Storytelling: What Marketers Can Learn From Hollywood

At some point in your life, you’ve walked into a movie theater carrying an oversized bucket of popcorn and high hopes, sat down and prepared yourself to be dazzled by the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Only to find that 120 minutes later, you are left with a lackluster feeling of “why did I come watch this?” Did you not connect with the characters or their motives? Or perhaps you just felt as though the plot was all over the place and it was hard to follow?

All of these components make up a part of storytelling, and Hollywood by and large has nailed down the formula pretty well. That’s why it’s uncommon to hear about a $100 million plus movie flopping. They have a way of making an audience gain interest and pay for the privilege to hear and see a story. Today I want to talk about how they do this and how we can all learn from them.

Storyboards help bring vision to your story in the planning phase

We have been given an outline to storytelling, and it doesn’t require 120 minutes to get its point across. What about a story in 60 seconds, without a captive audience and giving just enough information to leave the audience wanting more? Enter the trailer.

Film trailers give the viewer an incredible amount of information in a very short period of time. They do this through storytelling, quickly giving the viewer all of the viable information they need to know, piquing their interest with an apparent conflict, and leaving them with the desire to want to see this conflict resolve and the story develop.

It typically plays out like this; we immediately see and hear the tone of the film within seconds. We meet our protagonist and are introduced to their companions or group. We set up the conflict and are introduced to an antagonist at this point. Then we quickly see a montage of clips that let us know what we’re in store for and selling us on the idea of the story.

Let’s take a look at this example from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

By the 00:10 second mark we can hear an epic melody beginning, we get a feel of drama with slow dips to black. We meet what is assumedly our protagonist and get the feeling she is alone or an outcast and hear a voice revealing that indeed our character does feel a bit lost in this world. All in just 10 seconds! Leading up to the 00:20 second mark, it is revealed that our protagonist is thrown into a sticky situation and looks to have a secondary character to help her through it.

At the 00:20 second mark it is revealed there is an apparent threat to this universe we’ve just got a glimpse of. The tone becomes much darker and the music becomes more tense; enter our antagonist. We are teased with the character and his “team” carrying out what are presented as evil acts.

By the 00:40 second mark we’ve learned that indeed the two characters from the beginning are going to be going on a journey together. We see that, who we now know as Finn, has some sort of internal conflict and is from the antagonist’s team.

We finish out with an intense action montage as the epic fanfare builds. Art cards show us all the information we need to know.

In just 60 seconds we’ve been shown an entire universe that clearly is not ours. We’ve met three main characters and see supporting characters. We know that the film will have an epic feeling with action throughout through music and visuals. We also have been left without the resolution of 3 conflicts! Rey’s conflict of who she is and the journey she must go on. Finn’s internal conflict of betraying what we assume is an evil team. And the overarching conflict that our antagonist clearly plans to put an end to all of this and more. It is just enough information to pique our interest and sell us on seeing the film.

Shot lists are created for the DP based on the storyboard

Now regardless of your thoughts on the final product, trailers convey tons of information quickly but are structured in such a way that it is easily digestible. Video marketing works best following this same structure with visual storytelling. Customers need to be taken on this journey. Present them with an idea or problem that creates conflict that could exist in their lives and show how your company or product could resolve this problem.

At Seed Factory, we approach every video project in this way. We create a narrative to visually tell a brand’s story precisely and succinctly, showing potential customers solutions to their problems through engaging video marketing. So, what conflict needs resolution for your customer? What story can you tell?

If you’d like video production help, Seed Factory would be happy to further discuss. You can give us a call at 404-996-4041 or shoot us an old-fashioned email at We look forward to connecting!

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