5 Ways to Find the Heart of the Story

Example Video: “Safety First”: This film shows the hospital chain Catholic Health Initiative’s (CHI) new take on a safety film. It is a good example of showing interviews that get right down to the heart of the story.


The first thing we do when we’re working with a client is to really LISTEN to the client to try and hear their story. This can sometimes take awhile, and can often result in us presenting back to the client a very different tack for telling their story than they might have considered. It’s amazing how often we are poor at listening to ourselves.

Here’s 5 tips we’ve found about how to help a client best get to the true heart of their story. The true heart being that which best connects with their passions and reason for being, and that which, by natural extension, will connect best with their audience. Once we’ve found this, we have a great bedrock upon which to build their film.

1) Can’t Shut Up It
When the client can’t stop talking about a certain subject of their story. Maybe they feel more comfortable here. Maybe they just love this part of their story. Either way, chances are this is either the heart of their story, or a darn good indicator towards it.

2) Something They Think is Stupid, or Silly
As an alternative to 1, sometimes the very heart is something that a client will feel is something silly, or stupid about them. This is often prefaced by, “This probably won’t mean anything to you”, or “Something stupid that we notice again and again, that probably doesn’t mean a thing, but we find funny…” These are great indicators. Remember that the heart is often a vulnerable place, not everyone is comfortable with it right away.

3) Something They Get Misty Eyed About
Again, this can go with 2, if the client is comfortable tearing up. But, the fact of the matter is – people who are passionate about their business will cry about it. Even if it is just about mayonnaise, or a butt-pillow. There’s a lot of love, time and passion that goes into this. When they hit on it, and think on that, and what got them into this all in the first place – you’ve hit gold. NOTE – this doesn’t mean you have to have them cry in the film! (Although, for most, we love that.)

4) Something That Everyone in the Company Agrees On
This one’s a no brainer. If you keep hearing the same thing from people in pre-pro interviews from the president down to the janitor (more of these should be interviewed!) then you know you’ve got something. If everyone actually says – “our company is all about our people” – then you’d best not ignore that.

5) Something That Amazes Them
9 times out of 10, this is best for product films. Think about an Apple product, sometimes in those films I feel like Jonathon Ives himself cannot believe what they’ve created. Same with Jobs. If someone has this passion – you want to get that out there – people will connect.

Go forth. Find these connections. Any others you can think of?


Author: Max Kaiser

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