In the first installment of this post we introduced our two expert cinematographer teams – Sixpence Productions and Momentus Films – and we covered some of the basics of why you should consider adding a wedding film to your wedding budget. (If you missed it, catch Part 1 of this post here.)
Moving on from the basics, our experts explain how to choose a filmmaker that fits your unique aesthetic, plus answer some questions about copyrights and working with other vendors. Let’s dig in.
What should a couple look for when choosing a professional videographer? Is seeing examples of their films enough? Or are there other considerations?
Joanna of Sixpence Productions – Like your choice of photographer, your choice of wedding filmmaker is a matter of personal style and taste. And there is a huge range of talent out there to choose from. There are videographers who simply record the wedding and transfer to a digital media for you. There are cinematographers who work with multiple cameras and advanced editing techniques to tell the story of your wedding day with a cinematic style. There are video producers who create something akin to MTV music videos with brides, grooms, and the wedding party lip-syncing to the couple’s favorite song. And, there are documentarians who produce wedding films in a documentary style with extensive interviews from family and friends. The possibilities for recording your wedding are only limited by your imagination.
So here are some important things to consider before you start searching for this vendor … Do you want your film to have any emotional impact? Do you want the tone to be romantic or edgy? Do you want the camera crew to be by your side capturing every conversation, or do you want them to be unobtrusive. What style of wedding film do you like? Once you’ve identified these things, it’s time to start looking for a cinematographer who fits your needs.
First and foremost, you should ask any filmmaker whom you are seriously considering hiring to provide you with an entire wedding film from start to finish. Any editor can piece together a great three-minute highlight reel from a wedding day, but it takes a filmmaker to tell your story and sustain the energy of a highlight reel throughout an entire wedding film.
Secondly, be sure to request a sample wedding for the type of package you are considering. There has been a trend in the last several years towards “short-form” wedding films. Short-forms are generally 15-30 minutes long and include all the key moments of your wedding day. What they do not include are complete sequences, like the full ceremony (your sister’s solo, your grandfather’s reading of Corinthians) or something like the entire choreographed first dance you and your fiancé have spent months perfecting. By viewing an entire wedding, you’ll get an idea of what your finished product might actually look like. This way you can be sure both you and your wedding filmmaker have clear understanding of what kind of film you would like to have produced.
Thirdly, evaluate their technical expertise. Are their shots smooth and well composed? Is there good picture quality and clarity? Is the natural audio clear? What types of transitions, special effects, and graphics do they utilize? You do want to ask if they shoot in standard definition or high definition. Surprisingly, there are still folks out there shooting in standard definition.
Finally, be sure the filmmakers’ personality will mesh well with your own. Honestly, this is almost more important than anything else! They are likely to be with you all day, and they interact with your family, bridal party, guests, and other vendors, so look for someone who is professional, tactful, and friendly.
Jenny and Jesse | A Rosemary Beach Wedding Film
Celia of Momentus Films – Look at the work, and lots of it. If you like the first film you watch, view four more. What do you love about their style? How does it make you feel? Do you feel like you know the couple and their story after you’ve watched their film? Are you rooting for them? Could you replace any sweet couple in their place, or do you take away that their story is uniquely their story? Do you feel the seamlessness of the editing and music? Or does the music feel like an after thought? You should be able to view enough work online to narrow your choices. From there, you should look at client reviews and recent reviews as well. You can also ask to view a DVD of any work not presented online if you feel you need to see versions longer than 25 minutes.
Once you found a filmmaker whose work you love, talk to them. Ask them any questions that matter to you such as hours of coverage, turnaround time and optional edits or add-ons such as Super 8mm or same-day edits. Experience matters too. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in event filmmaking, and if you hire a kid to shoot your wedding, you’re vulnerable to paying the price their learning curve exacts, including: botched audio, bad lighting or wrong exposure, inappropriate camera placement, lack of stabilization, inappropriate dress, shirked delivery promises.
Check your filmmaker’s track record. How long have they been at this? How many weddings have they filmed? Do they film alone? (A minimum crew of two filmmakers is required to adequately handle all the demands of filming a wedding day.) We use three for the ceremony, two for the remainder of the day. It’s the right way to do it, and your film will suffer otherwise.
But mainly, and most importantly, view the work … and lots of it.
Epic Love Story | Feature Film
Can the video be shared in digital format so that all guests can relive the important moments — without copyright infringement?
Joanna of Sixpence Productions – We use music licensing sites which are specifically designed for the wedding filmmaking, and indie film producing industries, to ensure that we don’t abuse another artist. You’ll see the license slides at the end of every wedding film sneak peek that we put online.
Celia of Momentus Films – This is a big topic in our industry. One of our fellow filmmakers on the West coast was sued by EMI for using unlicensed songs in wedding videos to the tune of $150,000 per song. Thankfully, a well spring of really great music has come up as a result of the need for affordable, good licensable music. Prices range between $20 and $100 per song, a price we are happy to pay to protect our work and our clients when they share it online.
Do the photographer and the cinematographer “compete” and what is the best way to ensure they don’t get in each other’s way?
Joanna of Sixpence Productions – Hiring professionals who work together regularly is a great way to ensure that there are no “real estate” battles taking place on your wedding day. The other thing I would do is ask both your photographer and wedding filmmaker how they approach other vendors to establish a mutually beneficial working environment. It will give couples some insight as to how well these vendors “play well with others.”
Celia of Momentus Films – We seek clients whose budget for their film equals or exceeds their photography budget. After all, we spend approximately 10X the hours per wedding film as photographers do per wedding album/CD. On the flipside, if you can’t afford a great photographer, we’d rather you not hire a photographer at all.
We work alongside some of the most talented photographers in the area and in the country even, and share mutual respect for each other’s work. At this level, we all have the experience and sensitivity needed to share the work space, get the shots we need, and give each other the room each needs, without creating distraction.
For us, the problem arises only with package deal photographers who are paid little and expected to get a lot of shots in an hour or two. It’s not their fault, but the fault of the design of the photo frenzied cheap package. We’ll give you free stills from video just to not hire these guys. (We do, by the way, shoot 24 pictures per second per camera.) Still, we encourage you to hire the best filmmakers and the best photographers you can afford.
Please take a moment to visit these fantastic filmmakers and view some of their work.
Joanna Banks-Morgan of Sixpence Productions has spent most of her 44 years in newsrooms or on sets. The daughter of a journalist and an actor, she was bitten by the producing bug early. She attended Cardiff University’s Journalism, Film, and Television program in Wales and started her career in 1992 with British broadcaster Westcountry Television. Before creating Diva Productions (the predecessor of Sixpence) in 2007 with husband/business partner Robert Banks-Morgan, Joanna worked for CBS 42 KEYE in Austin, Texas where she also attended St. Edward’s University, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Communications. Joanna is a regular blogger for the leading event filmmaking industry education group In[Focus] — and will be leading a break out session on interview techniques at their 2014 event in New Orleans.
Celia Hilton is the founder of Momentus Films, a wedding and event production company that serves the Florida Panhandle. 10 years running, Momentus Films has been the Panhandle’s standard bearer of cinematic filmmaking excellence with a high dedication to customer service and the development of industry relationships. Clients include Visit Pensacola, HarborWalk Village, and the Santa Rosa Educational Foundation, not to mention the hundreds of happy couples who the Momentus team has been blessed to have served over the years. Previous to founding Momentus Films, Celia was an advertising creative director in Dallas, Texas, having received her Bachelor of Science in Advertising from the University of Texas in Austin.