Written By: Shirley Baugher
Imagine a group of wedding filmmakers—albeit the crème de la crème of wedding filmmakers—being asked to shoot an NFL network series and a documentary of the iconic Army/Navy Game! Imagine that same group of filmmakers being nominated for seven Emmys for those programs. It happened to Patrick Moreau and members of the stillmotion cinematic team. And it is one incredible story.
The Cinderella tale began with a twelve-episode television and web series for NFL.com (which also aired on the NFL Network), covering all aspects of the game from the first kickoff to the final whistle; from the 50-yard line to the upper deck; and from the training room to the board room to the family living room. While stillmotion, a team of wedding filmmakers based in San Francisco and Canada, might not seem like the logical choice to film this series, they were, in fact, a perfect fit. Each web episode was designed to tell a story about the NFL season: the story of Arrowhead Stadium, the story of Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau, the story of Ray Lewis and his son—a star sophomore at Lake Mary Prep in Central Florida—a story of Atlanta Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank, a story of the quarterback whisperer Tom Martinez… And no one tells a story better than Patrick and the stillmotion artistic partners. As you might expect, Moreau engages in psychology to tell stories. Psychology helps him understand the characters as well as their stories. It enables him to use his equipment to tell those stories in a more relevant way and to capture his subjects’ most revealing moments.
Patrick gets in the game & On the field
On the basis of their technical skills and their unique ability to get inside a story, stillmotion got the NFL gig. The shows they shot resulted in a series that set a new standard for sports television. Directors conducted interviews that reached viewers in a way they had never been reached before; and the stillmotion crew used DSLR technology to capture breathtaking moments on and off the field.
Once bitten by the sports bug, stillmotion kept going. After the NFL Season they were selected to do a series of Callaway spots that allowed them to spend time with some of the best golfers ever to play the game, including Gary Player, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Alvaro Quiros, Morgan Pressel, and Annika Sorenstam. These spots were another perfect fit for the team, requiring them to be quick, low impact, and tell a powerful story. All stillmotion strengths.
Getting this gig was another quirk of fate. Director, Rob Bagot of Eleven Inc. in San Francisco, attended one of stillmotion’s workshops in Australia. He loved the team’s approach to filming and their ability to tell a story. Months later, he was working on the Callaway campaign and was looking for the right group to DP and do post. Who should come to mind but stillmotion.
Following the series idea of “the win within the win” Patrick and the team came in and focused on everything that was really important to the golfers—not just the game. They went inside their homes, they hung out with their trainers, they swam in their pools, and they got to know their kids. They became part of their families—so much so that Ernie Els’ wife even baked a cake for them. The result was a magical story about sports heroes as real people. Bagot’s choice was more than validated.
Then came the ultimate sports experience: a documentary chronicling a year in the lives of freshmen on the football teams at the U.S. Naval Academy and at West Point that culminated in the meeting between the two rivals in the celebrated Army/Navy football game. A Game of Honor was shot by Patrick Moreau, Justin DeMers, Joyce Tsang, and their secondary team Paul Los, Ray Tsang, Quenna Gregorio. Directed by Pete Radovich, the show was produced for CBS and Showtime.
Justin DeMers filming The West Point cadets as they head for class
Another triumph of storytelling, A Game of Honor takes us on the journey of the cadets and midshipmen from the time they enter their respective academies, through 100 days of life adjustments and rigorous training. We are with them as they slog through mud, climb barriers, and crawl on their bellies to dodge live bullets, all the while developing the skills they will need to become their country’s defenders in war and peace. We are also with them as they learn to pass, run, tackle, and hold the line on the football field. At the end of this remarkable film, we share their elation as they fling their hats into the air.
As you would expect from stillmotion, Game of Honor goes beyond the saga of a football game to show what it is like for these young men to be players, soldiers, and heroes. It is about rivalry on the field and the sense of brotherhood and common purpose both sides recognize once the game has ended. During the course of the film, we hear Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo talk about the camaraderie that exists among his players, and we learn from West Point Coach Rich Ellerson how the football experience trains the young men for life after football. We look at the game through the eyes of such luminaries as President of the United States, Barack Obama; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; and NFL football coach Bill Parcells. And we come to appreciate the “specialness” of the young men who take the field every Saturday in preparation for the big game.
On the field
A Game of Honor has been nominated for five Emmys for Outstanding Sports Documentary, Outstanding Camera Work, Outstanding Editing, Outstanding Sports Promotional Announcement, and Outstanding New Approaches in Sports Programming. The NFL Season: a Biography also received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding New Approaches in Sports Programming. Kudos to Patrick Moreau, Justin DeMers, Amina Moreau, Joyce Tsang, Ray Tsang, Paul Los, and Quenna Gregorio. We will be watching and rooting for all of you in April when the Emmys are awarded.
Q. How did you and the team at stillmotion get together?
A. When we first started, stillmotion consisted only of me and my wife Amina.
We were both in school studying psychology at the time, and we were just shooting weddings on the side. When we graduated we had to decide whether to continue with our plan to pursue a PhD or follow the stillmotion path. We chose the road less traveled, and we couldn’t be happier.
Several years ago Justin DeMers joined Amina and me as the third stillmotion partner. One of his biggest contributions to the team was his tendency to question why. Together, we searched for answers. The rest of the team came on board as we went along. We met Quenna at our workshop in Australia. She was looking for a chance to move to the US. At the same time we were looking for somebody with her passion for post. We hired her. We shot Ray and Joyce’s wedding and became friends through that. The wedding film inspired them to move into the cinematic world. They signed on to the stillmotion team, and have become a huge addition to the family. Hiring Paul Los is probably the closest we’ve come to the traditional way of adding to our team. Out of the blue Paul sent an email asking about a position with us. The timing was right, his personality was a perfect fit. Our family is fuller than ever.
Q. How does stillmotion divide the filmmaking responsibilities among the team members and what is the relationship between the creative and technical aspects of your film projects?
A. We are often involved in many shoots at the same time. Our team has to be diverse and open to the many challenges we face in order to cover a given shoot properly. We look at each person’s experience, where that person wants to go (i.e., some might want to direct, others prefer to focus on cinematography). We look at the client and the story that needs to be told. Then, we look at the logistics: where the shoot is, what gear is needed, and what people have been up to recently. That process allows us to find the best fit for each shoot and allows each person to push his/her abilities while continuing to grow.
The technical aspect of any shoot is inspired by the creative approach in a way that makes each meaningful and relevant. The way we shoot a wedding story has had a significant impact on our approach to commercial work. In wedding films, we always try to approach each shoot with lenses and gear that relates to the couple being filmed. Similarly, our commercial work has made our wedding films better. Shooting commercial spots, you can see how carefully a single shot is designed and how every aspect of the shot relates to the story being told. We now apply that approach to our weddings.
Q. What made you decided to specialize in wedding filmmaking?
A. I don’t know if I can say we ever really decided to specialize in weddings. We were asked to do a wedding, and we did it by telling the couple’s story. It worked. From that point on we decided that we would tell stories that we, or a general audience, would want to watch. Instead of just pleasing the client we aimed our wedding films at the masses. By doing so, we developed a unique style and gained a much larger audience.
Q. Exactly what brought you to the attention of the NFL production team when you were selected for the television and web series?
A. They are the only ones that can truly speak to why they chose us. From what I understand, they were looking at adding some DSLR footage into the mix and through a web search they came upon a wedding film we had done about JC + Esther. That film had sort of gone viral with 150,000 views or so. Out of the blue we got a call and the next thing we knew it, we were on the sidelines watching the Chargers/Jets playoff game. We were told that they really enjoyed how we told our stories and that they were impressed with our understanding of the technology. DSLRs were fairly new at the time and they were looking for a team that had moved past experimenting and really embraced the platform.
Q. How did the NFL web episodes result in the production of the Callaway series?
A. Director, Rob Bagot of Eleven Inc., who had seen the NFL web series, attended one of stillmotion’s workshops in Australia. He loved the team’s approach to filming and their ability to tell a story. Months later, he was working on the Callaway campaign and was looking for the right group to DP and do post. Who should come to mind but stillmotion. Working on the Callaway spots with Rob was an absolute highlight of or careers. Somewhat ironically, as we prepped for a shoot with Phil Mickelson, Rob referenced a wedding we had shot for inspiration in which the grooms played golf the morning of the wedding. How amazing to have a wedding film for Stu and Dana help shape the peice we shot for Phil Mickelson.
Q. Were The NFL Season and the Callaway shows responsible for your getting to produce A Game of Honor?
A. The director of A Game of Honor was the one who first contacted us about being a part of the film. Initially he wanted to meet and chat–just to get to know our team. As we were setting things up, a shoot at Quantico came up. He watched us in motion, saw our work, and decided to give us a chance. We worked our asses off and had a blast on the shoot. We later learned more about the full documentary. When it got the green light we were asked to DP and provide camera work for the film. I do believe Pete saw and enjoyed our some of the films for the NFL and Callaway but I believe it was this first shoot that really made all the difference.
Q. Following your enormous success in the area of sports and commercial filmmaking, will you still continue to shoot wedding films?
A. This is something that a lot of people are often curious about. We do continue to shoot weddings, but definitely far fewer than before (roughly 12 a year for our whole team). Weddings provide a very direct connection to the story you are telling and the people you are telling it for. They often push you to be quicker in your story development than a football game or a commercial shoot. We don’t want to loose that challenge.
Q. What are some of the projects you are working on now?
A. Recently we’ve been doing a fair amount of work for the Final Four down in New Orleans. We shot parts of the Saturday and Monday night openings. (CBSsports.com) We also just wrapped two very emotional pieces on the Chardon High School shooting and the Harrisburg Tornado. It’s a dream to tell meaningful stories that get to be seen on CBS. Viewership for these shows is in the millions. But it was also incredibly difficult to tell the story of these tragedies. Coverage in Harrisburg included walking through homes that had been torn apart by the tornado and seeing things such as breakfast still on a kitchen table with the windows shattered and the roof lifted blown off.
Q. What are StillMotion’s plans for the future?
A. Outside of filming, we have a couple really exciting things we’ve been working on. SMAP, the stillmotion APP, is set to launch in April, and we truly believe it has the power to make filmmaking so much more approachable and to give the filmmaker more power to make relevant decisions that push their story while in the field. We’ve taken all of our educational experience and used that to create a set of filmmaking tools that will help you choose a good focal length based on what you want from a scene, give you creative ideas in the field, and so much more. Check out www.meetsmapp.com for all of the details on this app, which has been years in the making for us.
Stillmotion is a band of filmmakers who, as a rule, tend to let their curiosity get the better of them. They believe the process of discovery is as important as what goes on the screen. Their films tell stories—big, small, and anywhere in between. In their own words, they’ve racked up plenty of miles and hard drive space doing work for Showtime, Callaway, CBS, NFL, and Canon. If this sounds like namedropping, well, it is. But with those credentials—plus the hundreds of happy wedding couples they have filmed, you know they have to be good.
The stillmotion family is seven strong: Patrick aka P; Justin aka Justin, Paul aka Pwl; Joyce aka Lil’J; Amina aka Meeners; Quenna aka Keeners; and Ray aka Rt. You can check them all out and more at stillmotion.ca
THIS JUST IN!
THEY DID IT!! At the 33rd Annual Sports Emmy Awards show presented by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Patrick Moreau and his Still Motion team walked away with three Emmys for their excellent series Game of Honor. The show won for Outstanding Sports Documentary, Outstanding New Approach to Sports Programming, and Outstanding Sports Promotional Announcement. Congratulations to the entire group. Well done guys and gals—very well done, indeed.