I think I look forward to our industry’s tradeshows as much as anyone (especially since I’m one of those lucky enough to go to both), but I must admit that WEVA Expo 2007 wasn’t foremost in my mind in the days preceding the show, when I was on vacation in Boston with my family. Granted, I did have lunch with WEVA Hall of Fame inductee-to-be Hal Slifer, and had the opportunity to tour his Newton, Massachusetts studio, where Hal and his senior producer Dina Carducci were putting the finishing touches on Hal's WEVA Expo presentation. And Hal did—under non-disclosure agreement, of course—reveal the good news that he and fellow NPVA member Michael Kolowich were due to receive two of WEVA’s most prestigious honors at Monday’s opening night banquet (Kolowich, the official videographer of ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, took home WEVA’s Bob LeBar Vision Award). But except for seeing Hal and hearing the good news about Michael, WEVA Expo was as far from my mind as Boston is from WEVA’s newly reclaimed Bally’s Las Vegas venue.
Until my last day in Massachusetts, that is, when I took my 3 1/2-year-old son to the IMAX theater at Boston’s dazzling Museum of Science for a feature called Dinosaurs Alive!. We’ve sampled just about everything the modern dino-documentary world has to offer on the small screen, and even in my decidedly non-IMAX-like living room, the CGI and compositing work in those shows is state-of-the-art and frighteningly lifelike.
But this feature—besides being projected onto a five-story dome screen—offered something more that compelled the EventDV editor in me. Intermingled with those wonderfully fabricated late-Cretaceous reptiles were antique photos and actual film footage of early 20th-century dinosaur digs in the Gobi desert of Mongolia, led by legendary paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews.
So what got me thinking about WEVA Expo as the drama unfolded in the IMAX dome? Besides the obvious, that is? It was the fact that the “old footage” I was seeing was either (as I suspected at the time) a brilliant, old-film-effect fake—a feat of technological mastery every bit as remarkable as that roaring, romping T-Rex—or, as I discovered when I read up on Dinosaurs Alive! after the fact, brilliantly restored artifacts of what must be one of the earliest and most significant event video shoots on record, thanks to two adventurous filmmakers and their 225-pound cameras. Seems to me our industry’s evolution started way earlier, and with much heavier burdens than most of us have imagined. And 28-year videography veterans like Hal Slifer think they had it tough.
What we think of as mainstream event video today is far removed from shooting paleontological digs, but that type of work is certainly within the penumbra of our field. And the odds are if you’re not a paleontologist, a three-year-old, or an amateur paleontology buff, old bone-digging footage isn’t what winds your clock. But anyone who’s hung on to a personal event video through the course of their lives knows just as well the power of preservation.
Of course, that’s not really what we assemble at shows like WEVA Expo to talk about, besides how to communicate that power to clients. As much as Expo is about learning from the best and brightest in the industry how to harness the power of event video to preserve memories, it’s even more about how videographers can harness its power to make more money. One of the best sessions I attended at this year’s back-at-Bally’s Expo (what a relief to have contiguous session-and-exhibit space again) was a panel discussion titled “Make More Money By Offering These Profitable Add-On Productions/Services.” I chose it over some fierce same-slot competition because of the mix of panelists: David Robin, Randy Stubbs, 2007 Hall of Fame inductees Kris Malandruccolo and Hal Slifer, David Hohenthaner, and Mike Nelson, and moderator Natalie Neal.
I was particularly interested to see Hohenthaner (whose VHVideo.com, incidentally, along with Blue Skies Cinema, cleaned up at the CEAs again this year) and Nelson face off, since they’ve taken diametrically opposite stances on the push toward HD. But even more interesting, as it turned out, was to see another HD adopter, David Robin, explain his recent gravitation toward 8mm and 16mm film. Most telling, though, was how little the session, ultimately, had to do with technology and how much with creativity and salesmanship, with Malandruccolo leading the discussion away from moving pictures altogether with her Heritage Makers storybook initiative, and Nelson delivering the real sales kicker: “I don’t like calling these products ‘add-ons’ or ‘up-sells’ because that sounds like you’re selling people things they don’t want or need. A responsible salesman finds out what a customer needs and sells it. If a bride comes in asking for less than what she needs, you’re doing a service by selling her more.”
I also caught great and informative sessions by Alan Naumann (“Beyond the Memorial Video”) and Eugene DiFrancesco (“Advanced Broadcast Camera Techniques”—somebody please give that man two hours next year!), two videographers I’ve known for some time but inexplicably missed at previous conferences. One of the more interesting session-related developments was Dave Williams floating out a trailer for his “Expand? Hire an Editor! But Wait...” seminar a week or so before the show. That’s something any videographer/speaker can pull off, and here’s hoping we see more of that in the future.
And it was great to see WEVA expanding on its 2006 initiative to include Spanish-language sessions from Luis Ponce and others to accompany the public launch of WEVA Latino—and following up on recent WEVA events in Australia and Italy (and aniticipating a September 24-25 event in Toronto) that are making good on the association’s claim to “International” status. All works in progress, to be sure, but anyone who thinks our industry is done evolving—or worse, has eschewed evolution in their own work or business—really needs to pay more attention.
Stephen F. Nathans is editor-in-chief of EventDV.