A. All of it. What was so great about Monte was that everything always had to be perfect. Monte was on the ball with everything—he never let anything slip through the cracks. I bring that same level of artistic obsession to our films. I also bring his skills in photography training to the process of teaching filmmaking. Because I understand photography and learned filmmaking on an HDSLR camera, I have a great perspective on how to add the skills necessary to be accomplished in both areas. I’ve also been incredibly lucky to work with Clay Blackmore, Monte’s protégé, since he passed away. Clay took everything Monte taught me and made it real.
Q.Why do you feel so strongly about filmmaking?
A. I believe that now that the cameras offer this capability, most portrait/wedding/family photographers at some point are going to have to migrate their business strategy away from one of providing only still images to one that offers a comprehensive lineup of digital imaging products and services. These products and servcies will be based on the technological capabilities their cameras offer. The entire upcoming generation—the YouTube generation—has been raised on videos, on films, and in the not too distant future they will be spending their discretionary income to preserve family memories like all families have for decades; however, they will not be spending it only on photos like previous generations; their budget will share that allotment of money with filmmaking products and servcies. They are too emotionally compelling (when done properly). After all, isn’t that the point of spending money on a photographer? Isn’t it all about preserving memories? A good film does that we well as—if not better than—stills.
Q. What is the Get In Motion Tour about?
A. The basic rationale, the message, behind the Get In Motion Tour is Moving Photography—Forward. I put a lot of thought into the name and really feel a mantle of responsibility to move the traditional still photographer into the next realm, into this realm of filmmaking (I’m sure Monte’s in that thought process somewhere). In the past, technology was a barrier. The “market” for filmmaking services was a barrier. Both of these limitations are now ending, with the new HDSLR cameras’ capabilities and the maturing of the YouTube generation coupled with the presence of the internet and everyone’s consumption of web-based information to connect and learn about other people and businesses. So, in a nutshell, it’s about keeping your artistic passion and business offerings in line and up to date with the tools that technology has given us in order to meet the demand for films that this technology will create in our customers.
Q.How did you end up meeting Ross?
A.I was looking for an editor and a videographer for an educational DVD project with Clay Blackmore, so I posted an ad on Craigslist. I had 40 responses in one day. This one guy sent me a trailer for a movie in his portfolio. I called to ask him about the movie, thinking he had been a grip or something, only to find out that he wrote, directed, filmed, and edited the entire movie and had cut the trailer himself. I was like, “What, you made your own movie, like from scratch?” I had one of those gut feelings about the kid. I hired him, and we started turning the cameras on our clients and making finished pieces for them. We teamed up with Clay Blackmore to help spread the word for the Photo-Fusion Revolution Tour last fall. 30 cities and 4000 photographers later, Ross and I knew we had to work together, so we formed CineStories.
Q.You started CineStories in January, yet it has a very impressive client list alredy (Skype and Expedia)…how did you rise so high so fast?
A. I got a call from Skype to photograph their annual corporate meeting late last year. The event organizer had no thoughts of video at all. I told her we did filmmaking, and I convinced her to do two same-day edits and a 5-minute high-energy synopsis of the event. These types of services weren’t even on her radar (most people still don’t know what can be done yet)…but because the cameras can capture gorgeous footage, and we learned how to use these capabilities properly, we were able to add these services into the mix. Expedia found out about the Skype event and asked for the same thing. The lesson: there are literally an unlimited number of ways to value-add filmmaking into your photography offerings. But you can’t add them if you don’t know how to do it.
Q. What made you pick Matt as your web/graphic designer?
A.Ross and I knew that without great design CineStories would be limited. The web is our canvas, our advertising venue, our stage, our screen, our brochure…it’s our performance space for everything necessary to create a successful business. Our filmmaking had to be good, but we had to present it in a way that complimented and accentuated our strengths. Our Craigslist ad for our designer literally started this way: “What we do isn’t boring, it’s cool, and what we’re going to be doing in the future is cool, too. So we need somebody cool to come into our company and make things happen on the web side.” When Matt applied, his opening line was: “I am quite possibly the coolest person ever.” He had the job instantly.
Q. The video Birth Announcement is your brainchild . How did you come up with that concept?
A.In 2009 Ross and I were on our way to film Clay Blackmore on a family photo shoot for an educational DVD. On the way there I told Ross we’d turn the cameras on the clients. Ross cut together this awesome family film of the photo shoot…and I instantly saw the emotional power that we could create from these types of films. I started thinking about all the different types of compelling films we could make. The first that came to mind was a birth announcement. Nothing is more emotionally appealing than new babies (and puppies, but that’s a whole other discussion).
Q. What’s the coolest experience you've had as Producer?
A.The first time Ross and I did a same-day edit was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life (while working). The pressure was insane. Ross and I were driving each other nuts in this crazy way that kept pushing each of us to our creative limits. One of the reasons this worked was because we didn’t know enough to be scared we just knew we would pull it off, and when we did, it was an incredibly rewarding feeling.
Q. What is your favorite movie of all time and why?
A. I have two. My softer side loves Meet Joe Black. It represents my ideal life, and teaches the very thing that matters most to me. My creative side loves The Matrix. What a concept.
Q. Do you find it painful having gray hair at a young age?
A. No. It makes me distinguished. Thinning hair is a challenge. When I see someone with a great head of hair I become insanely jealous.
Q. Tell me something Ross brings to the CineStories team?
A. Ross has this witchcraft on the editing board. He starts with nothing and then all of a sudden he creates this very complex story out of nothing that pulls you in. Witchcraft is the only way I can explain it.
A. I wrote a script back in 2005. It had a lot of buzz. I signed with an agent, and a major film company (to be left anonymous) wanted to buy it. In the room when we were signing the deal I insisted that I direct the film. They threw me out of the office. I lost the deal. I realized that I’d never be able to make my own films unless I gained some experience, so I decided to learn how to do this myself, and the next day my team and I went into pre-production on our first feature film.
Q. Feature films must be tough…how much of that aspect do you bring to CineStories?
A. All of it. Feature filmmaking will bring up every situation you'll ever need to know and then some. If you can make a feature film, you can make any filmmaking piece that you can think of.
Q. How did you and Jeff end up being business partners? Seems like an odd match?
A. Jeff found me after I finished my second feature film. He hired me for some work on a DVD for Clay Blackmore and things evolved pretty quickly.
Q. Why are you teaching filmmaking to photographers?
A. When Jeff hired me he introduced me to the Canon 5D camera. I had shot my previous two movies using broadcast video cameras. I could never get that cinematic look I was going for at a price I could afford. The 5D changed all of that. I like to refer to it as the democratization of filmmaking. Now, anyone can be a filmmaker. Photographers are the most natural audience to speak to: they have the cameras, they are creative, they are artists, they understand light, and they are working with people who pay them to preserve their memories. Learning filmmaking seems like a natural evolution for photographers. It’s in their DNA. It is incredibly inspiring and rewarding to introduce these principles to people who just a few years ago would never have had the opportunity to channel their inner storyteller.
Q. What can people expect to learn from you on this tour?
A. You know, so much of the focus in this new world of DSLR filmmaking is on gear. Don’t get me wrong, gear is great, you need it, and I love to play with it. But gear isn’t what’s important…it’s about the STORY. We’ll talk about gear, but in the context of telling your story. A photograph can be compelling in and of itself. There is a power that the still image possesses to make people think, reflect, and feel. But in order for moving images to do that, they have to be woven together into a compelling and interesting story. The power and process of storytelling is what I expect people to take away from the seminar.
Q. Do you think photographers who don’t plan to become filmmakers should attend? How would they benefit?
A. As an artist, you should be able to tell the difference between good art and bad art. Because filmmaking is here…it’s here to stay, you will inevitably come into contact with it. Whether you make films yourself for your clients, whether you hire someone to do it for or with you, or whether you are simply working collaboratively with those who do make films, a good knowledge of the principles will allow you to contribute to either the process of filmmaking or to your clients’ need for films. You don't ever have to physically touch a camera to profit from this great revolution. When I met Jeff he didn’t know a thing, and now, he frequently offers insight and brings value to the filmmaking process. He is only able to do this now because he learned the principles.
Q. Do you think all photographers should add filmmaking products and services to their business?
A.Why use only half of the features of your $2500 camera? It would be like ordering a double cheeseburger and then taking off one of the patties and throwing it away. That doesn’t mean you need to do it yourself, but yes, you should offer these products and servcies one way or another, either by doing them yourself or partnering with someone who does. Business is survival of the fittest…you must evolve.
Q.Whats your favorite part of filmmaking?
A.Well, I love directing and working with actors. Since the 5D came out the shooting but—the cinematography bug— has hit me hard. But truly it's writing. Script writing is easily the most enjoyable for me. There’s nothing like starting at square 1. You start with nothing, a blank page. When the film is complete, you just think back and remember that blank page.
Q.What is your all time favorite movie and why?
A.Fight Club. David Fincher is the best to ever do it.
Q.Why on Earth do you live in Delaware?
A.I travel a lot. So when I'm home I like to hide out. Delaware is tax free.
Q.Tell me something about what Jeff brings to the CineStories team
A.The older I get the less I care about anything except being an artist. Jeff makes sure our company functions, makes sure we have art for me to make. Jeff is the guy that makes your dream of being a professional filmmaker actually be real. At the end of the day we have to make a living. Until Jeff came into the picture, I was that tree that fell in the woods; no one was there to hear it, so it never made a sound.
Anyone who wants to learn video/filmmaking
Probably You Since You’re Reading This
Filmmaking is here…it’s here to stay, and you will inevitably come into contact with it. Whether you make the films yourself for your clients, or you hire someone else to make them for you, a good knowledge of the fundamental principles will allow you to contribute to the final finished film, the filmmaking process, and/or to assist your clients in meeting their needs for these services.
Ross: Does it physically hurt to live in Deleware?
Jeff: What type of cleanser does it take to get Louisiana off oneself?
Both: As Educators to find it difficult to work with uneducated coworkers.