Storytelling is an art. It is an art that needs work, cultivation, and a certain degree of talent. We can’t all be Ira Glass of This American Life fame overnight. (Though wouldn’t that be wonderful?) One of the important pieces in becoming a better storyteller is to look at other people’s work and try to learn from them. What works? What doesn’t? Today, I am going to look at a piece from Shawn Ahmed, a YouTuber who maintains the channel The Uncultured Project. Here is the video.
To start, he has a good premise. He is looking a particular program that fights homelessness in a little bit of a different way. His video and audio quality is good, which helps me really see the story he’s trying to tell. Bad audio or video is simply distracting.
He starts out with a good quote and then jumps straight into the journey. His shots of the people he was with in the beginning explanation could be replaced by something with more meaning – particularly those of the people on the bus. His interview with Eric was great. Eric had quite a few really great things to say but Shawn often framed those shots oddly. In the beginning I think the frame was much too close on Eric’s face. The cut away to the shelter at about 1:20 could be good in theory – it fits with what Eric is talking about – but the shot used, particularly with the van driving through really doesn’t work all that well. Later angles of Eric are done very well, as is the transition to DC Central Kitchen.
It was really great that Shawn was able to find Eric – he was smart, articulate, and able to bridge the two main pieces (technology drive & DC Central Kitchen) together with more important and interesting information. Shawn cuts Eggert off at the end and comes in a little close on Eggart’s face for the interview but the rest of this section was very well done. The cut aways are all great shots. Also, the way Shawn focuses solely on his subjects and makes the background behind them blurry is a well-done technique. It keeps us from becoming distracted by something in the potentially busy background.
The quote he uses at the end is amazing. The full quote together packs a punch but it would have been more powerful if we hadn’t already heard part of it and if Eric wasn’t cut off abruptly at the end.
Over all this is a well done piece. There are things that could be better, but that is the case with most pieces produced. The important thing is that the piece conveys the message intended in the manner intended and is able to find an audience.