Bob Gillen on Storytelling

Category: Filmmaking (Page 1 of 5)

Wheels and Waves: The Power of Action Cameras


Wheels and Waves: I’ve been thinking about the powerful capabilities of action cameras and action filmmaking. Three years ago I did an interview on this blog with Roberto Studart, a Brazilian filmmaker. The interview remains one of my favorites. His shots of downhill skateboarding on mountain roads are breathtaking. Here’s the clip again, for your enjoyment:

CURVAS E LADEIRAS T2 from Roberto Studart on Vimeo.

Roberto has done more, including some incredible surfing shots. Catch his work on Vimeo.


Action cameras and underwater camera housings allow big wave surf photographer Sachi Cunningham to capture stunning visuals of surf. For more on Sachi, see Inside the Mind of Sachi Cunningham on Vimeo.

Surfing at Ocean Beach, San Francisco

Bianca Valenti alone and deep in a beastly wave, right at the very edge of one of the most populous places on the West Coast: Ocean Beach, San Francisco. Photo: Sachi Cunningham















Passionate visual storytellers

Have you seen the Storyhunter website? Check it out. Storyhunters are “award-winning video professionals ready to go on assignment for you. They are passionate visual storytellers. They are filmmakers. They are editors, creative directors, video journalists, producers, sound recorders, animators. They tell authentic stories. They are on the ground and they never back down from a challenge.”

passionate visual storytellers

Storyhunter recently posted a conversation with three documentary filmmakers on their shooting styles. Here’s an excerpt:

S: Do you have any advice you’d give to young filmmakers still trying to figure out their style?

Nehemiah Stark: Putting yourself out there to work with other filmmakers that inspire you is huge because we can only learn so much from the work we do alone. I learned the most working in a collective. It’s great to have people to look up to, to get feedback from. Mentors can be people you’ve never met. You can study the style of filmmakers and emulate them. Imitating them is huge and it takes a more discerning eye to see what’s being done technically.

Allison Otto: Don’t limit yourself to learning from the work of cinematographers. Check out the work of still photographers and photojournalists. Don’t feel like you have to travel far and wide to tell meaningful stories. Powerful stories can be found in your own community, and with your knowledge of your community and its rhythms, you’re the best one to share them.

Property – Trailer from Allison Otto, Thought/Process Films on Vimeo.

Storyhunter describes its mission: “We make it simple to create high quality original video.  Whether you need event coverage, mini-docs, aerial drone footage, branded content series, or just to supplement your in-house production team, our platform connects you instantly with the best specialists on the planet. We also help you seamlessly manage your projects, contracts, and payments in one place.”

Looking for story ideas? Try the supermarket.

Looking for story ideas? Try the supermarket.

Writers welcome story ideas. Often those ideas come from inspiration, from notes, from good old ass-in-chair work. But sometimes you’re just plain stuck.

shopping cart - look for story ideasTry looking and listening while you’re shopping in the supermarket. The other day I spied a man in a kilt in Trader Joe’s market. It was the second time I’d seen him there. And the staff knew him. He talked to them about being out of town for a while. So I wondered: what’s his story? Why the kilt? It wasn’t a costume. It was an authentic, styled kilt. Why?

A while back I asked the woman who was checking out my groceries, how is your day going? She began talking about her plans for the evening, ready to celebrate a young woman’s one-year sobriety. She herself was a recovering alcoholic. What’s the story there?

So many stories among the everyday.

Create colorful female characters

Geena Davis on creating female characters

Geena Davis

Here’s a recommendation from actress Geena Davis on inhabiting your scripts and stories with female characters:

“Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch.”


Web series: a more intimate experience

A throwback thought from an interview I did four years ago with Mildred Lewis, writer, producer, Assistant Professor at Chapman University:

One of the core truths of writing a web series: it ain’t television or movies.

web series writer Mildred Lewis

Mildred Lewis

Sure, they have common elements. As Mildred Lewis, co-creator of the web series Etiquette, says, “Good writing is good writing is good writing. Plot, character, setting, conflict, compelling ideas, engaging emotions all remain crucial.”

That being said, the audience experiences a web series differently. “On the web,” Lewis continues, “you’re writing for a viewer who is going to have a more intimate experience. Most people watch web content alone, often on small devices. Funny has to be funnier! You can’t ride a laugh track or laughter in the room.”

Write your story well, keep it short, and create exciting characters. And to quote Mildred Lewis again: “Every beat has to be earned.”

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