Posts Tagged ‘hindsight’


When You Dread a Job…

August 2, 2013

Over the years since I got into filmmaking, I’ve worked on a wide range of projects- from short films and web series to music videos and corporates- and in several capacities- from runner to self-shooter and director. I’ve directed half hour dramas and crammed shooting into a couple of very long, stressful days, I’ve shot through the night and then through most of the following day with no sleep and I’ve shot and edited multi-camera gig videos, sifting through and syncing hours and hours of footage. But there’s one thing that fills me with dread…

Wedding videos.


Nothing against wedding videos or those who do them for a living (you’re braver than I am!), but I hate doing them. Actually, hate isn’t quite right. Fear is a more appropriate term. I fear/hate wedding videos in the same way that a lot of people fear/hate spiders.


The two scariest things in the world…

I know what you’re thinking. Why? (If you’re not thinking that and are hoping for directing tips since this is a directing blog and all, I hope you don’t take disappointment badly.) Well, I think a lot of it can be divided into two areas- all the issues associated with event filming and all the issues that come from working with clients- combined into a nice, round ball of awkward.

Event filming is very challenging, whether you’re filming with one camera or several. This is mainly due to you having no control or influence whatsoever on what’s going on- the event is going to carry on with or without you and you have no chance to reshoot things.

If you’re filming outside and the lighting changes, tough.

If the interior event you’re filming has very dim lighting for ambience, ditto.

You can’t change it. Because you are not in the slightest bit important. In fact, you often have to try and be invisible. It’s an event for the people attending, not a film shoot for you and your creativity and that can be tough if, like me, you have a preference for shooting drama, where you’re used to doing takes and controlling everything. Sometimes you set up a camera- manned or unmanned- and the subject moves off their spot, forcing you to change and potentially miss something important. Audio can be missed or mis-recorded, natural light changes erratically with no ability to retake and editing becomes about trying to create a narrative with random material that often has little narrative beyond the obvious sequence of events. Clients also frequently want “everything” filmed, something which is somewhere between impossible and bloody difficult since it requires omnipresence and little opportunity to edit creatively.

On the subject of clients, they can come with their own difficulties- as anyone who has done any paid work ever can testify- and usually those difficulties circle around expecting more than they’re willing to pay for and not understanding the production process (expecting a video to be a moving, talking version of their SEO-and-buzzword-saturated website copy for instance).

Wedding videos add a personal element to this because the client is in it and they often have a different self-image and memory of events to what the camera sees and the edit shows. For example, the bride might love her dress and believe she looks like an angel but when she watches the wedding video, the unbiased, non-rose-tinted eye of the camera captures her in all her looking-like-a-wedding-cake glory.

"I'm a beautiful angel!"

“I’m a beautiful angel!”

And as the filmmaker, there’s a limit to what you can do with angles, lighting or post filters to hide that fact, short of comping in Kate Beckinsale in her place.

Actors are used to seeing themselves on screen and have usually got over seeing their imperfections or characteristics to a certain extent, but the average person still cringes when they see their face in a picture or hears the sound of their own voice, no matter how many selfies they post on Instagram or how many Vine videos they share (See, I know about modern trends! I’m cool and on the pulse!).

I also hate the money/work imbalance wedding video work comes with. Wedding clients are frequently willing to drop thousands of pounds on the stills photographer but won’t stretch to a fraction of that for video. This isn’t to devalue the role of the photographer, but it’s fair to say that producing a video of similar quality takes substantially more time and potentially more financial investment in terms of kit, especially since you might be shooting with two or more large-sensored cameras and lenses. I think it’s because good stills are valued as an important memento, where video is asked for because its technically available. Maybe it’s also because video tends to show reality, warts and all, where a still can be doctored and photoshopped much easier and thus is more pleasing. Anyway, it frequently means that the video guy is doing a lot of work, earning less money and then is splitting the cash with a second operator because doing it solo is both harder and virtually impossible to do any justice to the event.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, unsurprisingly, I’m shooting a wedding in the immediate future and I’m dreading it. Oh, I have no doubt the day will go fine and the client seems like they’re on the level, but if I could go back in time and turn the job down I would.

Strange thing is, I don’t get this with other shoots. Not with drama, not with corporate gigs and not with corporate events- despite them having much the same issues as a wedding video. I suppose everyone has their areas of confidence and areas of fear with work and if I was some kind of Jedi master I would say to face your fears and overcome them, but sadly I’m not Yoda and I ascribe in this instance to the “if you don’t have to do something you hate, don’t do it” mentality.


I suppose if it was fear out of ignorance- ie I’d never shot a wedding before- then I’d be all conquer-fears about it, but I have shot weddings before and nearly all of them have been a sharp pain the sphincter so I think from now on, I’ll be turning weddings down if they come my way.

I hate turning down work, particularly when I’m all kinds of poor, and a freelancer can never afford to turn down work… but I’m in this game because I love it. I love making films, I love shooting, I love telling stories. And if I’m not loving work, then I don’t think I should do it. Money really isn’t that important to me- if it was, I’d have sold my filmmaker soul to the porn gods long ago.