Archive | video drama

Content about video drama and examples of video dramas.

The Value of Video in Learning

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 28th February, 2018
news, video drama, video production

“It’s not the medium, it’s what you do with it.”

That’s what L&D experts have been saying in social media lately, and I 100% agree.  A haiku can be just as immersive as VR, depending upon the audience, and how good the poem is.

But all media have intrinsic strengths and we’ve been researching the evidence for the strengths of the various forms of video when deployed in a learning context.

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The Case for Video Drama in Learning

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 9th January, 2018
elearning, video drama, video know-how, video production

People can’t absorb information effortlessly, it takes hard work and application.  It is said.  But drama allows you to “effortlessly” walk through a learning dialectic as you look through the eyes of characters in a conflict.  Drama can be visual, but more importantly it’s emotional.

Danish educational theorist Knud Illeris says genuine learning involves a subjective connection between the learner’s interests and motivations and the learning content, which always includes a cognitive, emotional, and social dimension.

This makes perfect sense if we are teaching soft skills such as diversity and inclusivity.  Being led through a scenario and allowed to view the world through other people’s eyes is clearly a perfect means of fostering empathy and understanding.  But what about less emotional subjects?  Is it worth making a learning drama about compliance issues or accountancy?

If you can have more than one opinion about an issue it can be dramatized.  If you can have an argument about the pros and cons of an issue this can be crystallised into clear stages of a dialectic and this in turn transformed into the actions of characters who bring it to life.

Watching this drama, we naturally consider the wider implications of the actions.  What does it mean to break a petty rule?  We identify with the rule breaker, but do we really want to be them?  Is the righteous character boring or simply trying to make it better for the rest of us?  Such questions are not explicit, but implicit in the actions of the scenario.  The beauty of this is that the viewer makes their own meaning.  We reflect on it while we’re on coffee break.  It resonates, and sparks conversations with colleagues.  It weaves its way smoothly into our long-term memory.

Watching a learning drama won’t make you into an expert, but it can make you feel like one, because when we watch other people in conflict we naturally have an opinion about it.

Drama delivers a subjective connection between the learner’s interests and motivations and the learning content, including a cognitive, emotional, and social dimension. And once you have established that connection you can use cheaper media – perhaps cheaper-to-produce types of video – to deliver the more detailed learning.

This is the power of drama.  It’s effortless to consume but takes some serious expertise to put together.

Dramatic Storytelling

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 26th September, 2017
script writing, video drama, video know-how

As part of my drive to share the tools of my trade with learning designers in this blog I’ll lay out the principles of the main story paradigm described by Aristotle and used in Hollywood.  What’s important to know about this structure is that it’s evolved over centuries to model a journey of personal growth.  As such it’s unlikely to be bettered.

The Paradigm

Here’s the paradigm with its 3 acts – 3 parts that we can call beginning, middle and end.

This is the most basic idea of what a story is.  The three acts are more technically termed the set-up, the confrontation and the resolution.

The main elements of the structure we need to familiarise ourselves with are the Inciting Incident, Progressive Complications, Crisis, Climax and Resolution.

Act 1 – Set-up

Let’s talk about the Set-up.  All stories need a set-up.  We need to introduce the Protagonist, state the dramatic premise (what the story is  about) and reveal the dramatic situation. We introduce our fictional world, the characters, the elements within it and what’s at stake.

This part of the story is the hardest to tell in an engaging way.  The audience need to understand the set up so they can understand character motivations and what’s at stake in the story.  To do this you have to impart a lot of contextual information and simply sharing information is not dramatic.  Every story needs exposition, but to make it part of the story it must be dramatized.

I’ve written about this elsewhere, but the essential idea is to turn exposition into ammunition.  Information about the fictional world means something to people within that world.  We need to see them using it to get what they want.  Information becomes active!

In eLearning you have an advantage over pure filmmakers because you can impart a lot of the world of your characters in the eLearn before the video begins, rather as George Lucas did in the well known “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”.  You can potentially lay out all the story parameters including some of the previous events that affect the character’s motivations before the video starts.

Inciting Incident

Once we’ve established all the elements of our story and have some idea of the normal way of things in this world, there will be an Inciting Incident.  In Jaws the Inciting Incident is “shark eats girl, her remains are washed up and the Sheriff has a problem”.  In Toy Story the Inciting Incident is the arrival of the new toy Buzz Lightyear threatening to displace Woody as Andy’s favourite.

The Inciting Incident is the event that disturbs the established normality and kicks off the story.

The Protagonist then reacts to the disturbance and tries to put things right with the minimum effort, but their actions only make things worse.

Act 2 – Progressive Complications

Act 2 consists largely of Progressive Complications.  Progressive Complications is the second of the 5 must-have elements of structure.  It describes the main part of the story from Inciting Incident to the Crisis and Climax.

To complicate means to make life difficult for characters.  To complicate progressively means to generate more and more conflict as they face ever greater forces of antagonism, creating a succession of events that pass points of no return.

A hole has opened up in reality and the Protagonist’s efforts to put the world back to how it was only lead to things getting worse and the problem escalating.  This is played out in a series of scenes in which the Protagonist has to make ever more difficult choices.

Now, a choice between good and bad, is no choice at all.  Watching a drama in which someone has to choose between a good deal and a bad deal is not interesting because we know what they’d choose, and if they don’t it’s contrived.  The sort of choices we need are choices between two things neither of which is ideal.  Character forming choices.  The best of such problems is a dilemma – a binary choice between two undesirable courses of action.  Sophie’s Choice is a film named after the dilemma at its heart – in which Sophie must choose between her two children.  It’s these, difficult, almost impossible choices that draw us into the mind of a character and get us emotionally involved.  It’s when we are under pressure, when our lives get out of control that we have to look inside ourselves and overcome our flaws.  We must learn to grow, and stories are about personal growth.

It’s rare that we get a choice as dramatic as Sophie’s in our learning drama, but we can and we should strive to make things personal and emotional.  Drama is about emotion, and that’s what makes it engaging.

The Antagonist

At this point, let’s ask, what is the Protagonist is fighting against?  The Antagonistic forces are represented by an Antagonist.  An Antagonist is ideally characterised as wanting the same thing as the Protagonist, but being bitterly opposed to them.  So, in its simplest, and indeed highest form, good and evil are represented by two characters: James Bond and Ernst Blofeld, Darth Vadar versus Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter versus Voldemort, etc.

Antagonists and antagonistic forces are something that corporate organisations often feel nervous about depicting, but if you want to show the positive it can only shine when put it in relief against something negative.  How we craft such things to avoid unsettling corporate clients is another story.

Act 3

Act 3 is short like act 1.  In act 1 we set up the problem, in act 3 we resolve it.  In stories based on a literal journey, act 3 starts with The Return.  The Protagonist moves back to the place they started from, but with a new perspective.  The Protagonist has done all the introspecting they need to be effective, they now come face to face with the Antagonist.

Crisis

Crisis is the 3rd of the essential elements of the form.  At every step of the way the Protagonist has had to make difficult choices but now comes the ultimate decision.

This moment of dangerous opportunity is the point of greatest tension in the story.  We all know that how the story ends will be revealed by this action.   Confronted by an ultimate dilemma and face to face with the most powerful antagonistic forces, the Protagonist must choose one action or another in a last attempt to gain the object of desire.

Climax

The Climax or the Climactic Action is the 4th essential element of story.  It’s how the Protagonist responds to the problem of the Crisis, which is also the problem of the story.  How they succeed or fail here gives us the deepest insight into their character.  And this is also where the moral or the meaning of the story is communicated.  In tying up your story you are making a kind of proof.  If you encounter this problem and respond to it in this way you will get this result.  The cop in a corrupt system resists temptation and is vindicated: moral – good triumphs over evil.

Resolution

Resolution is the fifth and final essential element of the form.  Here we show the resonating force of the climax – how it has changed the world for others.  It can also provide a “slow curtain” as in the end credits of School of Rock in which the band rehearse with Jack Black as the credits roll.

Summing up

Drama is a centuries-old set of techniques to model and communicate human emotion.  If you don’t want to deal with emotions in your learning don’t use drama.  If you do want to, embrace the idea of emotional communication and familiarise yourself with the basic techniques to represent them.

For further reading I suggest Story by Robert McKee. 


Real Drama for Learning

Script consultancy: we work with your team to turn workaday content into something truly dramatic.

Training:  Using our conceptual toolkit, we work with your team to give an understanding of the basics of dramatic construction.

Agency support: working with you at the bid stage, we provide creative support to elevate your video-oriented eLearning idea into a winning pitch.

Production: From idea to final film we work with you throughout the journey.

 

Real Drama for Learning – using emotion to communicate ideas.

Can a video drama impact behaviour change in an organisation?

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 23rd August, 2017
news, video drama

Behaviour change is really the end goal for L&D professionals. Learning can only add value when employees not only absorb knowledge, but take incentive to apply it positively in their role. Looking at the L&D landscape and beyond to our digital lives, video is a clear frontrunner in providing a learning format which is engaging and digestible. Read More

How to avoid boredom by committee – Drama script reviews

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 22nd August, 2017
script writing, video drama, video know-how

“You’re making some dramatized video for learning. The script you’ve produced is fantastic… Then the first feedback comes from the client and they’ve added a great chunk of unspeakable dialogue and taken out the best bits… Of course, they know their culture and they know their business, but what they don’t know is that their amendments will make their video less effective.”

Tom on how to manage the script feedback process.

Goodies and Baddies – Drama doesn’t have to be black and white

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 26th June, 2017
video drama, video know-how

When we say a drama needs to be based on a conflict, and that involves a protagonist and an antagonist, it brings to mind a hard-nosed clash that you’ve seen with Batman versus the Joker or James Bond shooting at Goldfinger.  This can sound alarm bells.  While such whizzbang, violent conflicts are great fun to do, they’re not usually what we seek in the world of corporate drama.  The next models that come to mind are perhaps soap operas and other more human-scale dramas.  But even these frequently feature stand-up rows and tears, not the sort of thing we can usually entertain.

The fact remains, however, that to articulate a story in drama, conflict is essential, and the starting point is a protagonist and an antagonist.  So, how can we make these characters realistic, but nevertheless credible in dramatic terms?

The protagonist and antagonist want the same thing, but disagree on how to achieve it.  In a corporate context, this could be two people trying to solve a problem at work with one following the received wisdom on the topic and the other stubbornly doing it their own way.  Depending on whether it’s a compliance drama or one about innovation, one of them is the protagonist and the other the antagonist.  They are both working for the good of the employer, but one is misguided, the other struggling to do the right thing.  In this little conflict, neither is really a goodie or a baddie, but one is a protagonist, who advances the cause of the drama, the other the antagonist who stands in the way of the correct working method being enacted.

The most important thing about the protagonist/antagonist structure in a learning drama is that the protagonist can champion the right way to do things without seeming to lecture the audience.  To do the right thing they need to fight for what they believe in.  Whereas if they just tell us what they believe, they come across as merely a rather boring conformist.

Of course, the protagonist doesn’t necessarily have to fight against another character, the antagonist could be a setting a process or an idea.  If our protagonist is trying to conquer a task we could tell the story like a sports movie.  Sport is a vehicle for the participant to objectify an internal struggle.  And this is how the drama is constructed.  It’s an inner struggle, articulated through the mechanisms of sport, which takes place amidst a variety of antagonistic outer forces which together form a collective “antagonist”.  So you could say the antagonist is a multi-headed beast – several characters and events that block the protagonist.  (Of course, I’m only talking about one common model of sports movie here, there are others).

A workplace learning example that could be structured similarly is crisis management.  Here the manager needs to control all the elements in the scenario rather as one might in a game of chess.  The crisis is characterized as the antagonist and the manager needs to manage it by moving the pieces on the board as it were.  Like a sports movie there will be antagonistic elements, such as an angry person who refuses to fall into line, but they are not the antagonist, they are just an element of it.

The other day I watched Eddie the Eagle with my 6-year-old boy.  It’s a movie about the British no-hoper who, against all the odds, got into the Olympics as a ski jumper.  I found it interesting that his route to the Olympics was in stages based on the size of the ski jumps he could tackle.  These are rather like learning points which became plot points in the story.  As a result, I learned quite a bit about the size of the jumps and other technical details.  But, of course, the thing I remember best is the moral of the story, which is that it’s not about winning it’s about playing, and if you set yourself against the odds people will appreciate your valiant efforts.  So, it affected me as a very anti-sport person, as rather effective pro-sport propaganda.  And for a few days I remembered something of the technicalities of the sport as well.

Coming back to goodies and baddies – one reason we don’t want passionate, violent clashes in our workplace dramas is that we don’t want them in the workplace.  On the other hand, if we were to take a workplace topic, something people are unlikely to get passionate about, and pump it up to the level of a melodrama, we’d have a very entertaining film which no-one would think for a moment is based in reality, but the audience would love it and would no doubt remember it and tell their friends.


Real Drama for Learning

Script consultancy: we work with your team to turn workaday content into something truly dramatic.

Training:  Using our conceptual toolkit, we work with your team to give an understanding of the basics of dramatic construction.

Agency support: working with you at the bid stage, we provide creative support to elevate your video-oriented eLearning idea into a winning pitch.

Production: From idea to final film we work with you throughout the journey.

 

Real Drama for Learning – using emotion to communicate ideas.
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Cake: Why Drama is Good for Learning

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 23rd June, 2017
video drama, video know-how, video production

Stories take impersonal facts and give them meaning. While Drama is not designed to deliver the level of detail you might find in a documentary style treatment, the impact, the engagement and the retention of the message will be much better.


Real Drama for Learning

Script consultancy: we work with your team to turn workaday content into something truly dramatic.

Training:  Using our conceptual toolkit, we work with your team to give an understanding of the basics of dramatic construction.

Agency support: working with you at the bid stage, we provide creative support to elevate your video-oriented eLearning idea into a winning pitch.

Production: From idea to final film we work with you throughout the journey.

Real Drama for Learning – using emotion to communicate ideas.
Read More

Why Drama for Learning?

Posted by Tom Hickmore, 30th May, 2017
video drama, video know-how

Relax and watch the TV

Why does Eastenders have more appeal to a broader audience than Horizon or Panorama? The answer is – you don’t need to use your intellect to engage with drama. And it’s easier to get emotionally involved than it is to get intellectually involved. It’s easier to eat comfort food than it is to eat celery. But unlike a righteous diet regime, with drama you can have your cake and eat it! Drama can deliver messages that have intellectual concepts bound up in them. And while we can’t do that with the sort of detail you’d get from a documentary style treatment, the impact, the engagement and the retention of the message will be much better.

Write a story

Drama is a form of storytelling. Storytelling is a learning buzzword, but why is it so important in learning? Story takes facts, events or ideas and shapes them to create meaning.

St. Paul has been called a spin doctor. It’s meant as a compliment. Paul had extraordinary literary skill which he used to reshape the disparate and sometimes contradictory records of Jesus’ life. He also had the political skill to get his interpretation of the gospels accepted by the church. Paul and his followers wrote vast tracts of the bible post-Jesus, ensuring that a coherent and engaging story was told. This work played a major part in ensuring that Christianity became such a compelling and powerful force in the world. Here, story was the vehicle to spread ideas. Ideas with a spiritual, social and political impact. *

From the sublime to the ridiculous – Keeping up with the Kardashians is another example of the power of story. In this worldwide franchise, the jolly antics of this A-list family look spontaneous and genuine on the surface, but are in fact coordinated and staged by a team of story specialists. “Real” events are framed with staged activities to form stories. Stories that project values, have archetypal characters, plot points, acts and all the rest.

People want stories and want to believe in stories. It’s the principle way that hearts and minds are won and how political change is affected.

Dramatize it!

Most mornings I listen to the Today show on Radio 4 in which John Humphries interviews politicians. The core of his technique is to rhetorically question the position of his interviewee – testing the strength of an argument by trying to demolish it. This format brings out the best in the speaker as they are forced to defend their position. We get the passion and we get to the nub of their argument.

If the BBC let politicians simply tell us what they want us to hear without cross-examination it’d be like listening to a party-political broadcast, and as such, ironically, a lot less engaging and believable.

The latter is what we have seen many a time in a corporate learning drama – characters speaking the company line, showing no passion, and not getting into arguments over the issues. It gets the message across, but it’s not engaging and not convincing either. Of course, most large organisations are understandably wary of depicting their staff as being in conflict with one another, less still argumentative and they’re probably a bit wary of showing passion.

So, it’s our job to carefully guide them past these concerns, to bring in depictions of conflict so their messages can be convincingly delivered. An understanding of the principles of drama can give us the confidence to do this. To sell the client’s idea in a drama you need a champion of that idea (protagonist) and someone who tries to shoot it down (the antagonist). Together, their dialogue allows you to deliver a corporate message with passion and credibility.

Real Drama for Learning

The result of this approach is Real Drama for Learning. Dramatic content that’s as relaxing as watching your favourite TV show. A treat for the learner, a boon for the L&D manager.

Real Drama for Learning – we need it!

* Thanks to the Rev. Ruth Thomas for her Christian review of this paragraph.


Real Drama for Learning

Script consultancy: we work with your team to turn workaday content into something truly dramatic.

Training:  Using our conceptual toolkit, we work with your team to give an understanding of the basics of dramatic construction.

Agency support: working with you at the bid stage, we provide creative support to elevate your video-oriented eLearning idea into a winning pitch.

Production: From idea to final film we work with you throughout the journey.

 

Real Drama for Learning – using emotion to communicate ideas.
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