11 years later, a Pearl's still a Pearl, and perhaps the biggest thing that's changed at The Broken Spoke is that they're now celebrating forty-two years of chicken-fried steak. As for the rest of Austin, the names at some of the 6th Street clubs have changed, the college kids seem much younger, and--much as in my hometown of Madison, Wis., aka Austin North--the hippies have clearly gotten older. I suppose there have been other changes in Austin in the interim, but probably none as dramatic as the changes in wedding videography and filmmaking over the last 11 years, as evidenced by the view of the vanguard on display at the event I came here this week to attend: Re:Frame 09 Austin.
A scant six months after the first Re:Frame event in New Orleans, Re:Frame a bit restructured: Once a Collective of six studios, Re:Frame now comprises three, with founding members Julie Hill of Elysium, Kristen* of Bliss*, and Bruce Patterson of Cloud Nine Creative still enthusiastically flying the Re:Frame flag, and as determined as ever to raise wedding filmmaking from the muck of misconception and stigma through artistry, storytelling, innovation, and web-savvy business strategy, and the sense that "what we do is pretty frickin' cool."
Whatever the changes in Re:Frame since October, the reconstituted group delivered exactly what was promised on the last day of the New Orleans event. Following the "Day Zero" welcome reception on Sunday evening, Day One kicked off in a venue that's as cool as they said, the Alamo Drafthouse in the heart of Austin's rollicking 6th Street.
The day began with two members of one of the hottest wedding cinematography teams on the planet--StillMotion's Patrick Moreau and Konrad Czystowski--talking about how they do what they do and why: "We've got the same event every single weekend, but our task is to come up with something completely different every single time." How they achieve that seems to be a mix of method--sizing up an event before shooting it with an eye to the light, the characters, the opportunities for "interesting composition," and planning shots that will work in sequences and be amplified by context rather than isolated bits of eye candy--finding projects that will inspire them--they emphasize how they will turn away couples whose stories and personalities don't move them artistically, lest a project "kill a little part of [them]selves" as they try to complete it without inspiration--and a commanding knowledge of lenses and their properties that will help them tell their stories by enabling them to capture the images that fit their vision and tell their stories. (Event sponsor Canon was out in the theater lobby with an array of lenses on display, along with the much-discussed 5D Mark II.) "The more consistent you are with your style," Czystowski said, "the more you're going to attract the couples you like."
Moreau and Czystowski underscored their points by showing (using the Drafthouse's state-of-the-art big-screen HD projection system) and deconstructing a series of ads produced for Cinevate by a handful of leading-edge videographers, including Re:Frame Austin attendees and first-time EventDV 25 honorees Joe Simon and Matthew Ebenezer. Although they worked quite a bit from their own footage as well-breaking down some stunning 5D footage shot for an SDE in San Jose earlier this month-by throwing the spotlight onto Simon and Ebenezer at various times, the StillMotion crew underscored the Re:Frame ethic of making events less of a top-down, talk-at-you approach to education and more collaborative, and with more of an emphasis on making attendees--rather than just speakers--into industry stars.
Re:Frame co-founder Julie Hill followed with a topic that she's taught several times--Cinematic Editing--but as in all her seminars, the can't-keep-still Hill seems most interested in teaching only the ideas that have occurred to her most recently rather than those she's been implementing for years, which always keeps things fresh. Hill expounded on Elysium Productions' unusual business model, which is a volume-based studio that does 150 weddings a year but operates frequently and visibly at the extreme high-end with packages that start in the $14,000 range. Beginning with the idea that "nothing out of a video camera (with the exception of the Canon 5D) looks filmic," and the goal of making everything look filmic, Hill got right down to the business of guiding attendees through the early stages of editing her latest wedding. Key to her approach is the idea that "filmic" doesn't mean any one particular thing, a sort of wand that can be waved over any video footage to give it a uniform film-like feel; rather, the idea is to "go for a look that matches the day" and to "keep the look consistent with the piece." Even if different sequences within a project have different looks (and Hill contends that they should, to keep things interesting, and to match the tone of different segments), each sequence should have its own unity, as achieved by her choice of music and the filters she applies.
One thing the Re:Frame Collective set up to give the event a contemporary feel and open this limited-registration event at least a little to the world outside the Drafthouse was to set up a Twitter wall to allow attendees to tweet about the event as it unfolded. (Attendees were encouraged to bring their laptops to the event, and power seemed to be fairly widely available throughout the theater.) The tweets weren't exactly going fast and furious but seemed to flow fairly steadily throughout the day. At about the midway point in Hill's nearly three-hour seminar, Julie's husband Alex (who was back home in the OC) tweeted in with an offer to buy everyone in the theater a drink-a gimmick, to be sure, but a much appreciated one. It also served as a nice reminder that attendees weren't at a conventional conference in a conventional setting. (It is a drafthouse cinema, after all.)
In what was supposed to be the penultimate event of the day (an outdoor shootaround in the streets of Austin was cancelled because of rain), Re:Frame cofounder Kristen* of Bliss* closed out the Day One events with a business- and artistry-driven look at the benefits of bringing film into the wedding cinematography world. Speaking directly to how to sell film-based (or partially film-based) productions to clients, why they'll buy, and who will buy-specifically, the "anti-video" bride who thinks video looks too perfect or too "real"-Kristen*'s most resonant point was one of her first: "With film, you don't know exactly what you're getting. You can guess, but you never really know." And therein lies the excitement for the cinematographer. The excitement on the editing end comes in simpler edit: since you're shooting film not to document the entire day but to capture moments, approaching the day like a photographer on the lookout for a few dramatic and definitive shots, you'll end up with much less footage, which means that if you outsource editing as Kristen* does, you'll be paying substantially less for the editing of higher-priced jobs.
Kristen*'s seminar also paid close attention to the different types of film stocks and how they can affect the look and feel of your work (one particular reel made the differences especially vivid) and the value of developing a relationship with a film lab. "Build a rapport with your lab," she said. "Make notes on the look you want and they can dial it in."
And finally, a short, 5D-shot film by David Perry of David Perry Films recapping Day One:
Re:Frame Day 01 04/27/09 from David Perry on Vimeo.
Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at infotoday.com) is editor-in-chief of EventDV and program director for EventDV-TV.