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.
[do action=”pullquote-tweet-withurl”]Here are 3 deadly myths that hold us back from making videos that move people:[/do]
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.
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.
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.[do action=”pullquote-tweet-withurl”]Chase affect over effect. Story over glitter.[/do]
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.
Awesome post, love all the stories!
Thanks Evan 🙂 They were fun to dig up.
Thanks for sharing Patrick, i agree 1000%
thank you for the post! Really amazing tips!
I really appreciate your post. It is so easy to get caught up in the gear trap.
Absolutely Barry. We spent years caught in it’s jaws.
Holy Crap I can’t even believe that was a film that you did Patrick! I know I’m definitely guilty of the woeful gear bias. As soon as I bought the A7S I was saving my pennies to purchas the c100mkii… Gotta let that gear mentality go
Thanks for sharing Michael. As I was wrapping up the post, I chatted with Goose or cinema team and asked him about something he had made recently that hadn’t lived up to what he had hoped. Then I asked him to give me 5 reasons, without thinking too much, as to why that was the case. Off the top of his head, 4 of 5 were all environmental. It’s just a natural reaction we have. But the trick is realizing our biases so we can counter them
Awesome article and so very true!
Really great article Patrick, enjoyed every line of it! 🙂
Well… I’ve recently did a hotel promo where the male model was a replacement to the original. He was clearly not up to the task… I ended up blaming on the poor guy why I did not have enough time to do all the shots I had planned, why the film is not emotive, etc… Now I realise, had I planned better and accept that things fall through, I would’ve been in a better position to overcome those barriers, create a better film and stop blaming on the poor guy. He was trying his best…
Thanks for being so open Gione. Appreciate you sharing and such a strong application of the concept.
This article was just perfect timing! I am just in the verge of buying the Gh4 as well, but after seeing this, my gh2 and gh3 will be fine for now. I really need to push up my storytelling skills. No more gh4 for the meantime 🙂 ty
Get an A7s!!! LOL
I wish 🙂
woohoo Edwin. Awesome to hear 🙂
Great article Mr. Moreau. You all have come such a long way. Not only in your skillset, which is obvious. But in your philosophical approach. I remember quite the animated discussion we had on my Crossing the 180 podcast a few years back related directly to this topic. 🙂 I’m not saying you’ve done a 180 (pun intended); many of the points you made back then regarding gear were dead on. You talked about picking the right gear for the story you want to tell. But I think you all had a more evangelical approach to using “the best” gear. It felt very much like SM was about always using the best and most expensive gear on the planet (steadicam flyers, L-lenses, REDs, etc.)
Today while you still use great equipment, it definitely feels more like you all are MORE about the story, and whatever equipment you can use. I guess what I’m saying is that while I feel you’ve preached story vs. equipment for a long time, nowadays it feels more like you’re actually practicing what you preach now. I hope that doesn’t sound bad. It’s not meant to be. It’s absolutely a compliment.
BTW, I remember that wedding clip you showed. It was one of the weddings up for an artistic achievement award at the 4EVER Group way back when. I was one of the judges that year and remember all of us being blown away by how awesome the clip was. 🙂
Keep up the great work and evolution.
Thanks friend. It has been a massive evolution. And I am sure my approach and opinion was rather different than.
I’m certainly not afraid to admit that my thinking has take a huge leap around what story truly is and what matters most in filmmaking. And yes, we definitely practice what we preach now 🙂
You are spot on, my friend.
Ever since I saw you guys on the KNOW tour, I’ve been *trying* to put the emphasis on story when making a corporate video or TV commercial. When it’s not as successful as I would have wanted, I now know it’s the story – not the gear, lighting, or only using a tri-pod. Story is the first thing I talk about with clients, and my experience is that the best videos I’ve produced have all revolved around a solid story. So, many thanks to all of you at Still Motion for helping me see the light, and know where to look when developing a video – and being honest with myself as why something did not come out as great as I would have liked.
Great article about the GEAR, but I think there’s something else involved here…at least on my part. This is having the story, but not knowing how to tell it; to relate it to my audience who, I hope, will become my clients. Heck, I even designed and built a teleprompter to help me. NOTHING.
My daughter is, for lack of a more detailed description, the Chief Learning Designer for a large international bank based in Canada. She also happens to live down the street from me. She is a teacher and a storyteller. A little while ago I was ranting to her how hard it is to make the video about my products and their features and benefits…I’m a retired accountant and used to black and white.
She came to my basement and sat beside the camera and said: “OK now start your video”. Soon after I started she said: “Stop, take down the teleprompter, I know what your problem is”. I looked at her: “What”? I said.
“It’s your GEAR”. She said. “Just take down these things that are blocking you”. I did as I was told.
Still sitting on the stool, she told me to look at her and tell HER the story about the Bracket I designed and built to hold a computer on a wheelchair that helped with the therapeutic recovery of that stroke victim. “Look at me and not the camera”. She said. “You are a designer of solutions for other’s problems and challenges; tell that story”.
Patrick, it took some effort, but the camera and the lights and the recorder vanish from my vision; I hold my stuff in my hands and fingers and show/tell how and why they may be one (but not the) solution to their (perceived) problem(s). I look around the room at the imaginary audience and tell them the story. I no longer look directly at the camera. This works for me.
Too much gear may also be a problem.
I wish I could upvote this 100X over. Yes, that’s a brilliant insight. When it comes to something like an interview we often think of the camera, lens, light, movement, composition as where we need to focus but our team truly believes that it’s the how you interact with people that makes all the difference. Make it a conversation, not a performance. And that’s exactly what happened with you – it felt like a performance and you’re not an actor. When it became a conversation, the true story and your passion could come out.
This is an incredible lesson for so many of us out there that lose emotional value in our interviews by being way too gear focused
I’m definitely guilty of the sizzle myth. In fact, i just finished a project last week where I fought the urge (and lost) to begin the production process by manufacturing “a powerful moment”. Something I fabricated and forced into the story. Although it turned out “meh – ok”, and the client loves it; i know deep down it doesn’t ring true. I regret it. I regret it. I REGRET IT! And even now, I’m resisting the urge to blame the “weak story” as though it needed “something”. This is a hard habit and mindset to break free from. #TheStoryStruggleIsReal
Thanks, Patrick, for sharing so honestly. You/SM are a dented and scared, but shining and beautiful role model for filmmakers everywhere.
Awww that’s often kind of you to share and be so open. I think most of us have been there, manufacturing something because we don’t know what else to do, and it rarely gets us where we need to be. It can be so helpful to look back at stories like those and ask, given what you know now, how would you handle this differently today? And work through the ways you could have made it stronger if you were to redo it. That post mortem is massive in developing your thinking from one shoot to the next.
Wise and true words Patrick!! Still remember that video as it led me to a totally different career path…..and coincidentally, happy wedding anniversary to Amy and Alex
Patrick! You speak the truth! I love that; filmmaking is an interpersonal medium.
My attention use to constantly jump from one piece of shiny new gear to another, now my focus is always on story first, and secondly if I’m looking at gear, what will directly help me do my job. A side note to this is some clients want you to have specific gear (even if it’s just because of the brand name) which is unfortunate. Also people are constantly comparing cameras, other gear etc, trying to find the perfect tool (which there isn’t) but at the end of the day the best option is to rent it, try it out in the field, see how it holds up to your expectations and if it’s the right fit. Spending your time always gawking at the newest product instead of getting out there and telling stories won’t bring anyone any closer to their goal.
Love it Zia 🙂
Patrick, it’s pretty awesome that you are so willing to share your creative journey and insight so freely. We’ve known each other now for a decade or so, and indeed the Brevis35 adapter titling this post is my design. Ha.
I recall as it was yesterday when the SM team flew up to Thunder Bay and put our corporate “identity” clip together. You took the concept we planned, tossed it and instead focussed (pun intended, as it was shot using our shallow DOF adapter) on the passion we were sharing for what we do. I would argue that you’ve always been driven to the real story, and this is what’s made you successful.
I would argue that you drove me crazy to get one of the first production Brevis adapters not because you needed the latest, but for the same reason I created it. I wanted beautiful footage where my 1 yr old daughter’s beautiful face was the center of attention, not the in-focus background. Of course what you did with the tools at hand after, with your best work, was tell great stories.
As a manufacturer of gear, we’ve always been intently focussed on facilitating creative vision, whatever that is. In other words, we never want to be in the way, and always increasing production value, inverse to complexity.
I’d also argue that your sound, lens choices, movement etc. now more intuitive choices for you. You no longer throw visual glitz at a subject, instead making careful choices about when, where and how to mix these elements to a thoughtful alchemy. We sent a shooter with some gear to Africa raising awareness bringing basic transportation to those with none. I remain upset to this day that the campaign was nominally effected by this effort, as the true essence of the challenges were never effectively communicated.
Patrick, my old friend, I love that you continue to share your insights in creating meaningful work. Those impassioned with the visual effort have growing responsibility in our world of “instant images everywhere”. Whether it’s a corporate video that quickly communicates core strength, a wedding clip, or a documentary, success for all of these is measured with audience engagement. Achieve this with brevity, beauty and care and perhaps you have the secret of SM’s success. Cheers, Dennis.
DWood – it’s been too long. We need to hang out and grab a drink. Up for a trip to Portland?
Yep. It’s time. I’ll be in touch 🙂
Appreciate you having the guts to share that video, Patrick! Your comments are spot on, as usual. I delayed for months pursuing some personal pieces because I didn’t have the right lights for interviews (!) — ridiculous in retrospect. About a year ago I cut myself off from buying any gear. Easy to get caught up in that, but not what’s important in telling a good story. (Renting is more sensible anyway 😉 )
I totally agree with your perspective Patrick. I am also a fan of your work. Over the years working for different companies I never really felt like “I had what I needed” to make a project successful. At my current t job we do a ton of single shooter docu style interview pieces. It’s really brought out my appreciation for story telling and helped me realize that the gear we use are tools to connect people to a story. Great artist make great work with their tools they don’t worry about the amount of tools or quality of tools needed to complete a job. Thanks for the read I’m going to share your article with our video department.
Now that we’ve laid out the dangers of preoccupation with gear, I’d love to see a follow-up article on what it means to connect with the people in your films.
I almost exclusively work with people who have never been filmed before. If they’re not comfortable with me, I can’t see my audience being comfortable with them. I always research my subjects however I can (talk about him/her with the client, search social media, etc). Then get them on the phone, transcribe any key biographical tidbits, notes about their demeanor etc. Then, for good measure, I follow-up with their spouse or a close friend– someone who can round out my perspective.
I’m curious what your process is, and would like to hear about when it has been challenging to ensure that your on-camera subjects shine for who they are. You’ve mentioned elsewhere that you have a background in psychology, and I imagine that mindset/curiosity has been a great asset in evaluating your audience, subjects, and clients.
Patrick, I LOVE this! When I left film school, I threw out all of my long lists of film contacts, producer friends, and crew opportunities, and instead went into social work. I knew that, for my first job out of school, if there was one thing I wanted to learn in life it was understanding and caring for people. After a few years, the power of storytelling pulled me back into film, and no one has helped define my intentions/vision better than you and your team at stillmotion. Thank you so for the insights you guys share. They are both helpful and validating. I definitely get sucked into the gear lust vortex, and treasure this refreshing reminder. Major thanks.
Spot on Patrick. Spot. On.
I think you are getting at a very important point here:
“The truth is, the single biggest tool we have for stronger
storytelling is to develop our thinking. To truly and deeply understand
I started to realize this when you stopped by my area for the Story First tour… understanding human relationships and human behaviors will make you a better storyteller. Learn how to talk to people, deal with people, cater to people, LISTEN to people… to let them expose their passion, their story… from the first contact to the interview, and beyond. Its a huge frickin’ deal! Understand people!
I think your background in Psychology has helped tremendously not only in storytelling, but also in teaching others about storytelling and filmmaking.
I find myself purchasing more and more books on story, listening, human behavior, etc.. with the occasional film related book in there. Don’t get me wrong, these are still extremely important, I’ll never stop learning from the masters of our craft, but maybe this is not as important as understanding people.
“The good thing about human behavior is that it is observable, and as storytellers, we must first observe the way people react to different situations and circumstances in order to understand “How and Why” their behavior changes.” – Peter D Marshall
I think this is a great post! I do love gear, but the thing I love about my job as a filmic storyteller is getting to know the people and react to their authentic story as it unfolds. This past weekend I got caught up in the vicious gear loop, overthinking the best gear to use in the scenario, and some of the better moments slipped by me. After this shoot I thought a lot about what I had done right in the past to get me where I am, and I realized that most of it wasn’t with gear, but with interacting with the couples, and the many people I come across. This post was poignant and a great reminder that we are people interacting with others, but that there just happens to be gear between us…pushing the gear aside is sometimes necessary to set up a successful story.
Forget Me Not Media
So many light bulbs going off in my head right now.
There’s been times a new piece of gear got a huge smile in the edit suite and legitimately helped us score something for the story BUT there has been heaps of times I have grabbed some new shiny thing that I decided it was the messiah and it turned out to be a waste of money and even DISTRACT US from getting the moments we wanted to on the day! Like that time I tried to use my new slider on a one camera location shoot + a tripod + a monopod + handles and lens bag and I came back with about 3 shots = fail.
Our team is coming to the Sydney seminar Pat can’t wait to meet you guys! Love your work
“TO CORRECT WHAT WE’RE DOING WRONG WE FIRST
MUST ACKNOWLEDGE IT.”
My name is Scott and I’m a gear-a-holic. I’ve been shooting/editing professionally since 2006 and I’ve thought about the perfect camera everyday since. As you stated, I spend hours online researching equipment. Here is my woeful gear bias progression:
2006-2007 – Sony V1U
2007-2009 – Sony EXI w/ letus ultimate
2010-2012 – Canon 5D
2012-2014 – Canon C300
2015-Current – wasting hours of my life debating
whether our in-house team should purchase RED or ARRI
My images & rates have improved over my career but what I’m really asking myself right now is how far have I come as a storyteller? When I read your article above, that little voice inside me says “your a shooter/editor, your not a storyteller just yet.” I hope that makes some kind of sense.
I’m currently in post-production on my 3rd documentary about Alaska. My editing process is probably better labeled as “beating myself up for all the mistakes I made in pre-production & production.” I’m going to admit all my director failures here with a hope that it helps another creative.
MYTH #1 – THE PERFECT CAMERA (The C300) I believed every frame needed to be shot on C300 because of the dynamic range.
How much did this decision hurt the project? Tremendously. The DP/AC always focused (due to my direction) on using that camera instead of the right camera such as a gopro or even an IPHONE. We missed epic shots of bears, but, more importantly, intimate moments with characters. When your in post, you’ll never forgive yourself for missing the moment the homesteader told you about saving two moose calves by shooting a bear. Why did we miss it – because we were rigging up your sweet new Zacuto Recoil rig.
MYTH #2 THE ‘MAKE IT SIZZLE’ MYTH – I believed that being “cinematic” was crucial to making a “better” documentary than my first two.
How much did this decision hurt the project? More than I want to admit. On my first Alaska doc, I had no crew. On my secondAlaska doc, I had 1 crew. On my third Alaska doc, I had 3 crew for over half the shoot. When I had crew, we busted out the Kessler Cineslider for nearly every shot. Are the shots sweet? Yes, but did we need 75 left to right cine slider shots of Alaska BROLL to progress our story. Absolutely not. In hindsight, I would have shot about 50% more handheld of interesting things I saw than worrying about getting that epic shot of a mountain. Moreover, I’d cut two B-Roll days and add time getting to know our characters and story.
MYTH #3 – FIMMAKING IS A VISUAL MEDIUM
I don’t have a lot experience hiring crew with the amount of one-man-band projects I’ve completed. However, on this project, we had the budget for crew. What did I do – I hired 3 guys just like me (visual guys). Let me first state, the crew did great, exactly what I asked. However, I asked the wrong things and brought the wrong crew. Everyone on the crew had a great visual sense but all four of us saw audio as a chore. Next time, the “audio genius” will be the first guy I hire.
Anyways, knowing that you’re on a similar creative journey is inspiring. I hope you stay on this path and keep helping creatives
like myself and many others. Thank you for being so authentic here. It really hits home to me.
Also, if and when I do meet you Patrick, the beer is on me.
This may just be one of the best comments we’ve ever received. Email me your mailing address – we’d love to send you some awesome stuff as a thank you for your contribution 🙂
Ironically, I came across this great article whilst searching for affirmation that if I bought a new camera I might suddenly find myself shooting stuff of the high quality you guys produce. While good gear is without a doubt great and can improve the quality of your work your comment about film making and story being an interpersonal medium really got to me. Looking back at the last eight years of my work with this in mind it quickly became clear that every documentary that I think of fondly and feel proud of was captured with the oldest camera I own, a piece of equipment with an extraordinary sensor – the camera of the heart. I can really see now that it’s not that the interview was better lit or the slider move was executed just so, it’s that the person being interviewed, through some magic, opened wide the aperture in me and showed my audience something true.
As I looked deeper I could see in every case that it was this vulnerability, this emotional openness and truth that somehow became light that travelled into the camera and continued, right through the edit and out the other side, unchanged, directly into the viewer. This open conduit forms a sort of timeless emotional highway and no matter how many times it’s viewed, always takes me directly into the heart of the person. This has made me realize very clearly that when it works best this is what story is; our innate desire to connect. To feel another persons life, not just to watch it. To say deep inside, “I hear you and feel heard. I see you and feel seen”.
But connecting can also be challenging and we perhaps hide, I think, behind the latest camera gear because we are a little afraid of how sensitive the true camera of our own heart might be. Often the subject being interviewed is alone, under lights and I am hidden behind the camera. It is hard perhaps for people to feel they can be vulnerable when everyone around them seems to be so busy, engrossed in highly technical tasks, masters of a mysterious craft they know nothing about. Maybe if I could take away the shield of the latest gear, I might be able to focus more on the person, the true story, and if I stopped hiding and showed them that I was vulnerable too they might feel safer to let me into their inner world.
Thanks to the insight your article has given me I will make a pact to stop chasing technology and work with what I’ve already got; the oldest and most powerful capture device known. I’ll try to open myself up emotionally to 1.2 in the hope that I might let in more of each stories human light.
Thank you, Paul
Aww, Patrick. As always, thanks so much for sharing this. I’m fighting the urge right now that I need a better camera, but it’s a great reminder to focus on story. I loved seeing the clip…a blast from the past. The video you showed above was the same featured in the Canon spot, with the song “Man and Wife” by one of my best friends, Michelle Featherstone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPN3WUd-FFk. The first piece I ever shot on real 16mm film was Michelle’s first music video back in ’97. We were frequent collaborators in the 90s. It’s still such a small world to meet you and the SM team so many years later. Amazing.
Woeful gear bias, I feel that is the most important thing to take out of this very informative article. Blaming things that are not to blame is not the answer! As a filmmaker you have complete control over the outcome of the finished product whether your filming on your phone of some $12,000 camera, if the passion and the willingness to push yourself is not there then you mine as well not even try. I throughly enjoyed reading this article and I learned a lot, makes me more excited for my filmmaking class this semester at NAU!
Hey there Maxwell, glad to hear you got so much out of the post. I’ve certainly spent my fair share of time lusting after the latest gear. Focusing on people and story first filmmaking has been a game changer. It’s awesome that you’re starting your filmmaking journey with such a great mindset.
By the way, I’ll be one of your MUSE Story Teachers this semester at NAU, so be sure to reach out in the course if you have any questions or want to chat story.
I did finish the introduction unit on Muse and you guys have a great teaching method! I didn’t think I was going to like any kind of online course work, but I love Muse! I look forward to learning from you and the rest of the Muse team!
So awesome to hear, Maxwell. I’m really looking forward to sharing MUSE with all of you. I’ll be in the discussions or you can reach me directly in the messenger, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or comments!