Last fall I had the opportunity to collaborate on successive shoots with two of the top event filmmakers in the world: David Perry of David Perry Films (Salt Lake City) and Antonio Domingo of reflejos|digitales (Canary Islands, Spain). David and I had admired each other's work for years, had presented together at IN[FOCUS] 2011, and had talked about shooting together to get a closer look at each other's approach. When David booked a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) wedding in my local market in Florida, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for him to bring me along as a second shooter, and with a full-day (non-LDS) wedding I had booked for the following day, I had a great chance to return the favor.
In addition to being a two-time EventDV 25 All-Star (like David) and the top vote getter in 2009, Antonio is one of the most admired filmmakers in the Spanish-speaking world, and anyone who has seen his work would love to have the chance to study how he produces it. In fact, it was David who introduced many U.S.-based filmmakers to Antonio's work when he showed a reflejos|digitales film during his IN[FOCUS] 2010 presentation. I invited Antonio to come to Florida to shoot with me as well, and we were able to schedule a time when it would work-a Hindu-Muslim wedding that took place the week after my shoots with David. The original idea was for the three of us to shoot together, but the timing didn't work out for that, so it ended up being two two-way collaborations, with me having the chance to shoot with David and Antonio on separate events.
Like other collaborative shoots I've done with talented wedding filmmakers, this collaboration proved very educational and inspiring for all of us. In this article, each of us in turn will talk about what we learned from each other and how collaboration can benefit us all as an industry.
During the shooting of the LDS wedding with David, I followed him through his workflow. As a Utah-based filmmaker, David specializes in LDS events, and his "Remember the Temple" tagline is geared specifically toward that market. Even though the shoot was nearer my studio in Florida, that was his territory, and I was ready to focus on helping with crane shots and Glidecam shots to enhance the look of the final video. One unique element of LDS weddings, as many readers know, is that you can't shoot inside the Temple, so you have to make the most of what you can shoot outside. I respect the fact that these shots are mostly done around the Temple, creating a challenge for us not to repeat backgrounds in the frames.
The next day was my own "regular" 1-day wedding, and I felt more at home there. My wife, Jetsiry, and I took care of monopod shots during bride and groom preps, and David assisted with the slider shots and outdoor shots, as well as the audio. During the first look and ceremony, we all coordinated our efforts to film at the same time to get all the best shots possible. Most of the time, I was filming all the wedding shots with the Glidecam and slider, and David and Jetsiry were focusing on monopod and tripod shots.
It was kind of shocking for David (as well as for Antonio, when we worked together the following week) to observe firsthand how much Jetsiry's shooting skills have developed over the past 4 years. She never wants to be mentioned and prefers to work behind the scenes. She may even prefer not to read about herself in this article, but as I always say in my presentations, "Without her, I am nothing in this business."
With the Hindu-Muslim wedding, coordination between Antonio, Jetsiry, and me was very organized during the shooting. We had time to plan ahead and designate responsibilities. I was in charge of all the audio, Glidecam shots, and some slider shots, along with some monopod compositions at times when Antonio was alternating between the jib and slider. I edit on Premiere Pro for Windows, and I took the lead on the SDE video with feedback and help from Antonio on some occasions. Jetsiry was in charge of all the close shots during the ceremony, all tripod shots, and managing the logistics of the workflow throughout the entire day.
In my collaborations with David, Antonio, and others, beyond the practical elements of collaborations and division of labor during a wedding shoot, I've found that working with other successful filmmakers in the industry will broaden our horizons.
A key component of any successful collaboration is to open your mind to sharing strengths and weaknesses with one another. The opportunity to do work with different religions and across cultures gives you a unique portal to opening up new doors, opens a new wealth of knowledge, allows you to learn new things, and lets you craft new ideas. Needless to say, a Muslim-Hindu wedding in Florida is much different from most of the weddings we regularly see, but the one I shot with Antonio proved to be an enlightening experience because it brought together filmmakers from such distant parts of the world (Puerto Rico and Spain). Working with filmmakers from different backgrounds, with different perspectives, and with different strengths can help you improve the way you shoot and the way you approach your work and your business.
Over the years I've had remarkable opportunities to work with some amazing filmmakers—not just David Perry and Antonio Domingo, but also Ray Roman and Joe Simon—and in doing so, I've discovered how each of these filmmakers has his own unique style and workflow. I've been amazed to learn how working together allows us to share so much knowledge with one another. I get an opportunity to grow, plus it gives me the chance to prove myself among the industry's elite.
When I filmed the LDS wedding last fall with David Perry, I encountered many difficulties, as it was not a style of wedding that I was accustomed to. On the other hand, I got to see how David also struggled a little on my shoot the following day, trying to fit into our full-day wedding workflow, while still, in the end, being able to provide feedback and advice on how to grow professionally.
Although we both speak the same language, when our international friend Antonio visited us from Spain, he and I sometimes found it difficult
to communicate with our slang-filled Spanish (Canary Islands Spanish and Puerto Rican Spanish have very different slang). We shared many enjoyable moments in which we had to find other ways to convey what it was we were really trying to say.
At the Muslim-Hindu wedding we shot together, I had an incredible chance to observe Antonio's creativity and his ability to visualize the final product even in the midst of filming and being in the action. There were many things to learn and share, ranging from what equipment we use to how we use it to how each of us works.
I recently collaborated with Ray Roman and (literally) put on the gloves and went into battle to shoot the promo for my upcoming "Mano a Mano" workshop (http://bit.ly/mano-a-mano). The opportunity to do what we love with other people who also enjoy doing what they do thrills me. Sometimes there are things we do not understand that others from the outside can point out, and that works both ways. When I started the company, it was just a team of husband, wife, and a group of friends. In the beginning it seemed more like a hobby to us. None of us ever thought we would grow to reach this level. Never did we imagine our company would take it this far. Now it feels like a dream for me!
When I first discovered that I would have the opportunity to collaborate with José Ortiz on a wedding film, I was wondering how we could take advantage of our complementary talents, thinking along the lines of Jay Niblick's book, What's Your Genius? In business and art, as Niblick explains, it's crucial to identify your individual strengths-i.e., your "genius"-in order to propel your product to a higher level. Identifying your genius helps you to collaborate better with
other filmmakers in two ways: first, by allowing you to play to your strengths, and second, by allowing your collaborators to fortify your weaknesses. When we work together in this way, the client receives a full package and a better product.
My "genius" is my people skills, and my weakness is attention to details-especially audio production and systems. Filming with José, I was able to show him how I interact with clients and other vendors on wedding day and, at the end of the day, I could even offer him some feedback and advice in that regard. Meanwhile, José showed me his very well thought-out and orchestrated processes for filming and audio capture.
One failing I find among some filmmakers is that they tend to see their quest to succeed as a solo endeavor, instead of enlisting the help of others to assist them in their journey. In Utah, I think we've done a great job of joining efforts. I even share a studio with another filmmaker, Chris McClain (of Chris McClain Productions). His style is epic; mine is authentic. When a prospect doesn't seem like the right fit for one of us, we are happy to direct the client to a filmmaker who best fits their criteria. After all, isn't it really all about helping your clients get what they truly want? Together, we have booked more events by referring each other rather than trying to point out how one of our companies is better than the other. The same goes with other filmmakers in our area who have unique styles that we are thrilled to refer. I receive several referrals a week from other filmmakers, as they do from me. This approach has helped shed a positive light on the industry here in Utah.
Brides, photographers, and other vendors enjoy working with us because it's a positive experience. We meet once a month and share tips and insight
into our own unique strengths and weaknesses. We know that any one of us can and will come to have each others' backs in a time of need. In fact, on the day that Chris McClain was involved in a car accident on the way to a wedding, within 30 minutes two other filmmakers were at the wedding. Although Chris still arrived on time, he and I are both happy to know that we have that type of support from our peers in the Utah event filmmaking community.
Another exciting aspect of working with other filmmakers is that it need not be limited by geography. With the networks we enjoy today, we can count filmmakers in other parts of the world as colleagues and friends and journey across international boundaries for opportunities to collaborate, share our "genius," and learn from others. Once a filmmaker feels like he has it all figured out, that's the moment he stops growing and starts becoming stagnant and out of touch. There are so many talented filmmakers worldwide from whom we have so much to learn. I recently presented in Kiev, Ukraine, with the amazingly talented filmmaker Oleg Kalyan, who opened up my world to talented and unique filmmakers in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Not only is collaboration simply more effective, but isn't it also a lot more fun? Whenever I see a grumpy wedding vendor at a wedding, my first thought is, "Why in the world are you even here? Go do what you love to do!" I love what I do, and I want to surround myself with other filmmakers who feel the same way. That is one of the secrets to my success: Help others with your strengths and rely on others to assist you with your weaknesses, and you'll do better work and have more fun doing it.
I recently traveled to the United States to co-produce a wedding film with my friend and colleague José Ortiz, from José Ortiz Films. When we first began to talk about cooperating on a project, we agreed that it had to be just that-cooperation, a 50/50 effort. We shared everything 50/50 on preparations in order to ensure that everything was covered; we also had equal shares of wedding-day jitters. Most of all, we shared 100% of the emotional satisfaction of finally doing something together after years of looking forward to having the opportunity to collaborate.
Working together, we discovered that we had two different ways of doing things, but we were united by a single objective. We found that together we could create a product superior to what either of us could have made independently. There is an old proverb that says, "A pain shared is half the pain; a joy shared is double the joy." For us, the simple fact of doing a job together was a great inspiration; we wanted to give the best of ourselves.
Naturally, during the course of the project we encountered moments in which we both had different visions and ways of executing things, different ideas on editing and sequencing the SDE, or a different plan altogether. But in the end, we were able bring our different ideas together in a product that satisfied both of us.
One part of the shoot I recall was being given the opportunity by José to plan a "First Look" shot, which is not something we've ever done in Spain. But as of this moment it's become part of our lexicon.
Another key element to emphasize in collaboration is communication. This was especially crucial in this wedding because, despite the fact that José, Jetsiry, and I all speak the same language, our native tongues are, in fact, quite different. We have very different forms of expression, and even very different ways of describing technical equipment. At times, our difficulty in understanding one another brought out more humorous moments than nervous ones, as we both tried really hard to understand and convey what it was that we were trying to say.
One unavoidable challenge concerned the nature of the wedding itself. There's no avoiding the fact that a Hindu-Muslim wedding in Sarasota, Fla., will undoubtedly be very different than any civil, Catholic, Orthodox, or even Hindu-Muslim wedding in a European country. Protocol and rituals are very different anywhere you go, and the product that our clients expect from us also differs from one country to another, which is why it is so important for any videographer to know how to adapt in each location and to each client. reflejos|digitales' style is jovial and dynamic, and we're always on a quest to capture the party, the joy, and the cheers, whereas in America the focus is more on the visual aspects of the final product-particularly on capturing beautiful scenery-and the pace is a bit more discontinuous. I don't mean to generalize—not all European weddings are captured as I said, and not all American weddings are as I described either, yet there are certain traits that you can identify as common to most American wedding films, and the same goes for European ones. Thanks to the internet, we can now watch videos from all over the world produced by great filmmakers and get a stronger sense of the trends and techniques being applied in other parts of the world, which we can then take back to our respective countries and to our local communities in our own ways.
Getting back to the wedding at hand, we worked intensely for the 3 days in an effort to produce an SDE for the 400-plus guests that would capture the high points of all that had transpired during the wedding. Usually projected at the end of the night, SDEs allow the attendees to reflect on the event through a brief film of what they experienced just a few hours prior.
It's wonderfully fulfilling to see the reactions to the SDE on everyone's faces-not just friends and family but also the couple themselves-with their eyes glistening with happiness. But, if anything, it's even more rewarding to experience this after the fruitful collaboration with a filmmaking peer. Collaborating with José was an incredibly positive experience, and it's one I can't wait to repeat.
Jose Ortiz (info at joseortizfilms.com) runs Florida-based event filmmaking studio Jose Ortiz Films. His “Mano a Mano” workshop series kicked off in May.
David Perry (firstname.lastname@example.org) runs David Perry Films of Salt Lake City. David, a two-time EventDV 25 All-Star, presented at IN[FOCUS] 2010 and 2011.
Antonio Domingo (email@example.com) runs reflejos|digitales of Las Canarias, Spain. A two-time EventDV 25 All-Star and WEVA Expo 2010 presenter, Antonio was the top vote-getter in the 2009 EventDV 25.