Charlotte, NC - Directing Motion Tour with Vincent Laforet

View from my hotel room in Charlotte, N.C., at 6:00 am on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.

Earlier this week I was in Charlotte, N.C., for the Directing Motion workshop with Vincent Laforet. It was a full day of filmmaking, and I loved each minute of it. I’m still processing everything — on very little sleep.

Before I go on, let me introduce you to Vincent Laforet (if you’re not already familiar with his work). He’s a filmmaker who got his start in still photography. Now he specializes in motion.

Here are samples of Laforet’s work. There are many more at

Nike Flyknit – :90 from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Mobius – 1080p HQ from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Famous Footwear – “Neighborhood” Spot from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

Vincent Laforet – 2013 Reel from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

The Directing Motion tour was spawned by an injury Laforet suffered earlier this year. With a broken arm he found himself with a lot of down time and decided to put it to good use. He watched a hundred of his favorite films while taking notes about each one.

In his own words, Laforet describes the birth of the Directing Motion tour on his blog:

Well for me, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure… motion is something I’m obsessed with — but only when it “serves the story.”  That’s CRITICAL. I generally am not a fan of “unmotivated movement” — or in laymen’s terms: Michael Bay movies where the camera is flying around for no reason other than to create “eye candy.”  But I digress…

For a few decades now, I’ve promised myself that one day I would be lucky enough to have a big home theater, and that I would sit back and watch all of my favorite films and to break them down scene by scene… Problem is:  I never found the time, and when I did watch them, I would more often than not fall right under their spell: and out went any chance of analysis.

Then something interesting happened, nearly 3 months ago I broke my arm and suddenly had far too much time on my hands with little to do but stay as still as possible and heal… what to do?

Well that’s how the Directing Motion Tour was born. I ordered nearly 100 BluRays of my favorite films and a few key TV series, and watched them while taking copious notes. In all I’ve already spent close to 300 hours analyzing my favorite films and scenes…

While I was researching and considering the workshop, I came across that post. It’s one of the things that sold me on the workshop. Getting injured sucks — but why not turn that down time into a guilty pleasure? Such a great idea.

One shot from The Untouchables mapped out in Directing Motion by Vincent Laforet. (via

One shot from The Untouchables mapped out in Directing Motion by Vincent Laforet. (source)

It also made me feel normal. Less weird. Which is awesome.

Since I never went to film school, I’ve taught myself the art and business of making movies. Once upon a time I was stuck day-dreaming, not actually making films. During that time, director’s commentaries were my best friend. I spent countless hours watching, taking notes, studying, and learning.

I’m notorious for obsessively watching a film three or five times. The first time is for enjoyment. Second for studying. Third with the director’s commentary. Fourth or fifth times are spent appreciating and solidifying what I’ve learned.

My roommates throughout the years have observed this neurotic behavior. It has gone from the shock of “Camden’s watching that movie again” to acceptance and eye-rolling. They still lovingly give me grief about it.

When I read Laforet’s blog post about “taking copious notes” while watching his favorite films, I wanted to shout, “You too?!” 

So, yeah, I actually felt a little more normal after the workshop.

Thankfully, the long day was well structured. There were one-hour segments for watching and listening, then one-hour segments for actually filming. I sincerely appreciate how well it was run.

There are a ton of sponsors who loaded the workshop with equipment we could see, touch, and use. That was great. I don’t currently have access to equipment like that since I’m working on low-budget passion projects. But I like knowing what’s available, why it’s right for the job, and where to find it.

I definitely drooled over the cameras, dollies, etc. all day long.

J.L. Fisher dolly

The J.L. Fisher dolly rents for a few hundred bucks / day.

Toward the end of the day, we shot a short sequence to help us understand what it’s like to shoot for television. It felt a little more improvised and less methodical — which isn’t necessarily true. There’s just less time to get the perfect shot, so you adapt by getting more coverage.

In the photo below, Saleem is kneeling with two cops behind him. Immediately after I snapped this pic with my phone, one of the cop characters turns to shoot Saleem’s character. He “died” like a champ so many times.

Saleem gets shot shortly after I took this pic.

Seconds after this photo was taken, Saleem’s character (@kidethnic) gets shot by a cop.

I love filmmaking so much but I typically work towards short and feature films, not television. This was the first time I’ve been a part of shooting for television in a workshop. (Aside from the obsessive TV watching, including behind-the-scenes stuff.)

It’s absolutely fascinating. I desperately crave more of it.

That specific hour may have been life-changing because now I see a means to shoot webisodes. With all of the changes on YouTube, I could very well head in that direction. It’s been on my mind for years. Very exciting stuff.

Overall, the workshop was outstanding.

It gave me the tools (words, equipment, etc.) needed to get these ideas out of my head, on paper, and into the world. I know what I want to do. Now I also know why I want to do it and how to get it done.

It totally makes me appreciate how far I’ve come, too. I’ve learned a lot over the years making Allies, Trophy, Landfill Dogs, and now Brewconomy. Most of those lessons were learned the hard way, too.

Discussion panel following the premiere of Abandoned Allies at IMAX on August 2012. Panel moderated by Bill Leslie, WRAL news anchor who narrated the film.

Discussion panel following the premiere of my first feature film, Abandoned Allies, at IMAX in August 2012. Panel moderated by Bill Leslie, WRAL news anchor who narrated the film.

It’s great to stop and appreciate how far you’ve come. That’s tough to do when you’re constantly, obsessively moving forward. Especially with as little time as I have to do this work on a daily basis.

This workshop also made me incredibly grateful for the people I work with (again). They’re super talented, generous, and kind. They help me experiment as a filmmaker while simultaneously giving me the room to become a better director. Damn, I’m lucky to work with such great people.

You know what else? This confirmed I’m on the right path.

I want to make films that make this world a better place for all of us — no matter the genre — from start to finish. That means great subject matter, beautifully-crafted stories, and a filmmaking process that doesn’t leave us all feeling used and abused. I want the entire filmmaking process to enable everyone to do their best work. That means offering rewarding work in a great environment, and treating everyone with respect.

My next film is Brewconomy, a documentary about N.C. craft beer.

My next film is Brewconomy, a documentary about N.C. craft beer.

This means I need to step up my fundraising game. While we had a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year — and I’m so grateful for it — those funds won’t cover all of our expenses on Brewconomy. It pains me every single day. It’s very limiting — which isn’t always a bad thing. But I’m anxious and ready to have a bigger budget.

It’s time to change.

When I work with such incredible people, I want to pay them well for their talents and expertise. Even though a lack of money can make you creative, it’d be fantastic to actually have the money to do it right. Raising money isn’t just about making my film dreams come true, it’s about respecting everyone enough to do it really damn well.

See how fired up I am after the workshop?! Good gosh. I’ve completely derailed this post…

If you want more information about the workshop check out this sneak peek on Vincent Laforet’s blog:

Directing Motion Sneak Peak – Tour starts May 6 thru July 13, 2014 from Directing Motion on Vimeo.

You can also download the digital version of the workshop here for a few hundred bucks. I haven’t watched the recorded version so let me know what you think. I bet it’s awesome.

When asked if I’d recommend the workshop to anyone else I responded with, “Hell yeah.” Very rarely are my expectations met, much less exceeded. This was one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended.

Huge thanks to Vincent Laforet, the MZed team, and sponsors for coming to Charlotte, N.C. I’m so grateful, impressed, and anxious to get to work.

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