We’ve all been there. Staring at a screen wondering, “How do I begin?”

When faced with infinite possibilities, remembering these key steps will help you as you distill your story into the best possible story for this environment:


First, decide on your objectiveWhat do you want your audience to do?
Then make every decision about the project based upon that objective. The creation of the story, the branding and the campaign must be continually influenced by this core objective.  


Secondly, organize your story by themes.  What are the themes that interested you about the story in the first place?  Pick no more than five.  Eliminate any extra themes by asking these questions:

Is it about a core human need?  Love, food, survival?  If not, kick it to the curb.

Is it ironic?  Powerful stories are ironic and emotionally involving.

Next, get the themes out of your head and onto paper.  Some people use the paper edit with index cards on a wall, but there are some great digital tools that allow you to collaborate with others to help build your themes.  

On the Tillman Story, we used a mind-mapping tool called Popplet, where all filmmakers could collaborate and build in elements at the same time.  Once you create the main themes, you can begin to fill in the elements of the story that fit that theme, then make connections between the story elements.




When telling a story, timing is everything.  It can connect an audience to your story and compel them to action or make them click away.  This is where you get down to the craft of telling the best story you can.  

Mindmapping is again a great way to move key story elements out of your head and onto a surface where you can work through how they fit within space and time.  

At this point, it’s important to remember to not get too far into the code, design or editing process – often that can steer you into a rabbit hole of trying to discover “how” something works, rather than if the story works.

The great futurist, Alvin Toffler said, “You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”