The Nonlinear Editor: Talking Books
Posted Sep 9, 2005

In Heart Earth, his strikingly evocative memoir of early childhood on Montana's Rocky Mountain front, Ivan Doig writes, "Time, like light, is both particle and wave." Brett Culp, award-winning wedding videographer, EventDV "Without Limits" columnist, and author of the new book Capturing Creativity, would likely say that inspiration and innovation are each particle and wave as well. While maintaining throughout Capturing Creativity (CVP Press, 2005) that inspiration and innovation are essential to videography, Culp doesn't treat the two as pie-in-the-sky concepts, notions to be pulled down from the ether or cut from whole cloth. Rather, the building blocks of inspiration are everywhere, he maintains, and ready to be synthesized in new ways. Citing examples such as Graham Fenton's legendary marriage of music video and wedding video, Culp insists, it's all about connecting dots that no one has connected before and revealing connections hitherto unseen.

"The creative process is not mystical or miraculous," Culp writes. "It is simply a matter of identifying all the possible elements and ideas (dots) and linking them together in ways you might not have previously imagined." Rather than sitting idly on the beach, waiting for waves of inspiration to magically wash over you, Culp would have you dive in. He contends that the amassed particles of innovation are within the reach of any videographer ready to use the tools before them in new ways, and regard their material with fresh eyes.

Consider Culp's "slot machine" concept as a way to take a fresh view of the familiar material of wedding videography. He begins by describing the basic workings of a slot machine: three independent wheels spinning to create the random combination of three symbols that appear when the wheels stop, aligning in a more or less favorable combination. Then he asks the reader to break down weddings into three categories, "people, segment, and content," and make lists of who or what belongs in each category (e.g., bride or father-of-bride for people, ceremony or reception for segment, and baby photos or interviews for content).

"Now start matching items randomly in the three columns like a slot machine would," he continues. "Start mixing it up and let your imagination fill in the blanks. What would you do with: maid of honor, pre-ceremony, interview?" Then he suggests replacing "content" with "music style" and "list as many [styles] as you can think of. Don't limit yourself by prejudging their practicality for a wedding video. Just make the list with reckless abandon." Obviously, not every combination is going to yield appealing results, but it should achieve Culp's goal, which is to get readers to start connecting different dots, even if they don't necessarily stay connected.

Another section all but cries out for mention here: "Be Cool." Many wedding videographers still fight the negative imagery that's dogged the industry in the past, and unfortunately, not being a sweaty oaf in a tux isn't always enough to prevent a potential client from perceiving you as less than hip. For Culp, being and conveying cool is partly look; partly exhibiting current styles of dress, technology, and production; and partly soaking up contemporary influences. Culp sums up the section with a quote from mountain climber Jim Whittaker that couldn't be more apropos, given the industry's old-and-in-the-way reputation: "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space."

One recurring theme of Culp's book and his many packed-house conference presentations is infusing videography with ideas and inspiration from other media. True to form, he peppers his book with concepts and quotes drawn from disparate sources and uses them to introduce the keynotes of his approach. For example, he takes his idea of seeing the world through both "window" and "frame" from Jean Mitry, author of The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema. "We strive to capture and present a window that showcases the most important truths about our client and their special day … As video producers, the television becomes our frame, and we choose what the audience will see and hear and the timing of the revelations."

Truth be told, I've seen only a few of the renowned pieces that have brought Culp and the Creative Video Productions team scads of awards over the last few years. But his speaking and writing alone would have a profound influence on my work and my relationship to it if event videography were my primary business.

The protean nature of influence is a hot topic in my circle these days, as I work with our appointed executive committee to shape our EventDV 25 list of today's hottest and most influential videographers. Influencing the industry isn't just about the awards you win; it's about the many things you do that raise the bar and keep others aiming higher to reach it.

With Capturing Creativity, as with his speaking and presenting, Culp can influence videographers in ways that go beyond inspiring imitation; he can help others to do what writers call "finding your voice." For writer Ivan Doig, voice and inspiration come from the linked elements of tangible surroundings: the writer's intense identification with the landscape of Montana's Sixteen Mile country. In Heart Earth, as he explores how the pull of that country has fueled his work, he writes about the thin membrane that separates the anagrams "heart" and "earth" for those who are so sited. When you see those connections in the world around you, as Brett Culp would attest, it can be just as short a leap to from "heart" and "earth" to "work."

For more information on Capturing Creativity and other CVP educational products, visit