Talk to Strangers

I will admit, we’re really not very good at telling our own story, despite the fact that our only job is telling other people’s stories. We post to the blog too infrequently, we don’t share as much behind-the-scenes stuff as we could, and we don’t tweet. So when people ask us, “how do you find new work?” too often the answer is usually, “they find us.” In other words, we rarely try to create a relationship with a story that didn’t manifest organically. Call it luck, call it preparedness, call it whatever you want, but so far our marketing strategy isn’t much more developed than being in the right place at the right time. 

But to be honest, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And here’s why. 

In August 2010, we met a then 24 year-old surfer who uses a wheelchair. A conversation turned into a ski-trip, turned into a 20 minute documentary, turned into a kickstarter campaign, turned into a seven thousand mile road trip across the country, turned into a seventy two minute documentary that aired on PBS last month. 

In August 2013, we got a phone call from an unknown number that turned into a three minute film about a robot in Boston that turned into two months of production following a husband and wife team of scientists in Maryland that turned into ten days of working with oil company executives and government ministers in Africa. 

Maybe it’s just the slower pace of August, but in both of these cases, we found ourselves ready to follow two seemingly inconsequential conversations to their illogical conclusion, willing and able to butterfly effect a small idea into a larger story because we “followed the yeses,” as Harvey puts it. But I think its more than freeing your schedule or owning your cameras - for us at least, we’ve just tried to listen to strangers’ stories. And stories are the life blood… this is getting very preachy. Really just be a nice guy and listen to people because listening is free and writing people off can be expensive because karma.

So yes, we could do a better job at promoting our work and our twitter game could be stronger. Sharing our story doesn’t mean we stop listening to others. But as we grow our business, as we push ourselves to be better, we need to try to always be accessible, always ready for the next random story. Filmmaking is historically not accessible at all. Only recently have things like camera phones and youtube started to tear away at the traditional barriers to entry like expensive equipment and exclusive film festivals. Opening the studio garage door to the shipyard has invited in all kinds of random people with interesting stories this spring, an unexpected and pleasant surprise for us. Over the next few years, one of our goals is to combine accessibility and quality, being the go-to documentary guys that use high quality equipment to tell stories of people who don’t necessarily have a voice otherwise.

Here’s a few photos from some of the situations we have found ourselves in because we talked to strangers.