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Uncovering Your Client's Story

Lesson 23 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

Uncovering Your Client's Story

Lesson 23 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

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Lesson Info

23. Uncovering Your Client's Story


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Spark That Inspired Me


What Are Family Films?


Gear for Family Films


Camera Settings for Video


Frame Rates & Slow Motion


Picture Profiles & Color Grading


Settings for Audio Capture


Lesson Info

Uncovering Your Client's Story

So I'm gonna go into the types of questions that I usually ask. So I like to know, first of all, just what's a typical-- I shoot on Saturdays, so what's a typical Saturday routine? Reason for that is usually parents are both off work, kids are off school. I'm working with a lot of different ages, so it, you know-- It needs to be a Saturday that works for me 'cause my in-laws have my kids on a Saturday, and it gives-- me a lot of time to shoot, So, it's typically a Saturday. I don't work on Sundays. What encouraged you to book a session with me? What kind of images are you hoping to get out of it? Before I go on, I want to say I started my questionnaire with the Fearless and Framed questionnaire from Marie Masse. And her stuff is incredible. She was on Creative Live a little while ago, And I've taken-- Like there's a couple similarities, but... I've really-- I've changed from then, but when I first started, and I was like I don't know what to ask these people. That was a great, great, g...

reat resource, so Go there. There's so much that helps with this stuff, right? So these are the things that I ask, which are a combination of that whole documentary approach, but also specifically video. So, what encouraged you to book a session with me? What kind of images are you hoping to get out of it? I just want to get an idea of, you know, what's the whole reason you're doing this? And then I move onto, What are you fondest memories from you own childhood? This is something I just like because my stuff is so nostalgic. I like to-- Not 'cause-- I'm not gonna be able to recreate that for them, but I like to just know because I think that's really interesting because if there's any similarities between the two, I like to include that in the film. Then, tell me the story of how you and your partner met. I like knowing that, and that's usually not because I am gonna use it in any way. I will use it-- For me, it's like layers, everything's layers. So, you have this base question, questionnaire. You get this information, and then you can build on that while you're with them. You have things that you already kinda know about you can ask more questions about. You can start more conversations with them, learn more about them. What are three of your favorite physical features of your child? I-- really like this one because I have a million choices to make when I'm shooting, and if they can just help me narrow it down a little bit, that makes my life easier. So if I know that Mom loves the freckles on her oldest child, then I'm gonna get in close, and try and get some footage of those freckles, like in a close up. If she loves the curly hair on her child, I gonna try and get that. Chubby hands, chubby feet, These are typical answers that I get. It just helps me know already, what's gonna be the most meaningful for them. I can guess, but it's not gonna be as accurate. What are some sayings that your child says right now that you would love to have audio of? This is another one that helps me preempt the times when I need to switch to the standard frame rate. So, this-- And I always add at the end, I cannot guarantee that I will get them, but if I know about them in advance, my chances are greater. Kay? There's no promises (laughing) just cause you're answering them. Just cause you're making a list, doesn't mean that I'm gonna do them all, but if I know what they are, it just makes it easier for me. And it helps me anticipate those things, especially because you have to be so switched on for video, and specifically audio, that if I know about 'em in advance I'll try and catch 'em. Or if I hear 'em once, then I'll be like, Oh, that was that saying. Maybe they'll say it again in a minute, and then I'll get it. Are there any chores you could leave to be done or done together while I'm there. So that's a shortened version of-- The best sessions are the ones that happen... as life goes on while I'm there. Something like that. Are there any chores you could leave to be done together while I'm there? What are some everyday moments that happen with your children that you want to hold onto forever? So, I mean-- That could be the way that my child greets me in the morning. The way that they snuggle up with me in bed when they first wake up. The answers to these also help me determine what part of the day I'm gonna shoot in. 'Cause usually, we haven't decided. I usually-- 'Cause I don't do more than one session on a day, so I will just say, Okay, so you're booked for this date, and we'll decide what time closer to the session, and then based on the answers to their questions about their routine and this question, all of those things, then I will... decide on a time that I'll say, Oh maybe we should do mornings since these are the things that you love the most, and they typically happen then, so let's try that? And then they're like, "Oh yeah." 'Cause I had a session booked with a family recently, and she was like-- Didn't even think like that's her favorite part of the day is when her daughter climbs into bed with them, and it wasn't until I asked the question that she was like, "Oh, yeah... we should film that. That would be good. That would be really cool to capture." And her initial thing when she booked me, it was like I'm booking you 'cause we want to remember this stage of our lives. We love just how beautiful she is, how little she is, and all the things that she's doing. We don't want to forget that. And then it's like drilling into, Okay but what are exactly the things? What are the exact moments that you love the most, that you remember the most, the things that happen the most often? And it's always the things that are gonna be different next year. You're toddler might-- She's not gonna be a toddler as much anymore. (clears throat) What do you want to see and feel when you look back at your film and photos? This is a really good question because... You know, it varies. A lot of times it's that they want to see the love. You know, they might specifically want to see happiness, or joy, or any of those things, But that helps me also kinda know that I've got the right client too. That they're the right ones for me. We're meshing. We're on the same page. I like asking questions about the home. I like knowing how important it is to them. If I know the home is a rental, they just moved there, and they're moving next year, I'm really not gonna focus on the home all that much, unless they've said to me, this is a really special place to us, and we hope we want to remember this forever. I'll be more intentional about getting wide shots of it, and specific shots that are gonna document the home and also show part of that in there. But I like just knowing how long they've lived in there and what is the most... Whether it's important to them or not, based on that answer. What's your least favorite thing about your home? I like knowing that 'cause I would rather not include that in the film if that's their least favorite part of the home. If they're in an area that is what she has specifically said is their least favorite home-- part of their home, I probably won't shoot a lot in there, And I'll probably use my body language to kind of go and look for something else, if I know that's not-- Unless there's a really great moment happening, or there's something really special going on in there, in which case, I don't care whether she likes it or not. But, you know, if I know that's her least favorite part, I'm probably not gonna include it all that much in the film. So I like knowing that in advance. And then what is your favorite thing about your home? I like knowing that too. I like knowing where-- What they love about their home. It helps me when I go to shoot B-roll to know where I should start. You have so-- Again, you have so many options in front of you. What to shoot, and what B-roll specifically to incorporate, and it's like, if you know what their favorite things about the home are, that helps you narrow down the list of possibilities on the fly. And then are there any special items in the home that are meaningful to you. Again, this is a B-roll question. Specifically, it's gonna help me know in advance, and then if I see those things then I'll be like, Oh, she loved that thing, So I'm gonna get som B-roll of that. It's all just about understanding where they're coming from. What matters to them? At the end of the day, that's all that I'm trying to do. Is create a film for them that is really meaningful for them. So, this next... film is one of my favorites. And her answers to the questions were that she loved-- she loved the interaction with her and her child. Well, her and both her children. There were things, kinda separately, that she talked about them loving. One of them was the playing Lego, her son. And then later, there is puzzles with her daughter. And there is a spot in the-- Their back, like the patio area, there's a chair that her and her daughter sit in together, and they read books a lot. And that was another specific thing that she had mentioned that she loves doing with her. Her youngest also loves... helping with the laundry, so there is clips of her like, folding socks and stuff. And then her oldest was writing a story about their recent trip overseas somewhere, so I captured that. And so all of these things happened, and I probably would've captured them anyway, but it's like understanding the significance of each of the things helps you not only narrow what you're shooting, but also helps you narrow down what you edit. Right? 'Cause you might shoot way more than-- You will shoot way more than what they've told you, but knowing the stuff that's the most important to them helps you build the story later. So, I'll play this so you can see it. (light guitar music) Why does he do jumping, the bunny? (light guitar music) Come on, babe. Mom! (woman shrieks playfully) (giggles) (light guitar music) These are Daddy's. No. Then there Mom's. No. Sock. Where's the sock go? It is fun to look at the-- Look at this. (laughing) Maybe he's washed it. Uh-oh. What? Daddy's got it. Run like the wind! Run! (light music) Alright. So that was just a mixture of the things that they had already talked to me about. And when I was editing it, there was so much that I knew she wanted to see, and it really really helped knowing in advance the stuff that was important to know what to include, and what to put together. So that song is Always, by Shawn Williams, licensed through MUSICBED. That was also the session I had the jump cuts of the front. You recognize the little girl? So yeah. This one, this next one, was from a family session, and on their questionnaire, the answers were that they spent a lot of time in this tree house that the dad had built, which was basically like a platform in the tree, and they had this rope where the kids would like hang off of the rope and then come down and, One of the things that she had specifically mentioned was that her daughter loved to climb trees, And so I really dedicated quite a bit of time in the film to the climbing tree scene. So, again, it's like knowing-- When you're shooting the film there's this creativity that happens, right? So you need to-- There's a lot of creative energy that you need to shoot, but then when you go to edit the film, it's like a whole other set of creativity that you need to be able to put it together, And you have a lot of choices. And especially if the film's gone on for a while, or that, sorry, the session went on for a while, and you have a lot of footage, it's like having-- Knowing how to narrow it down ahead of time makes that a whole lot easier. So, I'll show you this one. I found this really challenging, I'm gonna say as well. I found it really challenging 'cause it was like-- It was, I think we started at 3 o'clock or-- We started I felt like early, and it was harsh light. And they did this whole-- Oh, it was also riding bikes and scooters in the lane. That was another thing that they love doing together, and I'm like oh my gosh. When I got there I was like, Oh my gosh, how am I gonna shoot this? Because it was just really really challenging, in terms of the light. And what I did was I found this tree on the side of the road that had hanging branches, and I just shot it all through that, and then it made it so pretty. So, (laughing) I was like saved. That works. So yeah, think outside the box. (happy music) (child giggling) (happy music) Right, so-- That camera movement is a little faster than I'd probably do now. This was shot a couple years ago. But did you see the moment where the mom like came in and the little girl-- She was gonna kiss her and the little girl was like nah? I thought that was funny. I probably should've cut it before the mom came in to kiss her 'cause she never kisses her, but anyway. What was I gonna say? Oh, and then there was the moment where-- you see the light through the trees, but then the little girl comes up through the corner of the frame. Anytime I can do that, like if I can anticipate that the subject is gonna move into the frame, I really like to do that. I just find it really interesting. So instead of choosing to shoot the subject and follow them up, I start where I know they're gonna go. Like I knew she was gonna climb the tree. So I start shooting the tree, and she just comes into the frame. It's just another way to shoot it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Shot List Worksheet Template
Shot List Worksheet Example
Ideas for Your First Film
Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Adam Nicholls

Worth a watch! Courtney provides a clear and organised class, she is also very passionate about what she does which is always nice to see. She has a great back story which is fantastic. This course is good for beginners who have some knowledge in photography and want to learn more about video. I would recommend that people do not refer this class to the bible of filmmaking as I feel you can expand further on what Courtney teaches. Some useful tips for beginners but some methods I personally feel can be taught differently. I feel a gimbal is a useful bit of kit if used correctly. You can still use a gimbal when in manual mode providing you follow the basics rules! Obviously if Courtney prefers not to use a gimbal then that's also fine but I wouldn't discourage students from exploring useful filmmaking tools. Slow motion can be achieved with 50/60fps however I feel other frame rates should have been discussed like 120fps. I liked that Courtney engaged with the students as it gets them involved and will help them remember what they have learned during the class. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your knowledge

a Creativelive Student

Courtney's work is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I feel lucky that she has chosen to share her process and that this class is available! After watching all the videos and trying my hand at this video thing, I am feeling really encouraged and inspired to do more- both personally and professionally. I appreciate the way that she breaks things down in the video and that she shares her thought process. A really great course!


Courtney’s course completes me! I have storytelling “holes” in my film previously, but this course helped fill those holes to create a flow and a film with emotion. Not only is the course wonderful (and well worth every penny) but Courtney is wonderful as well! I had such an amazing experience at Creative Live!!!!

Student Work