Filmmaking Tip: Emotion


This is a video tip series in which we’ll single out one technique we used in our films to help you make better travel films. If you’re new to our films, Humanity.TV aims to inspire authentic travel through brief but intimate HD videos on fascinating people around the world.

In filmmaking, and especially in documentary filmmaking, emotion is a storyteller’s greatest tool. In order for the audience to feel attached to, and therefore decide to keep watching, your video, they must experience some emotion – anger, sadness, happiness, fear. If you’re not eliciting some emotion, then you’re going to lose them quick.

Specifically for documentary filmmaking, and especially stories on human rights, one of the best ways to elicit an emotion from the viewer is to show emotion from one of your principal characters. In Humanity.TV’s very first video, we teamed up with the inspirational Belle Staurowsky, a martial arts champion who uses her skill and experience to help Indian girls protect themselves from sex-trafficking threats.

The Protector from Humanity.TV on Vimeo.

Play the video above and wait for 0:56 mark.

Here Belle comes onscreen and talks about the realities many of these girls face. By bringing Belle onscreen, rather than just seeing her voice, the viewer can see and experience the emotion that Belle is feeling – it’s the emotion of a sad reality, but with a strong sense of hope and pride. This emotion carries the entire video, giving it not only its emotional weight, but also its uplifting and hopeful message – yes, there is pain and difficulty, but there is also strength and determination.

When shooting your next video, keep this tip in mind: to elicit emotion from your viewer, show the emotions of your characters. This technique works whether it’s sadness, joy, fear, or courage. Stay tuned for our next filmmaking tip.



Inspiring authentic travel, Humanity.TV videos offer a brief but intimate look into the lives of captivating individuals all over the world.

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