Why Story, Why Documentary?
Storytelling is a fundamental human thing. It’s been around since the dawn of language, and it’s not hard to see why it’s important. In a very real sense, if I tell you about that time I got mugged, you’re going to think twice about walking through that same spot alone at night. Stories are instructional by nature. They have valuable lessons in them, so it makes sense that we’re literally wired to relish a good story.
Enter creativity. Now, we’re using imagination to fabricate a story that is built around the teaching of some or other lesson. Timeless fables are great examples of this.
This same basic principle applies to stories in every form; every novel or biography, every article, every film, no matter how simple or complex. The good ones will leave you with something that helps shape the way you see the world.
This story, the one you’re reading now, is about the stories of other people, and the very material value of capturing these in the medium of video.
Storytelling in the documentary format
Documentary as a style occupies its own spot on the visual storytelling gamut. You’re collating existing stories into a grander, meaningful narrative.
Let’s talk about what happens when you put someone in front of a camera. Sure, for the first five or ten minutes there may be some jitters, it’s par for the course. What happens next, though, is magic. Your subject opens up. It’s a tingles-inducing moment.
There are a few things at play here. Probably most importantly, we’re simply giving them the stage. This is something that a lot of people don’t experience very often in day to day life. Everybody has stories to tell, it’s just that often, they don’t get the chance. When they do, they can become quite passionate.
Barend, speaking from a rooibos collective in a warehouse deep in the Cederberg, had powerful things to say about the heritage of the tiny town of Wuppertal. He captured the feeling of the place in a few words when he said that this was a place where you could “touch the silence”. If you fancy a gander at some of that interview, watch Chasing Lines, a short doccie we produced for WESGRO.
For the viewer, watching somebody speak from the heart about any topic is something, again, we are hardwired to connect with.
We can see how this becomes quite attractive from a marketing perspective. If a brand wants to humanise itself (and it does), this is the way to do it.
With documentary, we can pull on the threads that take us in the direction we want to go, often discovering other valuable avenues in the process. That’s the beauty of the medium, the stories are authentic by definition, we merely guide them in a direction that is useful.
Let’s recap for a second:
Strengths of documentary interviews
- Unscripted content makes it inherently authentic
- Humanise the topic or message
- Opportunity for relevant unexpected information to come up organically
- Presents real people for the viewer to connect with
- Gives the subject space to open up, share their story, which can have often surprisingly moving results
The value of trust in video marketing
Let’s start with a caveat: No story is completely trustworthy. Even when care is made to remain objective, biases are bound to come through. That can’t be completely avoided.
Still, when it comes to video marketing, documentary is without doubt the most trustworthy tool we have in our kit, and any brand not making use of it is missing a trick.
We mentioned authenticity – it goes a little deeper than that.
Documentary can’t actually function without some element of truth. While we as creators have a lot of power to influence the direction of the message throughout the process, fundamentally it falls apart unless your subjects truly believe in what they are talking about.
This is something viewers intuitively understand, and it represents an opportunity for any brand with a meaningful value proposition.
You’ve probably seen those terrible testimonials where people have clearly been paid to appear on screen and tout the miraculous benefits of some or other product they may never have heard of. They just don’t work because we don’t believe them.
Now that you’ve inwardly vomited reflecting on that, have a look at this by comparison:
Which brand would you trust more?