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Story First Docs

By March 3, 2014Uncategorized


Making a documentary, whether short or long, is tough stuff.

Trying to tell a story with real people, in real-time, and have it come out as strong as you can see it in your head is the ultimate challenge. We created Story First Docs after our experience in making our first feature length film #standwithme (and countless short form docs over the years).

This course will give you tangible ways to approach your camera, lens, lighting, audio, and movement decisions. Let us help you with all we’ve learned about documentaries over the years. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.

Story First Docs will help you be more confident in all the decisions you need to make within your film. And as your confidence grows, you’ll be able to craft stories that have a stronger impact on people – and come out looking exactly like what you imagined them to be. You’ll also have more fun in the process. And all of this will save you money by decreasing the amount you shoot, doing more with what you do shoot, and needing much less time in post.

Make stronger decisions, gain confidence in your filmmaking, and save money throughout the process.




In early 2013 we heard the story of a 9-year-old girl using lemonade to fight slavery. Within weeks, we set off on a journey that would take us around the world in pursuit of our first feature length documentary film: #standwithme

This course, Story First Docs, uses #standwithme as a tangible case-study to look at how all of your camera, light, lens, and movement decisions can be made with story in mind.

This interactive book comes with over an hour of brand new videos and more than 180 pages of content and ideas. As a digital download, you’ll be able to access it on your computer, tablet, phone, and more. 

In each section we’ll talk about how we approached #standwithme, and will offer concrete suggestions on how you can apply what we’ve learned for your own films.

Here is a preview of what you’ll find in each chapter.

Camera & Lenses

  • 5 key things to consider when choosing the right camera for you. Plus 11 camera features you should be aware of before pulling the trigger.
  • We’ll weigh the pros and cons of shooting with a high end camera (Red Epic), a mid-range camera (Canon C100) and a prosumer camera (Canon 5D MarkIII DSLR), and break down when we use each for what situations in the documentary.
  • 5 Things To Consider When Building Your Camera Kit: Staying Small or Going Big. We’ll show you field examples of when we used each and breakdown why.
  • How to choose the right lens along with 4 things to always consider when choosing the right sense for an interview.
  • A cool behind-the-scenes breakdown of the cameras and lenses used in one of the strongest scenes of the film in terms of cinematography – the bottling crescendo.
  • A 9-step A-Z Guide of what to do from the moment to arrive (hint, it doesn’t include cameras) to assessing the light, to selecting the right lens and dialing in settings before you hit the record button.

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Light & Lighting

  •  Making a documentary so often involves making that happens to be in the different shooting environments . We’ll break down the 4 basics of light and show how to make the most of each one.
  • 3 key things to consider when lighting a scene or interview. Plus a full breakdown of our lighting kit that was used in making this documentary.
  • We’ll break down one of the main interviews in the film and show the lighting plot, discuss the tools, and explain all of the decisions along the way.
  • The 4 most common lighting scenarios in documentary filmmaking with field examples of each and ways to approach them.
  • 5 things you should always consider to help you find the perfect interview location.
  • How to shoot with nothing but natural light and make the most of it.


  • A simple and effective way to help you decide what camera movement best helps your story. Plus, we’ll break down how we used this method in #standwithme.
  • We’ll break down all of the gear we used and share some tips on the monopod, tripod, and Movi – and we bet some of these will certainly surprise you.
  • 5 key things to consider when choosing the perfect movement tool to pair with your camera – this is more than theoretical, it also accounts for the practical side, things such as how long you have to setup.
  • Slow zooms and the Ken Burns effect are a thing of the past. Check out an easy and engaging way to incorporate archival photos into your documentary through creating “Photoscapes” – we’ll show you what you need and how to do it!

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  • Audio isn’t something you can afford to mess up in a documentary. And you often have to do more with less crew. We’ll share our approach on audio and the 3 things to think about when considering how to handle your audio.
  • Building an audio setup doesn’t need to be super confusing. Check out our 3 audio kits for that will get you covered in any situation.
  • An in-depth case study on one of the most complex scenes, in terms of audio capture, in #standwithme – the big celebration for Day 365 of Vivienne’s lemonade stand, the tools we used and why we selected those for this important scene.
  • Hear the side-by-side comparison of different microphones and the quality changes in this sample video to understand how much audio can hurt (or help!) you in your film.
  • The 5 most important things to select the right soundtrack. Plus, we’ll explore when it’s better to not use any soundtrack at all.

Plus, a new bonus chapter on funding and getting your film out there.

  • Funding is one of the biggest challenges in making the documentary of your dreams. We interviewed filmmakers, Hollywood DPs like Shane Hurlbut, Ryan Koo of NoFilmSchool, and the CEO of, to share with you their tips and the options out there to get your dream story funded.
  • Tips on how to effectively get your movie out there. Take a look at how Stillmotion approached not just making #standwithme but how we engaged people to help us get it out there.

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Story First Docs is here to help you gain confidence in your decisions and to help you bring to life, in a really powerful way, that story you’ve got in your head.

  • For event and doc style filmmakers looking to shoot short or long form productions
  • Sections on Story, Camera & Lenses, Light, Movement, and Audio
  • #standwithme as a tangible case study with clear take home points for each section
  • Includes the full film #standwithme
  • Over 90 minutes of brand new video tutorials and 180 pages



Joseph Stunzi

About Joseph Stunzi