Over the years, I have made at least some of my living off of the shooting and editing of weddings. Sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly, but especially now. Wedding videos are where I cut my teeth as an editor and grew to be a not-too-shabby videographer. I learned the hard lessons about the line between artistry and formula, working for an audience, and pushing the envelope of quality and execution. That sounds fantastic, right? Unfortunately, as a video professional, there are a few lines of work that will give you a bit of a bad rep: Porn is definitely a big one, then making photo slide shows, and finally wedding videography. As I navigate the professional film and video world, I always pause slightly before divulging my involvement in weddings, but thankfully the scene is changing and someday all of my peers will realize just how valuable the right wedding experience can be. Until then, here are three types of people I run into in the professional world and their thoughts on the wedding industry.
Move Along Junior!
The first person I meet usually is somebody who joined the industry in 80's or before. He (or she) has a plum job as a producer of Bank of America ads or is a major player in state or national production organizations. Basically, they rose to 'the top' where they make bank. When I introduce myself to them, I will always mention my comprehensive internship at Redtree Productions, a well established production firm in Boston, before anything else. After that, I have to explain what I'm doing now and what I'm doing now is making the majority of my money off of shooting and editing wedding films. A slight smile forms before me. "Good for you, Evan! Let me know when you want to be serious" they say in certain terms as they turn quickly to the next person in the room.
For most folks in that age bracket, they remember the weddings they attended in the 80's and 90's. There was a sniveling toad of a person lugging around a fat VHS camcorder, standing in the corner of the church, and usually mouth breathing as the toad's nose was clogged with an allergy to any real knowledge of composition, sound recording, or storytelling. This person usually spent Monday through Friday at a desk job and dreaming of making great movies like Star Wars, but settling on a consumer camera and a library book about mise-en-scène . . .
When I admit to being a wedding videographer, for some folks I become the inexperienced toad that stands in a corner, scratching my ass, and creating a in-camera edit that I will copy, but not really look at or review. That's profiling! That's not fair! . . . but that's the way the wedding video industry was then. It was mostly beneath a skilled professional to film a wedding for many years. It's just a stupid home movie after all. It's not something marketable to a larger audience. Wrong.
Why You Slumming It?
The next person I encounter may or may not be a little more contemporary. They also have a great job on the crew of an on-going TV show or have critical acclaim for some documentary they made as a young twenty-something. They claim to be artists in their field. When I tell them about being a wedding videographer, their eyes blink a couple times as the words settle in, they lay a hand on my shoulder, and say something like this: "Well at least you have your feet on the ground, Evan. That's the important thing. I'm sure something better will come up soon."
For these highly-touted individuals, they see wedding videos on the web and they know how complex and awesome the industry has become, but they always feel the gig to be far beneath them. After all, there are awards for wedding videography, but they are largely ceremonial or based on client reviews. A great documentary on the other hand . . . They also feel as though they could (Should they feel the need to stoop to such a worm's eye view) outdo any wedding videographer with their acclaimed filmmaking skills. For them, weddings are a gig you take out of desperation or if you just aren't good enough for a 'real' industry job. Now, there is some truth to that sentiment in some cases, but one thing is for sure: The skill set required to do a high-end wedding video today is NOT something you can just jump into and camera experience in the documentary, television, or narrative world doesn't translate to the running around and stress of a wedding videographer's day. Maybe they should do an award-winning doc on my typical wedding day and the edit after. Then they might understand.
That leads me to the third person I meet: The do all, know all. This person actually embraces my choice of concentration in word if not thought and may even have filmed a couple weddings (or so they say). They are grips, set designers, production assistants and other below-the-line folks. They will hurriedly spout off everything they know about wedding videos. It goes something like this: "Sweet man! I shot a couple weddings back in the day too. You shooting on DSLRs? I hear that is the way to go. You know, I've used DSLRs and I'll shoot the wedding with you tomorrow if you want. I can also edit it too."
This person is a dangerous person. They do many things. They're usually good at some of them. They want to fill their schedule. Yes, they might have shot a wedding before and might even have the skills, but they haven't shot a wedding with me. Before I hire anybody to shoot with me, I not only have to vet their talent, but make sure that they shoot for the kind of edit I want and completely match my style. They may seem to value the work, but they are hitting the record button for the 8-hour day and handing in the footage at the end like a timecard. If someone doesn't understand these things, then they don't value the wedding gig the way I do.
So the problem I'll face in the foreseeable future with being a wedding videographer is this idea of value. Of course, I have to sell the value of my work to brides and grooms all the time, but I also have to sell myself to my peers as well. The way I strive to shoot and edit a wedding takes a pant load of commitment, time, energy, caring . . . And I will make money, and I will build a good reputation, and someday I'll look an Oscar winner in the eye and they might understand that my goal and line of work is a choice that may not be widely praised, but for at least 2 people, newly-wed, it will be the highlight of their entire lives. For me, that's all the reward I need.