You know how you meet some people and you just get this feeling like this will be a special collaboration. That’s what it felt like to meet Stephanie Henry while we were making #standwithme.

Last year Steph released her book If Only I Could Sleep. This year she asked if we could create a trailer to help get her book out there.

If Only I could Sleep share’s Stephanie’s story in growing up with a great deal of emotional and sexual abuse. The book shares her intensely personal journey to personal redemption and healing.

We started with the obvious – we could interview Stephanie, and a handful of other people related to her book, and slap that together with broll of her today along with elements from her childhood. That felt too simple, too safe, and like it really wouldn’t create a strong enough connection to who Stephanie was and what her world was like.

In reading her book we found a chapter where she shared a high school English assignment; she’d been asked to write about what her utopia, her perfect world.

Within If Only I Could Sleep they reprinted the entire essay she wrote in 10th grade, September of 1981. The essay offered a beautiful but heart-wrenching portrait of her perspective at 15. It was both honest and subtle. And it did what any good book trailer should do – it made you want to know more of Stephanie’s story. There it was the perfect monologue for our piece.

Rather than the traditional approach of interviewing Steph and several other people related to her book,  we could do something very different. We could recreate that day in the 1980’s when Steph read her essay in front of the class.

Steph loved the idea and believed in it (and us) enough to increase the budget to allow for a scripted piece. With that began months of pre-production for two days of production.

Until you’ve done it, you just don’t realize how much time can go into casting, art direction, lighting plots, and camera moves as you prepare for a scripted film.

Making our first scripted film, My Utopia, taught us just how much further you can push the story when you can control every element. We’re excited to share a series of blog posts on the cinematography, lighting, and art direction in the making of this film.

Our first post in the series is on the cinematography; camera choice, creating the overall look, and designing our toughest shot within the piece.


Continue Reading

There is one week left to send in your film for Storytelling Parade.

We all know people who devote all their time and energy to making change for the positive in the world. Every day, they are out there making the world a better place, bit by bit. It’s inspiring.

The thing is, we all want to do something inspiring. So often, however, everyday responsibilities and obligations can get in the way of that.  Sometimes, all you need is a little push, or something that makes our busy lives feel like, even in all this busy-ness, there is still time to go out and make something happen.

It’s pretty rare that someone approaches you with an opportunity to do that–tell a story that can make a real impact.


Story & Heart’s Storytelling Parade contest is just that – your chance to do something that feeds your heart as well as your mind. It’s an opportunity to not only have the chance at winning amazing prizes (over $100K total).


And the best part is it’s totally accessible to participate. This is something you can do with a little bit of spare time.

Continue Reading

When you look back on your personal journey, what are the most important decisions that got you where you are today? If you take a moment to really think about that, the answer is often one you totally didn’t expect. 

And perhaps more importantly, as you move forward, what are those decisions that you can make, those things that you can choose to do, that will make all the difference?

I got a chance to sit down with renowned cinematographer Shane Hurlbut and ask him about his path from a farm in upstate New York to the sets of multi-million dollar blockbusters.

Shane is a real deal Hollywood DP. Think Terminator Salvation, Act of Valor, We Are Marshall, Need For Speed, and so many more.

This is a world I know almost nothing about. I mean, we just celebrated shooting out first short narrative at the same time Shane was color correcting his latest feature, Fathers & Daughters. This guy has a library’s worth of knowledge he could teach us.

But what few of you probably know is that Shane grew up on a farm. Much of his boyhood spent on a tractor in the wee hours of the morning long before school started.


So how does a farm boy working the fields all day find himself getting dropped off in Key West, ushered into a small Zodiac thats headed into the Atlantic, with nothing as far as the eye can see. Then all of a sudden – boom! – a 600 ft nuclear sub blasts out of the ocean, he’s hopping in, and three days later winds up in the horn of Africa.


As Shane wrapped up that story he asked the somewhat rhetorical question “How many people have experienced that?” Not many, that’s for sure.

And that’s what I wanted to explore on the call. How did he get here? And what were those decisions, those defining moments, that have made all of the difference on his journey? And what has he learned along the way?

What I found out will certainly surprise you.

Sure, Shane is exceptional at what he does. That’s certainly no secret. But beyond his ability to craft with light or push story through every decision he makes, there’s something far greater he can teach us.

So little of his success has to do with his ability to light or shoot.

Here are the five biggest things Shane has learned on his journey.

Continue Reading

At Stillmotion, we are always under tight deadlines, but not like this.

Picture this – you’re an editor with a crew that has two days to produce, direct, shoot and edit a short film that will be seen by millions exactly 48 hours after you have the concept. From start to finish, and with not even an inch of wiggle room if something goes awry.

 If you’re Adam Epstein, editor for Saturday Night Live’s film unit, this isn’t an every once in a while-type event. Every single week, Adam has less than 24 hours to turn around an edit that’s ready for broadcast just in time for SNL’s iconic “Live from New York…” to hit the airwaves. As Lorne Michaels says, “It doesn’t go on because it’s done. It goes on because it’s 11:30.”

After five seasons of this madness, Adam is hitting the road this summer on MZed’s The Cutting Edge Post-Production Tour to share the methods, theories, techniques he’s developed while editing in a lightning-fast turn around environment like SNL.

 We had the privilege of being able to check out Adam’s workshop when he came by Portland, and it’s seriously awesome.  The workshop delves deep into the technical side of things, but what makes it every cooler is that Adam shares a lot about the art and soul behind what makes a good editor, too.  As Adam says in his workshop, being an editor today encompasses so much – you have to know how to cut, know rhythm and story, be a compositor, a sound designer, a motion graphics artist, and maybe more importantly you have to be able to deal with people. But, according to Adam, none of that is as important as the why – the overall feeling and bigger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish.

We had a chance to ask him first-hand how he turns around hilarious, memorable work, and stays sane in the process.

Continue Reading

Grasping what story really is, is a tough one. Then learning how to not just tell a story, but tell an amazing one is that much harder.

For us, we are always looking for new ways to push our understanding of story and test out what we know. When we told Jude’s story over at Sugar Wheel Works we debated whether or not to include a few clips of her meditating in the morning as it wasn’t directly related to her craft of making wheels. A few clips may seem trivial but Joyce and I went back and forth, talking about it for a quite a while before we came to the conclusion that it was important to show that sequence as a metaphor to what wheel building does for her character.

By really understanding and embracing the structure of story, we can look to inject it into every film we make.

And by understanding these 4 things that every amazing story needs, we can look at each of our stories moving forward and ask ourselves how we can strengthen each element.

This tutorial is part of Storytelling Parade, a Story & Heart initiative to bring people together and encourage us all to tell stories of those doing good.

We want to make sure everybody that joins the Parade gets as much out of the experience as possible. We are offering 5 tutorials, entirely free, for those that sign up – the one above plus 4 more over the next two weeks.

Continue Reading