Muddling through the blogosphere

The Single Most Important Thing About Telling a Good Story…


The single most important part of telling a good story is asking throughout the entire process: ‘What is the story all about?’”  Bryan Shadden, KVIE

I look forward to our regional (Sacramento)  SEVA Trainings for Teachers series. Saturday’s event was an opportunity to learn about Tips for Building a Documentary, a session lead by KVIE producer Bryan Shadden. Bryan’s handout will walk you and your students through his steps to creating a video narrative (documentary) – starting with Research & Story Focus. I love that the basis of building a documentary mirrors teaching the writing process: “After a producer (writer) has researched the subject matter, she should be able to say exactly what the story will be about in one sentence. The more focused the sentence, the more focused the story.”

I also learned a new term: B-roll, which is “TV jargon for the cover shots you need to correspond with the sound bites from your interviews and the words you write.”  Huge “ah ha” moment for me…From now on, I’ll encourage students to make sure their production team includes a designated B-roll person. From 4th grade – 12th grade, I’ve too often seen student filmmakers scrambling after the fact to come up with cover shots when they realize that the audience will quickly lose interest if too much of the interview is just footage of the interviewee.

And some tips from the audience:

  • fastest way for students to create their storyboards: use online comic book generators such as Comic Life.  Love this idea!
  • great collection of student-made documentaries:, with teen entries such as The Bus Stop (a great team effort!)
  • Center for Sacramento History – a growing bank of photos for classroom use.  I looked at this site several years ago and can see that their vision for becoming a rich archive of oral histories is starting to take shape.
  • PBS Guide to Ken Burn’s The Wara collaboration between the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, Florentine Films and WETA public television station in Washington, DC — contains hands-on production tips and interview techniques from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick as well as information on how to send completed interviews to the Veterans History Project.

And Bryan’s last question to an interviewee: “Is there anything I haven’t asked you that I should have asked?” I’ve used this question before for my Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. This final question can take an interview in a whole new direction!

I don’t know who the speakers for the next SEVA event will be, but without a doubt there will be blog-worthy presenters ready to take teachers to the next level in their filmmaking skills and vision:-)

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Skip to toolbar