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Finding a Story

Lesson 14 from: The Cinematic Filmmaking Workshop

RJ Bruni

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Lesson Info

14. Finding a Story

Lesson Info

Finding a Story

(serene music) Stories can be hard to find. This was a thought that I struggled with for a very long time. For most of my career, I struggled with the thoughts that the stories around me aren't good enough, or there's no one around me that's interesting, or this story's already been told. And I'll tell you right now, that's absolute bullsh**t. We all have incredible stories. We're living real lives right now of hardships, success, heartbreak and learning life lessons that can be passed on. Nobody's gonna show up in your doorstep and give you the perfect story to tell. We have to dig deeper. And that's what I want you to take out of this episode. Learn to be curious about the people around you and to dig deeper into their stories. There's so much more to the people around us. We just have to be curious about it. We may think we know someone or someone's full story, but often we only know the surface level and it takes asking questions and really getting to know the people around us to...

actually understand what they've been through. When was the last time you asked someone close to you or even someone you just met, "What was the hardest time of your life?" You might be surprised by their answer. You might find out that they went through insane struggles and hardships and resilience to get to where they were. And you might have never known that before. We only see people at where they are right now and often we don't see what it took to get them there. If we don't dig deeper and ask questions and be curious, we'll never know the story of what got people to where they are right now. Finding meaningful stories will put you out of your comfort zone. You'll have to meet lots of people, have hard conversations and ask really good questions, but I can guarantee you that when these films start to come to life it'll all be worth it. You have to be curious about people. When I'm looking for a story, I usually start with my friends. They obviously have something to say that I resonate with and maybe they have the story that I'm looking for right now. If I need to dig a little bit deeper then I'll reach into their network. I'll ask 'em, if they know anyone in this certain industry or anyone they work with that they find interesting. Usually if I reach out to my friends, they have tons of recommendations. After that I move to social media. Social media is a game changer when it comes to meeting people. I follow so many people that I'm just attracted to their art or what they have to say. And constantly I'm reaching out and meeting new people and chatting and learning about their stories. Social media is an incredible tool and we have to be using it to be meeting people and gathering stories. But remember, on social media, we only get a small portion of someone's life, and don't think you know them just by scrolling through their page. Reach out, hop on a call, grab a beer, really just get to know this person and understand what makes their story unique. You might find out that maybe it's not a good match. Maybe their ideas don't resonate with yours and that's totally fine. But most of the time you'll realize that their story is even more unique than you realized in the first place. Depending on your purpose as a storyteller, you can also just go create your own story. Grab some friends, go on a really cool trip, buy an old vehicle or motorcycle and share the whole process of restoring it. There's never really a good excuse for not telling a story. And last of all, go the fiction route and just make it up. Something that's fictional absolutely has the power to move and change people. And often there's a little bit of truth sprinkled into that anyways. For the most part, a lot of my work falls under the documentary category, but if you're into making films in the narrative category, everything you'll learn in this workshop can be transferred to that as well. I wanted to lead this workshop by example. So for the rest of our time together, you're gonna be following along with me side by side as I make my next film. I was searching for a film for this workshop and it took me a couple weeks to find the story and that's totally normal. I knew I wanted to tell the story of an individual so that ruled out stories of trips or journeys. And I had a feeling that I wanted to tell the story of an artist. At first, I couldn't think of anything. So I reached out to my friends and at the same time I posted on my Instagram story to see if anyone knew of anyone interesting. I got tons of replies of people sending me athletes and pilots and tons of interesting stories, but I didn't yet have my artist. And then one morning as I set aside time just to think about these stories and what the story was that I wanted to tell an idea just popped into my head and sometimes that's just how it works. I thought of this local artist named Kathy and she is a ceramic artist. She's known for her bowls and plates. And I remember that she had a line of products that was made from clay out of our hometown of Chilliwack. She would scavenge the clay out of a ravine, that's only five minutes from my house and 10 minutes from her house. Instantly, I got this vision of the story of seeing the plate come to life from the clay in the ground and the whole process to seeing the final product. I've run into Kathy a few times but I didn't really know her that well personally, so I reached out to my friend. They made the connection and instantly we hopped in a call. That's one tip I want to give you. Don't waste your time on email. As fast as you can hop on a call with them and they can feel your passion for the story. And often these people are gonna want to hop on board. From this call, I wanted to get an idea if Kathy was interested in working with me and I wanted to know more about her story. I quickly realized she also had a similar vision of telling the story of a plate coming to life. And that was really cool to see. But then she took it one step further. She explained to me how we always hear about buying local and eating local, but the story of seeing a plate come from the ground takes it one step further. Now not only is our food local, but also the plate underneath the food will also be coming from a local place. I was so excited when she mentioned this idea and instantly I had this vision of a final scene of a group of people just celebrating and eating off of these plates. The story was starting to come together, but now it's time to get to planning. When finding your story, just be curious about people. Get on calls, go for drinks, ask questions. There's usually way more to people's stories than we first think. And last of all, do not lose momentum. This is something that happens to me all the time. I'll be excited about a story but I won't move on it right away or things will take a little bit longer than they should and I'll lose sight and I'll lose the passion for the story. Don't let this happen. Keep things moving. Even if it's just a few phone calls and conversations, just keep the fire alive for the story and do not lose sight of the final product.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Live Lesson: Feedback and Q&A Session with RJ
RJ's Final Film | SHARED EARTH
Email Questionnaire
Project Breakdown
Scene Breakdown
Creative Deck

Ratings and Reviews


I LOVE this workshop - I have been wanting to film my own 'home life' movies as I am a photographer but I wanted to add even more memories. This workshop has added so much value to how, why, when, and what the process is of film-making for film-making. Thanks to RJ for sharing all his amazing information while being clear, precise, and informative. I am excited to film my next 'home life' film!

Alex Bocajj

Great insights into Rj's process. Really enjoyed it all. Rj is smooth and easy to learn from. Loved the "in-field" BTS and going thru the motions live. Looking forward to more material.

Patti Sohn

Really informative and inspiring. One of the best video tutorials I have watched.

Student Work