Stillmotion - Inside an International Storytelling Studio

After receiving the final cut of the Stillmotion case study, we got on Skype and had a chat with Stillmotion co-founder Patrick Moreau. During the call, Patrick shared his thoughts on the creation of the video, tips on how to manage feedback, and juggling client needs.

Stillmotion is quite an international affair. Is it difficult to stay connected as collaborative storytellers when so spread out?

It’s challenging. In a given year we’ll go to dozens of countries while having different projects and clients, different timelines and styles. Before Wipster, it was hard to stay on schedule, simply because you couldn’t get the right feedback at the right time. It would take more of my time, because I’d have to watch something on Vimeo, then write notes, and then transcribe the notes or add more details to them so it was contextualized into what I was meaning, and screen-pulling and all kinds of stuff - that process would take hours.

Whereas now, as you see in the case study, that is 100% inspired by truth. I was on a Toyota shoot, hanging out the back of a car, tracking a Toyota Prius coming towards us, and between takes I was pulling out Wipster, leaving feedback and everything kept moving. It keeps us more efficient and connected, it’s been huge.

How did the idea for the video come to be?

As storytellers, it’s kinda boring to just sit there and go “Hey, we love this!” There’s no character, there’s no plot, there’s no structure. So how can we do this for them but how can we also tell a story. The biggest thing to me is conflict. Conflict creates a strong story. So we sat down and asked, what is true? What is the real conflict? As an international studio it was so obvious right away - staying on schedule and people being all over the world. It evolved from there. Who’s our character? Annabel as a producer just made so much sense. The producer is the one who suffers this conflict the most because she’s the one trying to keep people on the same page when we’re all in different timezones.

It’s really cool how Jeremiah, who developed the creative, was able to get something so strong by actually just looking at our actual experience, and then adding some color and humour and racketing around a fictitious project for the video.

In the video, we see Annabel struggling with all sorts of feedback from her client at all hours of the day and night. What advice would you give to videomakers to help manage their client feedback process more effectively?

The biggest thing with client feedback is setting up expectations. Those expectations start from as early as your second or third meeting, and then every meeting as you move forward. When we send in an edit, we never just send them a clip. We make sure we’re also sharing “Here’s what I’m really happy about” and, “Here’s the thought behind this” and, “Here are some opportunities that I think we have to make it better.”  

Tell them what you’d like their thoughts on, what feedback you don’t need right now and how they can get that back to you.  

Keep setting those expectations, reiterating them and creating an experience, so it’s not just firing off a quick email. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure because they can say anything, at any volume, at any time.

Now that the feedback has come through, how do you juggle the needs and opinions of your client while also staying true to your story?

We’ve spent a lot of time developing the Muse Storytelling process, which is not just a process for telling stories but it’s also a way to set a structure with milestones. Part of that is clarifying your vision, within your team and with your client. We have a patent-pending 5 keyword method of finding your purpose. Before we start anything, before we look at budgets, production, anything, we always love to have keywords so that we can always understand what the goal is.

We’ll do our listening, our research, and we’ll come back to the client and say, “Look, this is what we believe this story is, and what the keywords represent, what you want the audience to do, what you want them to feel, what’s different for you.” The keywords represent the kind of goals the client has for our project, but more clearly defined and actionable. Once we get the feedback, those keywords become our filter. So if the client comes back and says they want to interview the CEO, you can say “Well, that doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t match our goals and keywords.” It’s great because it removes some of the controversial or adversarial nature that feedback can have.

From there it’s them trusting that we are the storytellers, that we know the best way to get you there.

If we don’t assert ourselves as storytellers, everybody is just throwing in ideas. We’ve gotten storyboards for a feature-length documentary approved over the phone with 8 different clients, because we walked them through what was happening, and they were like “We totally get it, that is exactly what we want and you’re nailing it.”

Finally, and be honest, how was Wipster as a client?

When we first started, I sent over a Vimeo edit and a link to a Google Doc and asked for up to ten comments as feedback, and Rollo was like, “No I’m not doing it, it’s gonna be my way!” So apparently he developed this software that totally fixed that… No, no [laughs] it was really cool to have the head of Wipster and the Wipster team giving feedback on Wipster. And honestly because of that, it made it a lot smoother. In general, Wipster was quite good actually, they gave us relevant feedback at the right time, and stayed on track.

Thanks Patrick, it was a pleasure working with you too!

As a world-class international studio, Stillmotion uses Wipster to handle their review and approval process, saving time, money and frustration for them and their clients. Find out what Wipster can do for your video production company and start your free 14-day trial today.