Re:Frame 08, The Day After: Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?
It's the day after Re:Frame 08, I'm back in Wisconsin, and it's time to recap the rest of the event (click here to read about Day One). Day Two of Re:Frame brought a genuine Second Line parade through the streets of the French Quarter, complete with brass band, a Mardi Gras stilt walker, waving handkerchiefs and twirling umbrellas, and a police escort, followed by an open-bar, bon temps roulez "Mardi Gras Event" at the St. Louis Hotel. And earlier in the day, I believe there were some seminars…
My 60+ pages of notes confirm that Re:Frame Day Two did, in fact, include four seminars, beginning with Bruce Patterson of Cloud Nine Creative, who had so much to say in his 90-minute time slot that they had to give him another half an hour on Day 3 just to squeeze it all in. A big part of Bruce’s message, which was bracketed by his nine-part plan for success in high-end wedding video, was about branding and establishing a look that reflects who you are and who your target clientele are. A recurring theme, to be sure, but a particularly appropriate one coming from Bruce, whose wife and business partner, Angela, was responsible for the graphics and much of the hip and distinctive branding of the Re:Frame website and marketing efforts that got the point across so quickly and effectively when they first announced the event. Bruce emphasized professionalism and consistency in design. "Design is everything," he said. "Hire a professional designer and be consistent with colors, fonts, and images. Once a redesign is done, your new logo needs to be on everything, and no one should ever see your old logo again." (Bruce returned on Day Three with some great Glidecam tips, but where he really shone was in the one-on-one, vest-on SmoothShooter instruction I saw him offering several attendees when his seminar was done.)
Irish videographer Maurice O’Carroll of Velvetine Productions, delivered to Re:Frame 08 as "the people’s choice," took the stage next, and again, if my notes are correct, was the only speaker the entire week to quote Aristotle during his seminar. O’Carroll’s topic (and his reason for quoting Aristotle) was applying classical story principles and structure to wedding video in the interest of producing something that can’t be so easily dismissed by "Joe Public" as "a glorified home video." Describing a sequence within a story as a "series of continuous change that builds an act" and ends with a major change, and a wedding video as essentially a one-act story, he said the "major change" in a wedding video is the vows, so that’s where the story should end. "If you put the moment of major change too early, the story just fizzles out."
He went on to talk about the importance of "working from the inside out" when producing a wedding video, trying to "get an insight into the lives of the people" and divine the themes of the day, and approaching the story subjectively, from that perspective. For example, a common theme he suggested is "Someone in the room is wishing they had a loved one with them"; he then described how he’s built entire productions around that theme, and showed a clip that demonstrated it. He followed that segment with a moving video tribute to a fellow Irish videographer who specializes in weddings and funerals but has yet to achieve O’Carroll’s level of international renown—echoing Re:Frame’s recurring theme, "a rising tide raises all ships."
Next up were Terry and Joe Taravella of Studio Vieux Carre who described some of the peculiarities of New Orleans wedding shoots ("sprints, not marathons," second-line parades) before getting down to their main theme: balance. Their definition of balance as it applies to wedding and event video ranges from balancing (and varying) shot selections, whether medium or wide or static or moving; balancing the demands of work and enjoying family life; and finding common ground with other vendors to build relationships that will yield referrals while "keeping the drama out." They also made a great point about client relationships and finding a balance between "client" and "friend": "We’re friendly, but not their best friend, so they don’t expect us to bend over backwards for them."
Chris P. Jones of Mason Jar Films and Kristen* of Bliss followed with the boldest move, in terms of subject selection, of the entire event: "Film School 101," an in-depth look at the business and practice of producing professional wedding video on Super 8 film. A few videographers have had enormous success with Super 8 film, a few have lost a lot of money with it, and most have simply stayed away. And while a few of the 50 attendees probably signed up largely to learn Kristen* and/or Jones’s secrets of Super8 success (or because they're working with film themselves and hope to refine their approach), most of the rest most likely arrived with little or no interest in having anything to do with film. This was a big gamble for a single-track conference, occupying 135 minutes of a two-day event with a 50-person captive audience on a topic that’s currently so far on the margins of the business.
Gamble or not, it was entirely in keeping with Re:Frame’s mission to redefine the industry: If you don’t have part of an afternoon to listen to two people whose businesses have gone gangbusters with Super 8 tell you exactly how they did it, your eyes and mind aren’t open to what you can learn and how it can change your business. I’m not saying this is true, but this is Re:Frame’s message, and giving Super 8 equal billing at Re:Frame 08 exemplified it.
Topics of the Film School 101 seminar ranged from marketing to method to cameras and stocks and frame rates and what to buy (and what not to buy) and where to get your equipment and how to use it, how film package-and-processing deals work, what questions to ask when you buy a used camera, how to economize your footage and shoot film in "chunks," and what’s a "film shot" and what isn’t. You really had to be there to get the full impact of the seminar—not to mention the finer detail and individual, hands-on instruction shared by Kristen* and Jones and other speakers in the Re:Cap Room in between and after the sessions—and many attendees may not have walked out with definite plans to embrace film after the seminar ended, but they did leave with a pretty strong sense of the "systems and knowledgebase for using Super8 as part of our medium" that have been the foundation of Kristen* and Jones’s success.
Day Three (besides Bruce Patterson’s overspill time, mostly devoted to some great Glidecam tips, and lots of Re:Cap Room interaction), was mostly an infomercial for Re:Frame Austin (April 27-29, 2009) and the Collective’s notion of how to make their movement go viral through the attendees who come to their event. The Austin infomercial looked pretty inviting, especially the seminar venue, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which appears poised to take wedding video workshops to strange new places. As the iconic Wooderson says in Austin-based filmmaker Richard Linklater’s breakout film, Dazed and Confused--in a direct Texan translation of New Orleans' laissez les bon temps roulez--"Alright, alright, alright."
Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at infotoday.com) is editor-in-chief of EventDV.
Photos by Joe Taravella.