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Breaking the fourth wall: The ultimate guide to storytelling

Hey you! Quick question! What do Hamilton, The Emperor’s New Groove, and The Office have in common? Or have you noticed any similarities between the movies Annie Hall, Fight Club, and Goodfellas? Aside from being Grade A entertainment, they all break the fourth wall — a storytelling technique that predates Shakespeare, and continues to be embraced by generations of filmmakers, playwrights, storytellers, and video production companies (yours truly included).

The phrase is based on the physical layout of a stage. Walls 1, 2, and 3 exist as backstage/set, stage left, and stage right. The last wall, the “fourth wall”, is the front of the stage and is the imaginary wall separating the fictional world on stage from real life.

When an actor is in character, they are pretending that an audience does not exist–otherwise, they would break the illusion created by the magic of television/film/theater.

When a character faces the camera and addresses the audience directly, we feel included, like they are letting us in on their deepest secrets and welcoming us into their world.

If the audience’s suspension of belief is broken–even for a second, the fourth wall will come tumbling down. But more often than not, breaking the fourth wall is an effective technique used to engage with the audience, let them in on a secret, provide information, or build a heightened connection. Audiences appreciate and enjoy personal conversations and relationships, so when a character faces the camera and addresses them directly, it feels like they’re letting the audience into the world of the film or play.

For fun, take a look at the opening monologue of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Ferris breaks the fourth wall multiple times in his explanation of what he is about to do. In context, he is skipping school for the ninth day in the same semester—and shamelessly showing us his entire secret game plan. This automatically makes him a likable character. From this opening scene forward, we’re on Team Ferris (Ferris Bueller v. The School Principal). If the kid was selling something, you just bought it.

Deadpool is another great example of this technique. In this case, the act of breaking the fourth wall is used as a storytelling tactic. Deadpool’s origin as a character leads his comic book readers to always question whether or not he is insane. By breaking the fourth wall, he is consciously aware that he is in a book filled with pictures, while all other characters completely accept that they are in fiction as if it were reality. Check out all the times Deadpool broke the fourth wall in the video below.

Tips on breaking the fourth wall

Breaking the fourth wall must be done in a conscious and precise manner to reap its full benefits. When executed in an amateurish manner, it can immediately alienate the audience from the main plot and characters and pull them out of the fictional world. 

Here are a few tips that will create a fully immersive experience for the viewers when the fourth wall is broken:

  1. Be bold: Dare to take bold steps for heightened emotional response. 
  2. Be funny: Use it for creating maximum comic relief.
  3. Be consistent: Break the fourth wall in the right way so it neither feels overwhelming nor underwhelms you with its lack of consistency.

Below are a few contexts in which media can break the fourth wall:

  1. A commercial that directly states that the point of the spot is to get the viewer to buy a product
  2. A narrator in a story pointing out that the book doesn’t have a happy ending or instructing us to close the book and stop reading entirely
  3. An ad asking readers or viewers directly if they’ve seen a product like theirs before
  4. An ad that asks thoughtful questions that might have room for discussion, rather than just a direct call-to-action that baits an action from the viewer

Why should you break the fourth wall?

By breaking the fourth wall, you create more intimacy between the actors and the audience, and it helps strengthen their relationship. It also acts as a comedic device to trigger laughs. The audience engages and participates more when the fourth wall is broken the right way.

How often should it be done?

There is no hard and fast rule of when you should break the fourth wall. However, whenever you choose to do it, you don’t want the audience to question your decision to use the trope. It should flow naturally and feel like an inherent part of the movie’s structure irrespective of what is the desired outcome. When done too frequently without any real purpose, it can disrupt the pace of the movie and drag the audience out of it.

How it can benefit a scene?

Breaking the fourth wall benefits a scene in numerous ways. 

  1. It is an effective technique that increases audience participation and builds on a heightened connection. 
  2. The audience feels included and gets to enjoy personal conversations, secrets, and relationships. 
  3. Elevates your storytelling and adds emotional heft. 
  4. It is used for building trust, to create humor, and take us deep into a pivotal character’s psyche. 
  5. Communicates vital information.
  6. Adds a sense of urgency to the scene
  7. Invokes a sense of fear among the audience 

So why are we telling you about this?  Well, how special do you feel when you’ve been singled out to be given a message? Pretty cool, right? We like to harness this technique to make your video really pop. Want to get in close with your audience? Break the fourth wall!

In your next script, commercial, social media video, or other types of media, try calling out to your audience. Give them an opportunity to feel connected to your characters, your story, and the cause you’re fighting for. It could be just the right approach to communicate your core message. Sound complicated? Don’t worry, we will help you out! Let us know your ideas and Start Your Project today!

Why You Need 360 Video On Your Facebook Page

360-degree videos are a hit on Facebook—meaning your brand can find even more fans by creating them

360-degree videos are the perfect tool for engaging with your fans on Facebook, and for racking up new page likes. Facebook makes 360 videos easy to watch, share and control, which is why more than 1 million hours of 360-degree video have been viewed there in the past year. They’re becoming more popular every day, offering brands a chance to grow their audience and interact more with their followers. If you’re not already taking advantage of this new platform, you should be. Here’s why.

360 Videos Are Fun & Easy to Watch

Your Facebook followers can watch your 360 videos on their smartphones, tablets or computers, when they’re on WiFi or out and about. Viewers can explore every angle of a video effortlessly just by moving their phone or tablet around, or clicking and dragging if they’re on a computer. You can even share 360-degree Live videos easily to give your audience exciting new ways to engage with events you host—and entice them to join you for the next one.

360 Videos Have Better Traffic

Commitment to 360 video has paid off big for many companies, delivering higher interaction rates and better click-through stats than standard videos, according to a study from Google.

And these videos are so popular with Facebook users the company has its own app, Facebook 360, just to showcase popular 360 videos and photos posted by brands and users. If you don’t have 360 content to contribute, then you’ll be left out. Companies that have invested in 360 videos have seen big traffic payoffs: National Geographic regularly posts 360-degree videos of animals and nature scenes, which rack up thousands of views and comments. One 360 video of people climbing trees has been watched more than 12 million times and shared more than 10,000 times, helping grow the brand’s audience and influence.

strong>It’s Easy to Customize Your Content

There are endless ways for brands to connect to their audiences using 360 video. Before making your video, think through what you want your Facebook fans to experience when they tune in. Since Facebook is all about sharing and engaging with people, look for powerful—and fun—storytelling opportunities that can connect with a wide audience. You can lead a tour or create a promo video to show off your store or product. Bottle Rocket Media worked with Autre Monde, a restaurant just outside of Chicago in Berwyn, on a video showing how their star mixologist slings a classic whiskey cocktail, and we took over Times Square to highlight the killer views from co-working office WeWork. Only your imagination limits your options for sharing your brand’s message: record your staff participating in a charity event, do a 360 timelapse video of your office or give your viewers a look at something they don’t normally get to see with a behind-the-scenes tour.

Bottle Rocket Media can help you create Facebook-friendly 360 videos that surprise and delight your fans. Contact us today to get started.

Recruit Top Talent with Video

Find Your Next Rockstar With A Killer Recruitment Video

Finding a million reasons why your company is a great place to work is easy. But listing them all in a way that attracts top talent is a little more of a challenge. If you are like most companies and have difficulty summarizing your culture in a way that resonates with potential new hires, a recruitment video might solve all of your problems.

Recruitment videos can be a practical and creative way to entice potential employees by showcasing what makes your company an appealing workplace. Whether you’re hoping to nab people who come to your site directly or to catch someone’s eye in a crowded Facebook feed, a top-notch recruitment video can set you apart from your competition. There are many different ways to craft an effective recruitment video, but if you follow these key steps, you’ll be on the right track.

Convey Company Culture

Cultural fit within a company is one of the core considerations for today’s most in-demand talent. Potential employees want to find a company that is a good fit for them both professionally and personally. An effective recruitment video will set the right tone and attract like-minded people to your company. Take a look at the qualities at the heart of your company: your core values, your mission statement, and your collective goals. If you’re not sure how to put your culture into words, use your branding keywords as a starting point to orient yourself. Are you an impact-driven nonprofit? A trendy, fun tech startup? Each will be best served by a distinctly different style of a recruitment video. The more accurately your video captures your company culture, the more likely you will connect with people whose values align with yours.

BambooHR has a standout example of a recruitment video that really gets the company culture across. Rather than focus on mundane weekday details, they show the audience what their employees choose to do with their time outside of work. This puts the emphasis on their employees as real-life people (with interests and families and lives outside the office) and, by extension, the work/life balance they provide. As the video makes clear, it is their top cultural priority.

Share Employee Perspectives and Insights

What better way to show what it’s like at your office than to let your employees speak for themselves? Featuring employee testimonials increases the authenticity of your video and gives a clear picture of what employees are working on and what they value about their job. Be sure to strategically choose which employees you want to feature based on the audience you’re trying to reach.

Bottle Rocket’s company video for Centro (voted the best place to work in Chicago for the past four years) shows just how effective testimonials can be. By combining sound bites from employees with focused leadership interviews and day-to-day shots of their office in action, the big picture of working for Centro comes together to tell an inspiring story. Employee testimonials are also one of the best ways to convey company culture –what employees choose to highlight in their commentary sheds light on the atmosphere and opportunities available at your organization.

Highlight Perks and Benefits

Sure, a fun-loving culture and opportunities for professional growth are all important perks to emphasize, but let’s not forget about the benefits! A recruitment video isn’t necessarily the time to get into the nitty-gritty of 401k’s and healthcare packages, but it can be a good time to highlight the more concrete benefits you offer employees that set you apart from the pack. Maybe it’s free food, unlimited vacation time, or flexible hours—no matter what’s on the table, a recruitment video is the perfect time to let potential talent know how working for you can make their lives better.

Hubspot’s take on recruitment is a traditional one, but it’s a high-quality example that does a great job outlining the benefits of working for them. It accomplishes this while also incorporating employee input and important cultural characteristics, like their approach to changing seats on a regular basis and enforcing a “no doors” policy for everyone, even top execs. After watching this video, you know exactly what your day-to-day routine would look like at Hubspot HQ, and what they offer beyond the basics that could influence your decision to join their team.

Have Fun with It

At the end of the day, you want your recruitment video to feel genuine and inviting in a way that’s true to your company’s core values. Approach the video with an open mind and a sense of fun, and you’ll leave with something great. Working with a professional video production company can bring in fresh creative perspectives, simplify the filming and editing process and guarantee a polished finished product. If you’re looking to create a slam-dunk recruitment video to bring in fresh talent, let’s talk..

Understanding Your Target Audience – The Psychology Behind a Good Video

Why understanding your target audience is the key to brand engagement

Videos can be an incredibly persuasive marketing medium which help to develop a genuine emotional bonds between a brand and its customers while simultaneously driving up sales. But with so much information out there on the internet, there will always be competition for attention in a saturated market. These days, high-quality video production is the standard, but even good ideas and great production aren’t enough on their own to get the job done. Intimately understanding your target demographic is key to producing the right kind of video content. Using some basic psychological concepts can increase the chances of driving the message home to the target consumer.

Getting to know your target audience

Choose the right medium

Video is a creative and effective medium, but it is not necessarily always the best medium for getting a message across. While there’s room for every company to incorporate video into their overall marketing strategy, it’s important to be thoughtful about the type of video you choose to highlight your brand. Remember, you want to share an authentic story that evokes empathy and inspires action. From explainer videos and documentaries to founder videos and original content, capitalize on the type of video that best conveys who you are, and that will resonate with your audience. Here are 7 types of videos that can be integrated into any marketing plan.

Play to their emotions

Once you’ve figured out which kind of video best suits your brand, it’s time to establish some emotional goals for the project. While we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, the truth is that emotions play a much larger role in our decision making than calm and reasoned logic, especially when it comes to purchasing decisions. That’s because emotions hit us at our most instinctive level. Even if we don’t know consciously why we’re buying something, we do know whether or not it makes us feel good to do it.

The key to capitalizing on emotional response is to have goals for the content from the get-go. Defining these goals can be as simple as answering two basic questions:

  1. What actions do I want my target audience to perform after watching this video?
  2. What emotions do I want to elicit?

Know what it is that makes the target audience tick and put it to work in your favor, without being too heavy handed. If the story and its emotional content doesn’t feel authentic, you run the risk of alienating them instead. Recent studies show that brands who can successfully create a strong emotional connection with their customers outperform their competitors by as much as 85% in overall sales growth. So what we’re saying is, playing to your audience’s emotions can pay off if you do it well.

The shareability factor

You’ve got a shiny new video, ready to share with the world. Now what? You can push this content until you’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean a thing unless people are sharing it. What is it that motivates people to share content? Why unicorn poopWhy cat videos? It’s because for whatever reason, these videos elicit a strong emotional response in their viewers.  Whether that emotion is hilarity, anger, outrage, or schadenfreude, capitalizing on high arousal emotions like these can give any video the “it” factor it needs.

Intimately knowing your audience is the answer. A video doesn’t have to go viral, but it does have to strike a chord with the intended demographic. Your small corner of the internet can have a big impact on your business if it’s properly executed. Whether you’re trying to make your customers laugh, learn, or empathize, being deliberate about the emotional goals for content is a non-negotiable. Start with a strong vision, take a creative angle, and know the audience well, and your video will hit home with the right people, every time.

The Recipe for a Bad Video

The worst video list: Decidedly more embarrassing than the worst dressed list

Video is everywhere. Some of it is outstanding, and some of it is really awful. YouTube alone gets 4 billion views a day, and the quality of these videos spans the spectrum from HD music videos to a Mom filming her kid’s soccer goal on a first-generation Samsung Galaxy. With the opportunity to get your content in front of a new set of eyes every second, putting out a good product should be a top priority for brands and marketers, and that means avoiding the following production fouls.

5 signs your video missed the mark

We’re all about creativity in the storytelling space, and while making your own video is totally doable, there’s always the chance that something out of your control will spring up and throw a wrench in production. One way to avoid these hangups is to work with a professional production company that will help draft, produce, edit, and manages the entire process for you. We’ve got a team ready to do just that (and then some). Contact Bottle Rocket Media to get started.