In this episode of YouTube Masters, YouTube duo Colin and Samir talk about the biggest mistake filmmakers make — here’s a hint: it’s before you even start filming.
Here’s Colin + Samir.
Samir: When I first started on YouTube, I didn’t really know how to edit. So, it was just like, open up a laptop, start talking to the webcam, upload directly to YouTube.
Colin: In the beginning, the way that my video-making process worked was that I would just go out and film as much as I possibly could.
Samir: Then, we had all this different footage. And we realized we could edit it together into a compelling story, but it would take hours and hours to rewatch the footage.
Colin: I would sit with all of the footage and write the actual name of the clip on a piece of paper. And then write a few things that happened in that clip. It made no sense and it took forever.
Samir: The biggest mistake that filmmakers make is turning on a camera before writing their story.
Audience of One
Colin: When we start to make a video, the first part of our writing process is to think about our audience — who we are going to be making the video for. We like to actually pick one person specifically and have them in mind as we’re crafting the idea for this video. We call it an audience of one.
Samir: So, when we first started making videos, we tried to think of the largest possible audience. We would always ask ourselves, “How are we going to make a viral video? How are we going to make something that connects with a lot of people?” A lot of times, that would just miss the mark because we were shooting too big and specifying it down to one audience member really helps drive your idea.
Think about who that person is. What their likes are, what their dislikes are, where else they hang out on the internet. Then try and intimately understand why that person would like the video that you’re making.
Colin: Once that one person watches the video and decides that he or she needs to share it with someone else, it’s our job as filmmakers to make it as easy to share as possible. We like to imagine the conversation that one person would have with one of their friends. How would this original audience member of one communicate your video to the next person in the easiest way possible?
If it’s difficult to explain your video, it’s going to make it more difficult for that video to get shared down the line to a lot of people. This brings us to a section of our process that we call headlines.
Finding the Right Headlines
Samir: Basically, [Headlines are] our way of thinking about packaging this idea, making sure that it’s easy for people to talk about, and easy for people to share.
Colin: So now, what we want you to imagine is how can we make it as easy as possible for this person to explain what your video was about?
Samir: We actually think through our idea, and then think through the conversation that’s going to be had between audience members when they share the video. So as an example, Colin really likes pretzels.
Colin: Love pretzels.
Samir: Imagine if we came up with a video that was for avid snackers. Our audience of one is an avid snacker, like Colin.
Colin: Big time snacker.
Samir: Then, the video is I get him a lifetime supply of pretzels.
Colin: That would be amazing!
Samir: The way that you could describe that someone is basically, “Hey! Did you see that video where this guy got his best friend a lifetime supply of pretzels?” It’s a clear, concise one-liner. You can imagine that as a title and a thumbnail and it makes it really easy for that to spread across the internet.
The most valuable part of going through this exercise is that you’re going to end up with your YouTube title, and potentially your thumbnail, because you’ve already come up with a very condensed way to explain this video.
Colin: When you’re brainstorming, you literally can write down on paper, “did you see that video about…?” Then just finish that sentence. Try to finish it in the most compelling and concise way you can.
Writing the Story
Samir: Now that you have a pretty good understanding of who your audience is, what your video idea is, and probably what your title and thumbnail is for your video, this leads us to the next point, which is the most important part: writing the actual story out. We do this in a three-act structure.
Colin: Act one is the setup, act two is the conflict, and act three is your resolution. The goal is that as time goes on, the stakes rise. This way it keeps your viewers watching all the way until the very end.
Samir: You want to make sure that you’re actually holding on and there’s a question the whole time; Are they going to get there?
Colin: How is he going to get the lifetime supply of pretzels?
Colin: And then, how is he going to surprise him at the end?
Samir: Right. Basically, this is where you decide if your good idea is a good story. Does it fit into the structure? Do stakes rise as time goes on? That’s where we decide, are we actually picking up a camera and filming this video?
Once you’ve done all this leg work and you get to this point, you actually have a really good framework for when you get to the edit. You know what your act one is, what your act two is and what your act three is. That’s how we’ve grown from just turning on a webcam, and filming ourselves to making videos that we’re really proud of and that other people share.
Save Room for Post
Colin: Filmmaking is a lengthy process and one of the toughest parts of that process is post-production. To make sure you have the energy to actually get through the post production, you want to invest time in the beginning to make sure that you have energy after you shoot to actually finish the video and get what you want out of this super long process.
Samir: Now one of the main things to remember is that you are your number one audience. Make sure that when you write down your story, when you write down your video plan, you love it and you’re willing to invest the time into crafting that story into a video.
Thanks for reading this episode of YouTube Masters—for more from us, head to our YouTube Channel, Colin and Samir.
To catch up on more YouTube Masters episodes, make sure that you subscribe to our YouTube channel. Check out the previous episode with content creator, Satchell Drakes where he covers how to make meaningful content for your audience.