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Creating interesting stories: YouTube video analysis

2020 is going to be remembered not only like the COVID year, but also as the year when virtual connections became prevalent. On top of Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls, everybody started to record their lives, publish TikToks, post hundreds of stories on Instagram, and online connection happened like never before. Videos with personal stories are everywhere! Some of them are very good and I can watch them over and over again. In others, I feel something is missing.

Story is king. Everything else is a slave to the story.

Casey Neistat

When I started recording videos for my Instagram stories, I made it as easy as possible. I never followed a script, I simply would wake up at 4:50 am, grab a cup coffee and while still half sleeping, I would start recording the videos, around 5:00 am. After a few weeks of constantly recording my artist diary from Monday to Friday and not missing a single day, I started to see room for improvement. I started to think about how I could tell my stories in a more interesting way. I notice my stories lack structure, my motivations sometimes are not clear and some videos are not dynamic enough. I decided to analyse a documentary that tells a story in a fun and interesting way so I can identify techniques and start using them as well. My goal is to be able to tell better stories on my videos and blog, and also, bring some of these storytelling skills to my illustrations.

What makes a video story interesting?

Today we are going to analyse the documentary “***: Do you need to be one to be a successful leader?”, directed and produced by Max Joseph. Max comes from a background from MTV, his style is young, fresh, full of action and tons of references. He regularly works with YouTube sensation Casey Neistat and he is deeply connected with Hollywood. If you are OK with some bad language, don’t mind one tiny graphic image and a few bits of political bias, go ahead and watch this amazing documentary.

The documentary step by step

Max basically divides the documentary in 3 parts, introduction, development and conclusion. Lets start with the introduction

Introduction

Here Max explain how he discover something new, how he formulated his question, the methods he will use to answer his question and the answer he expects to find. Lets take a look on his timeline and some resources he used on each part:

  • Quote from famous person

    Max starts with with a quote related to the theme he is researching.

    Resources: Fun vintage animation, opening theme music

  • Title

    Loud, proud and shocking

    Resources: use of bad words to shock audience, mix of video and letters coming from behind an object (revealing possible truth), high point of the music, narration reinforces idea

  • Introduction

    Introduces the theme and explain the reality he sees at this moment, before learning. He sees 2 types of mindset:

    • Mindset 1: Friendly behavior
    • Mindset 2: Unfriendly behavior (seems best for a leader)

    Resources: pictures and videos paired with text, fun and dramatic frames, classic music with sound effects

  • Show own experience in the subject

    Establish he comes from Mindset 1. Faced with Mindset 2, start questioning self

    Resources: fast videos in quick cuts vs. slow cut for highlights, sound effects

  • Faces the problem

    Max don’t know enough about leadership and needs to study

    Resources: large text, change of music

  • Explain method to solve problem

    He will interview directors, writers and thinkers who have knowledge on the subject

    Resources: mix images/videos with text. Heroic music

  • Goal

    The question: “What do you need to become a great leader?” – needs an answer in the conclusion of the documentary

    Resources: huge typography, heroic music, sound effects, personal signature shows commitment

Summary of introduction: Start with a quote, shock with a strong title, introduce the subject, speak briefly about you own experience, present the main question (what am I trying to learn here?), show the tools for investigation and set goal of the story.

End of the introduction.

Development

In this part Max shows his learning process and challenges until he reaches the highest conflict and turning point that will lead him to the conclusion. HE uses 4 types of characters:

  • The Hero: Max, the person learning and telling the story
  • Approachable Person: people he interviews who are neutral. Max sees them in different lights as he learns and develops his character
  • The Best Friend/Mentor: a person who Max trust and helps him see the third way
  • God/Villain Mythical Character: someone mysterious, strong and not approachable. Max thinks he is a villain but he might be a God. Max go through internal and external struggles while trying to approach this unreachable but key character

Lets take a look on the timeline during the development:

  • Describe reality

    Max starts demonstrating he is on Mindset 1 and he thinks Mindset 2 might be more effective. He uses interviews with approachable people to investigate this reality.

    Resources: Check interview structure for approachable people after the timeline

  • Find the first challenge

    Introduce God/Villain Mythical character. It seems like this person is a Mindset 2 person but they are not available for interview. This fact creates a challenge to get to the conclusion

    Resources: (Check God/Villain Interview structure after timeline).

  • Explain the theory

    Max talk to writers about famous leaders. Their vision might be good or bad. Seems like theory confirm Mindset 2 is the right for leaders. Use other famous books to collaborate to this hypothesis.

    Resources: stop motion animations with text, pictures or leaders with text , use humor, toys, pop culture refs, sound effects, funny narration.

  • Get glimpses of a resolution

    One person shows him there is a third way but he doesn’t really understand. He sticks with his current view of reality. He is able to schedule his meeting with the God/Villain and do other interviews that starts to open his mind.

    Resources: Check interview structure for approachable people after the timeline

  • First defeat

    As he examine himself, he discovers people who are Mindset 1 cannot change to Mindset 2. He thinks was raised this way and will never change. Try to accepts he will always be Mindset 1 but feels he is a loser

    Resources: funny music, videos from when he was a kid, humor, self degrading talk, use all neutral interviews to reinforce the point

  • Seek comfort – start recover

    He talks with a person who he trusts. He believes his friend is a successful Mindset 1 and feel comforted. However, he discover his friend is not Mindset 1 and get surprised and confused

    Resources: text, brilliant classic music, fable, illustration, fantastic narration, angel sounds, funny sound effects. Also check comfort interview structure after timeline.

  • Change paradigm – goal is visible

    He learn there is actually a Mindset 3 he never thought about it. He now can see this in all the other people he already interviewed.

    Resources: testimonials, sound effects, illustration and a shocking image

  • Major defeat = Knockout

    He prepares to meet the God/Villain character but faces major defeat. The meeting is disappointing and the God/Villain use a tool (book) that hit him in a deadly way. The Mindset 2 looks like the winner. Seems like everything is lost. This is the highest point of conflict

    Resources: dramatic music, race, dramatic pauses, scenes from movies, battle scenes from classic painting

  • Last resource

    Max create a plan to recover and achieve his goal: a Trojan horse.

    Resources: follow the book with the camera like it’s a “bomb” ready to explode, sound effects, suspense/fun music

  • Dramatic pause before conclusion

During the development, the interviews have 3 types of structure, lets look at them:

Approachable people interview
  • glimpse of personality on present moment (person open door, test sound)
  • show who he/she is (use past facts)
  • what does he/she do (show pieces of their work)
  • opinions are edited according to Max understanding of the reality
God/Villain Mythical Person interview
  • no glimpse of personality on present moment (not authorized, this person is not available)
  • show who he/she is (use past facts)
  • what does he/she do (show pieces of their work)
  • not available for interview. All interactions during development points he is Mindset 2 (unfriendly/villain). Create suspense

Comfort/mentor interview
  • no glimpse of personality on present moment (not necessary, this person is a friend)
  • show who he/she is (use past facts)
  • what does he/she does (show pieces of their work)
  • interaction makes Max understand there is a mindset 3

Summary of hero trajectory during development: hero demonstrates there are 2 types of mindset, he is on Mindset 1 and differentiates himself from Mindset 2. He faces the first challenge and get defeated (can’t reach the person he thinks is Mindset 2). Use Theory to investigate, get glimpses of a 3rd mindset. When he discovers he can’t change, he is defeated for the second time. Seek comfort with a friend and discovers there is 3rd Mindset. That’s the happiest moment of the documentary. Just after that, a book make it seems like Mindset 2 is the winner, the hero suffers a major defeat in the most dramatic moment of the video and come up with a plan for recovery.

End of Development

Conclusion of the Documentary

This is the last part of the video and starts with the confront between the hero and the villain/god character. Lets take a look on the timeline:

  • Revelation

    After some anxiety, Max discovers the mythical person is actually a Mindset 3 and there are many ways to achieve that.

    Resources: Suspense music, awkward camera angles, animated illustration, hopeful music after discover, testimonial from other characters to reinforce revelation. Max records the God/Villain from far away every time it seems he is Mindset 2. He approaches the camera when seems he is Mindset 3. Also check Interview structure for God/Villain

  • Answer to the Question opened at Intro

    To be a better leader, a person needs to have a vision and can be true to oneself. All other characters reinforce the answer and make analogies

    Resources: hopeful song, repeat interview with approachable people and videos that reinforce what’s being said

  • Closing

    Refers to the Intro. Mindset 2 is not the way, although some behaviors from mindset 3 looks like that

    Resources: use text for bullet points, new music related to theme, repeat images already used to explain each concept

Summary of the conclusion: Moment of revelation, answer to the question opened at the intro and a bullet point list with the main actions to reach the goal.

End of the documentary.

My own conclusion

I had a great time learning about leadership with Max Joseph and an even better time studying how he tells his story. I love the use of classical music and typography highlights. Following a structure, making your motivations clear and using all resources possible to illustrate your points makes communication easier and more interesting.

What made Max Joseph story interesting was the fact that he followed his own leadership guidelines while creating his video:

  1. Max was authentic in the whole video
  2. His motivations were clear all the time
  3. He used all his resources, including structure, illustrations, videos, music, sound effects, typography, visual effects
  4. He accepted change and he grew throughout the video

I see clearly what I need to change in my videos and illustrations and how much work, planning and edition is done to create a good story. I’m currently reading a few books on this same subject and I’m planning to analyse other documentaries, like the Netflix Abstract Series. Thanks for learning with me and stay in touch!

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