The beauty on your block: 3 ways to find story in the details.

When you left home today, did you take a moment?

Not even just to smell the roses—naw, that feels as cliche as it sounds, even though our homebase is known as Rose City, amongst many endearing and/or nonsensical nicknames—but to, simply, be aware: to listen with open ears, to see with open eyes, to understand that within only paces of your front door there is a world of stories.

If you haven’t left yet...why not? What are you waiting for? Have you seen what it’s like outside?!

These stories, all of them: they’re totally available to you. In fact, they’re waiting for you. And you can tell them—you just have to pay attention.

As a storyteller, if you pay hard enough attention, you will find that every story is an opportunity to share the remarkable. Any story can be one you can’t not tell.

We know, we know. Here’s where you refute that comment, and in consternation declare, “But my block is boring! Ten steps from my front door is some beat-up sidewalk, not an engaging story to tell!

“You, folks, are dreaming.”

Well, maybe. But what’s so wrong with that?

We’re now half-way through our second week of Tell Amazing Stories, Story & Heart’s first-ever 4 week collaborative filmmaking course, and though we’ve welcomed some incredible filmmakers—like Ryan Booth (Week 1) and Joe Simon (Week 2, right now)—to sit in as guest educators along with us and Stillmotion’s Patrick Moreau, we’ve already learned so much from the course.

When we challenged our attendees in Week 1 to find and film “the beauty on [their] block[s]”, we were really looking for something more: for them to look for something more. For them to pay attention to the details—to the worlds right under their feet, worlds they overlook each and every day.

The footage our attendees came up with told us the stories of their blocks, sure, but stories that reveal so many hidden lives. We challenged them—we challenged you—to find beauty in their everyday, and in turn they taught us so much more about the importance for any storyteller to be present.

Not just on a shoot, but in every moment. As soon as you step outside.

The collaborative film created from each attendee’s footage is a celebration of those little details that surround them—and so it’s a celebration of the details that surround you, in your home, right now. This is the beauty on your block.

We couldn't be more excited to show this film to you here. Because this story, and all of the stories we'll tell at Story & Heart, demonstrate the power we can share in coming together to make something bigger than any one of us.

Magic happens when we work together.

What's really special is that this is a story that no one filmmaker could have told. Each perspective, each particular bit of insight, each moment as experienced by each individual artist: each voice shines through to combine to something so much greater.

But how did it come together? We listened to what you found when you sought out the beauty on your block—and in turn we were inspired to listen more.

Here are 3 ways we’ve learned to be more aware, to be more present in the moment, care of our Tell Amazing Stories course.

1. Close your eyes.

When you close your eyes—what do you hear?

You don’t even have to answer that. Because whatever you hear—it’s more about the act of listening that matters more than the result.

As we mentioned during the Tell Amazing Stories webinar last week, by focusing on one sense—be it your sight, your smell, your hearing, whatever—you are focusing on the moment, tuning as much as possible to the wavelength of each microsecond as it passes.

Justin described this feeling:

Being present...Being aware. Having your eyes open, your ears open, and just being...just taking it in, watching other filmmakers going through the process. Instead of just jumping in with your camera blazing, you’re taking a second to evaluate what’s going down, and then you’re making educated decisions, not guesses.

For any storyteller, each moment presents a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Each moment presents a story, full and waiting to be told. If you’re distracted, you’ll only catch the surface...and the beauty in the mundane will go back to being that: mundane.

Patrick agreed, describing the worth in digging deeper than the obvious:

See how you can create a story, listen to what’s happening around us, and not go for those big obvious things we’re typically drawn to.

Then, paraphrasing Stillmotion’s Creative Director Within Education, Heidi McKye, he added:

Every story never really has a true beginning or ending, we only decide where we pick it up and where we leave it.

In other words, it’s simple: stories pass us by, over and over and over.

If we don’t take the time to listen, there isn’t just a chance we’ll miss some amazing stories...there’s a guarantee we will.

2. Slow down.

As far as taking time, during the webinar Ryan Booth described a practice he brings to every production in which he’s joining a much larger crew:

When I work with new people, I’ll say, “Alright: I want 15 minutes right at the beginning of the shoot to just watch you work, so that I can kind of assess your style.” When I jump onto a crew for an existing project, I’ll want to watch for 15 minutes to assess the style to see how I can add to this.

This idea, of course, relates to Justin’s idea of resisting the urge to head to a shoot “camera blazing”.

Because storytelling is about patience.

Let the moment process. Let it settle. You won't be able to make the most of a moment if you gloss over it, scurrying to the next.

Which, in detailing his experience in filming for Week 1’s challenge, Patrick laments a typical practice most filmmakers employ in trying to plow through a shotlist:

We don’t stay with the story to let it finish.

This all comes back to the idea of being prepared.

As a filmmaker, do all of your forethought in advance so that when the time comes to capture an instant, you won’t be consumed, thinking ahead to the next.

3. Say yes.

In the collaborative film, it’s no accident you’ll see a lot of children at play.

This is because in children is a spirit any storyteller should emulate: restlessness, curiosity, and, above all, amazement.

We’ve said it before, and it’s something we should tell ourselves every day: amazement isn’t a reaction, it’s a worldview.

Amazement cannot exist in a state of constant denial. In fact, all of Tell Amazing Stories is built around one idea: that experience in a filmmaker’s best teacher.

This means, simply: say yes. Be game. Be down for whatever. And have fun.

And just like the details of your block, the tiny stories and paths and narratives that combine to tell the much larger story of your home, or your neighborhood, or the world you see everyday that you barely notice—all of these little details make for something so much more.

As Justin said:

A whole bunch of little decisions add to something much bigger.

Say yes to something little every day, and say it over and over. All of these teensy “yes”s will add to something so much larger than anything any individual “yes” could achieve.

Which isn’t even counting what kind of damage a bunch of little “no”s would wreak.

And this is how you can discover an amazing story within only steps of your home.

A filmmaker knows that what can be achieved individually will never compare to the tremendous work built when each of the pieces are brought together.

This is how the film you watched above was created, and this is why we’re building Story & Heart. To take all of our voices—all of our “yes”s—and sound them off, together.


So, typically we post a Weekend Reads selection every Friday, filling you in on all the articles we’ve read that week that have exemplified some sort of valuable lesson we’ve taken to heart.

But this weekend we won’t have a Weekend Reads here on this Blog. With the 4th of July on hand and the Summer in full bloom, we want to encourage you to do something a bit different:

Be with your family. Be with your friends. Be present. Tell their stories by experiencing them alongside those you love.

Happy weekend, all.