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Apr 2, 2024 by Megan Michelson

Trade Secrets: How to Get to the Heart of the Story

Featuring DOCUMENTARY FILM PRODUCER Laura Yale

Home Base / Missoula, Montana

Activities / Backcountry skiing, hiking, adventure travel

Insider Knowledge:

When you’re telling the story of a heated environmental dispute, a complex scientific or political issue, or a culturally sensitive topic, it’s important to take the time to build trust. Producer Laura Yale does that by doing the hard work of research, and treating film participants more as collaborators than subjects. “I always want to share stories as accurately as possible, and that requires a lot of listening, shedding your own preconceived notions, and being flexible enough to follow a story as it unfolds even if it looks different than you thought it would,” she says. “I also think it’s important to find people to focus on who don’t necessarily love the limelight.”

Snow drenched scene with a small hiking Laura amidst winter trees.
Laura searching for bristlecone pines for the Patagonia Films project "Treeline." Photo Jordan Manley.

Quick Tip:

Be transparent. “I always share my intentions first,” Yale says. “I’ll say, ‘This is why we’re making this film; this is why I’m personally passionate about it.’ You’re asking a lot of someone when you’re asking them to tell their story. You have to be willing to share why you’re there in the first place.”

Woman patty paddling in a blue jacket
Laura works hard to make connections with the subjects in her films. Paddling the Missouri River to Standing Rock protest for "Vessel of Prophecy." Photo Jeremy Rubingh.