The Hero’s Journey: A Metaphor for Video Storytelling

"Whoa! Those are some lights!"

9 out of 10 times that’s what the "hero," or the person being filmed on video, will say when they walk on to the set for an interview.

A feeling of excitement in the air. Something fun, adventurous and different is about to happen.

Have you ever been interviewed on-camera?

If you haven’t, one thing’s for sure. It’s definitely not your typical day in the office.

Imagine. You’re an employee. You have a particular point of view. You’re passionate. You have a story to tell. And you've been asked if you'd like to be in your company video. You jump at the chance!

Tape is rolling. You're having a lengthy conversation while bright lights surround you. Crew members are watching closely. You’re not sure what questions are coming next. You’re editing your thoughts making sure you say the "right" thing. How do you think you’d be feeling? A bit nervous? You bet!

But something spectacular happens right after the conversation

The "hero" feels differently. More alive. Empowered.

What just happened in that hour? They shared part of their story. They shared their point of view. I believe they experienced what Joseph Campbell spent much of his life teaching and sharing with us: "The Hero’s Journey."

Heroes are participating in more than just an interview

I like to call the people I’m talking to in a video, "heroes."

Appearing on-camera is a heroic act

Most of us usually go through life without having to appear on-camera; it’s just not a natural part of our everyday routine.

But let’s face it. Being interviewed for your company’s video isn’t exactly like being in Star Wars. Although, for most people, it is a new and exciting journey. They leave their comfort zone, engage in a new adventure, and return to the office thrilled to share their excitement in getting to tell their side of the story. They get to share ideas that usually remain tucked away. Now they have a chance to share it in a conversation for a video.

Being interviewed is like the "hero's journey"

Changing the language from "interview" to "conversation" and "journey" relaxes everyone’s expectations and opens up opportunities for emotional surprises. What often happens is a sharing of personal points of view. The hero’s emotions move quickly from status quo to nervousness to excitement and wonder.

3 steps to the hero’s journey

While there are many steps in the traditional "hero’s journey," for our purposes we’ll keep things simple with the three classic steps:

  1. TheSeparation
  2. TheInitiation
  3. TheReturn

The Separation

In your company’s video, the hero gets "the call to action"to appear on-camera. They leave their status quo, their "home" and comfort zone. They begin a venture into new territory. In a company video, the hero is as simple as discovering your best storytellers; from employees, to customers,vendors, volunteers, etc.

The Initiation

Lightsabers and monsters on the company set? Well, not exactly.

But the hero will certainly feel challenged simply from experiencing something so different, right from the moment they enter the room or set. While filming is under way, the conversation can take any number ofsurprising and fun turns from personal stories and perspectives to new opportunities imagined for employees and the organization. A good interviewer will ask thought-provoking questions to create an emotional connection with the viewer. New territory, indeed.

The Return

In the classic hero’s journey myth, the hero returns to common life and shares their newly gained knowledge to others. This happens often if I catch up later on with the heroes I’ve interviewed . They express deep thanks for the opportunity to tell their story and share their perspective on what matters most to them. Somehow, their lives have changed; even if things "appear the same." The journey took place inside, not outside.

How do you prepare yourself and the hero for "the departure," the video interview?

Do you cross your fingers and hope they say the right things? What happens if someone freezes up and they won’t talk? I’ll share a few tricks both you and your hero can use to create a comfortable on-camera journey.

The next three posts will explore ways to prepare, capture and tell a hero’s story through having a conversation.

Up next: "The Hero’s Journey: Preparing the Company Video Hero." If you enjoyed this post, be sure to leave a comment or share it with someone. You can also hit the "Recommend This" button.

Veteran filmmaker Thomas Clifford helps Fortune 100's to nonprofits who are stuck, frustrated, losing employees or market share because they can't breathe life into their brand story. He believes remarkable organizations deserve remarkable films. Check out Tom’s full bio for links to his podcasts, interviews and manifestos. Tom produces films with passion and purpose at Moving Pictures, a firm connecting companies and audiences through compelling visual communications.

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2 Comments

  • Thomas Clifford

    Mike,

    Thanks for sharing your kind thoughts! There's much to say about this important concept so I hope I express it well. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

    Tom

  • Mike Wagner

    Thomas, what a great set of insights into the "hero's journey" and how that plays out during an on camera interview.

    Creating this kind of experience for the heros of any given organization or company has value that last long past the production and distribution of the video.

    You've got my mind racing with this post. Looking forward to the next post in this series.

    Keep creating...a journey worth taking,
    Mike