Week two of Lizzie’s top tips to making films with impact

Posted on:November 11, 2016

Author:Clare Holt

Category:Blogs, Filming tips, Uncategorized

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It’s Friday and blimey what a week it’s been! Two apparently unconnected things have happened this week which perfectly illustrate part 2 in my Top Tips for Making Films with Impact: the election of Donald Trump and the annual release of the John Lewis Christmas ad.

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How are these things possibly related, I hear you ask…and it’s a fair question! But I’ve been reflecting on the power of the message contained in the Trump campaign and the Buster ad, and there are parallels, not least of which is:

Know your audience

We watched the story of the US election unfold over the course of Tuesday night and have continued to see it ignite debate throughout this week.  Whatever your opinions of the result, it can’t be denied that President-Elect Trump knew who he was talking to and he used language that his audience could relate to throughout. This is crucial whether you’re planning a political campaign or a film about baked beans!

Specialist vs general audience

A good place to start when thinking about your audience is to consider whether you’re talking to a group of specialists, or to the general public. This will influence the language you use. Complex terminology may be entirely appropriate – here at Nice Tree Films we work extensively with medical professionals and they love a bit of jargon! But if you are aiming at a lay audience, it may be better to avoid confusing terminology. Unlike a magazine article which can be read and re read on the page, a video is generally watched through without stopping…so keep it focussed. Keep it simple. Remember your audience.


It’s not rocket science to point out that the language, style and tone of a film changes completely depending on the age of the audience. It goes without saying that if you’re making a video aimed a children it will be totally different in tone from one aimed at adults, but beyond that simple differentiation things can become muddled.

Does the same tone, delivery and language appeal to a young teenager as a twenty year old? Or someone in their late thirties? It’s important to think carefully from the outset about the age of your audience and how you can best appeal to them.

At the planning stage we often find it’s incredibly valuable to involve people from the target audience to make sure we’re not barking up the wrong tree.  Our films aimed at school leavers about life at University College Oxford (below) told the story through the eyes of several young undergraduates, who shared their experiences of leaving home for the first time:  learning to cook, do the laundry, manage without mum and dad to sort out the inevitable problems of independent living. Thanks to their involvement we were able to create a suite of films which helped to tell that story in a way that was engaging and relevant.

What is the context your film will be viewed in?

Context is everything!  Will your film have a captive audience (for example, at a conference) or are you hoping your target audience will watch the film in the middle of a busy day when perhaps they are juggling other things around them?  All of this will also impact on the tone, length and style of the film.

When I was editing our recent film about the tiny world of ants (below) I knew it would be a film we’d release on social media;  our audience would be viewing the film at some point in the day when they have time.  I knew that I would not put aside 30 minutes of my day to watch a film about ants – in fact 5 minutes is probably the maximum I would push my attention span to!  I decided the film had to be short, quick, punchy and contain succinct facts that would give the viewer enough information to learn something new!

Finally –

and on a lighter note – proof that you can tell a good tale in two minutes with no talking at all. A stunning, visually comforting and emotionally charged (those ears! that whimper!) short story from John Lewis, about Buster the Boxer dog and a little girl who isn’t the only one with a passion for bouncing. A brilliant example of storytelling –  aimed at an audience of all ages –  done through clever storyboarding, beautiful cinematography and great acting (especially the hedgehog!)

And that is what we love about the world of film and story telling, once you know who your audience is the options are endless and only limited by your creativity.

If you need help telling your story, we’d love to have a chat. Give us a ring on 01235 606010 or email us at [email protected] We look forward to hearing from you!