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The Nonlinear Editor: What's Written in the (All)Stars?
Posted Feb 3, 2008 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Two weeks ago at the 4EVER Group's Video 08 in Orlando, Florida, EventDV unveiled the 2007 EventDV 25, honoring our third annual all-star team. When I first started developing the concept for the EventDV 25 in summer 2005, I had two goals in mind. My first goal was to create a way of recognizing event videographers that stood apart from lifetime achievement awards like the WEVA Hall of Fame and awards that honor specific works like the established WEVA CEAs and the incipient 4EVER Group AAAs.

My second goal was to heighten the profile of our still-new magazine among what I thought of as "the WEVA crowd"—that is, the subset of our industry that focused primarily on weddings and social events, and the subset of that group that had developed connections with one another by attending and speaking at WEVA Expo over some or all of the preceding 15 years.

Granted, by then, the WEVA crowd wasn’t exactly the WEVA crowd anymore; some recent and longtime members were switching their allegiance to the 4EVER Group or were taking pains to straddle the line between these two warring factions without abandoning either side.

The EventDV 25 wasn’t exactly an overnight sensation. The online voting we set up was a flat-out bust, and it yielded exactly one clear-cut all-star and a slew of single-vote candidates, most of whom had voted themselves the biggest influence on their own videography careers. I needed a list and I didn’t feel comfortable picking it myself, so to hedge my bets I hastily convened an executive committee, via Yahoo! Groups, to choose our other 24 all-stars and make sure we launched with a list that represented the industry well.

I hoped to conclude the executive committee deliberations in person at WEVA Expo 2005 that August, but only two committee members made it to the show. We wrapped things up a couple weeks later via email, as we’d conducted all our discussions up to that point.

I knew that list would be WEVA-heavy, but up to that point, I concluded, who besides WEVA had fashioned a semblance of a national or international industry—and thus, the potential for videographers to influence one another—from a world of videographers more or less doing their own thing? Local and regional associations had certainly done their part, and for that reason I made sure I had three or four association presidents (current or past) on the committee. Online forums were making a growing impact, but I wasn’t really hip to that yet. The 4EVER Group was beginning to galvanize videographer education and contribute to that sense of an "industry," but it hadn’t even announced details for its first convention at the time we selected the list.

As I expected, it was that familiar "WEVA crowd" that, in my mind, shone through in the outstanding list our committee chose. Which made it all the more ironic that when we announced the list in January 2006, most of the heat I took over our first all-star team pertained to a perceived 4EVER Group bias.

I don’t enjoy being misunderstood any more than the next guy, but I must admit I reveled in the backlash; I knew we had a hit on our hands, and that the momentum would carry through to the end of 2006, when reader voting would deliver our next all-star team, as I’d hoped it would the first time around.

So here we are 2 years later, and I’m pleased as punch with the new all-star team we’re unveiling in this issue. We’re a long way from the list-by-committee of 2005, although I continue to encounter people from time to time who are still confused about how the list is selected.

It’s actually quite simple, if a bit tedious: Picture me, the day the polls close, on my couch, lap dog on one knee, laptop on the other, EventDV 25 results page onscreen, pen in hand, writing 70-plus names in three columns on a legal pad, and making marks next to each name, then counting said marks (and checking them twice), and typing the names of the 25 videographers with the most marks into an Excel spreadsheet. There’s your all-star team. (Pretty glamorous, eh?)

One thing I know that continues to create confusion is the "qualifications" field on the EventDV 25 voting page. Why do voters need to qualify their selections if the list is determined only by the number of votes? I’ve freely admitted to people who’ve asked that the purpose of the qualifications field is to get the voters to do part of my job for me.

One reason I ask voters to explain or justify their votes is to make them really think about why they’re picking someone and define carefully how their selection has influenced them. But ultimately that vote is just a mark on a page, and it will need to be one of several to get the chosen candidate on the list. The practical purpose of the qualifications field, for me, is that it gives me quotes to use on the baseball cards we make for our all-stars. Its real value, in the long term, is telling me why a particular person is getting votes, and helping me to understand the picture of our industry that the list paints each year.

I don’t pretend that the picture is perfect; there are lots of ways to frame a shot, and the list captures only one way of looking at our industry—or, more accurately, it represents an amalgam of perspectives revealing specific parts of the whole.

As I mentioned, the biggest criticism of the 2005 list (besides not disqualifying committee members, which was a fair critique) concerned the "suspicious" number of Video 06 speakers on the list; never mind that the list had just as many WEVA Expo 2005 speakers, and most of them were the same people. 2008 marks the first year, as an industry, that we’ve begun with the WEVA/4EVER Group lawsuit behind us, and if this year’s EventDV 25 list provides an accurate representation of where our industry is and where it’s going, here’s one message it sends: We’re no longer living in a WEVA vs. 4EVER Group world.

I’d be hard-pressed to identify most of the folks on this list with one group more than the other, and some of this year’s all-stars aren’t clearly aligned with either group at all. That’s fine with me. We make our livings shooting in color, so why should our industry be all black and white?

One could certainly look at this list and say it’s the year of WedFACT. I’m not a member of WedFACT, and I don’t even know who all its members are, though I do know that a number of them made this year’s list. Another interesting thing about it is the preponderance of affirmed dress-trashers we now find in our all-star midst. There’s no way I would have predicted that a year ago; who knows if the fad will fade, or if a year or two from now the anti-trashing old guard will be wondering how long wedding video is going to spend going to hell in a handbasket before it finally gets there.

Another thing I enjoy about this year’s list is that when I asked all our honorees to get new photos taken for their baseball cards, and added, "Don’t tell me you don’t know any photographers, because if you don’t, you shouldn’t be on the list," none took offense. I’m not saying the videographers we honored in 2005 and 2006 wouldn’t have gotten my drift, but it’s a nice commentary on our industry that 25 videographers who are being honored as its most influential understand that part of being a good influence is having good relationships with other vendors—photographers included—and affirming the importance of those relationships.

It’s particularly vital with photographers, since the old cold war between videographers and photographers is another us versus them dichotomy that needs to recede into oblivion, along with WEVA versus 4EVER Group and other not-unrelated points of polarization that have dogged our business for too long.

The final point I believe I need to mention here—and this goes along with the general reframing of our industry, as well as the acknowledgment that there are multiple legitimate frames of reference from which to see it—is that I’m aware that this list doesn’t mean much to a lot of our readers, and that for a good portion of our subscriber base I’ve probably just wasted two pages of print space that (I hope) they believe is put to better use in other months.

I’m not as convinced as some others that the cult of celebrity that international conferences, the training DVD market, and yes, the EventDV 25, help to promote is bad for our industry, but I do see its downside. The most important thing to realize is that there are a lot of ways to build your business and get better at what you do, and "learning from the best," as WEVA, the 4EVER Group and EventDV have defined "the best," is a time-proven method—but it’s certainly not the only way.

Back in mid-November 2007, three-time all-star Mark Von Lanken told me that Wedding Video Done Right founder Hank Castello had reported in one of his forums that I had canceled his subscription to EventDV> because of something negative he’d written about one of our columns.

Leaving aside the fact that I don’t, in fact, know how to cancel an EventDV subscription (and that his copy showed up a few days later), I should say that when I did locate the WVDR forums online to see what the issue was, Castello quickly became my one of my favorite readers—not because everything he writes about EventDV is favorable, but because he engages with the magazine on such a serious level and encourages his forum members to do likewise, and to take us to task, as Castello himself does, when they feel we’ve missed the mark. Wedding Video Done Right thrives in an entirely different universe from WEVA Expo and Video 08, and even Video University and WedFACT—a world where our industry’s alleged cult of celebrity is virtually nonexistent, where two-time all-star Terry Taravella joins the forum and is welcomed as just another member, someone who’s come to learn like everyone else.

There are as many ways to see and cultivate this industry as there are ways to frame a shot, and more potential all-stars than you could possibly fit on a conference speaker roster or a 25-member all-star team. This is not to say we plan to expand the team any time soon, but it will be great to see how the list continues to reconfigure itself and capture the shifting shape of our industry as each year’s new all-star team emerges.

Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at infotoday.com) is editor-in-chief of EventDV and EMedialive.com and proprietor of FirstLookBooks, a book review blog.

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