How Johnny Widen won the TI Video Contest
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on November 15th, 2012

Not quite three weeks ago, we announced Johnny Widen of Sweden as the winner of the TI Video Contest. As winner, Johnny will be going to the TI Open Water Experience in Maho Bay, USVI in January. (Actually, since Johnny recently earned his TI Coach Certification, he’ll be coaching at Maho–and capturing video for another production, about the Open Water Experience.) After Johnny learned he was our contest winner,  he shared his storyboards and production process with me. I was so impressed that I asked him to write a guest post describing how he created the video And I’ll take this opportunity to give a heads-up that TI will have another video contest in 2013, If you think you might like to enter, studying Johnny’s creative process may give you a leg up.

 The Making of ‘My Total Immersion Story’ 

by Johnny Widen

I was very excited when I saw the announcement of the Total Immersion video contest. I felt I simply must participate! What story should I tell?

The most important element was to tell a good story. For my first script/storyboard, I included everything that came to mind. Swimming in my youth, the awards I won then, pool swimming, open water swimming, cold water swimming, the Saturday sessions with “Luleå Lögarbröder” (Luleå Washing Brothers) where we swim and play water polo, Kaizen, focal points, etc.

What video ‘assets’ did I have and what new clips would I need?? After I started learning TI techniques, I filmed myself regularly, looking for errors to correct (Kaizen!), so I had lots of video from which to choose. I’d been interested in filmmaking since getting a super-8 camera in the early 80s. In 2008 I took a course in Digital Storytelling, where I learned the advantages of having lots of footage to choose from when editing. Once I decided to enter the video contest, I began to film even more.

I used Google Docs to update my script, adding thumbnails of the clips, to get a good overview. I used Final Cut Pro to convert script into storyboard.

Kill your darlings

I analyzed my first storyboard and timed it at 6 minutes. The contest allowed me a maximum of 3 minutes. What was essential? What could I trash?

Ingmar Bergman once said, – “Kill your darlings!”, meaning that a clip, no matter how much you like it, if it doesn’t advance the story, kill it! I had a hard time to killing clips I really loved.

The approaching deadline

I did the final edit to get under 3 minutes just hours before the contest deadline. Then disaster struck! Final Cut Pro crashed!!… PANIC! I had to redo an hour’s worth of work in only 15 minutes. I made it, however, the 2:59 I had earlier became 2:56. I wondered, if I had more editing time, what could I do with those extra 3 seconds. 🙂

I was reminded of Winston Churchill’s ironic statement: “This will be a long talk. I didn’t have time to prepare a shorter one.”  The original 6-minute film would have taken far less time to create.

Why are his lips moving? Since the announcement was an underwater video of Fiona talking while swimming, I decided to start the video by swimming up to the camera while ‘talking’ under water — and to end it under the water too. Later I realized that most people watching my entry may not have seen the announcement, and may be scratching their heads in puzzlement over why I seem to be talking underwater at the start. So now you know.


A big thanks to Ann-Christine Haupt for organizing the course on Digital Storytelling in 2008 and for taking time to review and make suggestions on the making of my video.

If you’re thinking of entering the next TI video contest (hint, hint) here are examples of my storyboards

Early storyboard

Final storyboard

And here’s the video that resulted.


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