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You are not a tripod.

Your perspective is the strongest lens you’ll ever attach to a camera. And we’d like to help you in developing that perspective. We’re Stillmotion, a team of kind and curious storytellers. Thanks for being here.

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How To Combat 3 Dangerous Filmmaking Myths With One Simple Truth

By | Featured, Storytelling | 44 Comments

As filmmakers, what we crave, desire, and dream of probably more than anything else—yes even more than that new Drone—is that moment when we share a piece we’ve created and it makes somebody really FEEL something.

Yet it can often feel like a guessing game, and it’s so hard to be sure that what we’ve crafted—these shots, in this order, with this soundtrack—will be the magic combination that shakes our audience to their core and leaves an imprint they’ll never forget.

Early in my filmmaking career, I can remember lying in bed the night before a wedding, and hoping that the next day would bring the perfect combination of elements to allow for that truly remarkable wedding film. I thought that perhaps emotional vows, in gorgeous locations, with light that was just right could all come together to make something really special.

Over the years I tried everything to try and crack the code. Black and white. Slow motion. I shot one wedding entirely with a Steadicam. No joke, every single shot had movement.

Check out one of our first wedding films. Complete with ring shots, steadicam, and black & white.

I tried shooting with different gear. Before DSLRs and large sensor cameras, we had to use a 35mm adapters—this fancy contraption that went on your camera and made it the size of a bazooka—to shoot shallow depth of field.

Unreal that we used to rock up to a brides house with one of these.

I tried shooting things in different ways. Hanging the wedding dress from a tree, or perhaps placing the rings on some rocks and pouring steaming water over them all while shooting with a tilt-shift lens. I was misguided but I sure put a heck of a lot of effort behind my misdirection.

I’ve gone from spending hours and hours every week reading forums, blogs, and rumor sites about new gear to truly feeling confident and capable with whatever I find in my hands.

Now I look at the process of filmmaking in a whole new way.

There is no more guess work.

I know what needs to come together, and how to make it happen. I know how to create that formerly elusive film or video that could really make the viewer feel something—that could move them.

And while that might sound arrogant or unrealistic, there is a confidence that comes from having a clear process that you know will deliver exceptional results if you have the focus and fortitude to follow it.

To correct what we’re doing wrong we first must acknowledge it.

Let’s look at 3 HUGE myths that we, as filmmakers, often fall into in our pursuit of trying to create videos that really, truly move our audience.

I want to share with you a bunch of mistakes I made when starting out. We all have this common journey of wanting to telling stronger stories and I tried many, many things that totally didn’t work.

1. The Perfect Camera Myth

It’s hard to look at the ads for new gear and not feel like they’ll help you make those stories you’ve been dreaming of. And that can start this endless cycle of chasing down one piece of gear to the next. Years ago it was a camera that was better in lowlight. Then it was a camera that allowed for shallower depth of field. Then it was a camera that had less compression, or more slow motion, or more dynamic range.

One year, no joke, I had purhcased three used Canon XL3 cameras. To this day I still think that’s one sexy camera. But here’s the hilarious part. Over $12,000 in camera gear purchased in the off-season and I never shot a single thing with them. I got them in, tested them out, but a few months later I had already fallen in love with the next camera.

All of a sudden these cameras, these new XL3s that not so long ago were a huge step forward, were already not enough. And so I sold them all before they’d shot a single event, and got two shiny new XHA1s. I was certain they would be the thing that took me to the next level.

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Over the years I’ve learned that there is no perfect camera. We evolve as the technology does and we’ll always be wanting something more.

Even if Canon busted out a mirrorless, full-frame camera that boasted 18 stops of dynamic range, up to 1,000 frames slow-motion, raw recording wirelessly to your cell phone, and low-light performance that made a Tarsier jealous (see image below, these critters have eyes heavier than their brain) it would be a mere couple days before we’d want 20 stops of dynamic range and those 1,000 frames of slow motion wouldn’t be quite enough.

Western tarsier in a Malaysian rainforest in Danum Valley, Sabah, Borneo

2. The ‘Make It Sizzle’ myth

While related to The Perfect Camera myth, this one definitely stands on its own. If we don’t have clear direction, as we accumulate different gear and learn new techniques, what we often look to just do is just make it sizzle. Or, in more eloquent terms, we try and make every shot as badass as possible. And while that sometimes helps the story, or helps us achieve our goal of connecting with the audience, there are far more times when the smoothest MoVI shot or the slickest Drone aerial will never be more than a gimmick in our piece.

It’s totally understandable when you think about it. If we aren’t sure what to do to create that story we want, then we lean on what we know, we lean into our strengths, and focus on creating the strongest visuals we can.

I can remember early in my wedding days trying to come up with the most fantastical shots you could imagine. Back when folks were just starting to talk about story in a wedding video, we were hanging the dress from a tree, and coming up with all kinds of random combinations of objects and locations.

One day, while in California for the wedding of Griffen and Curtis, we decided to start shooting all the details of the wedding during the rehearsal. We had a same-day edit to do the next day, so grabbing some killer shots of the shoes, dress, jewelry, and locations would help us get some shots in the timeline.

We took Griffen’s ring, a really nice Tiffany’s ring worth a pretty penny, and tried to lean it on the bark of a California palm tree. We had the 35mm adapter mentioned above, so there this large adapter on the front of the XHA1 (that perfect camera I chased down), and we were getting some sweet slides of the ring. But as we looked at the shots, we wanted more.

So then the idea came to us to try and roll the ring down the bark. If we could get it to slowly roll while we slide with a shallow depth of field, that would be pretty special (or so we thought). The first few attempts were rather awkward and far from usable.

Then, on the third try, something happened.

The ring disappeared.

Neither of us could see where it went and we started scouring every square inch around our shooting area. Like a bad dream, only a few minutes later, the wedding planner came over to say that the rehearsal was about to start and that she needed the rings back.

I kid you not, here we are in our Sunday finest on our hands and knees digging the earth trying to find this gorgeous Tiffany’s ring while the planner is wondering what’s up.

I actually started thinking about where and how I could replace the ring that evening as to not not have this wedding be the one where the bride killed Patrick.

These shots we put so much sweat, and stress, into creating sure did look cool. But they were far from helping you feel something.

What I’ve learned is that it’s about affect, not effect. Early on, we focus on effect, on doing things that look cool to try and get a reaction, but even if it does, it’s rather minimal and fleeting.

We did find that ring. It got stuck behind a flap of the bark and was literally inside the tree. That was the last adventurous ring shot I ever did.

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Amina and I, out chasing some sizzle back in the day.

3. Filmmaking Is A Visual Medium

Now the last myth really builds on the first two. It’s the belief—and focus—on filmmaking as a visual medium.

We can spend so much time on the light, the lenses, the composition, the movement, and do everything we can to maximize the visuals.

It’s the reason we chase down the perfect camera. And why we hunt for sizzle to bolster our stories.

But first off, calling filmmaking a visual medium leaves out half of the picture (come on, it was a clever pun). Sound is HUGE. It adds so much to our experience. But a few of us hop onto BH and think that if only we had that new Rode NTG4+ with built in lithium-ion battery we’d be able to take that next step with our stories.

The reality is, most of us think of audio as a chore rather than a massive opportunity for connection.

But I digress. I don’t believe filmmaking is an auditory medium.

What I’ve come to learn over the years of making stories with everybody from the best golfer in the world to an elderly man with pancreatic cancer and only a few weeks let to live, is that film is neither a visual nor an auditory medium.

Filmmaking is an interpersonal medium.

After all, what we crave most in making our stories is that connection with our audience. For them to finish and hit that play button to excitedly watch the whole thing over again.

Filmmaking is an interpersonal medium. It’s all about how we connect with, and relate to, those who are in our films.

How we treat our audience and make them feel will do more for our story than any camera, lens, or light ever could.

And in trying to build stories that truly move our audience, it’s an understanding of human motivation, wants, needs, and desires that helps us become better storytellers—way more than knowing about f-stops and dynamic range.

Most of us have thought, at one time or another, that if we just had that faster lens, better camera, or the fancy new tool that we could finally create the stories that we’ve been dreaming of. We look externally—better talent, tools, conditions.

We call this the Woeful Gear Bias.

It’s our tendency to look outwards for the solution to our filmmaking woes. We look to gear to solve our storytelling problems. We blame poor external conditions—camera’s not good enough, weather didn’t hold up, it was too crowded—for our own filmmaking shortcomings. We think the reason that people don’t connect to our films is because the conditions haven’t aligned for us to make that moving story. It’s the Woeful Gear Bias.

The truth is, the single biggest tool we have for stronger storytelling is to develop our thinking. To truly and deeply understand story.

This idea of the Woeful Gear Bias is backed by some solid research too. In psych, it’s called the Actor Observer Bias, which is our tendency to attribute our own actions to external factors while attributing other people’s behaviors to internal factors. And what’s even worse is that this bias is exaggerated when it comes to negative outcomes…such as, say, videos that keep missing the mark.

For example, think back to one of your recent videos that really wasn’t what you thought it could have been. Now take a second to try to identify some of the reasons you told yourself or others about why it fell short.

Really take a second and see if you can find those things that you told yourself here and there, whispers if you will, about why it didn’t work out.

I’ll bet 99% of the things you come up with are external. The light was just horrible. You didn’t have the right lens. Your talent wasn’t passionate enough. The bride was too stressed.

But the reality is, things will never go exactly as planned. There is no perfect story. And no perfect camera. What we do have, and what we can control MOST is our own thinking, process, and perspective.

Crafting remarkable stories isn’t luck. 

Learn Muse, the patent-pending storytelling process, to go deeper with your storytelling.

Registration closes Friday, Oct. 2 at midnight PDT. 

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What A Quadriplegic Can Teach Us All About Getting Sh*t Done

By | Business, Featured | 20 Comments

“It was like any other day.

It was late one night that I went out on my motorbike and I took a corner too fast, or too late, the bike hit the gutter, I went up on the nature strip and there was a big hole. Front wheel hit that, I went over the handlebars, and head first into a tree where I shattered the fifth vertebrae in my neck.

I didn’t understand what had happened to me. I consciously knew I had a very serious accident – I had broken my neck, that I was quadriplegic, but I didn’t know what that meant.”

In just an instant, Dave Jacka lost 94 percent of his body function, resigning him to life in a wheelchair.

Right after the accident he found himself in a hospital bed placed in head tongs. His days were spent staring at the holes in the ceiling tiles. He’d pass the time by talking to patients around him but he’d never see their faces and who they were over their months of conversations.

I can’t imagine what it would feel like to wake up with such a small fraction of everything I once knew. Just 6% of your body function. And absolutely no hope of getting it back.

So where do you go from there? All the dreams, ambitions, and vision for the life you thought you’d lead completely shattered.

With New Year’s recently upon us, many of us may currently be working on our own big, audacious goals: Do more pre-production; finally learn how to operate your dream camera; or commit to being a stronger cinematographer.

For Dave, his goal was to put himself to bed at night. On his own. As a 19-year-old man without the help of his mother.

Two years later, with only 6 percent body function, he accomplished the seemingly impossible. So how did he do it? What can a quadriplegic teach us about reaching our goals?

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5 Life Lessons That Took Him From Farm Boy To Hollywood DP

By | Featured, Storytelling | 11 Comments

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.

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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.


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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.

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So you’re the only girl on the block. How to succeed as a female filmmaker.

By | Featured, News | 44 Comments

Five years ago, I entered into the filmmaking arena a minority, an underdog. I didn’t go to film school, I’m just over 5’ tall, I’m young…. and I’m female. If you were able to place bets on me at a casino the odds would be something like 341:1.

That’s not too far from where a lot of other women feel like they are at in their filmmaking careers, but here’s the secret:

On paper, you may be the underdog. But don’t for one second let yourself believe it.

I went from working at 3M in an engineering lab to all-access on the sidelines of the Superbowl in just 19 short months. From there, I went on to take a major role in the production of A Game of Honor and, over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege to work on a number of different productions, large and small.

As I look back, I’ve discovered a lot about what it takes to succeed as a female filmmaker and I want to share five powerful ideas I’ve learned with you.

This is a tough industry. It’s a harsh landscape for any filmmaker, but it’s especially challenging for women who have dreams to succeed in this space. Make no mistake, women are still the minority, but we don’t have to be the underdog.

It’s important to point out that with immense challenges also come opportunities to succeed.

Some may say that being DP of a feature-length doc and winning some Emmys in just five short years are significant triumphs, and I wouldn’t disagree, but I also feel that is something that’s within everyone’s reach.

You just have to want it enough to go for it, regardless of age, race, or gender.

So how do we handle being repeatedly marginalized, dealing with inappropriate comments on set and making the most out of fighting an uphill battle? Ladies, this one is for you.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned about how to succeed as a female filmmaker.

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Patrick Moreau (P.)

Director + Educator

Amina Moreau

Executive Creative Director

Richard Kotulski

Strategy + Development