The Nonlinear Editor: 08 Miles High
Posted Jan 28, 2008

How thrillingly global has the event videography world become when the highlight of a videographers' conference in Orlando, Florida is a dazzling presentation by a Filipino videographer that begins with the speaker debunking a half-dozen myths about Filipino wedding videography, without losing his mostly American audience in the process? It's been six days since I attended Jason Magbanua's virtually unannounced, putative keynote at the 4EVER Group's Video 08 (January 21-24), and the mind still reels. A speaker of great extemporaneous charm and charisma, Magbanua took his rapt SRO audience on a whirlwind tour of "his own special brand of wedding video" (in the words of 4EVER Group director Steve Wernick) and the risk-taking, artistic vision, and business acumen that have made him the hottest thing going in the wedding video world. And just think--without a last-minute reprieve in his struggle to get a visa--he almost didn't make it.

It's hard to say exactly what got the hosannas coming fast and furious--was it the work he showed or the business advice he offered? As 4EVER Group director of education Tim Ryan remarked shortly after Magbanua’s seminar—which concluded around 10:30 pm—"It's not that any one thing he's doing is entirely unique in our industry, or beyond what everyone else is doing. It’s the amazing way he puts it all together."

One of Magbanua's key themes was branding: "It's not just about getting the video. It's about getting me. There's an air of pride when couples book us, and we want them to feel that way. That's the way the market is evolving and maturing there," he went on. "The value of video is very important. This didn't happen overnight."

Of course, the worm hasn't turned for everyone, which is one reason shows like Video 08 matter. Attendees looking to improve their work, their businesses, or simply their outlook on their field left with much to consider and much to implement in their own businesses. They might have found it in single-speaker sessions like Robert Allen’s "State of the Industry" seminar (which was podcasted live, with Q & A from virtual attendees following it online), Maureen Bacon’s "What’s the Secret" (featuring her definitive "Rules of Engagement" for working with other wedding vendors), or three-time EventDV 25 honoree Steve Fowler’s first-ever appearance before an international audience, an energizing romp through his innovative shooting techniques called "Shoot Ta Thrill." Or maybe they hit one of the many innovative roundtables that offered opportunities to address specific issues in more intimate settings, or one or more extended symposiums on topics such as Same-Day Edits and HD technology.

The show kicked off in familiar fashion Monday night with the third annual Artistic Achievement Awards banquet, and what could be more familiar than Florida’s own VHVIDEO.COM taking home eleven awards, including two diamonds and the diamond and emerald (1st and 2nd place) in the Social Event category. (And their work, like the other awards winners', looked great on the big screen; the production values of the awards banquet was probably the single biggest improvement from Video 07.) Other big winners from Monday night included Elysium Productions, who not only netted Best in Show for their riveting demo, but also managed to claim a tie for the Emerald award for Same-Day Edit--the only thing standing between Jason Magbanua Wedding Videography and a complete sweep of that category. And while the Philippines made its typically strong showing across all categories, with both Magbanua and Dominic Velasco’s Imacron collecting nine awards in all, Canadian videographers also grabbed their share, including a stunning four Diamond awards for Ontario-based first-time EventDV 25 honorees Still-Motion, and Best Audio for Vancouver-based Sayson Productions and Sayson’s Diamond winner from the Corporate category. EventDV also unveiled the 2007 EventDV 25 during the awards banquet; for details, click here.

One of the best seminars I attended was led by first-time presenter Chris P. Jones of Mason Jar Films. At times it almost felt like a bizarro-world companion piece to the brilliant Brett Culp seminar I attended at WEVA Expo 2006 on "Connecting with an Affluent Generation." Both Culp and Jones were talking about the same thing—understanding the client you want to reach, and developing a product that will reach them—but where Culp was talking about attracting a somewhat more conventional, young, rich bride, Jones was talking about connecting with self-styled hipsters by doing work that they’ll connect to in the same way they connect with indie films. Jones’s ostensible topic, "The Garden State Effect," concerned selecting the sort of music that carries zeitgeist-mongering indies like Garden State (which one critic has aptly called "an iTunes playlist in search of a movie"). "Take the sound of a generation, throw some images on top, and you’ve got them in the palm of your hand," Jones quipped. He did offer practical advice on developing a knack for finding the type of music you need without studying it too deeply (becoming a "dilettante" rather than an "aficianado"), using sophisticated browsing sites like Pandora, but his real message concerned developing an entire video style that matches the tastes of hip, young indie film fans who "live in lofts, shop at the co-op, wear Che Guevara t-shirts, and write in lowercase."

He even came up with a category that arguably trumps the "new documentary" moniker that’s been loosely hung on this emerging style thus far: "indie cinematic." Jones even went so far as to suggest that videographers who have been working in a more conventional "cinematic" style but want to cater to the hipster bride create two sections of their website—"epic cinematic" and "indie cinematic"—and offer the newer "indie cinematic" at a premium. "Don’t give up your cash cow," he advised. "If you’re already doing epic cinema, introduce it slowly." All of this is not to say that EventDV endorses the unauthorized use of copyright-protected music in pursuit of any event video style, incidentally—but it is to say, quite simply, that you shoulda been there.

I attended two other seminars that concerned similar themes of transformation. One was Ron Dawson’s "The Madonna Effect," which was all about reinventing yourself to keep your business growing and developing. Dawson’s own Cinematic Studios is a perfect case study for both the micro-reinvention and macro-reinvention processes he discussed; in the last year he’s completely overhauled his focus from weddings to high-profile, high-concept corporate, all the while emerging as a leading industry authority on the benefits of blogging and using social networking sites.

Along the same lines was Alex Hill’s "Extreme Makeover! A First-Hand Study of Three Actual Business Makeovers." The value of this seminar wasn’t so much what happened in the hour attendees spent with Hill and the owners of the three businesses he critiqued (although it was a mighty good hour), but rather in Hill’s efforts to pinpoint their weaknesses and redefine their business plans according to the "sustainable change process" that Hill and his award-winning (and winning, and winning) company, Elysium Productions, have developed. That’s the kind of videographer education that will sustain not just individual businesses, but the industry itself. Here's hoping we see more of it, courtesy of Hill, the 4EVER Group, or anyone else with the knowledge and commitment to provide it.

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