The Emmy award-winning team behind MUSE – a storytelling process designed primarily for event filmmakers which launches this week – is a fascinating paradox: incredibly nice yet incredibly driven; eminently approachable yet deeply intellectual; equal parts left-brained and right-brained; masters of storytelling yet masters of gear; all about “purpose” yet a capitalist, entrepreneurial machine with sponsorships up the whazoo. Welcome to Stillmotion’s latest venture and the driving force behind it, Patrick Moreau – and an opportunity open only a few more days to get the MUSE program at a dramatically reduced price.
In an age of embarrassing riches in gear and content, what truly sets apart a film — whether it’s a 30-second commercial, a 90 minute documentary, or a two-hour blockbuster Hollywood film – or even a blog post?
Act 1: In the Beginning
Once upon a time not that long ago, a psychology major at Brock University in Canada took a left turn upon graduation. Instead of pursuing the Ph.D. both he and his advisor had assumed he would, Patrick Moreau went into wedding videography full time with his parter, Amina.
His advisor was disappointed. Maybe even angry.
But the pair had been shooting 30-40 weddings a year while still in school, and it had gripped them both at a profound level.
A year later, Patrick bumped into his professor while filming the wedding of a classmate (Patrick handled the video, Amina did the stills – after all, he hadn’t picked up a camera until he was 17 or 18). Before the day was out, his professor came up to him and said, “I totally get it.”
Act 2: The Journey
Fast forward to June, 2015.
An untold number of weddings, commercials, documentaries, and corporate videos later – from the NFL to Showtime, CBS and other Fortune 100 companies — the firm that began with a pair of college kids is a “filmmaking agency and concept house” which has spun out a stock music company; a stock footage company; a filmmaking education division; and now MUSE.
Let’s take these three questions in reverse order.
What is MUSE?
MUSE is a patent-pending, 4-8 week long, highly structured storytelling course including tutorials, quizzes, case studies, worksheets and workbooks, story blueprints, assignments, personal story coaching, and lifetime support. Through June 8th, Stillmotion is offering pilot pricing of $497, likely 1/3 or ¼ the program’s expected launch price.
MUSE is not an accelerated MFA in filmmaking or screenwriting, nor is it an online course in screenwriting.
The foundations of MUSE are the four pillars of people, plot, place, and purpose. It’s pre-production with a focus on determining what is important for the film to communicate, and it begins with questions – and listening.
Patrick says, “It makes you an ethnographer: you’re going into the field and figuring out what it is you’re trying to say about what and who you find there.”
Or, in a lighter moment: “we’ll turn you into a Kung Fu master storyteller.”
Or, finally, to put it in a more mundane way: MUSE is a process intended to elevate your films by making them compelling to your audience before you ever turn on a camera.
Is it Any Good?
We’ll let you know once we’ve worked with it, but based on what we already know of Stillmotion, we’d bet it’s going to better than good – we suspect it’s going to be great.
Over the course of an hour plus Skype interview with Patrick, he shares the theoretical underpinnings of the program, ranging from Joseph Campbell’s “Hero of 10,000 Faces” (“it’s on my coffee table,” Patrick tells me) to neuroscience research and his assertion that “creativity is borne of constraint.”
He speaks of a character's complexity. Uniqueness. Desire.
But it is the relationship between the theoretical and hard-won, practical experience that is a critical component of what has driven the company, an ethos of continuous learning – or what venture capitalists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs might refer to as “the adaptive learning organization.”
“I always ask myself,” Patrick says, “‘how can I make this better? Or, let’s reverse-engineer this Steadicam shot: why are we really doing this? What point does it serve?’”
This kind of product development process has been part of Stillmotion’s existence from the beginning: “Early on, we found ourselves being asked to put on workshops as a result of our wedding work and our work for the NFL,” Patrick says. “And that’s when we realized – wow, we need to figure this out.”
The company has always been good at recognizing opportunity and then refining their response to the point of creating new businesses – and continuously improving them.
The Japanese would call it (based on the work of Edward Demming): kaizen.
But at a Deeper Level: Why?
Which is impressive.
But: is that all that there is?
There is Patrick Moreau’s need.
You can’t spend time with Patrick without eventually asking yourself, “What is driving this straightforward and approachable – but very intense — guy? Is there a story behind the story?”
Of course there is.
A sometime entrepreneur father who gifted his 17-year-old son a lucrative, turn-key newspaper delivery business which introduced him to the challenges and rewards of motivating other people. A mother – a psych nurse who felt passionately that everyone must have a purpose – who tragically, unexpectedly, died just two months ago.
A mind that doesn’t shut off for more than a few hours at a time, coupled to a philosophy that for however long we’re here, we need to make a difference.
It all makes sense.
Act 3: The End of the Beginning
With all of this written, the third act of this story isn’t about MUSE or Patrick or Stillmotion or market forces at all – it’s about each of us, and how or if we’re moved to write our own versions of it.
To learn more, visit the MUSE site.
But please remember: you only have until June 8th to sign up for the pilot at pilot pricing of $497, which entitles you to the MUSE Toolkit and lifetime support.
At this moment, I can’t think of a better use of $497 to elevate one’s filmmaking.
(cover photo credit: snap from Stillmotion)