Storytelling Advice from Remarkable Filmmakers

Based on the Featured and short films from the Coast Film & Music Festival, pioneer filmmakers are here to guide those seeking a little bit of direction. 

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Shaun MacGillivray

Son of legendary filmmaker, Greg MacGilivray, Shaun dishes out a list of valuable recommendations for storytelling through film in a PCMA interview. Emotion is an aspect he emphasizes as having significant power. Provoking an emotional response is fundamental, with laughter being one of the best. Another element is to expand concentration beyond visuals and tap into sound as a means of telling the story. Pairing the right sound with imaging transfigures the experience for the audience. To add one more proposal, Shaun suggests ensuring there are moments of surprise to keep the watchers hooked.

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Todd Jones

In an interview with Snowsports Industries America, Todd reveals some filmmaking tactics. As one of the founders of media company Teton Gravity Research, Todd holds ample experience in the craft of storytelling through visual media. He recommends using diverse platforms: short film, full length movies, streaming, television. “It's one thing to create great content, it’s a whole other thing to know how to distribute that content.” Knowing your audience and what they want to see and experience is a key component. Lastly, don't be afraid to take chances. 

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Ben Knight

This rebel filmmaker will push legal boundaries to tell his desired story. Ben does not let limitations confine his dreams to film and photograph. This is not to encourage you to take legal risks, but you should be encouraged to look beyond perceived restraints to bring your ideas to life. To make a fascinating film, pulling on the heartstrings of the viewer is key. Ben’s film DamNation is about dams affecting the environment. He knew he had to humanize the story in order for it to have optimal effectiveness. Humanizing a story is a way to connect your story to the audience and can be achieved through careful character selection.

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Lucy Walker

Lucy shares an influential piece of advice spoken to her by filmmaker Barabara Kopple that stuck with her through her years of filming in an interview with FIlmmaker Magazine: “Don’t worry, in documentary you always miss 99% of everything you think you need. You always miss the best things, but just keep going and when you get back to the editing room you’ll find a way to make it work and you’ll be amazed at how much you do have.” The editing room is where it all falls into place consolidating many hours of film down to the most essential, thought-provoking moments.

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Amanda Prifti & Jess Kimera

During a Q&A session at Coast Film Festival in 2021 after showing their film Healed By Nature alongside co-director Stacey Bare, Amanda and Jess expressed some vital pointers. One, don't be afraid to expose yourself. That is where the best stories come from. Two, lean into your loss, grief and struggles and allow the emotion to pour out. And three, do not let imposter syndrome get the best of you. 

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Sam Fisher

No Signal, directed by Sam, was featured in the 2021 Coast Film Festival. In the Q&A Sam tells filmmakers to take a leap of faith and always have your camera out. His message is to just get out your camera and film something; the story can come along the way. Sometimes you don't know what your film is till you are done shooting and in the editing process. 

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Key Takeaways
  • Don’t get caught up in one story while filming. Continue filming, and when you reach the editing and refinement portion the story will reveal itself.
  • Jump into the unknown. Tell a story that hasn’t been told or hasn’t been told in that way. A story can be told in a million ways. Find a new and impactful perspective. 
  • Take the advice offered by leading storytellers, while also making it your own.