Storytelling A Checklist

Here's a list of questions to be asked at each stage of production, and especially as you near the end of the editing process:

• Given a choice between your film and the latest sitcom or indie drama, which would you choose? Are you telling a compelling and dramatic story and giving the viewer a reason to watch?

• Does your film involve the viewer in a story unfolding on screen, rather than talk at them?

• Are there interesting questions being asked and answered throughout, offering mystery, intrigue, suspense?

• Are you offering new information and an unusual perspective, or just rehashing tired, unchallenging material?

• Have you grounded viewers in your story so that they can anticipate where you're going and will be surprised when you take unexpected turns?

• Are you in the driver's seat of your film, steering toward emotional and intellectual highlights? Have you created moments of discovery for the audience, allowing them to reach their own conclusions before having them confirmed or denied?

• If there is backstory in your film, have you gotten a story under way that motivates the audience to want to go there?

• If your subject is complex or technical, have you gotten a story under way that motivates the audience to want to understand it?

• Have you "cast" the film carefully, with a manageable group of characters who fairly represent the complexity of an issue and not just its extremes? Or, if your focus is the extremes, have you made that context clear?

• Do individual characters stand out and play differentiated roles in your overall story and film, or is their presence generic?

• Does the story that was set up at the film's beginning pay off at the end? Can you articulate that story in a sentence or two?

• Does the film seem like "just another documentary" or is it something that people might want to tell each other about the next day?

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