By Dan O’Reilly-Rowe, 2009.

Expressing ideas visually and through sound, showing rather than telling, is central to the art of filmmaking. This simple but fun activity encourages participants to experiment with the representation of ideas and emotions through imagery. The storyboard scripting format is used to plan a story (or non-narrative sequence) as a series of images and sound.


  • Explore audio/visual representation of concepts in video.
  • Practice storyboarding.
  • Practice shot composition.
  • Use in-camera edit technique to assemble a sequence.


1 workshop (2-3 hours).

Equipment & Supplies

  • Video camera (a ratio close to 4 participants to 1 camera works well)
  • Batteries
  • Recording media (eg tape, chip, drive…)
  • Tripod
  • Butcher’s paper
  • Pens/markers

Media Resources

  • A selection of poems
  • Examples of video art or video poems


  • If the group is not experienced with shot composition terminology, give a basic intro (see workshop Shot Composition).
  • Discuss the similarities and differences between poems and videos. Responses might include:
    • Poetry is a very old art form, video is a very new art form.
    • Poetry is an art form, video is a technology.
    • Videos can have poems in them.
    • Videos are made out of images and sounds, poems are made out of words.
  • Emphasize the basic difference between the two as one being a recorded audio/visual form and the other being a written & performance form.
  • Today’s exercise is about taking a written poem and turning it into images (and sounds if they like). Poems can be descriptive of material things, but they often contain words that are “evocative” meaning that they “evoke” associations beyond what they say literally. They do this by using “symbolism”, “metaphor”, “simile”, “allegory”, “allusion”, etc. Discuss the meaning of these terms to the best of your ability. Use examples from poetry wherever possible. Hip-hop lyrics can be a great way of introducing these concepts if that is a form that facilitators and participants in the group are familiar with.
  • The tool that we’re going to use to plan our adaptation of poetry into a video is a storyboard. A storyboard is a type of script that plots out how a video is going to play out on the screen that uses simple drawings and descriptions of the imagery and sound in each shot to represent a video sequence. Reveal a blank storyboard page and explain how to use it to plan a shoot.


A storyboard templateA storyboard template


  • Divide the group into as many teams as you have cameras (ideally 2-5 per group). Give each team a poem and some blank paper to make their own storyboards on.
  • Describe the process from here to screening:
    1. Teams should read their poem and discuss the types of imagery that they will use to represent the words in it.
    2. Plan their shoot using the storyboard to break the poem down in to small chunks and draw images of what they will record.
    3. Shoot the images as planned in the in-camera edit style (in order, beginning and ending each shot as it will be screened, one take only, no rewinding).
    4. Screen videos while using storyboard to guide a reading of the poem (and any sound effects they want to perform).
  • Teams should go through the poem, breaking it down into smaller chunks that could be turned into images. This could be done in a line-by-line fashion, but groups might also think about the rhythm of the poem and how concepts and images in its lines are broken up. Teams write the words of the poem under a drawing that represents the image that they will record, keeping in mind that the drawing is a still image (think of it as a “thumbnail”) and the video will be a moving image. Images should be drawn to represent the actual framing of the image (eg a close up should look like a close up), and teams can get creative about how they will show camera movement.
  • During shooting, teams are encouraged to stick to their plan from the storyboard. The shooting will be done for image only (no sound recording), so it might be useful for the timing of shots to rehearse each a few times before recording, and to practice saying the line of poetry off-screen and co-ordinating the action to it.
  • The video will be played back while one or more crew members simultaneously read the poem. Teams might wish to consider what other sounds they could create (singing, percussion, vocal effects etc) to make the viewing experience even more multi-media.
  • After screening, process by discussing the meaning of the images and how they relate to the meaning of the words in the poem. Refer back to the earlier discussion about how poets use symbolism, and discuss the symbolic and/or expressive use of images. Discuss the ways in which the shot composition choices that each crew made effected the shot’s expressive power.

Storytelling Prompts | Finding Topics to Explore

Morgan Sully, 2010.  Coming up with a worthy topic for a story can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here’s a few prompts to get you started. Participants Can work for small or large groups.  Not much technology is needed for this activity. Skills/Technique This...