Whether it be a short film, commercial, promo video, event video, travel video, vlog – whatever, a video must always have a story. The story may be obvious (i.e. it may be scripted, and it has a clear beginning, middle, and end) or not so obvious (i.e. it follows a sequence of events, or sets to build up to or around something). This may not make much sense at first, but let me explain using a basic nightclub video as an example.
The job is simple: the client wants a short one and a half minute video to share on social media to show the event. They want to capture everything: attendees arriving, getting wristbands, buying drinks and eventually dancing.
When it comes to the shoot day, you will shoot everything at random points in the night. You might start with the bar, then the entrance, then the DJs, then the bar again, then the dancing etc. When editing, however, it would be strange to show people arriving to the event after showing people dancing, or to put someone getting a drink in amongst people going crazy to the music. The video, in that sense, has a story. First you show people arriving, then you show the bar, then you show the DJs and things building up before reaching the peak or climax of the video.
As YouTube vlog star Casey Neistat puts it, every good story follows a 3 act narrative: setup, conflict and resolution. In this example, the setup is people arriving and getting drinks. The conflict is building to the big climax and the resolution is the big climax (in this case, it’ll likely be the “drop”). In this example, the three act narrative is not literal but it is still applicable. This is the same for every video. Find a way to tell a story.