Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Great online video: Wait for Me & Goodnight Moon

Posted in Online Video by Adam Westbrook on May 5, 2011

Not one, but two more superb examples of online video storytelling were added to the video.fu library this week, both stories of families coping with loss.

Both demonstrate  a great sense of visual storytelling – as well as a too-often overlooked rule: a familiarity/relationship with the people you’re interviewing. There are more than 20 other great films in the video.fu library at the moment – you can subscribe here.

Wait For Me/Red Light Films

The first I actually saw about two years ago, but it took me a while to track down. Wait For Me is about a mother’s long vigil for her son who disappeared while backpacking in India nearly 30 years ago.

Very intimate and well produced, but also full of little tips and tricks other visual storytellers can apply. It opens with a sequence of shots showing a box being opened. This immediately piques our interest: ‘what’s in the box?’ and it’s a similar device to showing your main character heading somewhere – we know there is something about to be revealed and it engages us.

Next we hear our character read from an old letter, a lovely device, which explains the story without having to literally describe it. The fact she cannot finish the letter shows us too how emotionally raw her loss is.  Well treated archive footage forms the bulk of the visuals, which serve to show us more about who the missing son is; the faded 8mm stock a subconscious hint to fading memories.

Finally, rather than using more full-screen images of the son, the director films a small passport photograph in the mother’s hand. A clever device to place the photograph in the real world.

Goodnight Moon/Margaret Cheatham Williams

And secondly, on a similar theme, is Margaret Cheatham Williams’ intimate portrait of her own family as they lose her grandmother to Parkinson’s disease.

The personal nature of this film must have made it hard to make: the two main subjects are her own family. Margaret deftly mixes video with stills, and in particular brings in some nice ‘actually’ at two points to break up the interviews.

In particular there are nice references to visual symmetry, with shots of her grandparents together in bed, repeated later with their daughter Katie. I also love the tight framing on interviews and a confident use of lighting too, which tells its own story.Again faded 8mm home movie footage takes us back to happier times, with the memory too starting to fade.

The video.fu library is constantly growing, curating some of the most exceptional online video storytelling. There are more than 20 films there right now – make sure you subscribe to see them before they hit the blog!