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How to Tell a Visual Story

Updated on December 24, 2014

What is filmmaking all about?

Filmmaking is the process of making a film, a movie, a video.

It's a collaborative art and the process is one where the film gets written many times before you end up with a finished print.

All film elements must work together to support the story.

If you, the filmmaker or videomaker, keep this in mind, throughout the whole production, you will have a high probability of making a great movie!

“Filmmaking is about story telling,

filmmaking is visual storytelling”

An example of visual storytelling - Actors, Cinematography, Editing, Music and Script Support The Story

The best book on the subject, hands down!

The Visual Story, Second Edition: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media
The Visual Story, Second Edition: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media
Essential reading for filmmakers and producers who aspire to take advantage of the potentials of the medium. It opens your eyes to the wide range of ways in which moving images can be meaningful to your viewers. You will gain the insight and tools to make your own movies visually compelling and powerful!

What's important in filmmaking?

As a low-budget independent filmmaker, you wonder what will make your film successful? You wonder which elements you should invest your money in?

All elements in a film are somewhat important as they are dependant on each other. However, there are elements that are essential for the film to be successful.

Even if you are on a low budget, you can still achieve good production values by "investing" in the following key elements.

Key Elements in a Film

In my opinion, these are the most significant elements in a film. The ones at the top are indispensable as they are presented in order of importance:

  1. The Script/Screenplay

    Without a story, we have no film, even if we have the best actors and/or production.

  2. The Actors

    Actors usually play fictional characters. When an actor is miscast, it's harder for the audience to suspend belief, in other words believe that the actor is indeed the character.

  3. The Editing

    The images themselves are not sufficient. They're very important, but they're only images. What's essential is the duration of each image and that which follows each image. The editor is the ultimate story teller.

  4. The Cinematography

    It's the discipline of making lighting and camera choices when recording images for the cinema. The person responsible for a feature being correctly lit, shot and framed, is also known as the Director of Photography (DP or DOP).

  5. The Direction

    The director is the leader who shapes the visual part of the story telling and creates the tone and style as well as guide the actors' performances. The decision maker.

  6. The Sound

    The sound is said to be equal or more important than the picture. It's composed of dialog, music and sound effects.

  7. The Location

    The accuracy and mood of the movie depend on where it is shot.

  8. The Casting

    The casting director finds actors for the parts in the script. This normally requires an audition by the actor. Lead actors are carefully chosen and are often based on the actor's reputation or "star power."

  9. The Continuity

    Consistency of the characteristics of persons, plot, objects, places and events. It's particularly a concern in the production of a film due to the difficulty of rectifying errors after shooting has completed. This is handled by a script supervisor.

  10. The Art Direction

    The art department makes production sets, costumes and provides makeup & hair styling services.

Video Clips on Filmmaking

What Is The Most Important Element in a Film?

See results

Learn Filmmaking by Watching Movies

A more entertaining way to learn!

One of the best ways to learn how to make movies, is by watching films. The more you know about the art of filmmaking, the more you will learn. You name it, you can learn about it: scriptwriting, directing, editing, sound, lighting, shot selection and so many other things.

With film appreciation you will develop your power of observation, establish habits of perceptive watching, and discover complex aspects of film art that will further enhance your enjoyment of watching movies.

Just keep watching...

Share Your Thoughts - Do you want me to add anything more?

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Final sound was from starcfraft

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Stephen King writes great stories about normal people in abnormal situations and Frank Darabont gets that. Shawshank is great, The Green Mile is great and the Mist completes the list. Watch them all.

    • Laniann profile image


      9 years ago

      The video "An Example of Visual Storytelling" is truly terrifying.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love the Shawshank Redemption - it's has so many layers, especially about the prisons we all make for ourselves in our minds. There's a line in the film that talks about the men getting used to the prison bars and being someone in prison, which makes getting out frightening. Here's one of the great quotes from it: "These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them."

      Great film, great music, great storytelling, great acting.

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 

      9 years ago from Idaho

      I have to agree about the Shawshank Redemption being one of the best films ever told. I have to say that Morgan Freeman narrating the story is what makes that film incredibly good. I love his voice! Very informative lens, I like the font you used too. It makes it very easy for all to read!

    • Wbisbill LM profile image

      Barbara Isbill 

      9 years ago from New Market Tn 37820

      Great and interesting lens

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hey awesome filmmaking lens, I love the Shawshank Redemption and Blade Runner, both are among my favorites. You've got some great advice on this lens (and good lens making integrity :)

    • profile image

      FilmMaster LM 

      10 years ago

      Wow, you really got it on lock! Very informative indeed. Filmmaking is truely a great way to express what your ideas are to the audience.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Nice lens. You've got some great tips and resources here for filmmakers. When you get the chance, I'd love it if you'd visit my lens on film copyrighting. Be sure to leave a comment and say hello when you stop by.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Really enjoyed your introduction to this lens. Over the weekend the Hollywood version of Pride & Predjudice was on and I just about had a fit. The screenplay was horrific. You've listed some movies I haven't seen and now want to.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Another excellent lens! I wanted to drop by and wish you, your family, friends and loved ones, a wonderful holiday season and health, happiness and prosperity for 2009 - Kathy

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 

      11 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Thanks for your kind comment on my Berlin Wall story-telling, it brought me right here to this fine lens of yours. :) I "trade" a hearty Squid Angel Blessing for your inspiration. Thanks!

    • profile image

      dc64 lm 

      11 years ago

      I like the black and white flickr photos. There is something about them that makes me curious, like, "What is she thinking?" and "What is he doing, and why?"

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      this is a great lens. thanks for sharing this information and some wonderful insights. this will be useful to all aspiring filmmakers.

    • profile image

      Amanda Blue 

      11 years ago

      A terrific lens! Thank you. 5*

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Awesome lens. Thanks for sharing all these excellent knowledge. Well done and all the best.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I love the medium of film. Thank you for your insights.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I would like to add one more movie that got great storytelling.. It's the great movie "300". The editing in this movie is fantastic (and the story is also great!) The film editing software used in 300 was final cut pro from apple. (Mac ofcourse)

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      this is very interesting info on film-making which shows real insight and suggests new ways of looking at things. I enjoyed reading it. thanks you

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Hi - Love your site/ lens. We also love films, and have setup a cool site called Film Annex. A place where you can watch, download and enjoy a range of independent, art and short films. Just Visit -

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great lense. So much great info! I have added you to my lensroll for my Sundance 2008 Festival lense.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Excellent lens. It's interesting to compare the process of filmmaking to telling a story in print. Thank you, too, for the pleasure of explorin' a well-made lens.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      A friend of mine is considering a career change and wants to explore filmmaking. I will pass along your site. Perhaps it will give him the little push he needs. Congrats!

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Great lens, very informative.


    • CoralMilburnCur profile image


      13 years ago

      Brilliant lens. Congrats.


    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 

      13 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Congratulations! Your lens was picked by me as one of the 100 Best Movie Lenses on Squidoo! I love movies and I'm sick of crappy lenses, so thanks for making a great one! C'mon by and see your lens plus 99 others.

      Happy Popcorn ~ Rachel


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