What happens when nine leading wedding filmmakers who met online get together in New Orleans to discuss the future of the industry? In a word, Re:Frame. But what exactly is Re:Frame, who’s behind it, and how do they plan to reframe the image of the wedding video industry, beginning with the self-image of wedding videographers themselves?
The first and most important initial step will be Re:Frame 08, a workshop-intensive boutique event slated for October 6-8, 2008 in New Orleans with the tagline "Contemporary inspiration and education for event filmmakers." Re:Frame 08 will be limited to 50 attendees, take place in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, and consist primarily of 2- and 3-hour intensive, workshop-style seminars and intimate social gatherings designed to maximize the interaction of attendee and speaker.
Presenters at Re:Frame 08 include wedding filmmakers from the six companies—all 2007 EventDV 25 all-star selections—who have joined forces as the "Re:Frame Collective": Terry Taravella of Studio Vieux Carre, Julie Hill of Elysium Productions, Kristen* of Bliss* Productions, Don Pham of Take 1 Productions, Bruce Patterson of Cloud Nine Creative, and Chris P. Jones of Mason Jar Films. The event will also feature two additional presenters: featured presenter Jason Magbanua of Philippines-based Jason Magbanua Wedding Videography, the acclaimed "first rock star of wedding video"; and a "People’s Choice" presenter who will be voted in by people who register for the Re:Frame website email list. And one of the hallmarks of this event, according to the Re:Frame Collective, is that all speakers will be paid, over and above the reimbursement of their expenses.
But time, place, and speaker roster hardly tell the Re:Frame story. When the Collective first gathered in New Orleans last October, their intention wasn’t simply to make plans to launch an event. The seeds of Re:Frame were planted in 2007 when Kristen*, Patterson, Pham, Jones, and Julie and Alex Hill answered an "open invitation" from Studio Vieux Carre’s Julian St. Pierre to participants in the WedFACT (Wedding Filmmakers Alliance of Creative Talent) forum to come to New Orleans to talk about the future of the wedding video business, and to strategize about how to bring more brides and more creative talent into it.
The initial idea was to brainstorm on ways to build "a real community" that would extend beyond the narrow confines of the small, virtual community that had developed at WedFACT—"a physical manifestation of the online forum," in Kristen*’s words. "We wanted to share this experience and bring it to the industry."
One thing that the wedding filmmakers who gathered in New Orleans found they agreed on was that relationships with photographers had been crucial to the success of their studios, and that wedding videographers could learn a lot from their photographer colleagues, not just in terms of how to develop their craft, or how to build a positive image for their industry, but also in terms of how to produce successful industry events. Specifically, according to Jones, the Collective "concluded that with a small gathering of industry professionals, we could give participants the same sort of upscale boutique experience we see photographers getting in their workshops."
Here’s where St. Pierre’s background and ongoing involvement in the event planning business came in handy: As part of a management group that specializes in running high-end events, St. Pierre was already producing a small, upscale photographers’ workshop called Image X, scheduled for October 6-8, 2008 in New Orleans. The just-formed Re:Frame Collective agreed that it made sense to co-locate their nascent videographers’ event with the Image X 08 workshop, and to make New Orleans, in Jones’s words, "the nexus of the universe for visual excellence that week."
"When I talk to photographers about their elite events, they don’t talk about the content; they say, ‘We had a blast,'" says St. Pierre. "For those of us who like to attend higher-end events, we said, ‘What if we could create something like that—something that’s more boutique than fair.’" Hence the emphasis on location, the insistence on a five-star hotel, the 5:1 presenter-to-attendee ratio, the start-to-finish VIP treatment for each attendee, the narrow focus on wedding video art and business, the preponderance of planned social events bringing presenters and attendees together, and the noteworthy absence of a trade show. Highlights planned so far include nightly workshop recaps with the presenters and a Tuesday night Mardi Gras gala in the French Quarter. "My responsibility is to make the event spectacular," St. Pierre explains. "That’s what will keep people coming back year after year."
Each member of the Collective that I spoke with seemed to agree that the success of the event will be determined by a combination of the content they deliver and the way they deliver it, as well as the atmosphere they’re able to create. One key element of the content is that it will be all about wedding video—no corporate video, no stage events, no other types of social events—and specifically, how to produce, package, and deliver an upscale wedding product.
But even more important to the "Re:Frame" approach is how they intend to present that material, and involve their attendees from the early stages of the planning process in the way the content is offered. "I don’t want to go to an event and sit in the dark and watch someone’s DVD," says Kristen*. In a workshop on production techniques, for example, "I want to be able to play with it as I’m learning about it." As such, her plan is to find out what attendees are looking for from the point at which they sign up, and tailor her workshops to their needs and expectations. "Everyone who signs up will be in contact with each of us. We’ll send out a questionnaire and find out who’s coming, what their personalities are, what their needs are, and why they are signing up. If I’m teaching a marketing seminar, it won’t just be me showing my stuff. I want to look at everyone’s collateral, whether they bring it to the seminar, or send it in ahead of time."
Jones envisions that intimate workshop experience extending beyond the classroom. "If someone is really taken with Jason Magbanua’s shooting techniques in his workshop, they can carry that conversation on to the Café DuMonde, or walk through the French Quarter with him and try out those techniques by shooting video of a jazz musician playing on the sidewalk," he says. "New Orleans is such a visual city, so full of passion, that it’s ripe for an experience in which you can lock in on what you want to focus on in a group and also in a more intimate, one-on-one setting."
Key to the event’s success will be the combination of talents brought together in the Re:Frame Collective. Jones describes them as follows: "Julie Hill, empress of the blog; Don Pham, the engineer who sees the nuts and bolts of the tech side; Chris Jones, who puts together copy, plays the dummy, and asks the questions; Bruce Patterson, who developed WedLuxe, Canada’s luxury wedding magazine, and is an expert on developing a distinctive brand; Julian St. Pierre, who’s spent 10-20 years in conference planning and along with Alex Hill, is the business strategist; and Kristen*, who brings a feminine touch to this testosterone-infused industry."
With the increasing emphasis on high-end wedding filmmaking, the Re:Frame Collective believes the time is right for a boutique, workshop-based conference focused specifically on pursuing and advancing the high-end part of the business. "Now that the buzz is all ‘high-end, charge what you’re worth,’ and creating the expectation that brides will pay ‘X’ for their video, the time has come for an event like this," Kristen* says. Of course, an event that’s emphatically high-end both in content and attendee experience comes at a price somewhat higher than videographers pay at other types of conferences. The price of Re:Frame 08 is $1,299 per attendee, which includes the workshops, the social events, three nights at the conference’s five-star hotel, and breakfast each morning. "For the price they’re paying, rooms are included," St. Pierre says, acknowledging that the cost might at first strike attendees as a bit steep. "But we’re not charging more than our target bride pays for her entire package. How can we expect people to pay ‘X’ for their video if we won’t invest the same in our professional development?"
As much emphasis as the Re:Frame Collective intends to put into Re:Frame 08 this year, the organization’s goals go well beyond creating a single, signature event. They’ve developed a website and blog that will showcase the work of videographers outside the Collective (as well as that of the Re:Frame brain trust, of course), and serve the organization’s mission of (in Kristen*’s words) "giving a voice to boutique videographers."
Another goal, according to Kristen*, is "connecting people and giving back by doing nonprofit work, with companies coming together as teams worldwide." But the overarching goal, according to Jones, is as follows: "We want to reframe people’s mindsets. We want to show people that this is a cool occupation and one where they can make a living, thrive, and be proud to tell people what they do."
Part of that process is putting a new face on the industry, Kristen* says, by creating "an organization that speaks the language of a generation. The idea is to have wedding video be perceived as something exciting that people can be proud of."
A key step in that "reframing" process is recruitment, according to Jones, which speaks to one type of attendee—in addition to existing studios looking to improve their craft or business in one respect or another—that they intend to court. Realistically, according to St. Pierre, at $1,299 per attendee, Re:Frame 08 attendees are likely to come from traditional conference-attendee demographics: "It will be studios that are full-time and have some discretionary." But a long-term goal of Re:Frame is to use the conference and the associated blog and other efforts to bring new talent from other backgrounds into the wedding video mix.
Where will the next generation of wedding videographers come from? Jones believes that with the right refinements to our industry’s image, film school graduates will comprise a large percentage of new entrants to the field. "Film schools and communications departments have a vested interest in seeing their students graduate and work in the fields in which they’re trained," he says. "Event video provides a unique opportunity for people coming out of film school to develop a business, and we’re looking to inspire people to come into the industry that have that type of background. We want to take people that have that sort of artistic acumen already, and turn them into the next generation of wedding filmmakers."
For more information about Re:Frame and Re:Frame 08, go to www.reframe08.com.
Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at infotoday.com) is editor-in-chief of EventDV and EMedialive.com and runs FirstLookBooks, a book review blog.