One Sentence to Create a Compelling Narrative, Hollywood-style

Making corporate videos compelling to the viewer is a tricky business, and one we've seen fail spectacularly many times. It's why corporate videos as a category have such a bad name! But here at Lights Camera Business we've got a special trick up our sleeve that pretty much always does the job.

We've utilised our backgrounds in narrative storytelling to inform how we make business videos, by adapting a key Hollywood story sentence borrowed from Australian screenwriting guru Linda Aronson.

The below "fill-in-the-blanks" sentence helps you make anything into a compelling narrative, because it forces you to include characters and conflict, which are the things that humans find most interesting.

 

Why Characters?

Humans are deeply, instinctively interested in other humans. So by adding characters of any kind to your video, you are subconsciously forcing your audience to care more. And if those characters are relatable to the audience, even better. Conversely, if your video has no characters you might struggle to interest the audience.

 

Why Conflict?

Humans pay attention to problems. When there are no problems, our caveman instincts know we are safe and we stop paying attention. Conflict, even fictionalised on a screen, grabs our attention because it creates uncertainty and unpredictability. If you want your audience to pay attention, frame your video as a conflict.

 

This is the sentence:

<Character> wants <goal> but is prevented from doing it by <obstacle>.

 

That's it! That simple formula creates a scenario that is inherently interesting.

Here are a few examples of it in use:

  • Romeo and Juliet want to love each other but are prevented by their family feud.
  • Marlin wants to find his son Nemo but is prevented by the dentist who captures him.
  • Facebook wants billions more users but is prevented from getting them by poor internet access in developing countries.

The character doesn't necessarily have to be a human, it can be a company (although humans relate better to individuals so it's always better to personify a company with relatable individuals anyway).

The goal can be anything at all – as long as the character wants it enough. For the audience to care about a goal they need to see the character wanting it.

The obstacle can be an evil villain or just a situation (such as the weather). Anything will work as long as it's hard to overcome.

 

With those three ingredients your story will pretty much write itself. But if you want more help, here's an expanded version of the sentence:

<Character> wants <goal> because if they don't get it <stakes>, but they are prevented from getting it by <obstacle>, so they struggle <an escalating series of battles, winning some and losing others> until the drama is resolved via <climactic final battle>.

 

See if you can spot how we adapted the Hollywood story sentence for some of our clients' videos, such as Innovative Wealth Management, and Ships, Clocks & Stars for the Australian National Maritime Museum.