Studio Time: Still-Motion and the Tao of Dress-Trashing
Posted Jan 9, 2008

Photo/video outfit Still-Motion principals Amina Wojcik and Patrick Moreau had just returned home to Toronto from a week-long assignment in the Dominican Republic. Despite an early October chill in the air, a 14-hour delay in the Santiago Airport, and the airline mysteriously "losing" their plane, the two were the picture of calm as they spoke of where they had been and where they were headed—not just as travelers, but also as artists.

As they modestly described their respective crafts—Amina’s photography represents the "Still" of Still-Motion, and Patrick’s videography provides the "Motion"—it became clear that the pair more than just balance or complement one another. Their synergy defines Still-Motion—that, and the way they approach their work: as an ever-evolving process.

Joining a growing number of vanguard videographers, they have embraced the "Trash the Dress" (TTD) phenomenon, the brainchild of photographer John Michael Cooper from Las Vegas-based AltF. In a TTD shoot, a bride revels in destroying her pristine gown on camera by smudging it with mud, wading in the sea, or spoiling it with any material on hand that would make her dry-cleaning bill soar, while simultaneously destroying traditional ideas of bridal elegance.

Like TTD, and the "anti-bridal" concept out of which TTD grew, Still-Motion is turning the conventional notion of what makes a meaningful document of the wedding experience on its head. Blending the yin and yang of the two media produces a result that Patrick believes is greater than the sum of its parts. "Not too many people are doing TTD videos. We’re combining the two to make something unique. Because there are two [sets of] eyes watching things, we build off of each other’s ideas. That takes it above just having a video of yourself and a photo of yourself."

figure 1This is a key concept for the couples who have taken the TTD plunge, Patrick says. "That has played into why we have quite a few couples who are willing to fly in from all over the country just to do a TTD shoot with us," he explains. "Just the other day, we got an inquiry from a bride who wants to fly [us] to Bali to shoot her wedding, and she absolutely has to have a TTD shoot the day after." Getting mesmerized by breathtaking shots and clips from Still-Motion’s Dominican Series on its blog (www.stillmotionblog.com), it’s easy to see why their work is in high demand. The two have a unique knack for spotting beauty in picturesque settings as well as in decay, and their excitement for composition and color spills out even onto their travel pictures.

Canon-Powered
Pleased with the Dominican footage, Patrick says, "When you look at it in full HD quality, in 24p, it is unreal, straight out of the camera." To achieve this, they are equipped with three Canon XH A1s and a Canon XL H1, which they like for its interchangeable lenses as well as "amazingly" sharp optical quality on its stand-alone 6X wide lens. "The custom presets get an awesome look straight out of the camera, whether in low light or bright sun outdoors." Plus, he says, they are perfectly sized for mounting on a Glidecam or Merlin.

The XL H1’s larger form factor came in handy when shooting the TTD segment in the Dominican on the Steadicam. "When we were shooting by the ocean and actually getting in the waves, it was that extra weight that allowed us to get some really smooth footage and not be affected as much by the environmental conditions," Patrick says. "We try to bring a lot of motion into our work, try to keep things very real, but film them cinematically. The Steadicam Flyer is one of the biggest contributors to what makes our style our style."

The Way of Still-Motion
Theirs is a style that came about serendipitously and almost entirely through self-tutelage. Amina picked up photography by watching her father, a photography enthusiast. From there, she looked at what other photographers were doing and began to deconstruct "what made it so good. I was learning from other images and taking other styles and tweaking them to make them my own," she says. Similarly, Patrick, who just 3 years ago hadn’t even picked up a video camera, began by "looking at what’s out there and trying to see what it was that made it so good and learning how I could do that."

  They attribute much of their success to their youth. In early 2005, when they launched Still-Motion, Patrick explains, "We were so young, we could go all out and put everything we had into being as good as we could be as quickly as we could make that happen." Of course, their personalities had a little something to do with it too: "We’re very motivated, passionate people, so when we find something we like—something that can affect people—we really do what it takes to make it better," he says.

Patrick and Amina’s desire to share their inspiration with others can be traced back to their college aspirations. They both studied psychology and aspired to produce documentaries. Amina explains, "We wanted to use psychology and our photo/video skills to reach people through a documentary medium." But as luck would have it, "We had a friend of a friend whose photographer got sick and she asked us if we would fill in, and we offered to do some videography as well," Amina says. "We had so much fun doing it, and they loved the product in the end that we decided well, why don’t we do it again?"

"As soon as we graduated, we went into this full force," Patrick recalls, although their initial thinking was "maybe we’ll do a couple of weddings a year and that will actually fund our documentaries. Little did we know that [the weddings] would end up taking over the whole idea of doing documentaries."

"For now," Amina is quick to add.

figure 1Achieving Balance
But "now" may last awhile. Patrick laments, "We surpassed the point of the amount of work we can actually handle and still keep some sort of personal life." This year they hope to book half the number of weddings they did in 2007, which would bring them to about 35 for the year. "It is hard to have any time for anything else," Amina admits. "Although we love what we do, it would be nice to take a break and recharge and come back with fresh ideas."

Helping them to love what they do are wedding couples who "appreciate the art behind what we do and are as enthusiastic as we are," Amina says. Working with those couples "allows us a lot of creative freedom, being able to choose locations and try new things all the time." Patrick adds, "A lot of times when we throw ideas around in the studio, [a couple] will be quite scared, and they’ll have no idea how this is going to work. But at the end of the meeting they’re always totally up for it and they give us complete confidence, and that is really rewarding and allows us to continually improve."

A Stepping Stone, a Destination
Though the two believe that Still-Motion remains a destination in and of itself, other opportunities are emerging. After showing, say, a same-day edit, Patrick says, "We will get CEOs of companies or independent filmmakers coming up to us, and they would like us to be involved in their feature film or documentary or to do something for [an] ad agency."

One exciting request came from Canon, which recently asked Still-Motion for permission to use raw footage from one of its weddings in a commercial that is currently airing across Canada on prime time TV. Canon wanted to emulate a Still-Motion highlights reel for an ad and had planned a mock wedding shoot with actors. Realizing it simply couldn’t reproduce the emotional reality that shines through in Still-Motion’s work, Canon wound up using footage that Patrick and Amina had shot in HDV with three Canon A1s. One prominent shot in the commercial was even filmed with Canon’s $1,000 consumer HV20, which surprised even Canon. (You can watch the commercial on the Still-Motion blog.)

To continue its growth, Still-Motion will soon open up a new studio, "and with that [we] are going [to implement] a lot of new ideas that have been cooking. We’re going to be unveiling a few new things," Amina says. They might produce training DVDs, hold workshops, or speak at conferences. Getting involved in multiple aspects of the industry can add stress to what many would already call a stressful profession. Patrick and Amina wouldn’t have it any other way.

Elizabeth Welsh is a freelance writer and editor based in Madison, Wisconsin.