The most impactful five days of my career, by far! A five-day filmmakers intensive with the Emmy award winning team at Stillmotion in Portland, Oregon.
As filmmakers we are responsible for so many aspects of a film, but often times don’t have the skills and/or the hands-on experience we need to produce the film that we envision in our head. In 2013 I attended Emmy Award winning Stillmotion’s EVO 5-day intensive workshop and it literally changed my life and the trajecotry of my business.
My theory is this. I can watch a thousand YouTube video tutorials and read every book about filmmaking under the sun, but there is nothing more powerful than hands-on experience. Just really getting your feet wet (more like being thrown into the deep end not knowing how to swim in my case LOL) and getting in there and doing it was hands-down the best training I could ever have.
My good buddy Gwyn filmed behind the scenes and summed up the EVO Experience in this video. Watch for me at 1:12, I am the one wearing a teal scarf the entire time because it was really “cold” in Portland for my thinned out island girl blood. Yes, I grew up in Minnesota, the coldest place on earth, and yes I now think 70 degrees is cold.
My EVO Experience
I attended the June 2013 EVO and it literally was a game-changer for me. Before attending I had a family lifestyle photography business but had never made a video, however, I had always been obsessed with films, documentaries, etc. I called and talked to the Stillmotion staff extensively beforehand to make sure EVO would be a good fit for me since I was not (at the time) a filmmaker. It’s such an expensive investment I wanted to make sure. When I got there and met the other 14 workshop attendees, I soon realized I was the only non-filmmaker and one of three women. Very intimidating to say the least but I am always up for a challenge.
Most of us flew in the night before and got together for dinner/drinks and a meet-and-greet. By the end of the evening all the Stillmotion staff were there and we got to know them. After dinner we took a tour of Stillmotion's new studio space which was under construction.
DAY 1 – CLASSROOM
We learned the basics of storytelling and about Stillmotion’s storytelling methods. We learned all the technical stuff behind how they handle audio, lighting and create treatments, etc.
DAY 2 – CHALLENGES
This day was completely hands-on learning. We were broken up into 3 teams, each team with 5 of us and two leaders (Stillmotion staff), our group was sooooo lucky, our leaders were Patrick (co-founder of Stillmotion) and Jeremy (the audio expert). Patrick and Jeremy were with us 24/7 for the rest of the workshop. The challenges were broken up into three stations, audio, treatment and lighting. Each team had an hour for each station and had to complete a challenge. In the end whoever got the most points received “money” to buy the equipment we were to use to film a promotional film for a local non-profit the next day. This entire day felt like we were on the show “Apprentice”, there was no stopping, not resting.
During the lighting challenge we had a “client” who was acting like a famous person (acted out by a Stillmotion staff) and we had to treat her like she was a real client, so as we were fumbling around to set up our interview lights, she was impatiently waiting in the other room and I had to calm her down and let her know we would be ready in a few moments.
During the treatment challenge, we had to meet with our “client” (a Stillmotion staff) and ask all the pertinent questions to figure out his vision for his film. So while me and one of my team members were meeting with him, the others were googling him and his fake company. All 3 teams submitted their treatment to him and he later chose the winning team based on who got his vision and created the best treatment.
After the challenge we found out who our real clients were going to be for the promo film we would shoot the next day. We literally had 30 minutes to research our client before they showed up at the studio for their meeting with us. We had to have our questions ready and have a legitimate meeting with them to find out their vision for their promo. These were real non-profits that we would film the very next day. During this meeting and while shooting the next day the non-profit had no idea that we were apprentices and assumed we were Stillmotion staff. LOL
After our meeting with the representatives from the non-profit we went to their place of business to scout the location and the rest of the day we created the treatment, the concept, the characters, called and met with potential characters to be in the film, researched some more, we were literally on the phone and meeting with people associated with the company/film all day trying to create the story that would eventually be their film. During this time we literally did not stop to eat or even breathe, it was crazy, non-stop. We brainstormed and created a storyboard. By the end of the night (early morning) we finished our treatment and shot list and call sheet and were ready for the next day which was shooting the promo.
It was then I learned I would assume the Producer role. Others were assigned to Director, DP, grip, etc. Um, the PRODUCER you say? At this point, I didn't have a clue what the position meant and spent the next few hours in my hotel room googling what a producer does.
DAY 3 - FILMING DAY
We were up at the crack of down and headed to the locations. I was the Producer so I was in charge of all the logistics, keeping tabs on our characters, the timing, what the interviewees were wearing, making sure the director and DP and audio person had what they needed, etc. when lunch would arrive (they teased me later because I legitimately told them we don’t have time for lunch, we have to keep filming), filming wrapped around dinner time and headed back to the studio to start editing. We did this late in to the night, we were delirious around 1am and the Stillmotion teams forced us all into cars and vans and took us to play basketball, it was a total blast, they said we all needed a mental break and I couldn’t believe that we sitting there drinking beer at 2am at a random basketball court on a weeknight in Portland. Lol Back at the studio we took turns sleeping and editing because we knew the next day around noon the film needed to be finished.
DAY 4 - PRESENT FILM TO EVO, STILLMOTION AND CLIENT
We were up at the crack of dawn again after about 3 hours of sleep, we had the morning to finish editing, choose our song(s), and do all the finishing touches. We submitted our final product to the team and had 30 minutes to come with a proposal to basically “sell” our film to the other teams and explain to them the concept behind how and why we made the film.
Then we watched each of the teams finished films and we all literally cried and laughed with joy and as it felt like we literally just gave birth to a film. They handed our beers and cupcakes and Stillmotion staff voted on the best film and that team got first dibs on the door prizes. Our team won and I won a Manfratto monopod. Here is the film me and my team created from start to finish in less than 72 hours.
That evening we all headed to a catered dinner at a local bowling alley and ate, drank, played pool, bowled and just had a serious sigh of relief from the last few days that we endured. We invited our client to the festivities and we had the laptop with us so we showed them the film and we all cried again because she LOVED it and we were just so happy to give her an awesome film in literally 48 hours. The festivities continued to a local pub where we hung out late into the night. At one point, somebody was wearing a dinosaur costume in the bar, things got weird and wild real quick. Then 8 of us packed into the worlds smallest uber car, there were people on laps and one person was even in the truck (don't worry it was a hatchback) cruising around town like crazy teenagers (mind you are all in our 30’s/40’s). I am 99% sure I laughed so hard I peed my pants.
Day 5 - The cherry on top of the coolest experiences ever.
I woke up feeling like I had been hit by an 18-wheeler, but I had the biggest grin on my face because I had just survived the EVO experience. My bestie Jennifer picked me up from the hotel and as we headed to the airport we stopped at the studio so I could say goodbye one last time to my new friends/teammates and to thank the Stillmotion peeps for the craziest, longest, most amazing week of my life. Later that afternoon I flew home with the biggest smile on my face, with 30 new best friends in the filmmaking industry and a newfound passion for films.
I walked away from the workshop learning soooo much, but these two things stood out of the most…
Story first – This was drilled into our heads all week, to this day, 2 years later, it’s the FIRST thing I think of when I am starting a new film…what’s the story?
Collaboration is key…Two or more heads is ALWAYS better than one. I LOVED collaborating and working with my team, and we were so lucky to have Patrick, the very mastermind behind Stillmotion as our leader.
This was hands down one of the coolest experiences of my life. I went into the workshop as a photographer thinking maybe video could enhance my photography business and walked away knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to pursue filmmaking.
To apply to be an attended for EVO, we had to submit a link our Vimeo page and any videos we had made. I didn't have ANY…like I had literally NEVER made a film before attending. So I literally filmed and edited a video that very day, it was a complete hot mess. I will not ever show that film to anyone, LOL.
I walked away from EVO with the confidence and knowledge I needed to pursue film. Since I came back home to Hawaii, I have made over 50 films, I have completely revamped my website to showcase film and photography.
Basically to sum it all up….
$3,500 for EVO + $1.000 plane ticket + $1800 MacBook Pro + 5 days of INSANITY = walking away with a newfound passion and the knowledge to pursue filmmaking….PRICELESS