going. In the case of Indonesia, I had to research and communicate the vast dangers of traveling through the remote parts of Indonesia without a guide. To conclude that, do your research, build your context to give the audience the stage. When it comes to writing your story and a simple three-act structure, this is how it goes. Act 1, the setup, the exposition, and inciting the incident. Act 2, confrontation, the rising action, the midpoint. Act 3, which is the resolution, the preclimax and then the climax. In the most simple example of the three extracts I really like this one because it's very visual. Act 1, a man at the bottom of a mountain with the vision to climb to the top. Act 2, would be the climb overcoming the struggle. Act 3, would be either he made it to the top or rolled down the mountain or met the girl of his dreams at the top of the mountain. There you have it before moving on, just make sure that you have your three acts written down exactly what happens in the beginning, the middle, and the end. It's that simple. 6. Translating Your Story to Video: Welcome to pre-production. This is where you take what you've ideated and start developing a road map to navigate your way through the production process. Use this time wisely. I know how exciting it would be to have an idea and just want to run out and shoot it, but this process is highly important. Start off with choosing your mediums for communication. For example, I make use of B-roll with voice-over, as well as stop motion animation and then vlog style, talking to the camera shots for the organic and authentic feel. Make sure that you do not over-complicate your mediums. They should be used solely as a vehicle to drive your narrative forward. If it looks flashy and great, but doesn't serve a purpose to the story, you're going to have to cut it out. The way I go about this is recording my voice over, just reading through the script, putting on headphones, closing my eyes, and trying to visualize which medium should fit with. This is a really hopeful tip I learned from a fellow director a few years ago and it's really helping me during this pre-production phase. Once you've done that, we move over to the shot list. What's important to note here is to be realistic with your expectations. Things like location, style of shot, and your time schedule, very important. Big cameras setups are expensive and take a lot of time, so you want to make sure that you're as light and as nimble as possible. This is what you really need to think outside the box. Once you've got your shot list, it's time to move on to the location scouting. Now, even if you've been to this location 100 times before, even if the it's your bedroom and you know it like the back of your hand, it's very important to return to this location again, with a shot list in mind. Look for things like a sun trail, where the sun rises and where it sets. Also start to listen for noise, think about what time of the day you're going to be shooting, and make sure that you go and scout this location at that exact time. For the most part, try and ask for permission. Even though greatest style shooting can be fun, you can end up in a very sticky situation which will pull back on your shooting time, essentially making the shoot a lot more stressful. To conclude, develop your road map to encourage a seamless shoot. That's knowing the mediums you're going to use up-front, building a realistic shot list and preparing your locations property. I know that in theory, pre-production can seem boring, but don't undermine its importance. Planning is everything. 7. Gearing Up: This is the second part of pre-production. That's right, there is more. Traditionally, this would be known as a gear check or technical reiki. Simply it's selecting the gear you're going to use in your shoot and doing a full run-through to make sure that everything works. Double-check your batteries that they are all charged, that your cards are formatted, that you have the right gear for what you're planning to do. You're smartphone is also considered as a more than good enough camera. The only thing to be worried about here is the sound. So, I urge you, if you are going to be using your smartphone to do some additional research to find out how to optimize the internal microphone of a smartphone or additional plug-ins of pieces of gears to make sure that you're all good.This of course, is only if you're script contains camera sound that you need to capture. My set up, although in more than a smartphone is generally pretty simple. It contains a simple tripod, a DSLR camera, three lenses, one wide, medium and long and a shotgun microphone, along with three additional batteries, a charger, and two 128 gig memory cards all pack neatly in a small camera bag. To conclude, story always comes first. You do not need great gear in order to drive that story forwards. Being restricted to a piece of gear like a smartphone encourages you to be more creative with your shot angles and storytelling. So, don't wait for a better gear to start. 8. Production: This is the most exciting part, the production phase. It's where you take what you've ideated and turn it into actual situations that you capture on your camera. It's really where you start to feel your idea coming to life. There is no rush, quite like finally getting that shot that you've been obsessing over and dreaming about during the preproduction phase. In this section, I'm going to offer tips on what to focus on and what not to do. Because the production phase is based on your shortlist, on what you planned during the preproduction phase, and this is unique to each and every different filmmaker. What I do at all times is just have the scripts log line, which is the basic outline of the script in one line, written somewhere where it's accessible, usually on the top of the short list. This is for when I ran into problems, which is all the time, I always returned to the log line to make sure whatever I'm doing serves the story best. If you're confused as to what a log line is, here is an example from the matrix. A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers. Short, simple, to the point and the very basis of the story. Look, there are going to be problems. If you're shot, your location, they are caused driving past the cost. You want your mom to ran down the stays to do something it's just not working. You are getting so frustrated. Do not get stuck on this. Do not say, this is the end. I know for myself as an artist, I really like to get fixated on one thing, but this is very important to note that you must move on, take a deep breath, return to your log line, then make a plan if you feel the story needs it, and then move on. Do not get to location sickness. Location sickness is when something new, unexpected arrives on set or in your eyesight, and you as a filmmaker go, "Wow, that's awesome. I'm going to suddenly include this into my script." You make an impulsive decision to suddenly change things around, trust me, this will not work, and when you're editing later, you're going to be so oblique that you made this decision to not return to your log line and realized that this did not serve the purpose. Funny enough, this happens a lot more than not. Then do not doubt your initial idea. My ideas are always very ambitious. When I ask people and they say, "I don't know if you're going to be able to pull that off." I always make sure I try before I give up. Always try. Lastly is continuity. On a small-scale production like you're doing here, you're going to have to do this yourself, which is tough, but it's very frustrating when you're sitting with an edit and your shots do not match. This means making sure that the locations match from when you call cut, to when you roll on your next shot, makes sure that there is no shadow creep. That there's no new additional plastic bags that might've blown their way into your shot. Makes sure that your character's actions match each time. I know with cutting character movement, but I'm speaking to the camera, if I'm fumbling over a word, I can pause here, quickly look at my script, return back, and then continue and that'll cut seamlessly, and so on. Remember that the audience is highly sensitive to visual cues. Therefore, remain vigilant when it comes to continuity, because everything means something. To conclude, keep your log line accessible at all times, believe in your idea, do not get stuck on what doesn't work, and be vigilant when it comes to continuity. 9. Editing: The most frustrating and time consuming part of any production, post-production. This is your edit and the subject matter of this lesson. Edit can either make or break your video and you most likely going to have to troubleshoot as a lot of your footage isn't going to turn out the way that you might have wished. Sometimes this can actually work in your favor and you'll only really know when you're in the process, and if cleverly edited, you can actually end up with a product that is better than you envisioned in the first place. YouTube and Short-Forms are similar except for one part, which is the hook. I also call this a sizzle clip. This is the moment that's really going to hook the audience into watching more. It's called the pre-climax, without giving away too much, you want to really invite them into the action or the moment that is the most suspenseful within your narrative. You will place this right up front in your edit, but you'll only do this right at the end once you've watched the whole form through, and you can select that moment within the form to make sure that that is actually the most impactful hook to put right up front. So the sizzle clip is placed right up front before the beginning of your story. Everybody uses a different style of editing, but I'm going to take you through my process. I begin with the dialogue, the basic story, anything by voice. So talking heads, voice over, conversations, and I lay that out in chronological order from beginning, middle, and end, the hallway rides up to the conclusion of the form. I do this first so that I can sit and listen to it and makes sure that the story makes sense, that the dialogue follows a singular congruent narrative. I then go straight into the music selection. Now with music, makes sure that the music and the narrative work hand in hand. What's important is to not overcompensate with your music because you really want it all to drive towards the climax, the moment you want to utilize the music to nearly give the audience what they want. You keep pulling back, keep pulling back, it follows the arc and a boom, with the climax, you really drive out all of that beautiful music and rhythm within your edit. It really helps give those goosebumps or the suspense or the release, whatever you want to bring forwards in your climax. An important note here is to use your music to match your arc, beginning, middle, and end. What mood and tone you want at each stage, and what journey you want to take the audience through. It's important to also stick to a very similar genre. Don't chop and change through different beats per minute. So I'm talking, mixing between techno and hip hop, this generally doesn't work. After I've laid down the music, I select folders based on which shots go with it. Then I work the clips systematically from beginning to end. Now, what happens most of the time is you do not have enough footage to fulfill your entire video, which means there are a bunch of different options here, worse comes to worse is to go and re-shoot. So we really want to try and stay clear of that. So what I generally do is lengthen the mediums that I can't control, like the stop motion animation or making use of stock libraries where there are loads of really great ones out there. Once this is all edited, makes sure that your sound is all audible, export it, and send it to a trusted moderator. My first one was my mom. Then take this feedback, critique and place it next to your log-line and make the decision on what you need to change. Once this is done, you can do some simple color grading inside of Premiere Pro and then you're ready to export. So to conclude, lay down all dialogue. This is your narrative. You're congruent story. Then add the music along your planned arc, then lay down your visuals section by section. Then choose your sizzle clip on places right up front. It shouldn't be longer than 15 to 20 seconds. Lastly, get feedback always, and then go for it. 10. Conclusion: Let's do it. That's it. Congratulations on making it the whole way through this class. I hope that was insightful. Humans are storytellers. If you have stories you want to tell, this is how to tell them through video with maximum impact. We covered everything from finding your story, to tips around shooting it, to my editing process that prioritizes the story as the very core of each project. If there's one thing to take away from the class, it's this, believe in your original story, the idea that you sat down, and you wrote right at the beginning. It is so important to hold on to this the whole way through every process of production. Even in a small-scale production like you're doing now, you're going to have multiple different influences the whole way that you go through, and you might end up with something that is far away from what you intended it to be because you just didn't believe in the core of your story in the first place. Therefore, I'm telling you to believe. Therefore, stick to your story, and makes sure that every single thing you do along the process serves the story best. I can't wait to see your projects. Once you have your three to eight minute video waxed, upload it to the projects and resources tab on the course page as well as YouTube so that I can take a look. The best one wins one year free of Skillshare premium as well as a 30-minute one-on-one feedback session with myself. Don't forget the hashtags: HOWTOTELLASTORY, SKILLSHARE. Thanks again for watching. This was my second class. I thoroughly enjoy making these. I hope you enjoyed this class. See you next time.