Posted on 38 Comments

The Small Stories Manifesto

small dogHello, video creator. I have something important to share, and it involves you.

We video creators need to spend more time practicing our craft with small stories.

I’m officially going on the record with this Small Stories Manifesto. I want to devote more time to Small Stories personally and also through this website.

So what is a Small Story?

What is a Small Story?

  • The total duration of the video is 2 minutes or under.
  • It’s a complete, self-contained story.
  • It has no pressure to be significant (or big). Small topics are perfectly fine.
  • It uses the techniques of video journalism such as interviews, B-roll, voice-overs, (properly licensed) music, etc.
  • It has no pressure to have high production value which means you can make it with whatever equipment you have, even a smartphone’s video camera and microphone.
  • It is a miniature, tiny documentary on a small topic.

What a Small Story is Not

  • It is not a photo or video montage set to music. Can it include photos? Of course it can, but the emphasis is on a complete story in under two minutes.
  • It is not a trailer for (or segment from) a longer project. A Small Story is its own thing.
  • It isn’t a short film or a commercial spot. (Well, it could be considered a short documentary film, but it’s not a scripted fictional short film.)

Advantages of Small Stories

  • They’re easy to make. You could make one on a Saturday afternoon.
  • They’re more likely to be watched. Internet users like short videos.
  • They use many of the same tools and techniques that Big Stories use, so you’re also practicing for Big Stories.
  • Small Stories are less overwhelming to the video creator. It’s not a big undertaking, so you’re able (and more likely) to complete it.

An example of a Small Story video

Below is an example of a Small Story video I made. It’s called Aiden’s Cube. I used a video camera, headphones, and a microphone. I didn’t even use a tripod (as you’ll see from some of the shaky handheld clips). It’s not perfect, and I didn’t spend a lot of time on it (a few hours over the weekend).

Perfection isn’t the point. The point is to practice telling Small Stories, which I believe this video accomplishes. Take a look…

My Challenge to You

I officially challenge you to shoot and edit a Small Story video. Then upload it to YouTube or Vimeo (or anywhere that provides embed code), then email me the link so I can watch it.

Possible Topics

Are you up for the challenge? To kickstart your creative juices, I’ll list some possible topics. (You can actually use one of these if you want. I won’t be offended, and folks can approach the same topics in different ways.)

Here are a few Small Story topic possibilities:

  • Your child’s dance shoes
  • An antique in your house
  • Your relationship with (insert anything here)
  • A nearby location that you like to visit
  • Your child’s first camera
  • Your love affair with Minecraft
  • Your band’s first performance
  • What you did to celebrate your 20th wedding anniversary
  • Anything else you can imagine (and squeeze a complete story into a 2 minute video)


Assuming you accept the challenge, here are a few hints that you might find helpful:

  • Remember the story can’t be too big because of the two minute limit. You’ll usually need a small topic for a small story. The good news is that small topics are all around you. It’s the big stories that are hard to find and document.
  • You might need to use more sound bites than interviews. Two minutes isn’t very long, so you might find yourself shooting interviews and then cutting them down to a few choice sound bites.
  • Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. The video should reflect that.
  • It helps to have a few bullet points in mind before you start shooting video and conducting interviews. Planning helps you deal with the constraints.

This is what I’m going to do…

I have already added a new (currently empty) Small Stories category to this website.

If you send me links to your Small Story videos, I’ll watch as many as I can. Then I’ll start sharing my favorites right here on this website.

My hope is that by sharing your Small Stories, people will get inspiration and education from them.

I look forward to watching them. Send me links to your Small Story videos. My contact info is on my about page.

I challenge you to make a Small Story video. Do you accept the challenge?

Stock media provided by Kamira/

38 thoughts on “The Small Stories Manifesto

  1. great challenge, will be submitting mine soon

    1. Excellent, looking forward to it! :)

  2. Great idea Izzy! Coincides with a (small) plan I have too…

    1. Sounds promising! Looking forward to seeing the results…

  3. Great idea. That is always my challenge, to make a 2 minute video.



    1. Well said, George. The constraint is part of the fun. :)

  4. ‘Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end’ – is the best advice you could ever give, apologize for being a cynical ex BBC journalist but I would have added jeopardy by setting out at beginning of his ‘stairs challenge’ Aiden’s record and then getting him to beat it and offer a prize/incentive for doing so.

    1. Haha, great idea! So awesome…

  5. awesome direction for us all……

    my website is still in construction mode yet I am getting a lot of work from families.

  6. Like the idea. Just the kind of no pressure challenge a busy dad needs. Count me in!

    1. Simon — Nice, looking forward to seeing the result! :)

  7. how did you speed up the middle of the video with no cuts?

    yes i am a rookie

    1. Greg — I used the blade tool to make cuts on both sides, then sped things up with the Retime Editor in Final Cut Pro X.

      1. Hi Izzy, perhaps you could make a tutorial on Retime Editor? I take it you can slow things down as well?

        1. Graham – This video is part of my Final Cut Pro X tutorial, and it shows the Retime Editor in action:

          1. You can also learn a lot from the help in FCPX. I always do. It’s surprisingly clear (to me) most of the time.
            Try it, it’s free…

  8. This is a great idea. I need to get to work on this!

    1. One of the reasons I dig the concept is because it’s totally doable. Looking forward to seeing your Small Story.

  9. Challenge accepted Izzy! :)

    1. Kevin, man I’m excited you’re getting involved. No pressure, but I’m really looking forward to seeing yours. :)

      1. I’ll put my thinking cap on. You know it’s going to be about nature in some way. :)

  10. Good job Izz Man. This ought to be fun………..

  11. I think this is a great, non-intrusive way of sharing stories without pushing a product. It’s a good way to engage people and establish yourself as an authority.

    The funny thing is that watching that video, you don’t realise it’s only a 2 minute video. Whether it’s the background music, the interviews with Aiden, and the blind Rubic’s cube challenge, it seems like you’ve packed an awful lot into 2 minutes! User experience: you got me hooked.

    Very engaging.

    1. Great feedback, Anthony. Thanks! :)

  12. I made a compilation of about 30 movies of 30 sec. as a excercise-project for my videoclub.
    The task was to make a complete movie of max. 30 sec. (!) with a story, joke, saying or funny plot. (It is in the Dutch language but not all with voice-over)

  13. What if I made one a few months back just on a whim? I believe it meets the requirements.

    1. Hey Marc — If it meets the requirements, send it on over. Folks have been sending me links to videos all day.

      Of course, there’s also no harm in making more. :)

      Thanks for participating!

  14. That was great… I have done something like that before , I need to send it to you very soon


    David founder Dabujumedia

  15. I’m a scrapper, so I’m here via the Roundtable and Noell’s videos – and I love the idea of small stories in my scrapbooks. In the industry there’s such a push to tell more significant stories when we take the time to scrapbook, but I find I’m enjoying making simple pages about quick things. And that makes it easier to tell the big story when I have one to tell!

    Also, I’m definitely going to try tell my first story with video this month, using my old Flip video camera thingy.

  16. Well done, (both of you) very nice clip.

    Thank you.

  17. I heard about this on PRT, and LOVE this idea. I’ve been struggling with remembering to capture short clips of my girls as they grow and I’ve missed big chunks of both girls’ baby and toddler years. But I can start now. I only have Windows Live Movie Maker to edit but that’s probably a good baby step to start with…

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Nice! Glad to hear you’re taking action. That’s where it all starts. :)

  18. I was listening paperclipping and I’m glad I checked your page this is so inspiring but I think it’s hard than what you say. Izzy would do one day a course on video for non professional and scrapbookers ;)

  19. Hey Izzy – just curious – not that I’m expecting to blaze through editing at the pace you do…but with the Aiden’s Cube video – how long did that take you post-production on a 2 min video? Clearly as others have stated – for me anyways, less is more. And by more, I mean time :) Thanks

    1. Hmm… I think I probably spent a couple hours on it. For me one of the biggest time-consumers is doing the voice-overs. I usually do it a bunch of times before I’m happy with it.

      If you haven’t yet, I highly encourage you to watch my Small Stories Webinar in the members’ library (if you’re a member). I go into a lot more detail on the process of planning, shooting, and editing a Small Story video like this one.

      1. Thanks…I am, and I will!

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