From Weddings to Superbowl: My Review of Stillmotion’s KNOW

About 9 months ago I started my own company – Picture and Color Media – to challenge my own boundaries with photography and cinematography. I knew very little at the time about either. In fact, I barely knew how to use an SLR camera.

Though a combination of obsessive learning, hard work, and good timing, I’m proud to say that I’ve now done about a dozen cinematography projects, both wedding and commercial. Somewhere along the way, I learned about Patrick Moreau and his team at stillmotion. From watching their various tutorials and reading their blog, I absorbed an enormous amount of knowledge about cameras, audio, lighting, logistics and visual storytelling. These tutorials accelerated my learning process tremendously.

So when they announced their KNOW filmmaking tour and Vancouver appeared on the map, I had to go. In fact, I actually turned down a gig to go attend KNOW instead.

For me, going to a workshop put on by stillmotion is like going to a sold out concert put on by my favorite rockband. Seeing Amina, Ray, Joyce, Evan and Patrick set up that morning, I was a little star struck! Here was Patrick Moreau in the flesh… the most successful events cinematographer in the world. This guy went from shooting weddings to shooting feature length television documentaries and AT&T Olympic commercials. How is that even possible?

The answer became obvious soon enough. Patrick is supremely confident, speaks flawlessly and his content is packed full of knowledge. There is purpose to every word and every demonstration. The impression you get immediately is that this guy knows exactly what the hell he’s talking about and his films only further this impression.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, the most valuable part of the KNOW workshop happened in the first 3 or so hours. This is where they break down their philosophy and their approach and challenge you to rethink what you think you know about cinema.

During the break, I managed to pull Patrick aside for a quick one-on-one. I wanted to know how to distinguish my business from my competition, how to market myself better and how to grow as a filmmaker.

Truth is, I learned more from having that 10-minute conversation with him about this business than I have in 9 months of trying to figure it out on my own. But he spoke so quickly, so intensely and with such passion that it was difficult to absorb anything right away.

The 10 minutes went by in a flash, with me mostly sitting there dumbly answering his questions and waiting for him to challenge me on anything and everything I said. I never had a good answer ready for why I did things or even where I wanted to go with my business and ended up feeling very stupid. This was not a fun conversation!

Patrick will challenge anything and everything you say or do. He’ll ask you a question and you’ll give him an answer. Then he’ll ask you why. Trouble is, I didn’t have any good answers.

It took me until late that evening, lying in bed trying to fall asleep, for a light bulb to go off and I figured out exactly what he was doing. I realized that any time I did or said anything… whether it is the camera I use or the lens I select or the composition of a frame, I need to have a reason for it. This further extends into my business decisions and my marketing ethos. I did not sleep that night… I was furiously writing down new ideas and started the process of rebuilding my entire website from the ground up because I realized it didn’t match what I wanted to accomplish. This frenzy devoured me for an entire week and the result is the website you now see here!

Stillmotion’s entire approach to storytelling is that everything needs to further the story. If it doesn’t, it’s gone. You may not agree with all the choices they make – or even the reasons they give to justify those choices – but the idea is to have a conscious effort for everything. This is the message of KNOW.

Not the cameras, not the gear, none of that.

It is not about Canon or Manfrotto or Steadicam or Profoto. Those are just tools to further your message. But tools change every year and are entirely replaceable. Once you KNOW what you want to do with yourself, KNOW the message you wish to get across, and KNOW how to leverage your tools to help you get there, you as a storyteller become irreplaceable and that’s when you become priceless. The same principle applies whether you are shooting a 1000 dollar project or a 100,000 dollar production.

This – ladies and gentlemen – is how you go from shooting weddings to shooting for the Superbowl.

Sam

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