Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Digital Storytelling: Get It Write! by Joe Brennan

These are my notes from Joe Brennan‘s presentation “Digital Storytelling: Get It Write!” at the ICE 2013 conference near Chicago, Illinois. MY THOUGHTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Joe’s resources are on

Video Tips by Joe Brennan

PDF of slides from a past preso by Joe on this

American Film Institute Handbook is 88 pages long
(PDF) handouts
– proper way to format a Hollywood script
– shorter abridged version with shot angles

2 big things
– typing making videos to the writing process
– shot angles are adjectives and adverbs
– in my rubric I say: no talking heads (you get graded down if you don’t change the camera angle)

I use Jason Ohler’s book in my graduate class

What’s your angle
– long shot establishes context
– high angle looks down
– low angle looks up

We have kids read Seuss, Silverstein, Hemingway with the idea we want them to become good writers like them
– watch TV with the same idea in mind

Citibank Rock Climbing Commercial


Anthropomorphization or personification
– change ANY object into a character

Allstate’s Mayhem GPS commercial

Student example: About “impulse” definition in physics, student taking several roles in his own film

Idea: Campaign ad for George Washington

Example video of student breaking a board
– low angle establishes him as strong
– high angle shows character as weak


use rule of thirds grids as a gun sight
– don’t put main subject in the center

Showing LOTR – ROTK trailer overlaid with rule of thirds grid – very effective!

When doing interviews, put person on left and right
– then tighter shots with the person who is being interviewed
– watch Leno or Letterman and how they change the shots

showing example of shoes walking
– who
– where
– what’s going to happen
– 10 seconds, what is going to happen?
– man and a woman, in a hotel (lots of doors)
– your brain knew this immediately
– what goes into our eyes goes right into our brains far fast

reading and writing with new technology, old technology is acting things out around a campfire, putting on an animal skin
– that is the brain that evolved, why we have so much trouble with kids learning to read

movie was “Catch Me If You Can”

Once you have people’s attention you can have their eyeballs and their brains in a vise

Look at “To Kill a Mockingbird” the book and the DVD
– what is the unit of information?
– book: the sentence
– movie: the shot

Put sentences together: paragraph
Put shots together: scene

So the sequence is:

BOOKS: sentence / paragraph / chapter / novel

MOVIES: shot / scene / sequence / movie

go 3 min tops with kids, the shorter the better

If you don’t watch EVERY film your kids create together, you’ve wasted everyone’s time

“The Quickest Way to Rent” from National Car Rental

visual grammar
– intro, body, conclusion

“The Quickest Internship” from National

establishing shot: topic sentence

1-2-3 shots

zoomed, not zooming
– dolly shot, camera goes to the action (office chair, skateboard shots, baby stroller)
– skateboard shots

keep changing the angle, keeping people’s brains involved

cut to action
– shot of hand turning a door handle
– close up of handle

key: split things up!

how did you get your shoes to stay on?
– I tied them
– but what were the steps?
– break it down into the steps public service announcements

– 15 shots in 30 seconds
– that’s a lot of work
– shoot all the lines from 1 perspective
– then the other
– slice and dice on the computer

Storyboards are great


“Enough Storyboarding. Let’s shoot something” from

The video does NOT get made with the editing program on the computer
– look in Monster’s Inc extra features DVD section: you can see the storyboard
– kids have to communicate their vision for

You can’t get in as tight with the Ken Burns effect using iMovie, PhotoStory3 is actually better for that

Turn your kids loose and let their imaginations run wild
– teach them those shot angles and it will really improve their videos!

Closing video example: Martin Scorsese American Express

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