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"Bret Primack has always been way ahead of the digital curve, and his expertise with video editing, filming and web knowledge is absolutely first class." Randy Brecker

Now you can get the guidance you need to produce professional quality film and video content. Let me translate my experience as a filmmaker to help you achieve the best quality product. .

I can teach you to produce the same quality film as an experienced documentary filmmaker. See my Jazz Video Guy YouTube channel to understand the production value of video that you can be producing.

"Ask a Filmmaker" has new postings every day to help you. Please email me with your comments and questions.


PCC Student Showcase

Ideal Length of Web Video



Bill Minor, Paterson, New Jersey asks:
What is the ideal length of a web video?  Some people say one minute, others, two or three.  From your experience, what is best?  

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 5.16.12 PM

These are the Audience Retention stats for one of my most popular YouTube videos Harmonica Guru, a blues performance.  It's a four minute and eighteen second video of a harmonica solo.

A little less than twenty five percent of viewers watch the entire video.  The average view is one minute and thirty four seconds, or thirty seven percent of the entire video.  At least fifty percent of the viewers leave after the first minute.  Twenty five percent are gone in the first fiteen seconds.  And this is a typical web video, no matter the length.

Hence the importance of putting something in the first fifteen second to keep viewers watching, to grab their attention.  People stick around because they perceive some sort of benefit they personally receive from watching the video, which can be educational, entertainment, curiosity or because they're bored and have nothing else to do.

So the first fifteen seconds of the video are the most important.  


As to the overall length of the video, there are four considerations.

1) The content.  Depending on what that is, viewers will stay tuned.  For example, a cooking video tied to a recipe.  If someone is interested in cooking that recipe, they are probably going to watch the entire video.  A fun, entertaining video is best in a shorter, easily digestible length, no more than two minutes.  But a documentary style video, especially about a compelling topic, can keep a viewers attention for five to eight minutes, sometimes longer.  A Ted Talk is usually around twelve minutes.  Whether or not the viewer sticks around depends on the presenter, and the subject.  

2) How and where the audience views the video.  The device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop), and platform on which your content is delivered (social media, YouTube, website, ecommerce site) is one of the most important considerations when determining how long your video should be. Facebook's auto-playback feature makes 30- to 45-second videos optimal; while Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have inspired less-engineered, "micro-videos" that are 15 seconds or less.  If your content is posted on YouTube or Vimeo, viewers are more open to a longer video

3) Audience expectations.  The interest and attention span of viewers vary depending what they expect. Cues like titles and image previews set these expectations, and ultimately are the determing factor on  how long a viewer is willing to watch. A more formal title ("Replacing a Cracked Display on an iPhone or iPad") leads the viewer to assume the video is longer and more comprehensive.  They focus on the subject matter and will stick around.  A short title ("How to Fix an iPhone Screen"), leads the audience to believe that the brevity of the title will carry over to the length of the video.

Finally, the image a viewer sees when they click on a video is also important. Consider these points when selecting a preview image:  An image of a person or people, which tells the viewer it's most likely fund and like, and short.  Screen text, which leads the viewer to assume they'll be learning something, therefore will be engaged for a longer period of time.  And finally, an image of a product.  These can easily result in a lower click-through rate and should only be for brand conscious viewers.


What action do you want the viewer to take?  The hallmark of good video content is a well-designed user experience. To figure this out, answer these questions to understand how much time a viewer will invest.  Do I simply want to entertain?  Is there a call to action (sign up for an email list, purchase a product, share this content, etc.)?  Do I want to educate the viewer?

Let this also determine at what point in the video to insert a call to action. When you want a viewer to take action, don't wait until the end -- put it in the first 10 seconds.

As you start posting videos, look carefully at your audience retention stats, to see what's working, and what isn't.


What Do Successful Screenplays Have in Common

What Do Successful Screenplays Have in Common

  1. Single Motive Line

The most common mistake a screenwriter can make is to break or fracture the storyline.

For example, if you have ever told someone you were going to read a specific book title on filmmaking, they would expect you to update them daily on what you had learned. They would keep wondering "What is it like?" "Is it good?" and so on.

But if you told them after you had read the first chapter that you had decided to start studying figure skating instead, they would scratch their head. You would lose them at this point.

Tell them however, that you have decided to become a animator instead of  filmmaker and they would accept this as a career change, because your basic motive has not changed. It has simply bent.

  1. Heroes Have A Second Problem To Solve

In your bog-standard Hollywood movie, the cliche is of the action hero shot in the chest, the bullet stopped by an object in their chest pocket. Usually this is a copy of the Bible, or a picture of the girl they left behind.

This is the way Hollywood tries to tack on a second problem to solve - in this case an inner problem: religion or relationships.

Make one outer problem obvious and visible. Make the second one an inner problem, one that the main character may not even know that he or she has at the start of the story,

Doing this will make your movie zing.

  1. Suspense of Disbelief

Great movies set up a series of circumstances that when added together become fantastical or extreme to the point where our average daily life becomes pale in consideration.

Great movies successfully walk us through each stage of these increasingly fantastic constructions and make us believe that they are real, when in fact they are far from real.

  1. Strong Openings Means Strong Screenplays

Set the time and pace, and sum up the story through a clear and strong statement of theme.

The opening page of an action movie might have three or four short scenes, but a romantic comedy might have an opening scene lasting several pages.

Theme is what the story is really about, and is generally expressed through dialogue on the third or fourth page. For example, on page 3 of Chinatown, Jack Nicholson says: "You need to be a rich sonabitch to kill someone in this town and get away with it." This perfectly expressed what Chinatown was really about.

  1. Play With Structure

Structure is probably the most misleading and unhelpful screenwriting term invented. A story's structure is based on the way your character's goals unfold.

Stories may in fact have a single theme as in (1) above, but clever and smart story-telling will throw a curve ball and lead the main character onto another goal temporarily. Not every film needs the paint-by-number structure ideas proclaimed by leading so-called story gurus.

  1. Ambition

Great movies are ambitious in their scope and ideas. Great movies try and connect the writer's idea to the member of the audience watching the film, and teach them something they can use for their own life. They may not always totally succeed, but an audience will always allow a movie faults if the ambition is there for everyone to see.

  1. Choose Your World

Screenwriters have the choice of two worlds: the one we, the audience, know or the one we don't know. Great movies take us into one of these two worlds and either show us something about the world we know (that we didn't know before) or, take us into a world we do not know and show us something that we can use in our own lives to become better people.

  1. Genre

Great movies are based on a blend of genres. All stories are blends of genres. The two most popular and commercial successful genre blends today are action/adventure and romantic/comedy. Genre has always been with us, be it in ancient Greek myths, Shakespearean stage plays or in modern straight-to-video movies.

Study films of the type you would like to write or make and see how past masters of these movies unfold their stories.

  1. The World We Live In

As a storyteller and filmmaker you get to create your own version of the world - a world that is populated by movie people doing movie things in movie time. Great movies create worlds that are full of sparkling details and characters in which the writer and filmmaker show their own moral view of life, along with a view of how details impact and affect the way people live.

  1. Have Something To Say

A movie with a great message is a great movie. See if your movie or screenplay can relate to a theme that is larger or more universal than the story you are telling.