What is ViewFinder

ViewFinder is an award-winning visual storytelling project created by my “Advanced Video Storytelling” class at University of Maryland where the students focus on creating compelling natural sound stories. You can read more about the project on their website (, but here are links to our favorite shows.

Spring 2014 ViewFinder Team

Best of ViewFinder ’14 from ViewFinder on Vimeo.

Spring 2014 ViewFinder Team

ViewFinder ’14: The Other Games from ViewFinder on Vimeo.

Spring 2013 ViewFinder Team

ViewFinder: Overcoming Obstacles from ViewFinder on Vimeo.

Spring 2013 ViewFinder Team

ViewFinder: Small Business & Technology from ViewFinder on Vimeo.


Some of my favorite stories

Some of my favorite stories I share in my classroom, created by other people. The work is produced for a range of organizations including local TV, newspaper websites and radio stations.

Marcus Buggs, by Eric Seals:

Marcus Buggs; Growing up fast, determined to succeed! from Eric Seals on Vimeo.

The Twinkles: Chasing Perfection by Nyier Abdou:

The Twinkles: Chasing Perfection from Star-Ledger Video on Vimeo.


Watch List

VIDEOS Bethany produced at CNN

Powerful Storytelling by Bethany’s Friends


BEA 2015

#SFbatkid – Multiplatform Coverage of San Francisco Bat Kid Story

Questions for discussion

  • How do you prepare? What elements were pre-produced?
  • What format works best for each platform? What didn’t work?
  • What was your favorite story and why?
  • How did the elements vary depending on the outlet?
  • How many people do you think went into producing each story?
  • Is Make-a-Wish’s story journalism?
  • How does timeliness and deadlines impact elements and coverage?
  • How does social media impact coverage?
  • How do you make your story standout when every outlet in town is coveringthe same story?
  • Discuss challenges:o Making East Coast deadlines when covering a West Coast story
  • o Covering a story with lots of media, crowds and numerous locations o What to do when covering a busy event, with streets shut down, etc. o How to balance deadlines with quality

Links to coverage

Bethany Swain * @bethanysstories * * University of Maryland


ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Pt. 2

From a teaching perspective

Thousands of #IceBucketChallenge videos have been posted online and too many break the basic rules of video production that I teach my students. Here are a few examples of videos that live up to the standards that this disease deserves.

#ALSicebucket Haters, watch this…

And this…

Further Analysis

More links and analysis

But hold on… this says “73% of donations are not used for ALS research.”

ALS response:

Snopes analysis:

“Three Unexpected Lessons from #IceBucketChallenge”!bOFK4i

More on Pete Frates, from ESPN:

Ted Talk: Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong –


ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Pt. 1

I Challenge You!

Alanna Delfino (ViewFinder ’14) turned the camera on me for a change after I was challenged by Ulysses Muñoz (ViewFinder ’15) in an #ALSIceBucketChallenge video. I challenge everyone to participate in this social event that draws attention and raises funds for ALS. So I am offering an incentive.

How it works

For every student produced #IceBucketChallenge inspired video that tags me (@bethanysstories) and #ALSforEd on twitter, I will donate $25 to ALS. Up to $400 total donation.

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This is more than just an excuse to see students and friends get creative. My father-in-law, Ed Swain, passed away in 2004 from ALS. I was there when he died, after years of suffering. I want to see my students produce videos up to the production standards that this subject deserves. And even better if you also give a donation:

Thanks Eric Seals for the No Vertical Video reminder.