CONNECTING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE: Reversing the 3-act structure

 Sidewalk in San Francisco

Sidewalk in San Francisco

In filmmaking, there is the concept of the three act structure.  This is a framework originally designated for Hollywood films and later adopted by documentary filmmakers.

It has proven to be a powerful way to draw an audience into a story.  

It occurred to me, that with all the short videos I create, I strive to take the viewers through their own journey.  

Turning the three act structure on its head, instead of looking at the journey of the subject, you craft the journey of the audience.

What does this look like?

One example of the Hollywood three-act structure is the Hero’s Journey.  These are stories based on the struggle of a hero.  

The Hero’s Journey:

ACT 1:

The hero is faced with a problem she has to solve.

ACT 2:

The hero sets out to solve the problem but faces many obstacles and struggles.

ACT 3:

The hero is transformed and managed to solve the problem.

This is a popular approach to both fiction and documentaries.  In creating short videos for organizations, most often you do not have the opportunity to follow one subject’s journey over time.

The Audience Journey

ACT 1:  

Grab the audience with a hook, something surprising, concerning, thought provoking

ACT 2:

Create a series of moments that lead your audience to a deeper understanding of the issue introduced in act one

ACT 3:  

The transformation to action; present a compelling reason to take action and give the audience a concrete action they can take


Approaching each short video in this way, the question to ask is "how can I give the audience this journey?"

When you are thinking about creating a video, whether it is for a product launch, campaign, or informational video here are some specific questions to ask yourself to create this journey:

  • What do you want your audience to do after watching your video?

  • What does your audience care about?

  • What are their current beliefs?

  • Do they believe in certain generally held myths related to your product/solution?

  • What information or visuals or stories would inspire them?

  • How can you take them on the journey from what they believe now to the beliefs you want them to share with you?

This basic framework can be used for all sorts of videos, whether your goal is to instruct, inspire, or inform.

To keep your audiences attention, connection is key.  This reverse three act structure is a way of thinking that will help you find ways to tell your story.  It is a base upon which you can build your video strategy.

In future blog posts I’ll explore some filmic ways of taking this foundation and building compelling, emotionally engaging stories.