There’s never a shortage of drama in the ol’ visual arts industry. The latest soap opera du jour was this blog post by a leading photographer in the industry. I must say I was quite surprised to see it. My first response to it was a satirical post I put up Saturday (check it out if you want a good laugh). Someone anonymously commented that videographers reacting to this must have thin skin. This person is missing the point.
It’s not about having thin skin, it’s about protecting a livelihood. I don’t shoot weddings anymore, but I primarily did for the first half of my career in this business (five years to be exact). It’s already hard enough to run a visual arts business, especially in this economy. Now on top of everything else that makes it hard, imagine having to also fight against other wedding professionals in the industry telling your potential clients that your services are not needed. Brides trust these vendors and so now a whole industry has to prove itself beyond what should be normal.
Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot. I know that many officiants in strict, liturgical houses of worship detest professional wedding photography in the sanctuary. Imagine if a well-known and highly respected offiicant wrote a long blog post about why brides should not have professional photography at their services. The photography industry would be up in arms. I have no doubt WPPI, PPA, DWF and many other organizations would go to town. That is one of the reasons they exist, to protect the industry. I’ve seen them write articles and posts in response to blog posts suggesting a bride not get pro photography. The uproar that’s taking place in the wedding video world is the same.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
As leaders in the industry we carry a burden to educate and represent the craft and the business in a way that edifies the industry as a whole, but also protects the interest and well-being of our clients. To that end, there were two huge problems with this post.
- Suggesting that a bride use a relative to record vows almost borders on wedding industry mal-practice. One could argue that the vows are THE most sacred aspect of a wedding day. They represent the public promise and oath the bride and groom make to one another. They’re kind of a big deal. They deserve to be recorded and preserved with the same level of care and attention as the visuals, if not more.
- That analogy that hiring two visual artists (a photographer and a videographer) is like hiring two caterers is just simply incorrect and shows a lack of understanding what goes into making a wedding film. The best analogy I can think of would be like saying “Why get a cake when you already have a caterer? The guest will probably be full anyway.” Even that analogy is not perfect because neither the cake nor the food (both of which will be going down the toilet in 24-48 hours after consumption) are as sacred as the visuals or audio. But, the point is simple: they are two similar things (i.e. food), but serve totally different purposes.
I know, like, and still respect this photographer very much. This blog post is not meant as an attack. By the tone of their post, my guess is that this photographer experienced one too many unprofessional videographers who were a pain to work with. No surprise there. I have no doubt there are an equal number of wedding filmmakers who have similar stories about photographers. The irony is that this photographer at one point attempted to have a full-time videographer, so I know they understand the importance of it. My guess is that they abandoned it because, as many other photographers adding video to their repertoire have found out, doing wedding video RIGHT is damn hard.
I know from my own experience in the wedding industry, that it is absolutely possible to work well with a photographer. The best videographers in the industry all know to contact all the key vendors ahead of time, introduce themselves, and create a friendly and professional rapport that makes working on the wedding day a pleasure.
In the end, I still can’t believe in this day and age there is any question about the importance and power of wedding video. There has been more than enough evidence to prove that wedding cinematography is amazingly powerful and can be captured with as much discretion and unobtrusiveness as photography. If a bride does not value wedding video, she may tend to hire unprofessionals who don’t know how to work well with photographers. That’s why I encourage photographers not to poo-poo wedding video altogether, but to suggest and refer the top wedding cinematographers in their area.
When you see the work of filmmakers like Joe Simon, StillMotion, Ray Roman, David Robin, Kristen* of Bliss, Steve and Laura Moses, Steve Zugelter, Meg Simone, JJ Kim, Bruce Patterson, Loyd Calomany, Kevin Shahinian, John Goolsby, Ryan Koral, 31 Films, Dave Williams, Jason Magbanua, and many, many others, I wonder if some photographers are not secretly worried about their photography being shown up. Is that the reason they don’t refer the best; or worst yet, tell a bride to have Uncle Charlie record the vows on a handycam? I’m not trying to be snide, I sincerely believe that could be a dynamic at play here. If not that, the fear could be another expensive visual artist will affect what the bride will spend on photography. To that I say, trust in your work enough to know that the bride will still invest in you whatever she planned. But don’t be a detriment to the most important day of her life by telling her to have Uncle Charlie do anything other than sit in the audience and wipe the tears from his eyes then have a great time at the reception.
It is my hope this photographer would just retract the blog post. Or change it to reflect the importance of hiring a pro and experienced wedding filmmaker (like the one they refer to in the article). I know it may be hard to make that decision. You don’t want to feel like you were pressured into doing something. I know from experience. There have been a few times in my blogging career where I’ve retracted or rewrote a blog post that later I determined was not in the best interest of the industry. But in the end, I was always glad I did.
This is a blog post that really should go away.
A Note to My Fellow Filmmakers
Finally, a word to my fellow filmmakers and videographers. Based on what I’m reading on forums and the like, I know a lot of you out there are really pissed. I understand. I’ve seen a few colorful phrases thrown around. Please, just stop the unprofessional retorts. You only justify the description and poor image of wedding videography when you react like that. I’m not saying don’t be mad. I’m not saying don’t express your frustration. I’m not saying don’t tweet or Facebook about it. I’m not even saying don’t reach out to this photographer (if done professionally and with courtesy and diplomacy). But if it devolves into profane name calling, even on a forum you THINK is private, it’s just wrong. And for heaven’s sake, please don’t send mean emails to this photographer. All you will do is make them mad and less inclined to listen to you.
Be the bigger person. Make it glaringly obvious to all who see you and your interaction (online or off) that this is a classy industry made up of professionals of the highest caliber.