• The Art of Going All In

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After 23 days of non-stop editing before the Sundance deadline, Patrick reflects on the process, knowing that our documentary only became what it now is because of one thing: we went all in.

When it comes to filmmaking, I’ve never really felt like I was particularly creative… or talented for that matter.

Growing up, my father always used to say “can’t isn’t in your dictionary” and he encouraged us to always believe we could do anything we dreamed of. While filmmaking was never something that just came to me, dreaming big certainly was.

But those dreams always came at the price of going “all in.”

Here’s a quick story for you…

At 16, when I was looking to save up for my first car, I took at a job at the local YMCA. During the summer break I had several weeks where I would clock 100+ hours. I can remember looking at my time sheet at the end of the week and always feeling proud at how much I had done.

It was never particularly hard work, nor was it anything I felt particularly connected to, but I was always proud of the accomplishment of simply doing something I may not have thought I was capable of.

One shift in particular: I can remember starting at the front desk at 9am on a Saturday morning, rotating to work with the kids camp around 4PM, switching to an overnight shift in maintenance at 10PM, and then picking up another another handful of hours with the kids camp in the morning…

What reached just over 30 hours straight ended up getting me in trouble with several departments (I believe that may have been illegal…) but it was just the start in opening my eyes to what was possible when you pushed yourself.

When I was old enough to drive, my dad gifted me with a business he had started and thought would be great for me to run with. It involved selling newspaper subscriptions for a commission on each sale. We had a crew of 5-6 kids that would rotate as our door-to-door crew, and a minivan to transport everybody from city to city.

Here I was at 17-18 years old, running a team of kids selling newspapers, having to handle payroll, and acting as their guardian when we traveled hours away from home. All of this, and I’d never really read a newspaper myself, had any interest in running a business, or been particularly fond of kids.

It was the challenge to see what we could do, to see what was possible, and the ideology that had been long engrained in me…

Can’t isn’t in your dictionary.

At our peak, we sold 152 subscriptions on one magical, yet long, Saturday in the middle of summer.

At a $20 a pop, it meant the kids would get a paycheck of $500-600 cash for a few days work. I can remember having to step in and stop one of the 7-year-olds, Stephane, when he went to somebody’s door to sell a paper and ended up throwing down a $1,000 cash offering to buy the car listed for sale in their front yard.

When we became the top selling team in our region and got to meet the head of the newspaper in person, he was shocked at just how young I was. Much like my current feelings that I’m not particularly talented in the art of filmmaking, at that time I certainly didn’t feel any special gifts in selling newspapers…

We were just willing to work harder, go longer, and do what nobody else would do…

_DSC4475Mapping out the flow of the #standwithme story board in the edit bay.

Fast forward to today…

Now, just days after we submitted our first film to Sundance, I feel the exact same way as I did running the newspaper squad. When we meet people at workshops or conferences there seems to be this idea that our team might have some uncanny knack for shooting pretty images that float from the CF card straight onto the timeline to make a powerful sequence.

The truth, unfortunately, is that it’s far from easy and while we often have magic, it is always born out of perspiration and passion.

Just a few weeks ago, a group of us converged on a newly finished edit bay in our Portland studio and we started cutting. We’d shot for 6 months and found ourselves really starting post production with just 23 days left to the Sundance deadline.

There are many different forms in which this movie could have taken, but the one we weren’t ready to accept was the movie that was somehow lacking because we ran out of time or couldn’t try everything we wanted to.

And so we dove in — we gave all of ourselves to the project to ensure we wouldn’t be hitting that submit button with anything left on the line.

We went “all in” — and that is what made #standwithme what it is.

Going all in — giving all of yourself to a project — and expecting more of yourself than what you feel your capable of… this is what it takes to make something special.

But what does it really mean to go “all in?” Where does it hurt the most, and when does it feel the most rewarding? What’s necessary and what’s unnecessary?

Developing tunnel vision…

On our best days, we’d hit 18-20 hours in the edit, head home for a measly few hours of sleep, and then get right back at it. We’d have dinner delivered to the edit and often eat while still cutting. I can’t speak for the whole team, but I’d wake up in the middle of the night immediately thinking of new transitions for the film or how to handle an issue we were having.

_DSC4691Throughout the editing process, Patrick eats at one consistent pace: scarf.

We were totally immersed in the film. This deep relationship we were developing with the piece allowed us to live inside of it and see things in a much clearer way.

When you make your own films, whether they’re documentaries, narratives, weddings, or otherwise, there really are so many choices to make every step of the way. The goal is always to put story first and make sure every decision fits the story we are trying to tell.

_DSC4599Patrick laying out a plan for the day on his trusty whiteboard.

That all sounds great — but it’s a rather ambiguous task, and when you’re the one offering direction to team members, it’s getting to that level of total immersion in the film that lets you feel your way through the story so that you CAN put it first.

In those last 23 days we had a couple of serious challenges we had to work through as a team. One of our main characters — Maurice Middleberg, the director of an organization called Free The Slaves, is a really busy guy and we couldn’t get him scheduled for an interview until the 18th, which was just a handful of days before the deadline…

By being so immersed in the project, we knew exactly what we needed to talk to him about.

That didn’t however solve the question of what he’d say. We’d read books, we did as much research as we could so that we understood the answers, but that didn’t necessarily tell us how he would answer in the moment. And without that, we wouldn’t know if it would fit the film, and if it did, we had no way of knowing how much would fit and if we needed new transitions or more b-roll.

The solution? Hire an actor and make a fake interview to temporarily keep in the edit.

We arranged for a phone interview with the real Maurice, asked our key questions over the phone, had a transcript made from the recording of the call, gave those lines to an actor, and filmed an interview with an actor performing the answers we heard on the phone. From that point on, the actor would be known as “Fake Maurice” — and straight into the edit he went.

_DSC4500Grant and Marshall review the #standwithme storyboard.

Fake Maurice helped us tell pacing, gave us insight into how to drive the upcoming interview, but more than that — when we showed the film to people we didn’t have to explain all the pieces that we missing, we could let the film stand on it’s own.

Of course, we did eventually get the interview with the the real Maurice Middleberg, but we were better people for having known Fake Maurice.

Boldly go where no one’s gone before…

Now, to have an actor read lines from a phone call to mock up an interview isn’t a solution that fits many problems. It’s the idea that we were willing to do whatever it took to make this the best it could be. We were willing to find solutions and push past the obstacles and go where most people wouldn’t.

While tunnel vision helps create a deeper awareness of a piece, it also has the danger of lacking perspective. Ever work all day on an edit, take a break for the night, only to find that when you come back the next day it feels completely different than what you remembered?

All of a sudden, you are seeing things you hadn’t before and you have different directions you want to try. Had we had more than 23 days it would have been an amazing exercise to take a few days off and then come back to see how it felt.

This is where focus groups are so valuable. We brought in a group of 40 people to a screening in our studio, to offer us a fresh prospective, but also to test just how well different things are working.

On the topic of focus groups, I’ll say this:

It is incredibly scary to lock yourself in a box for weeks on end, completely immersed in a project with “tunnel vision,” only to emerge in front of 30 strangers and ask them to be brutally honest about it.

_30A9905Stillmotion invites a focus group into the studio for some constructive criticism.

Somewhere deep in the back of your mind, you always hope that as the credits start to roll the room will erupt in cheering, with each person having nothing to criticize about such a beautiful piece. Of course, the reality of the exercise is always far from that, but exposing yourself to those comments and reactions before the film is done can be such a game changer.

The story of creating Fake Maurice wasn’t about mocking up interviews. Likewise, sharing our experience with focus groups is about much more than just that.

Check your ego at the door… or just leave it at home… all the time.

If you want to give all of yourself to a project, you need to be willing to check your ego at the door.

Focus groups are certainly an exercise in humility, and for first timers it can be hard to sit in the back and hear so much criticism. Whether the feedback is from a focus group, team member, or yourself — it is imperative to always put the story first, even when someone is stomping on your heart.

In our second focus group, after watching the film somebody raised their hand and asked if we planned to cover women’s reproductive rights. It caught us all off guard and to many felt like it was out of left field. You wonder how they missed the point, clearly the film isn’t about reproductive rights — why would we cover such a topic in our movie about child slavery?

Putting story first means resisting the urge to defend yourself, to jump into a big explanation of why you didn’t choose that direction or why the choices you did make were better.

Rather than defend yourself, take every critique as an opportunity to know where you can do better. If we are getting suggestions like that, clearly we didn’t make the thesis of our film strong enough.

If somebody seems confused about something that was in fact answered in your film, don’t tell them exactly who said what, and when, instead realize that you may not have made the point clear enough, or said it enough.

_30A9943A young member of the #standwithme focus group observes footage of child slavery in Nepal.

Every point of feedback is an opportunity to gain insight and strengthen your story…

The challenge is letting go of the urge to defend, of wanting to protect one’s pride, and instead accepting everything that comes your way with gratitude.

Losing the ego means more than just accepting feedback — it also means being a team player day in and day out.

We have a very strong team for #standwithme, but so much of that strength is in our collective willingness to do whatever is needed to help the project.

Sometimes that means long hours or hearing things you don’t want to hear, but it also means being willing to do jobs or tasks that you might not normally. Part of going all in means that no job can be beneath you.

Whether it’s creating a transcript from a long and dry interview, running for coffee at 2am, or doing a simple string out when you’re a fabulously talented editor that can do much more — it all matters.

On one of our last shoots leading up to the deadline, Ray and I headed to Fairfax for a pickup interview and a pile of b-roll. We fly out at 6am that day, shot, then flew back at 10pm with the plan of driving straight to the studio to get the footage in to the edit.

Had this been the beginning of the film, that shoot in Fairfax would have been 2 days with a crew of 4, but leading up to the deadline it meant that Ray and I had to shoulder a larger load. For him, that meant interviewing the founder of Fair Trade, Paul Rice, all by himself.

Granted it was some short pickups we needed, but he still had to light, roll audio, run camera, and direct. To add to all of that, this is a guy who has won social entrepreneur of the year and been on the cover of many magazines — you don’t want to mess this up.

Ray could have easily said it was too much, back down, and we would have moved on without it.

In order to get the footage back and into the edit, it needed to be converted, sync’d, and strung out. It would have been easy to left that up to Ryland, our second editor on this project, but that would have put us at 3-4am at best to have the footage ready to go. Instead, on no sleep, after a 16 hour day, with 300 emails waiting in your inbox, you download the footage, convert while you drive to the airport, and cut on the flight back.

_DSC4452Patrick and Quenna immersed in the #standwithme edit.

I’m not particularly fond of transcoding or stringing out a large pile of footage, but sometimes that’s what it means to be a team player. We all had that same attitude when it came to this film. If there was one thing that made me the proudest about our team, it would probably be just how fluid and willing each and every person was to help out however they could, any time day or night.

Make personal sacrifices… even when it hurts.

Needless to say, when you edit 18 hours a day, there isn’t much room for anything else. Of course, that’s the point, but it also makes for a large personal sacrifice.

To sacrifice a couple of days is one thing, but for weeks on end… it becomes something much bigger.

The key to giving all of yourself to a project if to know that this personal sacrifice is needed, be ready for it, and make sure you’re willing to put everything on the line for the piece.

In the two weeks leading up to the deadline, Joyce had to bear the brunt of the traveling.

In just over 10 days she flew to Florida for a CBS shoot (the Lawrence Taylor documentary), went from there to DC to get archival slavery footage from Free The Slaves, flew back to Portland to deliver the footage, went straight to Fairfax for one of the final shoots, headed back to NY for another LT shoot, headed back to DC to an interview with real Maurice, and then flew into LA for Lisa Kristine’s TedX talk (one of the final things we’d shoot before the deadline).

That’s more travel than many would do in a year, all in the span of two weeks. Interestingly, when I asked Joyce what the toughest part was leading up to the deadline, it wasn’t the travel.

She said she could handle the travel, but the hardest part was being away from the project — those shoots when she was back on the LT project and could have been here, helping us make this film better.

That’s not a comment on not enjoying the CBS film or not doing all she could for it, it’s a statement about just how committed every team member was and how hard it was to pull yourself away, even when what you were doing was still to help out the team.

Grant’s family lives in Ohio, so when he is here in Portland working on the film, he is far out of reach of his two boys and wife. During the course of our race to Sundance, his son Eli had his first day of school.

In his words — that’s one of those things that can only happen once in a lifetime, it’s a defining moment, and there is no make-up date. You can celebrate a birthday three days late, but it doesn’t mean the same thing. All of this while waking up at 6am and heading to Denny’s to manage his real estate business before the team showed up, so by 9am he could have everything out of the way and his focus solely on the film.

_DSC4483Grant can often be found sleeping for 20-minute intervals in a variety of locations.

And for me, sacrifice during this project meant having to make a very tough and deeply personal decision.

Days before the edit started, I got a call that my mom had been taken to the hospital with a serious medical condition. I flew from Portland to Toronto that day to be with her and my family. As a few more days went by, with her still in the hospital, the edit began and I felt compelled to get back and help the team. Leaving that day for the airport, I knew there was a chance I may never see her again, but I also knew that this film is bigger than me, her, or any personal comfort we could offer each other by being together.

It certainly feels insensitive just to write this, but at the same time I can’t help but feel how fortunate we are to have the option of seeing our kids’ first day of school, flying across the country to be with family, and having so much abundance…

This film is about people who don’t have that choice, about children who don’t have the option to go to school because they are forced to work all day, and of family who have no option to comfort each other, regardless of how dire things might be, because they’ve been separated long ago.

And there it is — the reason we will put it all on the line — because we believe this film truly matters and can really save lives.

As a studio, we believe that well told stories can change the world. We believe that films can educate, empower, and inspire people to be an active part in shaping the world around them. #standwithme is a film that explores modern day slavery through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl who decided to take a stand.

It is a film that attempts to explain how it is that million of children today could be enslaved making fireworks, cocoa, weaving rugs, carrying slate, fishing and much more.

More than explain — it attempts to give you the power to know how we are all connected in this and what you can do.

It is this purpose that makes everything we are giving up seem like such a small price to pay for what this could do.

All of this to say; we aren’t lucky, we aren’t magic, and it certainly isn’t easy.

What we do have is:

  • A willingness to go all in.
  • Say goodbye to our ego.
  • Expect more from ourselves than even we think we can deliver.
  • Put the story first (no matter what).

Ask yourself how much you could possibly do if you laid everything on the line for a project. It’s common we deliver about expectations, but what about when you push far past that to the limits of whats possible for both you and your team. Know that passion and perspiration is a must if you want to take your project to the next level. Talent is just a bonus. We only have so many days on the earth to share with each other – do something worth losing yourself for.

_DSC4768Sleep-deprived and silly, the Stillmotion crew has a giggle sesh before screening one of the last edits of the film. Maddie investigates the ice cream.

Thanks to all of you, too.

I also want to take a moment to offer a heartfelt thanks to everybody who submitted shots making their own #standwithme. We’ve used dozens at the end of the film and I am completely overcome with emotion every time I see people from around the world standing together sharing their #standwithme, supporting us, and supporting a stand against something as atrocious as child slavery.

For us, #standwithme is a story that we are willing to go all in for.

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We’d love to hear from you — what story would you be willing to go all in for?

Has a project ever completely taken over your life?

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27 Thoughts on “The Art of Going All In

  1. Patrick:

    I worked for 20+ years in broadcasting and advertising. If I had a nickel for every creative who said, “I’ve never considered myself that talented, creative, etc., but I can out work 99% of the universe,” I’d be rich. I agree with George.

    The problem with what you describe, and what Holly describes, is that its addictive. it’s borderline obsessive compulsive behavior. Unfortunately, having watched the making of your last movie, I believe this is pretty much the same process you followed on your first film. Ten weeks on the road, ridiculous travel, guys driving with no sleep putting both lives and property at risk.

    While right now it seems and feels like you are doing something for the kids — your work schedule and the need to go over the top is fulfilling the exact thing you purport to be setting aside — ego. The kids will benefit from your film with or without Sundance. It’s always about momentum and not a moment. Sundance will be a moment. A message gets through with frequency over time.

    I look at he EVO workshop and see this same mentality glamorized. “You won’t sleep. You won’t see your hotel room, etc., etc.” It sets up an adrenaline rush powered by emotion. Is it OK to compress learning into an immersive, intense course? Yes. Should it be the norm? No. Creative people tend to be emotional and obsessive anyway. What you will discover with time, with separation, is that a myopic view creates a false sense of accomplishment that is fueled, for the most part, by a need for something else in your life. That need varies for each of us. Something is missing for you, Patrick. Im not sure what, but something.

    This isn’t meant to say that multiple roll assumption, setting aside ego, hearing constructive criticism, learning to understand story isn’t important and worthwhile. Those things are foundational and it’s those foundational tools that are building Holly’s “flow.” Flow comes when you master those fundamentals, make them your own, and handle the job with such alacrity that the time melts, the world drops away during process, NOT when, or because, you make a conscious decision to move your fulcrum.

    I’ve seen a number of people follow the path you are on — especially creatives — they eventually fall off a cliff. The landing is frequently career ending. Planning, deadlines, adherence to schedule, follow-up, and discipline are the things that power a creative career.

    Paradoxically, it’s limits that are the cornerstone of creativity and freedom.

    I hope you are rewarded for your effort at Sun Dance. I applaud you for your giving heart. I hope the rewards lift awareness of both your film, your work, the plight of the children, and your personal sacrifice. If and when those things happen, commit yourself to the same accomplishment next time without resorting to extremes.

    • Hey Mark,

      I have to things i’ll add that i haven’t already left in the post or comments.

      When it comes to putting in more work that most, that is not a hopeful attitude as we move forward, rather it’s a clear reflection on what has got us here. The JC Esther shoot that led to the NFL or the CBS doc A Game of Honor that went on to do quite well. At several of those moments along the way, most people wouldn’t put in that extra push and, for us, if has made a world of a difference for us.

      Keep in mind those were all events that had a specified start and end time, it was how ambitious and what we tried to get done between those two points that the hard work came.

      Secondly, i appreciate your words at the end. We already have in place a schedule to finish the film after our last shoots that won’t need those extremes. Pieces like Old Skool which mean a ton to me, also didn’t come at a personal sacrifice or lack of sleep. Many projects have that balance and the story we tell here on the blog is rare, but every project has that push and drive to make it more and see it in a new way- that’s the core of what we want to express. This time that push came with some extremes, but they don’t always have to, and we certainly realize the value in wrapping this up in a balanced way.

      P.

    • “The JC Esther shoot that led to the NFL or the CBS doc A Game of Honor that went on to do quite well. At several of those moments along the way, most people wouldn’t put in that extra push”

      Seriously? You must be meeting an entirely different set of people than those I’m used to meeting. I probably know at least 10 wedding shooters. If the NFL and CBS came knocking all of them would trip over themselves getting to the opportunity and the goal line (pun intended)!

      Rereading my post, I regret the comment about something missing from your life. That was presumptive and inappropriate. I apologize. My intent was for the comments to point to what seems to be a trend. Only you know the absolute specifics of both your portfolio of work and how it was accomplished. Am I recommending people not work hard — absolutely not. Am I saying there will NEVER be a time when one has to move their fulcrum over to meet a deadline or take advance of an opportunity? No.

      I am saying doing it too often can lead to big problems.

      I also hope that nothing I wrote can be construed to accuse you of being mercenary. Instead, what I said was that this rush of overwork, exhausting hours, feed the ego. My hope is that you will at least consider that idea. The cause, the film, the intent of the film are separate things and I have no doubt your motivation is pure.

      This blog, and your posts, are like mini focus groups. You’ve put something out into the world — apparently on more than one occasion — and some of us are seeing a trend. Only you know if it’s becoming a habit.
      You can choose to accept it or reject it; discuss it amongst your team, and move in whatever direction your heart and your head say is appropriate.

      With deep respect for both your accomplishments and your great work — I wish you and the Stillmotion group all the best.

  2. Hi Patrick,

    It’s me again and in comment to Ron.

    This is what happened to me, and not meant as anything but a story.

    Over 40 years ago I lost my first wife to cancer – she was only 23. We were highs school sweethearts, and back in the mid 60s were supposed to have the idilic life. Sad story but true.

    Some time after that I was sitting alone when my father came and sat down beside me. He looked over and asked if I was alright. I replied, “what do you think, Eleanor died!”

    He said, “yes, but you didn’t. Everything that has gone on in your life to right now is supposed to be part of your life. It is not meant to be all of your life. I think it’s time you got on with it.” He then stood up and walked away. I stared at him and realized that he was correct. He was my dad and had only the best in mind for me.

    Of course I remember Eleanor, but I have been married to Christine for almost 45 years, have three great children and three amazing grandchildren. Paradise in NOW!

    Life is a choice. It is a result of the decisions we make everyday. As long as we realize the outcome of those decisions and are prepared to accept the consequences (good or bad), then all will be right in the universe. If your decisions affect others who are close to you, then that conversation has to happen too.

    Best regards,

    Brian

  3. I am grateful to have worked alongside the magic of such a dreamer. There are really no words to describe the drive and effort and focus that has been inspired in me.

    “All in” got turned up.

    I’ll never be the same.

  4. It was a late afternoon like any other late afternoon as I drove my then 3 y/o son home from daycare. I got a call on my cell phone and I saw it was my step dad (although many years divorced from my mom who was living single, I still and will always refer to him as such). I don’t know why, but I sensed something was wrong. It was as if I could feel through the phone that he had bad news to deliver.

    “Ron. Your mom has died.”

    Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. Tears flowed immediately. My son in the back started crying as he wondered why daddy was crying so hard.

    Just over 5 years later and from time to time I still cry.
    • I was watching JJ Abrams Star Trek with my wife at home. The scene where Spock reached for his mom just as the cliff gave way came on screen…and I lost it.
    • I was watching a documentary about these young Ugandan men reuniting with their mother after 20+ years of separation… and I lost it.
    • I’ll be in church and hear a hymn and I’ll tear up (she used to always sing hymns).

    I wish I could see my mom again.
    ~~~~~~~~~

    I share this story because I would give anything to have seen her one last time before her unexpected passing.

    I share this story as a friendly retort to Holly’s comment about “naysayers”.

    I share this story because I bet there are others who just might feel the same, but would never dare to write it publicly.

    This isn’t about breaking an artist’s flow. It’s about looking at what you are sacrificing for the sake of your art and asking, honestly, is it worth it?

    I believe in what you all do at Stillmotion. Your contribution to the industry is fan-freaking-tastic. I’m one of your biggest fans and proponents. So this comment doesn’t take any of that away. But I felt it was important to share my feelings on this very important issue.

    I think being “all in” is absolutely important in anything you do. I champion that cause too. And up to a point in this post, I was on board with everything you were saying. Then I got to the part about Grant missing his son’s first day of school and being gone from his family so long. That slowed me down. Needless to say when I got to the part of P. leaving his mother’s side, given my own story, I couldn’t be silent.

    HERE’S THE RUB…
    You wrote that this topic is bigger than you and your family, and for that reason, theses sacrifices, although hard, were worth it. Here’s the thing though. These particular sacrifices really weren’t for the making of the movie, or the pursuit of the fight against slavery. They were made to make the deadline for a prestigious film festival. Someone else could have edited the film, allowing you to stay by your mom’s side. And let’s say you HAD to be the one to edit it, then worse case scenario you miss the deadline. Yes, it would’ve sucked. Yes, it would’ve been disappointing. A part of you may have even been resentful to your mom for getting sick (I’m not being cynical, I think that is a real emotion you might feel). But ultimately, you still could finish the film and use all the other amazing connections you have to get it seen. As I see it, these particularly sacrifices weren’t necessarily worth it. IMHO, the right thing would have been to stay by your mom’s side. (And I sincerely do hope she is okay).

    I’ve worked with a number of high profile visual artists over the years and have been privy to lots of…stuff. I’ve seen marriages and families fall apart because of one (or both) spouses’ commitment to their art over their marriage or family. Zack Arias has publicly talked and written about how his first marriage failed largely due to his prioritizing photography over family. I’ve seen tears in my own wife’s eyes as she’s shared how she’s felt like she was subordinated in priority to the business and the craft.

    Is it all worth it?

    If this had been a blog post about the dangers of putting your craft over family, and the examples of Grant and your mom were presented as warnings of “what could happen to you” (a la Jacob Marley to Scrooge), then I would praise this post from the roof tops. But in the context of this post, these two examples are more like heroic examples of how far one must go to do something important. Or as Holly put it, “To stay in your flow.”

    I understand this is just your experience and you’re not specifically saying “Hey, go out and miss your son’s first day of school or be willing to leave the side of your sick loved one.” But as respected and revered as you are in the industry, and given the title and context, the tacit message is “Go that far.”

    So, I think there is some truth to what George mentioned below, albeit it could have been more diplomatic. :) (and I don’t agree with his point about not being prepared. It seems like a lot of your gigs come at the last minute, and I for one commend your ability to handle them and still produce a stellar product). But when it comes to prioritizing health and family, I can see what he’s saying.

    P, Grant, and the rest of the SM gang, you know I love ya. And I will help you get the word out about this very important film. I have truly been motivated and inspired by the making of it. But I would encourage you (and those reading) to think twice about what you prioritize in life. I’m not saying there are going to be times when you have to put in long hours or even miss a recital or two. But when you find yourself missing the big “firsts” in your children’s lives. Or being months away from family. Or leaving the bedside of a sick loved one, then I think it’s time to start reconsidering some allocation of time and passion.

    I hope you’re not offended by my sharing this. It is not done in malice or as a chastisement. Trust me, I’m not judging. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been there. My eyes are filled with “logs.” This is just a sincere friend in the industry giving what I feel is very important advice.

    Be all in your craft for sure. Go with your flow. But not at the expense of your loved ones.

    Remember “Cats in the Cradle”, that haunting 1974 folk song by Harry Chapin? It totally came to mind when I read the part about Grant missing his son’s first day of school.

    Remember Jacob Marley’s warning to Scrooge.

    Remember Zack Arias’s story.

    Thank you for opening yourself up like that. Thank you for giving to the industry the way you do. Thank you for allowing us to be open with you in civil dialog. Thank you for making this film.

    ~~~~~~~~~

    “But the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon
    Little boy blue and the man in the moon,
    When you comin’ home dad
    I don’t know when
    But we’ll get together then son,
    You know we’ll have a good time then.”

    • We certainly have asked the question – is it worth it? We didn’t arrive at that answer alone – Grant had conversations with his wife and me with my mom.

      To say you would do anything to see your mother once more is certainly understandable, but we also have to realize how that is inherently about you and your feelings. It’s easy to put ourselves first, to choose our comforts, and to put everything else on hold. The challenge is often pushing through ones self and seeing beyond.

      This film isn’t about me, Grant, or anybody else on the crew. It’s a fight for the forgotten, hidden, and hopeless. When we took this on, we decided together that we had to go all in for this – it’s what the project deserves, its what the people we are fighting for deserve. To sit here and watch raw footage of what these children endure, it’s tough not to make what could be considered small personal sacrifices in comparison.

      Let’s also remember that those we aren’t there for gain much more in our absence when we can share with them what this is. I was able to share the film, as it is, with my mom over the weekend. It was deeply moving for her to see what we’d done and it certainly add much more to her life than those extra days i could have spent by her side. This is bigger than us – and she saw that well before i did. When she awoke in the hospital with my sister and i there one of the first things she said was – ‘i didn’t stop you from finishing your film, did i?’

      We did not make these decisions alone and they certainly were worth it.

      Now, had it been easy to put it on hold for a week, i stay in Toronto and Grant heads home, we certainly would have discussed that. I’m sure you can appreciate the complexities of budgets, and timing, and realize that this was much more complex than a simple hold for a few days and about much more than a Sundance deadline. Stillmotion has also funded a large portion of the doc – thats funds in plus less team members to handle work that brings income in. There are a lot of complexities here and of course it’s never as simple as just putting a couple day hold on place.

      All in may mean something different for us than it does for you, or others. The higher level point is that this was a project that we went all in for, here’s what that means for us, and to question what that might mean for others.

      Perhaps it’s silly to say that a film can affect change and make a difference worth all this sacrifice. That, however, won’t stop us from dreaming, believing, and giving it a shot. After all, isn’t that all we can do?

      P.

    • I couldn’t find a way to reply directly to your comment, so I’m replying on my original comment and hoping it’ll make sense when published.

      Thanks for your reply. I definitely understand there are more things at play here than JUST the Sundance deadline. But as the blog post put it, the impression was given that it was specifically that deadline that was driving the mad rush, long hours, away from family, etc. I still hold that you could be “All in” without making the specific sacrifices for this project that were made. And you could still make this important film.

      Lastly, I am keenly aware of the power of film to change lives. I’ve actually committed my business to focus on cause-driven work. But, I also know the power of over-work and creative commitment that can destroy lives. I’m not saying that’s what you all are doing. Just saying to beware. Your comment about it being bigger than everyone is true. One could say that about the work of a pastor. But I’ve seen pastors lives and marriages fall apart too because they worked long crazy hours and put their work above their family. There is a balance between work and family that you can have, and still tell important stories. You don’t have to have one without the other.

      I hope SM continues to make films like these, so I don’t want my comments to dissuade you (not that I thought they would. :) Just offering something you (and your readers) to think about.

      Thanks for the conversation!

  5. Hi Patrick,

    I hope your mom is ok.

    I really like your post and I hope to see the movie at Sundance. I appreciate your work ethic and that of the rest of the team. I’ve been a follower of Stillmotion for many years.

    I turned 69 this year and decided to retire as an accountant. That was my day job. I am an avid photographer and designer. I also design and produce items for the photography business. I’ll tell you now that not too many people understand what I do, they just smile and nod.

    I’ve always known “if you quit you lose”. If you don’t want to lose, then don’t quit. My upper education came from going to university at night – for ten years- went to work every day, was married and had small children. I knew the effort would result in a good life, and it did. I too had a dedicated team.

    It has taken me almost one year to design, prototype, shoot the pictures and video and produce an Instruction Manual. I now have to shoot a small 60 sec promo video for the final step. It’s taken this long because the smiling and nodding people are standing around watching me do this. At least I have an audience for my efforts. Some of them are watching you do what you do.

    Your success is the fact that you can make a difference. I once heard a Firefighter say, “you don’t get to save someone’s life everyday, but you to get to affect someone’s life everyday”. Ghandi once said, “everything we do will be insignificant, but we still must do it.”

    At 69, some people ask me why I don’t just enjoy my retirement. I tell them that I am. I cannot imagine what I have yet to do, but today is a good day to start them.

    Paradise isn’t just around the corner……..it’s here NOW.

    You guys keep up the effort and the great work.

    Regards,

    Brian

  6. Thank you Patrick and the StillMotion team for sharing this personal post of the hardships and triumphs while making this film. I especially love the photos showing that through all the intenseness, you guys still have fun, even if it’s just lounging in the office. I hope it all goes well during the Sundance submissions, it would definitely be great to see it come to Aus!

    Recently I’ve had friends that have lost people that are way too young and your words: “Know that passion and perspiration is a must if you want to take your project to the next level. Talent is just a bonus. We only have so many days on the earth to share with each other – do something worth losing yourself for.” really hits it home that we should do what we love and as film makers, cinematographers, creatives, we should be producing works that we are proud of.

    Keep it up and now, take a deserved rest and tub of ice cream!

    PS, So did Stephane get the car? Where is he now? A re-team of Patrick’s newspaper crew would be interesting!

    Cheers,
    Bernard.

    • Ha, no way Stephane go the car… he couldn’t even drive it home. Though it was awkward having to play that parent role and break up a deal when it was his own cash

      P.

  7. Patrick and team Stillmotion,

    I have long been a fan of Stillmotion and have changed the way I shoot and think about telling stories because of you all.

    I was just going to give you some kudos, but after reading George’s response I had to post something more.

    Before the world of filmmaking for me, I was a person who lasted about 2-3 years at a job, and went through about 16 of them. The longest stint was as a letter carrier for the USPS. I was searching for my place. I was always good at what I did, and put everything into what I did, but there was just something that was missing. My last job in the “real” world was in 2006. I was a Life Coach for a big company, I helped other people realize their goals and dreams and would pontificate wonderful things that other people wrote about positive thinking and taking action. Until one day I read a book by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, Finding Flow.

    What you described in this post is what his book and theory is all about, You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the present activity. Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice.
    According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what you are experiencing in that moment is known as flow, a state of complete immersion in an activity. He describes the mental state of flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

    George, what our world lacks is people being in their flow. People, sadly are, for the most part engaging in work, not because they find joy, but out of the need that is created by the world in which we live. Now, I realize that survival for some maybe that they have to work a job that doesn’t bring joy, but I also believe that the world we live in has created that myth. And we choose to become just a cog in the consumerism, and instead of finding work that brings us joy, we find work that brings us money. But I truly believe that if you are in the flow, the money will come.

    Patrick and the Stillmotion team are in their flow, and they are finding success and beyond that community and happiness. I think that when you are in your flow, work is not work, it is joyful and exhilarating! So, I guess what I am trying to say here is, you guys stay in the flow, don’t listen to the naysayers and the people that aren’t in their flow.

    I work the Sundance Festival in customer service every year and then attend the festival logging 20+ films watched, most of them documentaries, and I hope that this year, yours is one of them!

    Keep making films that matter, and be the change!

    Much Love,

    Holly Tuckett

  8. Thanks so much for sharing Patrick!

    Loved this quote “expecting more of yourself than what you feel your capable of… this is what it takes to make something special”. My 5 days at EVO embodied this statement, being pushed beyond my boundaries and coming away feeling invincible! It literally changed my life and perspective.

    Miss you all so much!! congrats on submitting to Sundance. CANNOT WAIT to see the finished product.

    -Noelle

  9. As a professional, I can understand where George is coming from. As I was reading Patrick’s reflections, I also asked myself…where does family, health, etc. play in this formula?

    Yet I do not share George’s scolding attitude. I understand that there are other hidden factors that come into play when living the life as creatives. We’re all different…we’re all are driven by different motives and passions. We know and understand our limits…we know when to hold our chips and when we go “all in”.

    The way we work is personal and unique to “only” us…my way is not better than yours and vice versa. One can’t accuse or imply one’s work ethic and enthusiasm for filmmaking as “lack of experience”…c’mon really?

    I’ll be the first to say…Stillmotion’s way of doing things might not make sense in my world…but heck…they must be doing something right…I mean…aren’t they putting out some pretty incredible stories?

    If “peddling” excitement, passion, and unbridled love for narrative filmmaking a crime…then I might as well pack up my bags and go home. These are exciting times…go, shoot, edit, and tell the world!

    Stay classy Stillmotion! ;)

  10. Thanks to all at Stillmotion for sharing their stories and knowledge. You are obviously passionate about story telling, which is sorely lacking in so many movies and other media these days. I believe your stories inspire others, as they do me.

  11. Gotta be one of my favorite posts on the Stillmotion blog to date, Patrick.

    Better than any lens review, Steadicam demo, business advice or any release ever from y’all, love hearing the perspective and can’t wait to see what’s next.

    Hope you, Amina and Maddie are getting some much-needed rest and that your Mom is healthy back home.

    All the best from Arkansas,

  12. Hi Patrick. Hope your mom is doing Well. Thanks for sharing the story and insights. Looking forward seeing #standwithm (hope it hits Europe at some point). Best wishes

  13. The Stillmotion production value is good. The brand has been worked on endlessly and with care. The self-love, absolutely evident.

    The tales I read about your intrepid adventures speaks to the mythos of “work hard and be successful”. I suppose that brings the question of what is successful? Story after story on this blog is about working on ‘the project’, ‘making the sacrifice’. The never-ending, back-breaking, over-the-top steps taken to accomplish something. I imagine if accountants described their jobs with the same gusto they too would sound outlandishly rugged and tough.

    Having a family life. Keeping physically healthy. Being a good citizen – parent – sibling … those aren’t just secondary, they’re non-existent in the Stillmotion world.

    “Stay up all night!”

    “Consider eating a nuisance to your edit time!”

    “Look! We’re on an airplane! Just like other important people.”

    I truly thank you for sharing these stories, but please recognize what you’re peddling. It’s an unhealthy fiction of paradise just-around-the-bend. Most of these descriptions and tense scenarios just sound like poorly managed projects. I work for international broadcasters telling important documentary and news stories and can tell you that being stressed to this level is not only dangerous, it’s only done by those lacking experience.

    • Hey George,

      As always, we appreciate the feedback and another point of view.

      We aren’t trying to prescribe not having a balance in your life at any point in time, we are sharing our experience with going all in for some projects for a limited amount of time. We’ve all slowed down and taken a break after Sundance and that balance is very important to us.

      To your point of being successful, for us and this film, this post, it means making a difference on the issue – having #standwithme help illuminate and lead to tangible action that helps alleviate child slavery. That is our guiding light. We aren’t striving to push this hard to get a large pay cheque, a new car, or an award. We believe stories can make a difference, and we really hope this can be one of them.

      The paradise isn’t just around the bend, the paradise is in the process. The #standwithme march to Sundance was incredibly tough but I loved every minute of it. We would often be cheering, laughing, and throughly enjoying everything that went into it.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

      P.

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