Alright people, it’s all come down to this! You’ve learned all about the Four P’s of storytelling in Episode 1, developing keywords in Episode 2, and storyboarding and gear selection in Episode 3 of our Vimeo Video School series.

Now in our 4th and final episode, we’re issuing a filmmaking challenge to YOU.

Your Challenge: Using the storytelling techniques you’ve learned in this series, make a 1-2 minute film telling the story of a person or group of people who is actively doing what they love.

If you’re having trouble visualizing how everything we’ve talked about in this series comes together to make a film, here in Episode 4 we’ll show you how.

In this tutorial Patrick walks you through each step of the process with a short film we made for Coava Coffee Roasters here in Portland.


  • Monday, May 6th – Challenge closes to all participants at 11:59pm EST.
  • Thursday, May 9th – Vimeo selects top 10 contestants (Each will receive a $99 license from WithEtiquette – sweet!)
  • Friday, May 10thCinevate selects final 3 winners.
  • Saturday, May 11th – Prize winners will be announced on this blog!

To help apply this new pre-production process, we’ve created a spiffy 7-page workbook that’ll help you select your People, Places, and Plot!

To enter the contest, be sure to join the “Storytelling The Stillmotion Way Challenge” group on Vimeo, and upload your final video to the group!

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Hang on to your hats people, because Part 3 of our four-part Storytelling series for Vimeo Video School launches today! Be sure to go back and watch Part 1 (The 4 P’s of Storytelling) and Part 2 (Using Keywords) in case you missed them.

Here’s a breakdown of everything we cover in this tutorial:

  • 1:05 – Sketching out a storyboard.
  • 2:30 – Using a shot list as an alternative to a storyboard.
  • 2:55 – An example shot list and gear setup for shooting a golf outing.
  • 3:22 – Planning a shoot schedule and using call sheets.
  • 4:15 – Choosing the right gear based on your keywords, storyboard, locations, and people.
  • 5:30 – How to pick the right cameras and lenses for your shoot.
  • 6:12 – Adjusting camera movement based on story.
  • 7:12 – Choosing your lighting gear.
  • 7:30 – Example of lighting and gear choices in our shoot for City Of Doers, a documentary we made for the city of San Francisco.
  • 8:28 – Tips for the big shoot day.
  • 10:15 – Example of our “3/1″ rule.
  • 11:13 – Patrick explains the importance of getting in there!
  • 12:46 – Summary of the reasons why pre-production is your best friend, and what’s coming in our next and final tutorial!

We hope that you will take some or all of our suggestions for managing storyboards, shotlists, and gear when you’re planning a shoot. These techniques have helped us immensely in the pre-production process!

And don’t forget…

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How Keywords can change everything…

Today, Part 2 of our four part Storytelling series for Vimeo Video School launches! (If you missed Part 1, check out The 4 P’s of Storytelling here.)

Here’s a quick breakdown of the video:

  • 00:39 – Our Discovery process – where we research out topic and do our initial walkthrough.
  • 01:50 – How to use research to brainstorm 5 keywords that will guide every other decision you make going forward.
  • 02:33 – Keyword examples from Jess & Brian’s wedding feature.
  • 03:15 – Keyword examples from I’m Fine, Thanks documentary.
  • 04:01 – Keyword examples from Pulse, our feature on BioBeats.
  • 05:20 – Conducting pre-interviews to finalize which people will add the most to our story.
  • 06:53 – Case study on Kelly Moore’s adoption story – how we used pre-interviews to choose characters.
  • 07:47 – How to scout your places to finalize which locations will add to your film.
  • 09:15 – Case study of Old Skool Cafe – where we choose to film our main interview (and why).
  • 10:08 – Brainstorming beginning, middle, and ends that will eventually make up your plot.
  • 11:05 – Case study of AT&T: My Journey campaign – how we created tension and chose our journey.
  • 11:38 – Summary of importance of keywords and what’s coming in the next tutorial.

This video details, with example, one of the most important factors that helps us tell unique, compelling stories.

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The Four P’s:

People: Who is in the story you’re trying to tell? Who will captivate your viewers? Who will they root for?

Place: Where does the story take place? What do your locations add to your characters or story?

Plot: What is the conflict, and what is the journey? How will we intrique the audience through the beginning, middle, and end?

Purpose: Why are you telling this story in the first place? Who cares? Why should they care?

How this series came about…

Sometimes a new friend can completely change your life.

When we were just a little baby of a company — making wedding films and slowly but surely learning the power of putting story first, we never would have imagined how much our Vimeo account would do for us.

While it was most likely fate that led the NFL to press play on JC & Esther’s wedding film, it was our new relationship with Vimeo that allowed us to put that film (and our company) out there for the world to see.

The NFL liked JC & Esther’s wedding film so much that they gave us a phone call that would and opened up a world of new connections and opportunities. A week later, we were on a football field in front of 70,000 fans, ready to approach the biggest shoot of our lives, all while using the very same techniques we used to tell JC & Esther’s story. Those were the storytelling techniques that put us on that field in the first place, and today we believe in them more than ever.

So when Vimeo approached us to do a guest professorship and put together a series of educational videos for their video school, we didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to share those techniques with you.

When we sat down to think about what topic we could create a feature training series for, we knew there was only one real option…


We’d do a series on putting Story First.

That’s the heart of what we feel we do best – and what we’ve been told we do uniquely in many cases.

Our goal with this new series is to completely transform the way you tell stories from this day forward. To do that, we’ll be focusing almost exclusively on pre-production, planning, and the storytelling principles that guide our decision making process.

What to expect:

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be releasing four 10-12 minute videos covering what we believe to be the most important aspects of the storytelling process.

This is the process that allows us to stay one step ahead of the game, and allows us to tell deeper stories in the end. We want this series to change the way you approach pre-production, because we’ve experienced the major benefits of effective pre-production first-hand.

Over the next two weeks, here’s what you see coming from Vimeo Video School:

Episode 1 (now live!) – Stillmotion’s “Four P’s” of Story.
Episode 2 – Research and developing keywords – using those keywords to choose our characters, location, and journey/conflict.
Episode 3 – Storyboarding, shotlisting, scheduling, selecting proper gear, and the day of the big shoot.
Episode 4 – We’ll show you how we bring all of these lessons together by walking you through our shoot with Coava Coffee Roasters here in Portland, Oregon!

But wait, there’s more…

At the end of the series we’ll propose a storytelling challenge to YOU — you know how much we love fun challenges and competitions!

You’ll compete along with all of the Vimeo community to win some cool prizes (and the fame and fortune that comes with it ;)

All entries will be posted to a Vimeo group, and Vimeo will be choosing 10 finalist. A panel of people from Cinevate (with the aid of us) will finalize the three ultimate winners.

And thanks to our friends at Cinevate, you could win some awesome prizes that will help you tell many stories to come:

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As the master of all things love and heartbreak once accurately (and a little somberly) sang:

“No, it’s not like any other love. This one’s different because it’s us.”

Although Morrissey doesn’t necessarily deliver this line from “Hand in Glove” with a tone that will give you the warm and fuzzies, it does perfectly capture the essence of being in love: Every couple has their own love, each one feels that love is unique, and every story is different because it’s theirs.

So why shouldn’t each couple’s wedding film be different too?

Weddings themselves are a time-honored tradition that generally follow a similar structure, but wedding features really do not need to follow a set structure. In fact, we find they’re a lot better when they don’t follow anything but the couple’s individual story.

Winnie and Jerry’s wedding feature is a great example of how investing in the couple’s individual story (and not so much the wedding-ness of it all) will make all the difference in their film. After meeting with Winnie and Jerry, hearing their story, and asking them all the right questions, we had all the necessary information to start assembling their perfect wedding film.

Here’s what we came up with:

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