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Thirty-six out of sixty-seven. That’s how many days we’ve spent in our champion white Dodge Caravan as we tour around the country sharing stories that are very close to our hearts.

On day thirty-six I woke up, like most of the days on tour, in the local Best Western at 7:30 sharp with 25 minutes to get ready, 10 minutes to head down to the lobby and snag some coffee (hoping to find something Fair Trade), and then a ride over to the workshop venue.

On this day though, as I woke up in Washington, something was off.

As I skimmed through my morning emails, a routine I imagine many of us share, I got email after email with the same sentiment. Friends, colleagues, industry manufacturers – all the same message.

‘Did you see their new website?’
‘Wow, did you catch that?’
‘Seems more than a little odd, no?’

Obviously curious I clicked on the link. And there it was.

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The story will always be driving force of the emotional impact in your films. Here’s the thing most of us miss – the story exists beyond the first and last frame. Our approach, how we go about telling the story, is intimately related to what the audience will see and feel on the screen.

A ninja approaches filmmaking like no other.

A ninja is stealth, strategic, and always a step ahead. Over the next several posts we’ll discuss how to embrace your inner ninja to tell more authentic stories. Let’s start with the tools that every Ninja needs.


At it’s core, ninja filmmaking is about being proactive versus reactive.


What exactly does that mean? Say you show up to shoot the story of a local baker who, you’ve heard, makes the most delicious and extravagant cakes out there. Think Willy Wonka, layered, with frosting.

When I first got into filmmaking, I’d spend the day with our baker following whatever they did, getting b-roll as they went through their process of making the batter, baking, and building the cake.

That works. It gets you coverage. It can get you beautiful shots too, but it’s far from telling a story.

The ninja, on the other hand, would approach this in a completely different way. The ninja would

  • already know every step of the this bakers process
  • already have listened to light to guide where they could shoot
  • understand what motivates this baker and why he makes cakes
  • the best ninjas know what the baker will do well before the baker even knows it
  • understand the story they are telling so well that they could filter through what was actually important and what wasn’t.

Here’s the difference. Rather than following along and covering everything that happens, the ninja covers the 20% of what happens that contains 80% of the story. They’d be ready for every shot well before it happened.

And because they are so in tune with the story they are telling, and because they have so much less to try and cover, every time they roll the camera there will be so much more thought into the lens choice, composition, camera settings, use of light, and camera movement.

I don’t know about you, but I’d want the ninja on my team any day of the week.


There are three main things we want to learn from the ninja; how to be strategic, how to be stealth-like, and how to stay a step ahead. We’ll cover each core concept in it’s own post.

Let’s start with how to stay a step ahead – that’s the tools that allow you to be quick and nimble. When choosing our gear we often get so wrapped up in the shiny object and epic shots that we undervalue the importance of how the tool enables us to stay in front of the story.

To be a true ninja filmmaker, you need to choose tools that allow you to always be a step ahead of the action. 

That Red Epic may have more dynamic range and a wider color space than our brains can process, but if it’s always trying to catch up with the story, I’ll take the Canon C100.

With that, 11 tools every ninja needs. 


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On Feb 1st, 1865 Abraham Lincoln signed what eventually became the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery from the United States. One hundred and forty-eight years later a remarkable 9-year old girl saw a photo of two enslaved Nepali boys and realized it still exists, and decided to take a stand for something she believes in – a world without slavery.

And much like little Vivienne, we too believe in standing for the world we want to live in. Lincoln used a pen, Vivienne used lemons, and us – we are using a story.

See this Saturday – February 1st – is National Freedom Day and we invite you to join us in meetups all across the world where you can #standwithme for freedom. All the details are on www.Swm.do/feb1.


Confirmed meets up in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Hong Kong, Toronto, Vienna and Stockholm!

Plus, many more. Check www.Swm.do/feb1 for the latest confirmed meet-ups.


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At each meet up there will be:

- a host Instagrammer to coordinate activities
- a Street Team Volunteer with fun resources to photograph + film
- a filmmaker to document the event

That is where you can help – We need filmmakers!

We need a filmmaker at each city to film the fun, the joy, and the laughter. We can join together around the world to help create a collaborative film that tells the story of what happens when communities stand together. Collaboration, building something together, and telling stories guided by heart is why we founded Story & Heart. We are excited to work with the Story & Heart team to put this film together and bring it to the world.

In SF – Spoken Word Poetry, Top Instagrammers, Vivienne & Her Family, & A Free Midnight Screening to Sold-Out #standwithme

The Stillmotion team will be in San Francisco with Vivienne and her family to have fun at the SF meet-up. Marshall Davis Jones is going to perform an original spoken word piece specifically written for National Freedom Day. Top Instagrammers like @Moneal and @JayZombie caught wind about what we are doing and will personally be at the meetup to host their communities that they invited to join in making this a worldwide event. Oh and we’re hosting a midnight screening at the Balboa Theater in San Fran of the #standwithme film – free to everyone who comes out to our San Fran meet! The first two screenings are sold out – so this midnight screening is an awesome chance to come and join in the fun and share the film.

Pretty neat right? Now imagine this extending to say Tokyo, Egypt, Germany, South Africa and all across the globe. And at each location we, this community of filmmakers, bring the heart and resources to document the powerful movement of people coming together to stand against slavery. What a film that could become.

Right now we have confirmed Instameets in these cities. We need filmmakers in:

- Brooklyn, NY USA
- Washington DC, USA
- Hong Kong, China
- Seattle, WA USA
- Toronto, ON Canada
- Des Moines, IA USA
- Denver, CO USA
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Raleigh, NC USA
- Lafayette, TX US
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Los Angeles, CA USA
- Ventura, CA USA
- Vienna, Austria


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If you are a filmmaker in any of the above cities and want to be the Official Filmmaker at a particular InstaMeet to film on Feb 1st, please get in contact with Michelle at michele.blackwell@stillmotion.ca for more details.

  • What if you are not in one of those cities but interested in hosting an Instameet meet up in your city?
  • What if you want to film in your city and just need someone to help connect you with an Instagrammer?

Email Michelle and she will help coordinate details to get you started.

Don’t forget to check back at the website www.Swm.do/feb1 to get the latest scoop on all the details on what to do, where to meet and when to show up.

Once you sign up and confirm you’ll be the lead filmmaker, the webpage will be updated with your name and profile!


Let’s stand together and show the world what a group of passionate storytellers can do together.



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These stories have a ton of heart. Vote now to Green Light one of these films. We have a band of awesome companies who will help bring one of them to life.

Until February 4th at midnight, cast your vote for the film you’d like to see Green Lit.

We have taken over 100 entries and narrowed them to 10 dream films (pitches). Now you choose the top two finalists. From there, five awesome companies each get one vote to determine which film gets Green lit.

YOU decide the two finalists.

February 7th at 9am we’ll announce the Green Lit film. From there, we’ll all get started in helping bring it to life.

Here is a recap of how all of these awesome companies will help bring the chosen film to life.

$5,000 credit from Stillmotion to be used for a mentorship throughout the production process.e will collaborate with you to help develop your story. Build out the story arc, brainstorm the conflict, and get help planning for production. We are here to help brainstorm and guide you to ensure that your dream film is more than brought to life, it’s also as effective as possible.

A rental credit of $2,500 so you have all the gear you need. Whether it be a Canon C300, Freefly Movi, or a collection of sweet lenses, the team at LPTG has provided an awesome credit to ensure your are geared up throughout the production process. More than that, they are an incredible resource to help make sure you are choosing the right gear to bring your story to life.

$5,000 credit for music services to ensure your story sounds as good as it looks. An amazing part of having Marmoset involved is that you’ll get a dedicated music supervisor, somebody who will listen to what your story is about and what you want to achieve, and help suggest tracks that add to your story. You’ll also have the option to use your credit towards custom composition for your film!

$2,500 licensing credit for footage that is made from the heart and crafted with story in mind. We hope you’ll dream big with your story, and often that means needing footage beyond your local reach. With Story & Heart you’ll have access to amazing footage and an incredible community from around the world to help make your story even stronger.

Front page coverage of your film when it’s ready to launch. Bringing your story to life is only half the battle – you also need to be creative in how you get people to see it. In partnering with FStoppers, you’ll know that when your film is ready it can debut to a large audience and thousands of views.

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When you start talking on big filmmaking projects, travel is often an integral part of bringing it to life. Gear envy, and wanting to bring everything with us, is a problem we often suffer from whether we shoot locally or not.  Travel adds in the complexity of needing to transport the gear, baggage fees, plus we often have smaller crews. In this post and tutorial we’ll share some key ideas on how you can tell a stronger story while bringing less gear.

One of the scenes in #standwithme takes us to Africa, to the middle of the Kalahari Desert. To get there, we had to make 4 different connections, from plane to plane, to plane to Land Rover. And as if that wasn’t enough, we still had the harsh desert environment to deal with once we got there.

So here we are with the opportunity of a lifetime. We are following somebody who just won Humanitarian Photographer of the Year, we get to travel to the incredibly inspiring country of Namibia, and this will be a huge scene in our first feature length documentary. How do you not bring everything in your arsenal?


In this tutorial we’ll take you along for the ride as we travel to Namibia and share our approach to packing, where less is more.


A film is made well before the cameras roll. You can always do more with less as long as you take the time to plan it out. By looking at what we were trying to say and seeing how it fits into the overall story we were able to break it down, scene by scene, shot by shot, to see what tools we needed to bring. Less gear means we could move quicker, save on luggage, and most importantly – always be present and focused on the story, instead of being overwhelmed with two many options.