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.

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To call it intense is certainly an understatement. It’s a crash course in everything filmmaking.

We asked Maribeth to share the 5 directing tips that she took from her experience.

Before we get there, some back story on what she was up against.

Tell a story that matters. Learn about it, dive deep, then bring it to life, all over four days in Portland. In true Stillmotion style, it’s about making the impossible possible. Each team member pushing themselves to help create something that is so much more than any one of us.

Each team will have a Director, Producer, DP, Second Camera, Gaffer, and Audio. Then two Stillmotion team members to constantly push the story forward and hold the team accountable.

Coming in, nobody knows the role they’ll get. In the am of day two, roles are assigned and then it’s off to the races.

A short time later each group learns of their charity and has about 48 hours to produce, direct, shoot, edit, and deliver a strong story that will will push them in every way possible.

One by one we sit down to meet with each attendee. We share the role we’d like them to have .

For the group I was with, Maribeth was chosen as our director. Directing at EVO is a very challenging position. And for Maribeth, it was her first time directing a larger crew while also having such a tough timeline.

Many of us feel like an island. Though we’d love to, we often don’t have crews to collaborate with. And when we do get that chance to work with a team, to direct a team, it can be quite overwhelming.

To help prepare you for that opportunity, we asked Maribeth to share the 5 biggest directing tips she can offer from her first time directing.

First off, we asked Maribeth how it felt when she got asked to direct?

When P handed me a booklet and on the cover it said “Director’s Handbook”, my first thoughts were:

Director. OK. Deep breath.

This is what I wanted, right? I came to EVO for a challenge. But, director? Leading a team of 6 to tell an important story that matters. Gulp.  I was equal parts excited and nervous for what the next 48 hours would hold.

I used to be a photographer and have recently fallen in love with the power of film. I’m also a mother of two wonderful kids. As a busy mom with a part-time career, I’m used to juggling responsibility and making decisions. But, I don’t have a ton of experience in motion. And I’ve certainly never dove into anything as ambitious as leading a team of 6 to develop, shoot, and deliver a story over 48 hours.

I wish I could say that I felt excited and up to the challenge. But, really I felt like I was going to puke. I felt responsible for the experience that the 6 people on my team were about to embark on. They had taken time away from their own work and families to come to EVO to learn. And as director I felt like I needed to make sure they had a positive experience. Not to mention, we had an unknown story that we had to tell in two days.

Could I really do this? We were all about to find out.

At 2pm we were handed our project briefs. The ball was rolling. There was no turning back. In the next 48 hours we would be telling the story of Oregon Public House, the world’s first non-profit pub.


The Oregon Public House. Our group’s non-profit with a crazy twist you need to see to believe.

And here are the top 5 directing tips from Maribeth:

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LogoWe are driven by story.

But not the buzzword story. At Stillmotion, we’ve taught across the world, we’ve worked on several Emmy Award-winning productions, and our studio mantra has long been ‘Story First’. Story is in our DNA and this is something we share with
Story & Heart.

Guided by heart.

We know the power of a well-told story. We donated our time to telling the story of Old Skool Cafe, and a year later, we dove into our first feature-length documentary about a 9-year old fighting child slavery with lemonade. We’ve invested ourselves for years in stories we believe in, and that we believe need to be told. We have, and always will be, guided by heart.

Today marks a significant moment, and no countdown could ever correctly represent the breathless anticipation we’ve felt as we’ve spent the past year telling a new kind of story.


The time has come: Story & Heart has taken flight!

Story & Heart, the world’s first story-driven stock footage licensing platform is HERE.

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When was the last time you told a story that you felt so connected to, that if you could, you would tell it entirely for free? And as a storyteller, when was the last time you made a film that truly moved people, and intensely reminded you of your passion for this craft?

Today we announce something very special. An opportunity to tell an inspiring story, to learn, and to win $100,000 in amazing filmmaking awards.

Bad news is easy to come by — in the newspaper, on screen, over radio waves, saturating our media: the world is a troubled place, and it seems like this is something we’ve grown used to hearing.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to let it deflate us or try to drown out the noise.

We are media makers too, and there are some pretty incredible stories out there to tell!

A little more than two years ago, we told a story that changed our path as a studio.

It was a story without a contract, or client, or payment. It was a story we were deeply connected to both in its purpose and how the film we’d craft could help them. It’s because we had such creative freedom and felt so deeply connected to the piece, that we still consider it be the best short film we’ve ever made.

It was a story full of hope, struggle, diversity, deliciousness, and support. In fact, those were our 5 keywords — themes within the story that guided us as we made choice after choice to bring the film to life.

This story was that of Old Skool Cafe, a youth-run supper club in San Francisco. Their mission:  Confront the epidemic of violence by providing at-risk and previously incarcerated youth with career opportunities that would normally not be afforded to them.

We’d just wrapped production when it happened. One of our last scenes was in the projects in San Francisco, an area so dangerous, we were advised to back into our parking spots so that we could get away quicker, should the need arise.

We were in the gear room of our old Mountain View studio putting everything away. It was a tiny cube of a room with uber-ugly fluorescent lighting. And as everything was going back onto the shelves, Justin walked in and said he had an idea.

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Want to attract the clients you want and keep them coming back for more? Want to tell the stories you want in the way you want to? Here’s how, using a cool tool called journey mapping.

Developing your voice is one of the most difficult and rewarding things you can do as a filmmaker. It seems like it should be easier, right? It is your voice after all.

You know you don’t want to just be a tripod – being told what to shoot and how to shoot it.

You also know that there are certain stories that capture your heart immediately and that those are the stories you want to tell.

You know that, deep within you, there’s a strong voice that is uniquely and undoubtedly yours and a powerful vision of where you want to go.

But how to get from here to there?

Last week, we described how to move from being a tripod to being a storyteller by building your overarching narrative. Your over-arching narrative is all about choosing five keywords that sum up your purpose as a filmmaker.

By asking yourself what inspires you as a filmmaker, what stories you like to tell, who is your ideal client and what you love most about filmmaking, you can cut through the clutter and arrive at why you’re truly pursuing this path in the first place.

In doing so, you’ll zero in on those five words that sum up you, your business, your art and your purpose.

There’s a power in these five words, when you use them as a lens to filter all of your decisions as you create a film.

But here’s the thing.  These keywords can be used to give you clarity on ALL of your decisions as a filmmaker, both on set and off.

Your clear, over-arching narrative can extend to every detail of people’s interactions with you, from navigating your website, to a client’s first introductory call, to how you deliver your final product.

You can use these keywords to create exactly the kinds of experiences you would like your team and your clients to have every time they work with you.  The kind of experiences that absolutely blow them out of the water and keep them coming back for more.

If you haven’t come up with your 5 keywords yet, take 10 minutes to head on over to our keywords blog post, download the free work sheet, and make it happen. Your 5 words will help you get so much more out of what we share here.

So, you’ve got your keywords, but how do you apply them to the entire experience you offer?

Ready for it?

You tap into stories, of course.

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