The multiple skills of the Wedding Filmmaker

In this blog post I am going to make the argument that the role of the Wedding Filmmaker is one of the toughest forms of filmmaking that you will find – as well as one of the most fulfilling. I have been a filmmaker for a number of years and have learnt a number of filming techniques in the process, and as a wedding filmmaker I bring all of this knowledge together to help create the wedding films that I produce. My style of wedding filmmaking in particular requires a vast array of skills and filmmaking know how, as I not only hope to create a cinematic piece of work, but also a film that tells a narrative through the use of storytelling elements taken from all aspects of the day.

This post will hopefully be useful for those interested in wedding filmmaking themselves, as well as those interested in the process. It will provide somewhat of a brief overview of just how much needs to be considered as a wedding filmmaker, and how many skills need to be acquired. I could certainly go into a lot more depth on each area, and I may well do so in future posts. So please do leave me a comment if you would like me to write in more detail about any of the particular areas I cover here.

The Ceremony

Probably the most fundamental part of being a wedding filmmaker is the ability to be able to capture the ceremony. After all, this is reason why the rest of the days preparation, and post celebrations all take place. Without a solidly filmed wedding ceremony, there is essentially no wedding film.

You can think of the wedding ceremony in terms of a multi-camera set up similar to the way a videographer or filmmaker would capture any live event, stage show or music performance. Without pre-planning and organisation, it would be easy to miss a key moment or find yourself in a position where you are unable to move as freely as you may wish.

My first consideration when looking at the ceremony location is camera position. Once the ceremony starts there really should be limited movement, so it is crucial to choose the camera positions well in advance of the ceremony commencing.

The other crucial element is audio. Capturing good quality sound during the ceremony is very important, and I use lapel microphones in order to capture the best I can. There is a small window of time in which to ensure these are fixed carefully and begin recording prior to the start of the ceremony. Miss that window, and you’re in trouble!

Capturing the ceremony alone can be an operation in itself. The wedding filmmaker however will be filming a number of events leading up to the big moment including bridal/groom prep, guests arrival, details, and venue establishing shots (ground and aerial).

The Story

My philosophy about wedding filmmaking revolves largely around story. The majority of my packages include both a highlights film, and a longer wedding film. With the longer film in particular I want to tell as complete a story of the wedding day as possible. To do so, I need to make a film that flows from each section to the next. This requires a lot of different aspects to be captured throughout the day.

It is important to stay alert and look out for moments. These will be unique to each and every wedding. I have captured many moments that I would have missed if I had not stayed switched on. An embrace between the groom and father in law, kids rolling down the bank of a hill, the look of a mother as she proudly looks at her son. Capturing a number of these moments goes a long way to telling the story that makes a wedding unique.

Love

Weddings are all about love, and love takes many forms. It’s important to get to know not only the couple, but also the family and friend dynamic that makes up the entire wedding party. In doing so the wedding filmmaker can choose where to focus their attention to pick out the moments that best reflect the couple and the group.

Another key aspect in the films I produce are shots of the couple together away from the crowd. My aim is to create natural moments with the smallest bit of direction, which involves placing the couple in a situation where they can be themselves and relax. Have fun, be romantic, be silly. Whatever takes their fancy. This can take practice but I recommend to work with the couples respecting their true nature, and you will get good results. It can be helpful to practice this sort of filming. Organise shoots with couples away from the stress of a wedding day environment. Play around, experiment, and enjoy yourself.

Details

Details are the basis of what makes a wedding unique. And they are everywhere. From the flowers, to the table decorations, to the photos of the bride and groom when they were young! If it’s on display then it will be important to the couple that these are captured, and these details provide a foundation to a wedding film.

I aim to capture these as creatively as possible. Some extreme close-ups with a shallow depth of field, some wider with a bit of camera movement, unique angles. It all helps to create something original for the couple.

Drone

Not the case for every wedding filmmaker, but for those who offer aerial videography as part of the their packages, it is also vital to plan a time during the day to get the drone safely in the air. This is not just a case of whizzing it up and hoping for the best. In fact it involves safety tests, risk assessment and planning.

Weather checks also need to be made to find an ideal window of time in order to make the most of the best possible light and flying conditions.

Speeches

Similar to the ceremony, this is a multi-camera set up. Audio again is paramount. But the way the audio is delivered to the room can be different with speeches compared to the ceremony.

The venue may offer the use of a PA system with a microphone for the speeches. In this instance I will often try to capture audio through this system along with my usual technique of using lapel microphones. The more methods of capturing audio I have, the more likely I am to get a good result.

Dancing

Capturing the evenings entertainment – the dancing, the band, the magic, the laughter – can call upon a different set of skills in itself. Up to this point the wedding day would most likely have been captured using natural lighting conditions. The evening however requires some lighting knowledge in order to capture all of the fun that happens once people have started to let their hair down.

In my experience I have found that it is critical to make sure the natural ambience that the venue is trying to achieve is not sacrificed for your own cameras requirement for light. I prefer to go for more of a single spot light to create a dramatic look that works alongside the lighting that is already being created by the ambient light, rather than battle against it. The bride and groom will appreciate this consideration, and it can result in some dramatic results.

Editing

I’ll skim over this part as there’s too much to go into, but it’s worth mentioning that the majority of wedding videographers will edit the weddings they have shot. In a lot of areas of filmmaking, it’s unheard of for a camera operator to also edit a film.

It is true that times have changed and this level of multi-skilling is becoming more standard, but it certainly is worth mentioning due to the wide array of skills required to also be proficient in this area of filmmaking. The role of the editor is vast, and therefore is often a standalone skillset in its own right.

The ‘Wedding’ Filmmaker

Because the demands of being a wedding filmmaker are so high, and the knowledge and skills are so vast, I feel it is crucial to grow sufficiently as a filmmaker before taking on the challenge of capturing someones big day. I treat every wedding as the most important thing I will ever film, because to the couple getting married, it simply is. So to treat the day with the respect it is worth, it is vital to have confidence in ones own ability, organisation, and knowledge.

It is true however that all of these attributes will increase dramatically once any filmmaker has filmed a number of weddings, and we can all hope to continually improve our skills along with our personal attributes. But having a strong base in which to start is critical.

Being a wedding filmmaker has required increasingly more skills over time. The tools and therefore the filmmaking techniques available to those capturing a couple’s special day have become more vast in recent years, and as a result, making wedding films with higher production values has become more of a possibility. Therefore, the job of wedding filmmaker has developed into an ever more demanding role.

But this is also what makes the role more fulfilling as we are able to create more and more creative pieces of work. Shooting weddings has increasingly become my favourite form of filmmaking. The hard work that is required in producing a complete wedding film that I can be proud of, only leads to more satisfaction in the end result. Besides, there are not many other genres of films that I will produce where I am able to take control of so many different aspects of the creative process, and produce a film that is loved by the recipients in quite the same way. It truly is a privilege!

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