Stillmotion Filmmakers Inspire Students to Chase their Dreams

As a rule, Patrick and Amina Moreau always let their curiosity get the better of them.

The founders of Stillmotion, a Toronto and San Francisco based company, the Moreaus visited The Williston Northampton School campus on Tuesday, September 25 as the first speakers in this year’s Photographers’ Lecture Series.  During their visit, which was made possible by the Canon Explorer of Light program, the pair spoke about the importance of, and difference between, affect and effect in their work.

“What we’re really talking about here with affect versus effect is having some kind of emotional quality or purpose rather than just making something look cool,” said Patrick.

To demonstrate this point, the pair would show a video to the audience, gauge their reaction, and then describe how they purposefully used different filmmaking techniques—including lenses, depths of field, hand-held or body-mounted cameras—to create that specific reaction in their viewers.

The first film they showed, “Old Skool Café,” told the story of at-risk youths from San Francisco who, with the guidance of Teresa Goines, a former corrections officer, manage a restaurant.  The film opens with an interview with a teenage boy was says, “I’m Leonard Ferguson.  I don’t who I am yet, I’m still trying to figure it out but before…I used to be called a monster.”  Juxtaposing the struggles and triumphs endured by these teens, the film had a very polished feel that raised your spirits.

Then came a short for CBS that demonstrated Houston Rocket’s point guard Jeremy Lin’s Elvis-like celebrity in Taipei.  In a late-night escape from the media camped outside his hotel, Patrick and Amina followed Jeremy Lin and David Lee, of the Golden State Warriors, to the Xinsheng basketball courts as they checked the NBA hype and played pickup with a group of local players.  “That’s pure basketball,” said Jeremy once back in the car, “that’s what I miss.”  Hand-held camera shots, shaky screens, heart-pumping music, and harsh lighting made for an exhilarating, fast-paced film.

“Which one of those two feels more produced?” asked Patrick.  The answer was “Old Skool Café.” Then he and Amina moderated a discussion about how raw the Jeremy Lin piece felt compared to the perfectly serene feel of “Old Skool Café.”

“We want to make you, as the viewer, feel the kind of safety and refuge and comfort that they feel in this place [Old Skool],” explained Amina.  “If we had used those kinds of crazy camera moves that we used in the Jeremy Lin piece in Old Skool it would almost make it feel like this isn’t any more stable than their previous lives.”

“There’s an art to thinking about what it is you’re trying to say and trying to make all of your decisions fit that,” said Patrick.

“How you can convey something—like humor or fun or isolation—just by picking a certain kind of lens, and that’s pretty powerful,” Amina added.

As Stillmotion began to further define its voice, and demonstrate it’s story-telling talent, a flood of opportunities appeared; however, the Moreaus never forgot their wedding video roots.

Patrick and Amina fell into filmmaking by accident, both were majoring in psychology when they decided to change career paths without the support of their parents.

“We were in college, we were poor, we didn’t have any cameras…” Amina listed on her fingers all of the obstacles stacked against her and husband’s dream of creating meaningful films right out of college.

“We made a commitment to do whatever made us really happy,” she said, and in the beginning that was wedding videos.

“We’ve always approached weddings as the destination instead of something we have to do to get to where we really want to be,” said Amina, “and because of that we’ve had way more fun doing it.”  So even though they’re jokingly called “the wedding guys” when they go into the NFL offices, they know that to other wedding filmmakers they represent versatility.

The audience was treated to the story of J.C. and Esther’s romance and Jess and Brian‘s adventure-filled wedding in Ireland.  Not very many eyes were dry when the credits rolled.

At the end Patrick and Amina opened the mic up to questions and were asked what their parents had wanted them to do and what they thought they would be when they grew up.

In her response Amina said, “Don’t be afraid to walk down a path that you’ve created.”

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