When film and photography collaborative Milles Studio set out to find models for their back to school shoot, they had no idea that they were going to end up with a narrative about family values — and they couldn’t be happier about it. By being prepared, open to change, and creative within budget restrictions, the Milles team were able to create a beautiful shoot with cinematic quality and emotional connection. Below, Milles share how they created their Family Memories video reel and four main takeaways for capturing that real life authentic footage feel.
1 . Start with an idea that you’re willing to change
Upon meeting the models for their shoot, Milles were instantly captivated by the international family. “We had originally been looking to create stock footage of real moms and children but when we met the whole family, we changed our minds about how this was going to go.” The mother and father seemed to have such a beautiful dynamic with their daughter, the team decided to pivot and instead of limiting them to a back to school theme, opted to document a family adventure with some educational elements peppered throughout.
Key takeaway: Do the conceptual groundwork but be ready to pivot.
2. Create your storyboard – but leave room for improvisation
According to the team, about 30%-50% of the shoot’s storyboard was planned, and the rest was improvised.
“We had an initial storyboard and details we wanted to shoot,” Milles CEO Kirill Kedrinski shares. “For example, we definitely wanted to add some educational pieces like showing that despite using modern technologies like an iPad or whatever else, they also use classic board games or offline activities. And we wanted to add bubbles in there because they are a great symbol of the carefree attitude of being a child.”
Other than those two elements, the video team was open to watching and observing. “We tried to influence them as little as possible and just tried to capture the unique story of this charming family”. Swinging in the sheets? That was a game the parents made up while the crew was between frames to entertain their child.
Key Takeaway: Candid moments are what can give your stock footage and photos of real families an advantage over meticulously staged shoots – leave room for people to be people and be ready to capture it.
3. Be creative and use what you’ve got
Even if you have a large budget, Milles suggest always being ready to work with your changing environment. Working with what you have and being creative is a huge part of being a filmmaker, and being able to see the connection points in any given space is a great skill.
For example, upon entering the family’s living room, the crew saw a little mattress, a small table, and some lights and thought ”we should build a fort”. These reactive moments are what can give a film some of its most memorable moments. “We don’t have the resources to hire professional actors, producers, and staff or shoot in glamorous Hollywood locations but that isn’t a problem. We can, instead be creative and flexible and tell stories we believe in, reacting to potentially great moments when they present themselves.”
Key Takeaway: Don’t rely on big budgets to create magic moments. Look to available props and lighting for creative scenes.
4. Make sure you still have a strong narrative
Once the team had compiled all their footage, they felt they had accurately captured the sentiment they had set out to. Milles narrative for this shoot is about real, imperfect people melding classic family activities with contemporary conveniences to maintain connection and share love. “Sometimes you can see the mess, sometimes their clothes can look a bit dirty. But the treasure they have is a huge love. And these are the details we wanted to put into the frame.”
Key takeaway: Define the purpose of your story. Be sure of what you are communicating and how it is intended to make your audience feel.
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