The Small Stories Manifesto

Published on January 22, 2015

small dog

Hello, 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...

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/

This article was last updated on June 18, 2021


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