December 4, 2013

Stillmotion Launches Trailer for Their First Indie Feature Doc, Plus Exclusive BTS Video Premiere

Here at No Film School, we're massive fans of the fine folks over at Stillmotion. Day in and day out, they're not only doing what they love (and doing it well) in order to make a living, but they're also sharing everything they learn along the way on their blog and through their numerous workshops. For the past year or so, Stillmotion has been in the process of producing their first feature-length independent documentary, entitled #standwithme. Not only does the documentary itself look fantastic, but the way that it was funded, produced, and (will be) distributed breaks the mold, and it may very well set a new precedent for how independent films are made in the future.

First and foremost, here is the trailer for #standwithme:

#standwithme isn't your typical "issue documentary." It started as a short doc about a young girl named Vivienne, who, upon seeing a photograph of two enslaved Nepalese boys, decided to do something in the only way she knew how, by selling lemonade one glass at a time. The documentary quickly grew into a full-fledged feature. Vivienne's story lead to another one, the story of a photographer whose life is dedicated to creating awareness about modern slavery through the art of photography. The story then grew into a first hand look at fair trade practices and how people can get involved.

Exclusive Behind the Scenes Video Premiere

Who better to explain how #standwithme was taken from concept to finely-tuned finished product than the folks at Stillmotion themselves? Here's their fantastic behind-the-scenes documentary (which is premiering exclusively on No Film School):

What started out as a simple documentary about a young girl in California fighting for change turned into a global journey for Stillmotion, one that would take them across multiple continents in the pursuit of the larger story. It turned out not to be a documentary about an issue, but a documentary about the people who are legitimately doing something about it.

#standwithme isn't just an ambitious film in terms of its content. It's also an extraordinary example of the direction in which independent film might very well be headed in the future. All of the integral processes of filmmaking, from funding to distribution, were rethought for this individual film. Instead of taking the one-size-fits-all approach of crowdfunding and film festivals, Stillmotion tailored their own unique strategy for funding and distribution in order to make sure that the film would be seen.

So, how can you be one of the first to see #standwithme? Well, come February 1st, Stillmotion will be taking to the road and premiering the film (plus running day-long filmmaking workshops) in 30 cities across the United States. If you want to see if they're dropping by your town, have a look at this map.

In future posts we'll talk in-depth about what Stillmotion did in order to get this film made. We'll look at everything, from their unique funding and distribution models, to how their extensive pre-production provided them with the material to not only power through a complicated and multi-faceted production process, but also woo investors in order to pursue the larger story of the film. We'll have even more exclusive articles on this subject, so stick with us.

To learn more about the film, and to find ways to get involved, head on over to the Stillmotion blog.

What do you guys think about #standwithme? Let us know in the comments!

Links:

Your Comment

61 Comments

Very cool project. Looks like they used the C100 in their gear for the doc.

December 4, 2013

0
Reply
Sean K

Hey Sean,

Our main camera was the C100 with a wide DR profile. We used the 1DC for many Movi shots as well as tight spaces, such as bottling. Early on, we used the Red Epic for some speciality slomo as well.

P.

December 4, 2013

-1
Reply

Very beautifully shot. Really nice work.
I'm afraid the Englishman in me may have laughed out loud at inappropriate moments.

December 4, 2013

1
Reply
marklondon

Maybe I'm just getting a little jaded but I'm fed up with the 'mission' movie. This would typically be made by a corporation trying to warm up its image. Perpetually crescendo-ing stock music, cloying earnestness and dry-eyed sincerity. Lots of wood and paper. Why would an independent film-maker choose to ape this? The subject matter has real value but feels like it's being totally undermined by the film-makers' unconvincing attempts pump up the emotion. The entire BTS clip feels like a climax. There's no information, just a succession trite sound-bites and big Disney eyes (few beyond Errol Morris have perfected direct-to-camera). Everyone just seems a little too convinced of the inherent worthiness of their endeavours. A documentary about child slavery shouldn't feel this disposable.

December 4, 2013

2
Reply
Ben

I understand what you're saying, but they did a good job of explaining the reasoning behind the uplifting tone of the piece; to add a sense of approachability to a film with inherently dark subject matter. They certainly could have done something far darker and more ambiguous, but then it would become a question of how it would affect audiences. In my opinion, they chose the right aesthetic and tone for it to reach the widest possible audience and affect change in a positive way, which is certainly the goal of this film.

December 4, 2013

-1
Reply
avatar
Robert Hardy
Writer
Cinematographer / Editor

I think it seems corporate precisely because of the music and the over-produced sit-downs just like you said. This aesthetic is a byproduct of the unbearably twee "develop my personal brand" movement. If it's about slavery, show us the ugliness. I still love stillmotion though.

December 4, 2013

-2
Reply

Haha Ben, spot on. It's like american tv-shop with the music and the porn lighting.

December 4, 2013

1
Reply
Jonatan

I find the comments here appalling. If I succeed in making a documentary and it is featured here, can I expect others to trash it as corporate and compare it to porn? If the director were in front of you, would you critique the film this way? I'm sure if it had low production values it would be trashed for that, too.

December 4, 2013

-1
Reply
Roger Smith

If the director were in front of me I'd happily explain why the tone of their doc had me and some others I forwarded it to in stitches with laughter.
Its a very great cause, but they have fallen down every trap/cliche in both the script and music to the point where the high production value actually starts to work aggressively against their intentions.
The overall effect is 180 degrees away from what (I trust) they intended.
Now, are we old, cynical bastards? Yes. But do we also have a combined 200+ years in news and doco production? Yes.
PS: Its beautifully shot!

December 4, 2013

0
Reply
marklondon

Hey Mark,

I certainly respect your opinion and there was a great deal of discussion of when we should lower production value to make it feel raw and remove any gloss. Ultimately, we decided we wanted to - as a whole - approach this in the light and go for striking compositions, well lit interviews and scenes, and energetic and powerful camera movements. That too comes down to our choice in music and what we ultimately went with.

It's not the decision all directors would make but it is the very intentional decision we made, and we do hope that overall it results in the most amount of viewership, with viewership leading to awareness, and awareness to change.

I certainly would hope that you and your friends weren't 'in stitches' when you saw it, but we know that we can't make a piece that will resonate with everybody, and so we've tried to create what we feel will resonate with those that will be the most receptive to this issue and the most ready to stand up and do something.

Thanks for the dialogue.

P.

December 5, 2013

-1
Reply

guys, stick to corporate work. this self aggrandizing piece is designed to showcase you as a company and not the actual topic of child slavery. your tears are not interesting to anyone. if you really want to make a difference, do some actual work in the topic. showing you as crusaders to the world is pretty pathetic. donate the money you spent on people performing real work on the field. please drop the behind the scenes, it is simply a propaganda stunt.

December 5, 2013

0
Reply
hds1

Hey hds1,

This making of piece was meant to showcase why our studio took this on. It supports the full film. which WE are not in, other than our point of view, and which clearly highlights the issue and very intentionally gives people actions they can take.

That will impact this issue if we can get it out and people see the film.

As for this piece not being interesting to anyone, I can certainly respect it not appealing to you - but it means a ton to us, to the families and those involved in the film, and to many filmmakers who have already reached out and told us how much they connected with it. Together, all of these people certainly aren't nobody, and if this piece is true to us, honest, and is affecting people in a positive way, I'm not sure there is the need for so much criticism.

Propaganda - by definition - is misleading or biased information to promote a cause or point of view. There is certainly nothing misleading in there - it's our story, straight from us, with no rehearsal or scripted lines. In terms of bias - every filmmaker certainly has and needs that to have a strong point of view. We are certainly biased in this piece and the film in the feeling that slavery is wrong (we made up our minds on that a long time ago) but i'd hope most viewers can accept and appreciate the piece despite that bias..

All I ask is that you try to take a step back. We came to this story that we felt needed to be told. We've spent 8 months in production and funded it largely ourselves - which has taken a large tole on our studio. We are now releasing it to ourselves directly to the world and our asking people to join us. It feels very appropriate to me, with how this came together, to have a piece that shares why we did this, and to give people an idea of not just what but who they are supporting if they come out to a screening.

P.

December 5, 2013

0
Reply

let me clarify, i did not say the piece in itself is not interesting. obviously the topic is clearly important and relevant, everybody should be interested in it. there is doubt about that. what is not interesting to me, is how you guys felt about it, and how hard that has been on you. that to me is information designed to showcase your company, what you guys do and how sincere you are. i believe you are probably nice people with good intentions and i am willing to give you the benefit of a doubt. i am willing to believe that your case is sincere and that you care about the topic. it is hard for me to reconcile tough, the fact that you guys are going on a tour that will clearly showcase your company's work along with the need to eliminate child labor. your message is misleading in the sense that what is central to your work is not the elimination of slave labor but rather the furthering of your work as a company. that to me looks like propaganda. sorry.

December 5, 2013

-2
Reply
hds1

I can certainly respect that. The hope is that the tour and the method of getting the film out there furthers discussions about the issue. It will certainly also showcase our work and we are celebrating the fact that we will be there as well as the history of this project and our connection to it. Now if a distributor or opportunity comes along to put this on a Netflix or other online platform and we have the option to have millions see it there, we definitely want to have it seen by as many people as possible. We would also like this to be a sustainable process - to not lose money in making this film as a model for being able to tell other stories that matter in a sustainable way.

The truth is, we are figuring a lot of this out and will learn a ton in how we release this film. I can promise this, if we get a chance to meet when we come through your city - whether it be at a Premiere or just for drinks before hand - i can assure you that you'll feel great about our character and intentions after that.

P.

December 5, 2013

-2
Reply

Hey Ben -

I certainly hear you and I think we are in a time where we are all sensitive to the stories and messages we hear and want to know and feel that those are sincere in what they are sharing and that we can trust the stated intent.

We started 9 years ago with the dream of making documentaries that could say something. This film is the realization of that dream and what you see here in the piece is us speaking from the heart. It may be too strong for some, it may not be the right approach for some, and it may not offer enough concrete information - but what it certainly is, is honest about what this means to us, and why we took it on.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

P.

December 4, 2013

1
Reply

Wow - what a polite and magnanimous response. Now I feel like a dick. Like I said - there's a good chance that maybe I'm just a little jaded. Good luck with the film.

December 4, 2013

2
Reply
Ben

I don't for a second discount or take for granted what you said. I appreciate you sharing and it certainly offers much insight into a culture of crafted messages, campaigns, and figure heads. This is heavy stuff, we certainly don't expect or want people to take this at face value. We encourage questions, dialogue, and debate. Whether it is about the issue, the film, or our approach. This is us through and through and we'd love the opportunity to explore that in depth with people when they have questions, concerns, or other view points.

Thank you for sharing and thanks for your very kind response.

P.

December 4, 2013

-1
Reply

Thanks for clearing that up.

December 4, 2013

0
Reply
Dougie

Patrick - this is meant in the spirit of dialogue. StillMotion has done great work and been a positive force in the filmmaking world.

What has bothered about this project from the start is what I'll call my parental radar. In particular the nine-year old who having decided she'll sell lemonade every day to end slavery now decides she must go to Oklahoma to help a tornado ravaged town.

When I saw that coupled with her setting up her lemonade stand there (?) - I just thought, "wow, what's behind this, what does it have to do with slavery, and how is that helpful to a ravaged area?" This is not meant to discount the motivations of a nine-year old but a nine-year old can't decide to go to Oklahoma from California and get there, just like they can't jump from a lemonade stand in front of their house to mass bottling lemonade and selling it.

Taking the time to dig a bit deeper I see that her dad is a specialist in social media and social media marketing. A marketing company he founded (which oddly no longer lists him as a founder but features him in their staff photo) touts their success in not only growing Vivienne's story but in selling it to the world (they claim they grew her reach from "0" to "22 million,") but even in developing the "relationship with a film crew", to follow her for five months and to create a feature-length documentary which will leverage social media to a nationwide release.

As a photographer, a filmmaker, and a parent I wonder about the dynamic where the child's parent has sold her story to the world. In a way it may be an ironic twist on the slavery theme and it could be where a very interesting story lies. What happens when the child decides she no longer wants to be the face of this and the parent has built their mini-empire around it?...

http://resonatesocial.com/social-media/uncategorized/a-little-client-tha...

http://www.linkedin.com/in/ericharr

http://ericharr.com/new-book/

Eric Harr is clearly extremely gifted at what he does but the more this is marketed, pushed, and in essence sold - does it begin to bring into question decisions like the parent bringing the child to Oklahoma for what looks to be a photo op?

December 5, 2013

1
Reply
JD

Wow nice digging. That's pretty troubling.

December 5, 2013

1
Reply

JD - that's certainly something that we as a team had to work through, discover, and research as what we felt was our journalistic duty. It's also something we try to make clear in the film - that the family did support, they went 'all in' and that social media has played a large role in this.

Your questions on what happens if she wants to stop is not one that is my place to answer or comment on. I can say that Eric would be very receptive via email to Facebook to continue that dialogue. I will also say that in becoming close with Vivienne and the family, we've always shared our opinion that we never want to encourage Vivienne to do anything she doesn't want to - a shoot, interview, or otherwise. We've explored this issue through her eyes, but we have also not tried to put it on her shoulder, not make her a 'golden child' or the one that can change all of this, it is much more about one voice making a difference, and what we can all do to stand together.

I think you've got some strong insights and if you are interested in continuing the dialogue, i do recommend reaching out to Eric.

P.

December 5, 2013

-1
Reply

Interesting info. On Vivienne's fathers site he raves about what they have accomplished for his daughter, the media attention, the Facebook numbers etc, very little about what they have achieved for the slaves.

They raised $1 million for her own company. Go to the company site and you see they donate 5% of gross sales to charity. They took the money that they raised [$1 million], created a company and aren't required to donate anything until they make a sale. And this is all legal.

It's commendable that they will publish their financial books to the public on January 1 2014, it's also commendable that they have donated $100k to the selected charities, although operating costs of these types of charities can exceed 50% of their donations. I hope people pay more attention to these practices.

Nowhere in any of the literature is how they have helped the slaves. No case studies, not a breakdown of the programs and how they are helping. Perhaps the film expands on this. I hope so.

Will the film make a difference? I hope so and I believe the filmmaker sincerely believes this. I'd like to know how though. Would the money spent on making the film and subsequent tour be more effective if it was directly donated to individual programs? This would be a great case study and I hope Still Motion is transparent about the awareness and the real impact they have on the subjects.

This story has created a lot of resources. How much of it will directly help the slaves? People have become very cynical of films like these because often they come across as promotional vehicles for those involved.

December 5, 2013

-3
Reply
Mark

I absolutely love how they didn't talk about camera gear ONCE in the BTS video! Beautiful!

December 4, 2013

-1
Reply
Chris

Thanks Chris.

It is oh so tempting to chat about gear and approach, and the truth is we probably get more views and less critique if we talk about the best tools and how we used them. The reality though, is that it just doesn't excite us like the heart and passion behind all of this.

It's not easy to invest in a film, and it's even hard to invest in a film with a social purpose that is harder to sell and has a smaller market. We knew this story had to be told, we've been very thoughtful to approach it in a strong and bright way to make the content approachable, but in the end it will be a lot of time and sweat to have people share their time and money to see this film.

And that's why we start with the purpose. We need people to know where they come from, to know who and what they are supporting when they come to the theatre.

Thanks for your comment - always great to hear people excited for pieces like this

P.

December 4, 2013

0
Reply

Thanks for the reply Patrick. I will be making sure I attend the screening in Atlanta.

December 5, 2013

0
Reply
Chris

What is the film "independent" of? Aren't 99% of the projects that shot today "independent?"

December 4, 2013

0
Reply
Mike

BTW, I'd like to mention that I brought up the "traveling retail distribution" concept - I know it's not exactly a highly original notion, as it's been done in politics for eternity - here a few months ago. I hope there are updates on how the tour goes because I do agree that the micro-mini budgeted projects need to bring themselves to their intended audience rather than vice versa. There's not much in terms of advertising expenditures but the creators might be able to get on the radio or even TV in college towns across the US, thereby bringing awareness to what they had achieved. Hooray to the Winnebago promotions!

December 4, 2013

0
Reply
DLD

We hope to bring you many more updates right here to NFS. We certainly aren't putting out a trailer and dreaming people will flock to theaters. We have a handful off strong strategies and I think we can share our experience on places like this, we can all benefit and grow as a community. It certainly is a new economy of filmmaking and we certainly believe that community and collaboration is so vital in that.

P.

December 4, 2013

-1
Reply

Hi, Patrick. Obviously, some people will buy tickets to a theater presentation and meeting with the creators while others will pay for VOD, buy DVD's, merchandise and what not. To me, this is the future for the sub-$10M independent productions (obviously, bigger names will have more to gain in terms of revenues by going on these tours). NFS have spent a lot of time covering the VOD options but I've long held the belief that active promotion helps create the necessary awareness since the VOD platforms usually don't do it by themselves.

December 5, 2013

-1
Reply
DLD

I for one applaud the efforts to bring the issue of human trafficking to the attention of the public. Its an issue most Americans don't realize exist. The sad fact is that it is happening here in the US as well. Several of the tour stops are in cities well known by authorities for human trafficking. I live in Tampa which has the unfortunate distinction of being in the top 10. I look forward to seeing the film when it makes it stop here.

December 4, 2013

1
Reply

Thanks David. Excited to see you in Tampa when we head down there for a Premiere.

We absolutely address in the film that this is not an 'other world' problem. It does happen here, and sadly it often happens right in front of us without anybody realizing

P.

December 5, 2013

-1
Reply

Feels religiously motivated, BTS reinforces this aesthetic. I don't expect to find myself in any dark places if I were to screen his film.

December 4, 2013

-1
Reply
Samantha

Samantha - this is not guided by a religion, it is guided by the central belief that this is unjust, that we can do something, that if we can educate people and show them simple choices they can make to have an impact, they will want to be a part of that change.

The film itself certainly takes us to the front lines and seeks to answer how this happens, why this happens, where it happens, and what we can do about it. While we celebrate the magic of the child with the audacity to stand up against this huge social issue, we also go further than that and explore first hand from the experts int he field and those enslaved or formerly enslaved about the realties of this and what we can do.

P.

December 5, 2013

0
Reply

I like the concept of showing gritty situations with vibrancy. The world isn't desaturated, and I'm way more able to digest uncomfortable subject matter if it's presented with life and hope. It's more of a manipulation if you darken and blue the mood of a film in order to make even more depressing than it actually is. When's the Vancouver show?

December 5, 2013

-2
Reply
Paul Watt

It's interesting to see the comments. All our efforts on film or in stills are compromised by our own view of the world. There is no perfect way of telling a story, or one that is 'real'. 'Real' is a concept we all impose on ourselves by our view of the world and shaped by our situation and education.

I'm also a cynic (I work in advertising!) but I like the way this film treads, the way it tells it's story resonates with me. What we do does make a difference, that's a message worth shouting about.

December 5, 2013

1
Reply
Joseph Williams

Mark - I think our thread got too long that it wouldn't let me reply inline.

All excellent points and I would love the chance to chat in person and talk about all of this. If we look back on this film and realize we would have had a large impact by donating the funds directly to the front lines, it will certainly change my thinking as we move forward. I would absolutely consider moving more into commercial work and work on splitting off profits to help in that way. As it stands, the hope is that this is much more of a multiplier - instead of directly donating the funds, the film can raise more awareness of this issue which could leads to conversations, changes in behavior - both of which can impact the issue - as well as donations to these same front line organizations.

I read an article the other day about the impact of An Inconvenient Truth and how the impact it had the issue was unprecedented. Through awareness, understanding, changes in government and so much more.

I do believe this film can create a strong awareness, and awareness to many different changes, and these changes to actual lives helped or saved. I too am just as interested in you in learning about and celebrating the actual tangible impact that this effort has. I know it will be something we want to share and will be a big part of how we approach our next film.

On the point of Eric and MAS - I can say that they believe strongly in using business to help solve social problems. This is something we discuss in the film. While you can look at the numbers you've presented and see that in a very negative way, there is also another side to how this structure can work and how it could be at the frontier of a new way of making a difference. All of this though is well beyond our role in this film and, if you're interested, I would do some more research on Make a Stand and you'll see this same debate on several other news sources that were published recently and both sides of the debate.

Thanks for the awesome dialogue.

P.

December 5, 2013

0
Reply

Wow! I am actually blown away by the comments I have just read. The way in which some have attacked Still Motion from there motives, to approach, to shooting style are just ridiculous. We as filmmakers have all at one time or another had an idea, a script, a story that we wanted to tell, that was important to us, and that we felt we needed to share with the world. The sad truth is that most who post here never finish a project at all, let alone one of the scope and magnitude of this project, especially one mostly self funded. So to attack Still Motion and criticize THEIR choices in THEIR film is contradictory to what sites like NFS are here for in the first place: sharing, learning and collaboration.

Furthermore, most who have negatively commented have probably learned a trick or two from watching some of Patrick's other videos where they share what they have learned as they have grown their studio. I know that I have and have found that Still Motion, like Ryan here at NFS, have always given back to this community of independent film makers and have shared their experience and knowledge with all of us. This is evidenced by Patrick's thoughtful response to everyone on this blog post, even those who were the most critical of their film.

So Patrick, I just want to say thank you for sharing your work, congratulations on your film, and I look forward to meeting you in Philadelphia in March!

December 6, 2013

1
Reply
Dmart

Couldn't agree more - only positive feedback from now on everyone. High fives to anyone who manages to complete a project, however poorly conceived or executed. And try to smile more - nobody ever got anywhere through critical thinking. PMA!

December 6, 2013

2
Reply
Ben

Ben,
There is a big difference between critical thinking or even criticism and flat out attacking someones character and insinuating that their passion and belief in their project is contrived in order to draw attention to their film. All of us here I am sure have learned more about our craft by making mistakes and facing the harsh criticism that we all too often lend to each other. However, personal attacks and character attacks I believe are outside of the scope of this forum. I personally have no problem with other's critical opinions about lighting or shot selection etc., however deciding that the filmmakers are handing out "dry-eyed sincerity" or adding commentary that their work is based on "succession trite sound-bites and big Disney eyes . Everyone just seems a little too convinced of the inherent worthiness of their endeavors" crosses the line between peer review and just plain ignorance.

Buried in your sarcasm is truth, we should congratulate anyone who competes a project regardless of how poorly it is conceived or executed, because without finishing those projects they will never grow, learn, or maybe even fail, all of which are better than never having finished the project and knowing.

December 6, 2013

0
Reply
Dmart

You're right. I was unnecessarily cruel (as opposed to ignorant) in my original post and I should have chosen my words more carefully. I felt (and still feel) that the project was conceived in poor taste regardless of the intentions of the film-makers, and my immediate reaction was to lash out. We live and learn. Or not.

December 6, 2013

0
Reply
Ben

Ben,
Now I feel I should apologize, as ignorant was a bad choice of words on my part. I do respect your opinion on the project as a whole as this is what these forums are about, in my little opinion.

Bring it in...Group hug!

December 6, 2013

2
Reply
Dmart

All your resources and staff and talent... and you made Kony 2013

December 6, 2013

-1
Reply
chsbchsb

Thank you

December 11, 2013

-1
Reply
Jonatan

I'd like to join with the earlier poster who claimed that the comments in this thread are "appalling".

I think this may be the most misguided and ill-spirited thread I've ever read on NFS.

To be clear, I'm specifically calling out:

chshchsb, hds1, Mark and MarkLondon, and Ben (qualified by his apology)

And the other posters who were (1) critical of stillmotion's production quality and (2) critical of their motives in making this doc.

I find it very hard to believe that you're not sitting in your parent's basement, cradling your Rebel XTi and dreaming of the important films you'll someday make in the future.

Many NFS readers are familiar with stillmotion's background. But in case you're not, my understanding is that they're bunch of kids who have undergraduate degrees in psychology and little or no film school among them. They started off making wedding videos with inexpensive DSLRs and were so successful that someone at either CBS for the NFL (I forget which) found them on YouTube. This led to them covering the NCAA final four for CBS and various NFL projects. They also had a full length documentary that aired on Showtime about one of the military academies that was primarily shot on the 7D. My understanding is that they won an Emmy for it.

I also have seen footage that they shot of the President of the United States, the London Olympics, and a bunch of corporate stuff for BCG.

The quality of their work is absolutely astounding especially when you consider their relatively humble origins. Their early stuff didn't use the Epics, 1DC, C100 and MOVI that they're using now. They got better stuff out of the most inexpensive DSLRs than almost anyone else.

So while the people I called out above are being so critical, could you guys attach links to all of your Emmy award-winning work? If you don't have any, could you just attach links to your work that appeared on three letter networks, especially that shot with a 7D or less? How about just anything you have that compares to the quality of their work at all?

We can wait, if your parents are calling you up for dinner...

Oh, and can the poster to accused them of "porn" interview lighting just post a link to an interview he's done with better lighting?

And the guy who claimed "200 years of doc experience between us", just link to his plethora of surely superior work?

To those people who were critical of their soundtrack for being too upbeat, can you just provide a link to soundtracks you've created for feature-length films or docs that are better? Even if you didn't create the music yourself with soda bottles, just any soundtrack for a feature that's better than this will do?

I didn't think so.

The fact that you're unaccomplished and yet condescending isn't really surprising, actually. It's supremely unlikely that particularly accomplished DPs, directors, or artists would be so incredibly critical of another person's project. Nor would they condemn a full-length documentary's production quality as being inconsistent with its purpose _before_ they'd ever seen the documentary.

You fools do realize that you're critical of the documentary's aesthetic and all you've seen is the trailer, right?

Onto happy point number two, which is stillmotion's allegedly inauthentic attempt to capitalize on the serious social issue for the purposes of self-promotion.

Please correct me if I'm missing something, but it seems to be one of the most foolish claims I've ever read on this site, and I say this in full awareness of the preposterous things that are written here every day.

These people self-funded what appears to be an relatively expensive documentary on childhood slavery and somehow we are accusing them of acting for profit?

Does anyone actually believe that stillmotion is going to get rich, or anywhere near rich, by making a feature length documentary about childhood slavery? If so, I'm betting man, and I'd like to offer you odds on that proposition.

I think it might be the first time anyone, anywhere got rich by making a documentary.

Their work for BCG and their national filmmaking tour last year likely generated a profit. The African child slavery doc, that was probably a passion project. You dullards.

With regard to them being self-promoting, you do realize that they are production company right? Can you sanctimonious luminaries perhaps reply with a list of similarly successful production companies started by people with absolutely no background in film that are _not_ self-promoting?

Okay, sorry. That's too hard and it's probably past your bedtime anyway. How about you just give us a list of successful production companies that are not self-promoting?

I have to imagine that the people stillmotion want this documentary to be successful and hope it leads to more lucrative and/ or satisfying work. I also have to imagine that anyone who ever made any film had a similar hope. But this neither impeaches the credibility of their work or their genuine interest in the topic.

Some people seem to think that the BTS footage was intended to drum up interest in the film. I think this is true... of all BTS footage ever made.

My view is that they are absolutely are trying to drum up interest because, ya know, they shot and international documentary on spec and would like to recoup some of their costs.

How that makes them bad people or objectionably self-promoting I simply can't understand.

I sincerely do wonder what all this vitriol is about. As far as I can tell the people stillmotion more clearly in embody the ideals behind NFS than almost any other group I know of. They made themselves into filmmakers with consumer equipment and without film school and have ascended to fairly enviable position in the filmmaking industry. So perhaps that's what it's all about? Jealousy?

You do realize you are casting stones at a group of people who self-funded a documentary on childhood slavery? What precisely have you done lately?

One last thing – the guy who claimed he was snickering through the trailer must have something something wrong with him. I found it very hard to watch the clips of the children stacking bricks on their heads and if you weren't effected by that... then so much the worse for you.

And since I imagine this might come up, I've never met Patrick and have no association whatsoever with stillmotion. I attended a one day filmmaking workshop they gave in Los Angeles (along with several hundred other people), which I found illuminating. But apart from that I've no connection to stillmotion.

NFS has some really good writers and covers some wonderful topics. But the anonymous viciousness of some of it's posters really does denigrate the entire site.

Or that's my view, at least.

December 6, 2013

0
Reply
Ross

Wow, Ross. That was long. I think you were considerably more vicious than anyone on here. Feels good doesn't it?

In my defence, I was solely reacting to the promotional material. I acknowledge that I haven't seen the film and therefore have no right to give an opinion on the completed project. I took umbrage as the tone struck me as a little inappropriate. This is a film about victims of child abuse. I'm not sure 'through the eyes of a nine year old girl' selling lemonade is a suitable narrative anchor. It smacks of gimmickry. It's hard to imagine this lightweight tone would be used if the film were about child prostitution or transgressions committed by religious figures. I'm also not sure who would require this cosy framing device as a 'way in' to the subject matter. It's hard to imagine such a person would be much use at effecting change if they're that faint of heart. If anything it distances the audience from the subject as they're allowed to relax and let the visuals wash over them like a Google commercial (again, I'm talking about the trailer not the finished film). It's a tough subject but modern audiences are hardy and sophisticated - they can take it.

A closing phone number or website for donations, petitions, picketings would probably help convince the naysayers of the film-makers intentions as opposed to a link to a website containing only two testimonials about the film and screening dates. I could be making a change right now instead of whining.

And you're right. I'm probably under-qualified to comment. I'm not familiar with Stillmotion, their ethics or their body of work. I'm 33 years old and I'm not a film-maker. I'm an animator. I love what I do but I haven't won any Emmys. I make good living and I support my family. I just happen to love movies - particularly documentaries - and discussing them.

December 6, 2013

1
Reply
Ben

The viciousness doesn't actually feel good to me at all, actually.

If you want to check out their work, check out stillmotion.ca

I disagree that some audiences don't need a bit of sweetness to swallow such harrowing content. I would expect that many people would be unlikely to fire up a doc about child slavery on a friday night, but they might tune in to see the triumphant story of a little girl with a lemonade stand.

It might well run to the saccharine side or they might pull it off. I don't think we can know until we see the piece. But either way, their reluctance to bombard the audience with 120 minutes of orphan child slaves hauling bricks up a mountain isn't crazy. But it's at least an interesting method, even if it might ultimately fail.

And at least they're in the game. They're making something of exceedingly high production quality, paying for it themselves, and at least trying to engage a serious social issue.

How many of us can say that?

December 6, 2013

-1
Reply
Ross

Ross, I'm not sure how misrepresenting some of these comments helps the situation. Patrick's comments to me were 'excellent points' and 'thanks for the awesome dialogue'. He is a true gentlemen and, as I mentioned in my post, sincere about what he is trying to accomplish. Just because a handful of us question the motivation of the subjects father and the genre of this type of film doesn't equate to a lack of respect for the filmmaker and his team.

You are missing the point. Social issue films made in the non-profit / for profit realm have been controversial for some time now. This New York Times article and the comments it generated [many from the father] go into more detail about this project.

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/in-a-lemonade-stand-a-transformat...

Basically the issue is this. Organizations and individuals have been raising money for social issues and have been less transparent about how the money is spent. Expensive films have been produced often motivated by staff ego and under the guise of 'increasing awareness.' There's no proof that these films have created more funds that directly help the cause. Meanwhile the staff have a nice production budget.

In this case the money has been used for a business. The 'Make a Stand' foundation has raised over $1 million on Vivienne's story about ending child slavery but so far they have used 90% of the funds to build a business that will donate 5% of sales in the belief it will raise more in the long term than donating 100% of the original funds. To date they are not profitable but they are writing small monthly checks.

There's no information on their site on how the money has helped end child slavery. No case studies.

Still Motion, with their own money, decided to make a film about this. The cynical among us may believe this endeavor serves only as self promotion for both organizations using the child slavery as the story. I do not believe this about Still Motion. I think their intentions are pure, they've stumbled into a much bigger issue about the misleading funding practices of non-profit and for profit organizations. I don't think their film is about this though. I wish it was.

Ask yourself this though. So far the 'Make a Stand' foundation has raised over $1 million. Still Motion must have spent at least $250,000 on producing their film and at least another $100,000 on the tour. At what point will both parties feel they have achieved more to end child slavery then just donating the $1.35 million directly to the cause?

December 7, 2013

-1
Reply
Mark

Wow. A lot of negative comments on a piece that invigorated me for 10 minutes.

Moving on, it's great to see a fellow (former) wedding filmmaker branching out and succeeding in so many other areas of production. Wedding filmmaking is an area often shrugged off as semi-pro, but where else could you master the art of storytelling, on a slim budget, all while learning to bring high production value in a "one-shot" atmosphere in the fastest way possible? All of these skills are apparent in this BTS trailer. Great job, maybe I will be able to catch the show while you are in NY!

December 6, 2013

0
Reply
Daniel Inzitari

I think I side with chshchsb, hds1, Mark, MarkLondon and Ben.

Are you not questioning anything you see? Apart from 10 seconds of kids carrying bricks they've padded it with footage from one of their other clips on a Kalahari tribe. Why? I guess I will hold off on that till I see it.

You should not accuse those you mentioned as being unaccomplished just because you haven't seen their work. Maybe they just don't have the same need to self promote, maybe they didn't feel it was appropriate, they might not want to have tried to cry for the camera or use eyedrops as it looks like at 9:40? How many tens of thousands around the world that work in broadcast and film that you haven't heard of? Are they "unaccomplished" too?

I'm not usually cynical but I spent 2 months in Africa this year in one of the, perhaps the worst slum in the world and I can tell you that when you are moved by what you see the last thing you want to do is sit down in front of the camera and show the world. The reality is not like that.

On the lighting point. I'll be curious to see the full film but if the locations they went to were anything like my experience the last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself with expensive lighting setups.

I'll be curious to see how they got access to film people currently in slavery.

I just hope it doesn't look like a cheesy wedding video with different content.

Perhaps we are skeptical because subject matter like this shouldn't look like the making of video for a new iPad. I kept expecting Johnny Ives to pop up. Perhaps it should have shown more of what its meant to be about rather than the "humanitarian" and a little girl. We are left knowing more about them and nothing about the subject other than the name of the subject and a shot of kids with bricks.

I hope once I see the film that I can come back to this post and say I was wrong. Good looking footage tho.

December 7, 2013

0
Reply

As it happens I was in rural Kenya earlier this year as well (with a 5d mark III, running ML RAW) and I had a quite different experience.

I shot both stills and video of very poor tribes and was really interested to try document as best I could what I saw. Perhaps you didn't feel the urge to document it, but that's certainly not the only reaction one could have. If it were, there would be no documentaries.

My footage, by the way, just isn't as good as the stillmotion footage, which makes me admire what they've done.

With regard to being unaccomplished, you're welcome to post links so we can see your work and how it compares to theirs. But you should know that they are one of the most accomplished independent production companies to come out the the DSLR world and it feels as if you're just not familiar with their work.

With regard to your lighting point, for example, they've written extensively about the benefits of using small DSLRs and minimal lighting setups in order to blend in better and not intimidate those they interview.

Your claim that the guy was intentionally crying for the camera is rather unkind and we certainly can't prove it either way.

One thing we can do is submit your work to similar scrutiny. If you've got better material, I'm sure we'd all love to see it...

I keep asking for links and yet these fierce critics don't seem to be rather silent on the issue. I have to confess that I find your suggestion perhaps these posters simply don't want to share their superior work because they aren't self-promoting... well... odd. This is a site dedicated to precisely that purpose, after all. Are we just supposed to imagine that they produce work that looks a lot better than the stillmotion footage?

Your reaction, like the others you cite, just seems harsh. The skepticism of their motives and criticism of their aesthetic seems misplaced for people who've self-funded a doc about child slavery and have tons of prior accolades.

December 7, 2013

-2
Reply
Ross

Very curious about your work in Kenya, would you be ready to share it?

December 7, 2013

0
Reply

My link is my name so clicking that has always lead to my page. If you were in rural Kenya then its not surprising you had a different experience. I was in a slum in Nairobi 1km x 3km with about 650,000 people. A place where if your caught stealing (anything) they put a tire around you and set you on fire. I did document it. That was the point of my trip and have over 14 hours of footage I'm editing through between paying projects (have to pay the bills).

I share a similar dilemma in what to show and what not to show. How hard is too hard for the the general viewing public. So many interviews about rape, murder. Even the security hired to get around the slum were gangsters. One interview I have of a young boy he talks of seeing a young girl in a mini skirt walk through an area of a different tribe (kakuyu I think) and they cut her head off and played soccer with it!! Worse when you hear him tell it. So do I not show this because I'm worried the public might be too shocked? Isn't that the point? God forbid we might make someone feel uncomfortable. Lets just show an hour of a little girl selling lemonade so we don't offend anyone.

Like I said I like the look of what they showed in the trailer but your going to put your best in a trailer. Personally I think an over produced documentary is not a documentary. Yet to see what this will be like but I'm optimistic provided its not 90% home based and just a little in the countries affected.

I like their commercial and corporate work.

And no I don't believe this site is dedicated to self promoting.

My reaction might seem harsh we can only go off what we've seen and what I see is more footage of that woman's photographic prints for sale in the gallery footage and her studio than we see of any slavery. Its promoting her products more than the cause (even tho her products are of the cause), its promoting their lemonade factory. How much will go towards free slavery?? The dads business is marketing, daughter, chicken, egg…..

December 7, 2013

0
Reply

There's some really nice work on your site. What's the plan with the Nairobi footage?

December 7, 2013

0
Reply
Ben

Thanks :) Once the editing is done it will be spit out into every distribution format I can. The children's fund and myself would like it broadcast but I can't see networks willing to play it. There will be different language versions like German as the fund get a lot of funding from there.

The plan is that its free. Free via vimeo, youtube, webpages and broadcast, and from there the hope is awareness brings funding through donations. I'm also splitting it out into segments on different topics within the doco as I go like this one. https://vimeo.com/79944107

December 7, 2013

0
Reply

I haven't been to Kibera but heard the stories and can relate to what you, Simon, are saying; it was the opposing opinion by Ross that made me curious and I wanted to know more about what he meant when speaking of poor people in rural Kenya.
While the conditions in areas like Mathare and Kibera are certainly inhumane, the situation in rural Kenya is mostly different; although people lack the means and comfort us westerners think of necessary it does not necessarily mean they suffer in the way portrayed by many of the people who fly in for two weeks without any understanding of the local life and environment, thus it would be nice to understand better what he means.

December 7, 2013

0
Reply

Slavery is about being without power, without voice. It would be interesting to provide video equipment and education to the enslaved. Haveing the resources to produce their own movie could be a way for them to find their own voice. Instead of a young blond girl from California speaking for them.

December 7, 2013

0
Reply
Thomas

"I just hope it doesn’t look like a cheesy wedding video with different content."

--- You do realize that the documentary sample you provide on your page, uses one of the most popular songs (musicbed) that you'll find wedding films this year? Your lighting is similar to Stillmotion's as well, just not as good.

Simon, you are coming across rather harsh, and my personal interpretation is either jealousy or just plain rude. I wish I had the candor of Patrick, because he comes across so gallant defending his amazing work (which needs no defending).

December 7, 2013

0
Reply
Daniel Inzitari

I said wedding videos are cheesy, not the music ;)

I only use natural lighting with docos. And my skeptical comments were aimed at the motives of the people behind the cause and not at stillmotion documenting it. Like I said it looks beautiful.

December 7, 2013

0
Reply

Simon- I confess you have got me totally stumped.
I spent four days in Nairobi going to and from the Masai Mara. Your account is obviously more harrowing, but it matches what I saw. There's a constant smell of kerosene and burnt tires in the air, unavoidable poverty everywhere, just a different world.

The interview you describe seems brutal, but important and obviously worth telling.

But given that, I would've expected you to be more sympathetic to stillmotion's project than almost anyone else on this board.

And when you do finish cutting your footage and distribute it – and I sincerely hope you do – I strongly recommend adding something redemptive around such obviously harrowing interviews.

And obviously privileged girl with a lemonade stand might be too much, but something would probably be useful.

Even if you don't agree with all of their choices – and I myself don't, by the way – they're working in space very similar to yours. At the very least I'd have thought that would generate a certain amount of sympathy.

I sincerely wish you good luck with your project. It sounds like a story worth telling.

December 7, 2013

0
Reply
Ross

I'm very sympathetic to stillmotions project and was quite excited when I started watching the trailer but by the end had questions about the people behind it (not questions about stillmotion).

You mentioning the smell of kerosene brought back a flood of memories and smells. The hair extensions that are everywhere on the ground. Theres a documentary in that alone. Maybe in 500 men, 499 will have the exact same haircut, whereas it seemed like every woman had an entirely different haircut.

I want to go back and go to rural areas like yourself. Get interviews of people from the country point of view. A counterbalance to the slum life. The goat and cattle herders etc. In the slum we learnt they smuggle guns in inside dead goats. I wonder how the herders that tend those goats and raise them feel about that…

I agree about needing a lighter side in the doco. But that needs to come from footage and stories, outcomes from the aid being given in the affected area. By showing the positive that can come from supporting the cause and hearing it from them its much more motivating. One positive aspect is the bag making the supported single mothers do. https://vimeo.com/79944107. The single mothers are important to support because so much stems from that.

December 7, 2013

0
Reply

Rather than 'negative', this thread seems like the most engaging and important I've read on NFS. People are rightly concerned about the way that images portray poverty and the complex motivations surrounding this kind of project. And there is no need for anyone to be able make films in order to make observations about other people's films.

February 13, 2014

0
Reply
BDJ