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Take Action Filmmaking Challenge

By May 8, 2013Uncategorized

What do you need most to be able to share deeper, more meaningful stories with the world?

Have you ever sat and really thought about that?

We mean *you* personally. What do YOU need?

What’s really holding you back?

We’ve asked this to hundreds of budding filmmakers – and time and time again, we hear the same responses:

    • “I go to workshops… I devour every online tutorial… I read blogs every single day… but I’m still struggling when I actually get out in the field.”
    • “I feel like I keep studying and studying, but I’m just not making progress as fast as I want!”
    • “I just want someone to tell me *exactly* what to do – and then hold me accountable.”

Look, we get it. We’ve been there.

And we know exactly what this feels like.

You see, every member of the Stillmotion family started the same way. We poured through online tutorials, in-person seminars, and every book we could get our hands on.

And some of that helped us. Those forms of training pushed us here and there.

But you know what? It was nothing compared to what we learned out in the field.

When we started pushing ourselves to get into the field and apply what we had learned – our filmmaking changed forever.

In other words, we learned far more DOING than we ever did STUDYING.

All the classroom learning in the world can fall apart when you get on a deadline, get something thrown in your face, and have to overcome the challenge in the moment.

BOTTOM LINE: Tutorials and training are important, but your true skill is forged in the field.

Let’s be honest, you have a pretty good foundational knowledge for how to handle most of your gear. You probably even know the basics of what it takes to tell a good story.

The last thing you need (at this point in your growth) is to watch another video tutorial online.

You know this… we know this…

You’ve got most of the basics down – and now you need something more to take it to the next level.

That’s why we want to push you… CHALLENGE you…

Take Action Filmmaking Challenge

We want you to get out in the field and do it.

Put your skills into action. Jump head first. Push yourself.

That’s how we cut our teeth. That’s how we’ve been able to tell the stories that matter most to us.

And now we want to help challenge YOU to do the same.

We want to to give you a loving, but forceful shove from behind. We want you to confront storytelling HEAD ON.

So we’ve designed an online framework that you can do from anywhere in the world, over the next 11 weeks with over a hundred of your peers…

We call it the Take Action Filmmaking Challenge.

Think of it as a 77 day, hands-on workshop in your own city. Sounds pretty cool, right?

Here’s the way we’ve constructed this to really change the way you approach films…

Handpicked challenges issued every Monday…

Every Monday, bright and early, a custom filmmaking challenge will be issued straight to your email.

You’ll click the link, log-in, and read the specific deliverables that will be due at the end of the week (Sunday by midnight). You’ll also download additional assets like worksheets, videos, and cheat sheets to help you with that week’s submission.

You’ll plan your week to be able to brainstorm your approach, plan out your shoot, complete your worksheets, and upload your deliverable to the Vimeo group each week.

Each challenge is handpicked and crafted to engage you in 2-3 specific filmmaking skills. We start more simply and focused – building slowly into more and more skills as we progress throughout the course.

The week is designed to push you outside of your comfort zone – get you into an environment you may not regularly find yourself in – to see what you can come up with in the moment.

You won’t be given the full details of each challenge ahead of time, but we will have a list of what type of challenge each week will bring, and what sort of gear will help each week (for those with travel schedules).

Get held accountable by hundreds of filmmakers…

Our initial class had over a hundred filmmakers from around the world.

We knew creating an environment that would bring all these passionate, aggressive filmmakers into one online group would be powerful – but we didn’t realize just how powerful the interaction would actually be.

Students connected and worked on shoots with each other, helped review short films, and even referred each other work in some cases.

Chasing your dreams of creating films can be a tough, lonely road. It’s important that no matter *where* you are in the journey, you surround yourself with supportive, like-minded peers. Every student that enrolls in the Take Action Challenge is motivated by a similar goal and desire.

This means the forums are not only useful, but they are FUN! We expected a lot of you doing this course, but you’ll not only have the Stillmotion team counting on you – you’ll have the rest of your peers who will be waiting to see what you come up with each week.

You’ll engage them on our private Vimeo forums (only for people in the group – so we can get personal) and we’ll also be creating an alumni-only Facebook group for ALL the graduates of past and future Take Action classes to be able to network and meet-up in the real world.

Live weekly webcasts with the Stillmotion team…

At the end of the first challenge, we surveyed the students to find out what part of the class structure they enjoyed the most.

Without a doubt (it wasn’t even close), the students favorite part of the course was the weekly, live webcasts every Tuesday night with the Stillmotion team.

Over the 11 weeks, we’ll be joined live by Patrick, Amina, Justin, Ray, Joyce, Grant – all lead Stillmotion shooters and educators.

We start each week by reviewing and dissecting a half dozen student submissions from the previous week’s challenge. That means *you* could be selected to have your homework dissected in front of the class on any given week. Lead educators will discuss what they loved, and where a submission could most improve – live on the webcast!

Next, we’ll also show Stillmotion’s own approach to the challenge. That’s right, we’ve walked the walk right along side of you. For each challenge, we’ve done the exact same deliverable – under the same constraints you had. See what we come up with. 😉

When then break down what we call the “Common Issues” of the entries we received. This is a more in-depth discussion on the areas you may have struggled with – and how to approach the situation differently moving forward.

Finally, we talk about the *current* week’s challenge – answering any and all questions from the chat room and forums you can come up with. This sets you up to really crank out your shoot that week.

Don’t worry if you can’t make a webcast! We record every single webcast and post the recording within 24 hours.

Many of our international friends email us questions if they can’t make it every morning – and we’ll also answer your questions if something keeps you from making it live.

See where your submissions need improvement…

Alright so you worked your butt off to complete your weekly challenge. You uploaded the submission, you sent in your worksheets (filled out), and you’re proud!

Whoo-hoo! Nice work.

To make sure you get the MOST value out of each week, each week we look at your work and focus in on the specific skill sets of that challenge. We point out areas of your submissions that could use improvement and we explain why.

We then give recommendations on how you can improve in the application of those skills (we also like to point out things you do well : )

For example, imagine a challenge that pushed you to creatively light and interview with limited resources (let’s just say)… you may receive feedback on your “Resourcefulness, Lighting Ratio, and Composition”.

Week after week after week, we’ll work with you to help point out how to make every one of your films stronger.

Never lack inspiration for a film again…

In a private Vimeo group, you’ll see the entry of every single student in the course.

That’ll be hundreds of unique, different, and inspired approaches by the end of the challenge.

You’ll also be able to follow your favorite peers – and know when they post their submissions each week.

One of team members (Grant Peelle) loves to say, “Creativity is born out of constraint…” and we believe that to be true. Each week you’ll see a million (or slightly less) ways a group of creatives can all approach the exact same challenge (when given the exact same directions).

To be honest, many of our students have even inspired us to look at stories in new ways.

And, like I said before, you’ll also get to see how WE approached the same challenge. We’ll all learn from each other!

Everything builds up to the Final Challenge…

As I outlined above, each week builds on a specific set of skills – and as we progress you’ll feel components building on each other – and you’ll feel the synergy start to make your filmmaking smoother and smoother.

By the time we reach the final week, you’ll have touched on every single part of creating a life-changing story and film.

So we block off two full weeks for the final project – so that we are able to really make something special. This timeframe also allows us to do more than just give feedback after you’re done – it allows us to talk to you 1-on-1 about your story *during* the process of you filming it.

You’ll submit your pre-production and your creative brief (the story you want to tell) and we’ll provide you feedback before you pick up the camera to shoot. It’s the only week where we can interact 1-on-1 *during* the challenge itself, but it really shows in the final piece you deliver.

We can proudly tell you that for many of our students in the last course, their final challenge is one of the deepest, most meaningful stories they’ve told to date. We love that!

We can’t wait to see what you’ll be able to do at the end of these 11 weeks.

We know the student who complete ALL THE CHALLENGES, on time, every week are going to completely revolutionize the way they approach their shoots in the future. Their stories will never be the same.

This isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s also not basic training.

It’s for storytellers who know they’ve studied enough – and know the next step is to get pushed out of the nest and try their wings in a private setting.

If that’s you – we can’t wait to go through this challenge with you.

We’re going to cover a lot of ground…

Take Action Map


Each week is design with a focused challenge set to push your limits on a primary topic.

For example, we may be working on audio, lighting, editing, lens choice, or movement in a particular week – but it doesn’t end there.

We’ve set-up each week to also engage you in areas like scouting the right location for the story, working with different types of talent, and pre-producing better to manage your time more efficiently.

And, on top of everything, you’ll have to explain yourself.

That’s right – we’re going to ask you why. You’ll fill out worksheets and reports – and you’ll need to justify how your choice in the exercise or challenge added to the story you were trying to tell.

Throughout your trek, you’ll be pushed in a wide variety of areas:

  • Lighting indoors
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Sound effects
  • Working under pressure
  • Storyboarding
  • Creating treatments
  • Working with natural sounds
  • Scoring the right soundtrack
  • Sourcing talent for your shoots
  • Explaining each and every choice you make (the why)
  • Shooting with primes
  • Creating something out of “nothing” (resourcefulness)
  • Choosing the right lens for your story
  • Working outdoors (with the sun)
  • Location scouting
  • Getting the most out of on-screen talent
  • What movement adds (or takes away) from your story
  • How *not* to interview someone
  • Creating engaging intros
  • Editing for story
  • Leaving your audience with a specific feeling
  • How to bring all this together into one film…

By the end of this 11-week process, you’ll be equipped to handle almost any creative situation you can find yourself in.

Most importantly, you’ll know how each of these components work together to tell a compelling story that matters.

After all, that’s why we do what we do.

We will expect a lot from you…

To clarify, here’s the specifics of what you’ll be required to do:

  • Each week, you’ll be expected to complete your challenge on time (turn in by Sunday night). We are going to hold you accountable.
  • You’ll be required to fill out simple (but not always easy) worksheets that accompany each week’s deliverable. This is you explaining the “why” we always talk about.
  • We expect you to engage in the private forums to brainstorm your approach, get suggestions, and find creative direction.
  • Every Tuesday evening, you’ll have the opportunity to ask ANY questions on a live webcast. You can submit questions ahead of time if you can’t make it – and you’ll have access to the recording of every week’s webcast. THIS is the time to clarify the challenge, get help, and finish up your shooting or planning.

Sample schedule showing Week 2 and Week 3…

Sample Weeks

Starting in the second week, you’ll be receiving your personal feedback within 48-72 hours from the Stillmotion team directly. We’ll cover what we loved and what you should work on in the future. You’ll be able to apply that to not only your next assignment – but every film you make from here on out.

Remember, we will also make all submissions available to watch, listen, or review.

We can’t wait to see what each of you are able to come up with each week (it’ll be fun to see everyone’s submissions)!

We will be putting a LOT of time/resources into running this for the next 3 months – we want to make SURE you are showing up and doing the work.

Would you rather us not hold you accountable? C’mon!

We realize everyone will have life happen at some point. We realize many of you travel frequently.

But we do expect that if you invest in this training, you will also make a commitment to us to show up and do the work.

More importantly than the commitment to us though – is the commitment to YOURSELF!

If you don’t want to do the work it takes to take your storytelling to the next level, don’t sign up. Queue up one of the hundreds of free filmmaking tutorials around the web and chill. But if you can earnestly commit that you’ll take this seriously – and get out in the field each and every week (make time) – we promise this will change your filmmaking forever by the end of the class.

This definitely isn’t for everyone…

While I’m on the subject on not signing up, I want to be honest with you.

This type of training and structure IS NOT for everyone. This is an investment in yourself – and we aren’t the type of studio that is going to “sell” everyone on a one-size-fits-all solution.

1) This class is NOT for you if you’re brand new to DSLR filmmaking.

If you’ve just picked up a camera in the last few months – and haven’t ever shot a small story or short film – you have better ways to learn and experience the core 101 basics of your camera. We have lots of more affordable resources (and free tutorials) that allow you to take a few more months and get familiar with your camera. 🙂

That said, you won’t need to own or be a master with dozens of pieces of gear to complete this course. In fact, many times we intentionally limit the gear you can use (in some challenges).

You’ll fare better if you’re able to borrow or rent (if you don’t own) some extremely basic audio gear, a basic interview lighting setup, a monopod or alternative movement tool, and if you have at least two lenses as a base. But almost every lesson is scalable depending on what gear you DO own (and all of our lessons prioritize story over technical perfection).

2) This class is NOT for you if you’ve never edited a video before.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with editing software (once again to the point where you’ve never used it to complete even a small project), you’ll be far behind the majority of your peers in this class. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be a legendary film editor. But you *do* need to be sufficient enough to understand how to import your footage, execute basic functions inside an editor, and export and upload your files to Vimeo.

If you are brand spanking new, welcome to filmmaking and storytelling! But take a few more months to work your way into the basics and join us for the next class in the Fall!

3) This class is NOT for you if you have only a couple hours each week total.

Your submissions and worksheet will take a minimum of 3-6 hours per week – and that’s for many of the earlier weeks. As we progress, some weeks will take double that to really create something you are proud of.

This isn’t only for full-time filmmakers, we’ve had teachers, physiologists, families, parents, photographers, and studios all pull this off with full-time workloads.

You can do this on nights and weekends!

At the same time, if you KNOW you are only going to have a couple hours each week – and no more – this isn’t the best training for you. You simply don’t have enough time to commit to get the most out of this course.

We believe that we each MAKE time for what is important in our lives. And for our students, we want this to be an important part of their summer!

Commit a couple evenings (or a big weekend day) to us for the next few weeks. See what a difference it’ll make. 😉

What past students are saying about Take Action…

TakeAction_AndrewWinchell“Thanks for all your work. Seriously, this course has been exactly what I have needed to push me beyond my usual passivity. Even more than just learning practical information, I can tell that my thinking on shoots is changing for the better. You guys are the best!”

-Andrew W.

TakeAction_VinceChia“The challenges and webinars have ingrained in me the importance of relevant intentions in regards to storytelling. Thank you for pushing me to contemplate the big picture of the message I’m trying to convey. I’m one person trying to make a film larger than himself and hopefully inspiring and helpful to those that see it.”

-Vince C.

TakeAction_NicJustice“People all around are loving the jumprope video I did for my final TA project. Really opening up a lot of doors for me. NFL films haven called but some Architecture firms have, which is a strange connection. Pre-production is proving to be all important, and legit proposals are really a good chance at that process.”

-Nic J.

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Registration for the Fall 2013 Class is now closed

Class begins on Monday September 16th 2013 and concludes on Tuesday December 3rd 2013.

Everything we’ve talked about above (scroll back up), all 10 challenges, all worksheets and resources, personalized feedback of all your submissions, and three months of weekly live webcasts…

Tuition for this 11-week training is $995 (one-time fee).

If we had to sell each part of this course framework individually – well, we couldn’t do that – it would be a crazy amount for anyone to pay. The reason we can offer this kind of environment at an affordable price point is because of scale.

When we dissect one film on the webcast, dozens can benefit. When we answer a business question in the forums, everyone will get to engage and benefit from the discussion.

That’s really the most amazing thing about this entire process. By sharing in it together, we all get so much more than if we paid MORE to have a 1-on-1 experience.

The Take Action Challenge is the perfect alternative for those that can’t make (or can’t invest) in one of the larger workshops we do live in Portland. And, truth be told, this is a way for us to instill the same type of community and intense learning in our in-person workshop – spread out over 3 months on a weekly basis.

Filmmaking ultimately comes down to doing.

And we want to help you do just that – every week – for the next three months.

The most important step you’ll take… is your next one.

Up for a challenge?

Can’t wait to see what we can build together!

Interested in enrolling? Click here to register. 

Registration for the Fall 2013 Class is now closed

-Baker, Amina, Patrick, Justin and the entire EDU team…

Patrick Moreau

About Patrick Moreau

I love stories that challenge the way we see things.