5 Ways Weddings Will Make You A Better Filmmaker
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
I have lost count of the number of times I've heard a filmmaker refer to shooting weddings as "the dark days." I have had my ups and downs with shooting weddings but it hasn't stopped me from continuing to do it. Why? Sure, it's a paycheck, and right now as a videographer, it's a tough time. It's more than a paycheck. It's a learning experience. It may be that all weddings are in many ways the same, but in all those same ways they're different. As a videographer, you may lose count of the number of churches you've shot in, the number of ring shots you've taken, and even the funny best man speeches start to run together. It's when I start feeling that way that I remind myself that this couple is getting married here, in this place, wearing that suit and dress, exchanging those rings, with these witnesses, with this weather, on this day...only once.
Every day happens only once. This wedding is one hundred percent unique to them.
How does shooting weddings make you a better filmmaker? Considering the urgency of the day and the intense constraints you'll need to know how to use your environment as a tool for visual storytelling. Most of the tools you need to create cinematic footage are all around. Frames, lights, leading lines, visual subtext, visual interest; all of these things are always around you. As a filmmaker, you need to develop an eye for these elements of art.
1. WEDDINGS WILL TEACH YOU TO TRAVEL LIGHT.
There's nothing like packing up all of your gear thinking you "may need to use it all" at some point. What you then realize is, wedding after wedding is that you won't actually use half of it. Any production needs what it needs, and nothing more. Less is more as it were. When you begin to realize how versatile your environments are, all that extra gear starts to feel superfluous. When you're on a film set, especially as an indie filmmaker, traveling light allows you to focus more on the story the environment can tell and less on the gear, which can be very seductive.
2. WEDDINGS WILL TRAIN YOUR EYES.
All of the elements of framing and composition are all around you at all times. Weddings train your eyes to see them because there's little to no time at all to plan your shoots in-depth or many times at all. Frames, lights, colors, leading lines, visual subtext, objects for parallax, and on and on. It teaches you to rely on your surroundings to tell your story and to make crucial composition decisions on the fly. Doors, windows, champagne glasses etc.
3. WEDDINGS WILL BUILD YOUR STAMINA.
A full wedding day is exhausting, for everyone involved. The videographer is no exception. The pre-wedding prep, sometimes days beforehand is on its own tiresome. Then you transport your gear to the wedding. Then you carry that gear around and use it; often for eight to ten hours. Oftentimes without much of a break at all. Especially as the lead videographer, it's essential you don't miss anything. So, no breaks. Not really. *Quick tip, double up your socks if you don't have good insoles.
4. WEDDINGS WILL GROW YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS.
One of the most overlooked aspects to being a good wedding videographer, or even a good filmmaker, is connecting with the people around you on a personal level. Just being friendly, congratulating the couple and making sure you're always offering a friendly word and a smile is essential to building good relationships. People know who they want to work with again, and they also know who they don't want to work with again. As Roy Rogers said, "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression."
5. WEDDING WILL HELP YOU THINK ON YOUR FEET.
This wedding can be captured only once. It's that urgency that makes you a better filmmaker. You have one shot, one chance to get it right, and to make something amazing. To make a truly cinematic and faithful wedding video takes practice and I have had my fair share of "what were you thinking" moments when I've reviewed my footage. This is why knowing your equipment inside and out is essential to thinking on your feet. Shooting in 60p, or 4K, or using a zoom lens are all good practices to give you some last-minute options on the day as well as in post. Give yourself a bit of wiggle room. Granted, you should avoid fixing it in post whenever possible, but sometimes, fixing it in post is the only option you have. This is where the 4K and 60p really come in handy.
Whether you want to remain a wedding videographer or make feature films. Really training yourself to be a solid wedding videographer will only benefit you as whatever kind of visual storyteller your decide to be.