Field Notes: An interview with John Hilhorst, Founder of Capture The Moment

Capture the Moment Media has a straightforward request before each of their films: Just Press Play — A simple action that gives so much in return. Started by friends Mathew Collings and John Hilhorst do exactly as their name states, they bottle up moments into compelling stories.

We caught up with co-founder and filmmaker, John Hilhorst about his personal path as a filmmaker, how he gleans stories from people, and how he finds the perfect arc in the soundtrack for each project. Read on...

M: When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

JH: We would make films in our back yards as kids. It was really a fun place to be creative and be independent. It was something we were passionate about so we just dived in head first! We’ve always been ones to chase our dreams!

M: What's your favorite moment of the filmmaking process?

JH: We love the inspiration process where we get to figure out what the story is and how we can approach it. We often search Vimeo for incredible films that inspire us. We are only limited by our dreams at this stage. We are free to collaborate and be as creative as possible. 

M: What do you think defines a filmmakers' "voice”?

JH: There are so many things that make us who we are. As filmmakers, it’s the stories we connect with and the directors we love. We feel that finding our voice is about pushing ourselves to be as honest as possible, through every project, and open to the inspiration that surrounds and defines us.

M: How did Capture the Moment come into fruition?

JH: I was sitting at my desk, on my last day of production on a tv show I was working on. John called me and said, “Hey buddy what’s up? Wanna make a wedding film with me?” I was looking for something to do between shows but thought no no no wedding films are lame! He then showed me a film by a company in Australia called Paper Cranes. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was a story about this couple, and the film made me feel like I knew them. It was incredible! So we tried it out. By the end of that summer we had done 10 weddings and we found ourselves in the middle of a brand new passion.  To add to that we found a whole new community of incredible filmmakers such as Stillmotion and 31Films who inspired us in so many ways. The next summer we decided to do it full time and we have not looked back!

M: Did you have a clear vision in mind? Or do you allow things to unfold when you film?

JH: We always have a plan. Starting out making wedding films it can be easy to just show up and shoot, but we found our stories were so much more powerful when we planned out as much as we could. When we first started we loved using steadicams and sliders. As our style developed we found that although those shots are useful, a well told story is not about fancy gear. It’s all about the characters, who are they, what makes them smile, laugh and cry, and the journey they have taken to get there. 

M: Favorite moment off the screen?

JH: Recently we filmed someone opening a card and reading it out loud to us. Tears were pouring down his face. It was incredibly powerful. We did not expect this and kept filming. At the end of it I asked him if he needed to hug it out and we did. It was such a powerful moment, one of many that we are so lucky to share with our clients!

M: Were there any happy accidents during filming?

JH: We were shooting in the Napa Valley for a Kickstarter film about shoes made from recycled cork. It was not in the budget to fly us to Portugal to shoot the cork trees, however we know we needed to shoot something similar. It was a tough one to figure out. While shooting in Napa, we spotted some similar trees just off the freeway. So we rented a camera crane, got up at sunrise, hopped a few fences and shot a bunch of b-roll for the film. This footage was hugely helpful to our film and it meant we did not have to use stock footage! Always keep your eyes open and your stick on the ice

M: What role do you feel music has in film?

JH: Music is a HUGE part of telling a good story and can really help define a film.  We carefully select each piece of music in order to put more emphasis on the emotion we are trying to get across to the viewer.  We find that sourcing music that is not overused, such as top 40 music, can really make a film more personal, ultimately giving the story it’s own identity. Companies like Marmoset Music have been incredibly helpful and have made finding the perfect song a really fun process.

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M: When did you know that you have something ready to show the world?

JH: We show our films to everyone on our team and have very open notes so that the film can be as good as it can be. We do our best to film it all before going into post but sometimes we still need to shoot some pick-up shots. The job is not done till it’s something we would want to watch ourselves!

M: How do you feel music is misused in projects?

JH: We often come across films that use top 40 songs or have music that feels like it was dropped into the timeline because it has a catchy beat or a stand out song title.  Some simple questions we ask ourselves, what is it the musician is singing about?  Does it match the tone of the film and what it is all about?  These are simple things we notice are overlooked and the trick is to make it personal.  For us, a new song that will have the viewer enjoying the film and asking themselves, “what is that song” is something we love to hear. 

M: What's coming up?

JH: We have  a lot of really cool things on the horizon and some awesome stories to tell! We have some crazy new gear that we’ve been learning all about before putting it to use which will definitely push us visually and help us tell better stories. We’re doing our first 30 second commercial zombie shoot, getting into making music videos and looking forward to a series of documentaries on a few Canadian judo athletes. The exciting thing about what we do is that we never know what tomorrow will bring. Every film brings new experiences and inspiration.

Posted on December 1, 2014 and filed under Field Notes.