Moving Stories: How Artists Grab Our Attention with Short Films

You’ve got a few minutes, or maybe just a few seconds, to catch the attention of the viewer with a good story. How do you do it? If you’re a short filmmaker, it’s all about getting to the emotion of the moment, and making an impression that sticks. To find out more about the process, we talked to film director, Günther Gheeraert and cinematographer and founder of RubberBall Productions, Mark Andersen.

Filming for emotion.

Günther’s short videos focus on feelings, poetry, and sensitivity. “My obsession is to show the beauty and the things that make people unique.” It’s this depth of feeling that helps him grab viewers. “A short film must absolutely capture the viewer’s attention from the beginning to the end,” Günther says. “For me it’s especially important to convey an emotion. When viewers are hit in the gut, it seems to work.”

Günther draws his stories from the people around him. “Human beings are an inexhaustible source of inspiration. I love to start with a small interaction between my characters and to open the field of view to show a wider story.”

Of course, making a compelling short film is a different challenge from producing a feature-length one, but Günther says the strategies are similar. “I think it’s exactly the same mechanisms of storytelling. The only thing is that in a short film, you have to go directly to the essentials because you won’t have time to develop your characters and their storylines.”

Building a story from stock — for the first time.

Although he’d never used stock video in his work before, Günther was up for the challenge. For our Take 10 Challenge on imagination, we asked him to create a unique short video using only stock assets and an audio track by Butterscotch.

When he first dove into the stock collection to find the right pieces, Günther set out a few criteria: “I tried to find assets which could work with a variety of ideas; very simple, gorgeous shots that were different from each other and in 4K for maximum possibilities.”

From there, he turned 10 stock videos and a soundtrack by Butterscotch into a meditation on the abstract process of creation. “The video was created little by little with experimentation, and it was pleasant because it was very, very different from my usual process.” You can check out Günther’s Take 10 video here:

What’s mine is also yours.

Mark, a cinematographer in his own right, also makes short stock videos like the ones Günther used for his Take 10 challenge. Shooting stock, Mark says, means developing your own stories, but thinking about how else they can be used. “You’re telling the story as a filmmaker, but you’re also trying to support other people and help them tell their stories.”

For most shoots, Mark and his team start out with a concept and work to build a narrative into every clip. For example, the team recently filmed teenage girls out on the town shopping and eating. “We didn’t just want to show them walking out of the store with bags. Instead, one of the girls opens her bag and when the other looks inside, you can see she’s excited about the contents. There’s a little bit of emotion there. It’s a story, even though it’s a very simple story,” says Mark.

When it comes to stock, Mark says those moments of emotion have to be especially quick: “They need to happen in a second or two because editors don’t want to use too much of their precious screen time. They may want to montage your piece with other things. Some of our stories take 12 or 15 seconds, but you hope that if someone takes two seconds out of the middle it will still resonate and have meaning,” he says.

“What I love is creating authentic moments that feel real and capture life the way you expect to see it, but a little more beautiful. It’s about getting the idealistic and the real at the same time — it’s a tricky blend.”

If you’re interested in finding your own way to tell digital stories, check out tips from Adobe experts and read about how artists tell stories with still images. See more images and videos that tell stories on Adobe Stock.

Header image by One Inch Punch.