In the 4 years since Mili Ghosh began Memories in Motion in Chicago with the goal of offering high-end Bollywood-style videos to a niche South Asian wedding market, her hands-on approach—consulting in details right down to makeup—has taken her all over the globe. From opulent weddings with hundreds of guests in her hometown of Chicago to royal weddings in India, Ghosh combines her own personal artistic vision with a devotion to her couples to create cinematic wedding videos with a flair not found anywhere else.
A Tanzania native, Ghosh studied communications and journalism in Canada. In her senior year, she began working as a production coordinator with a nonprofit documentary filmmaking organization on campus. She promptly fell in love with the process of video editing and the artistry and expression involved in combining image, motion, and sound. "Editing started out as a way for me to express myself creatively," Ghosh recalls. "It is like a puzzle to me with no right way of putting scenes together. I always felt the need to understand the music and sound in order for me to create something meaningful. I enjoyed putting clips together and felt the need to express my vision with a certain style of editing."
In 2003, Ghosh came to the U.S. from Canada and launched her career working with another South Asian wedding photography and videography studio. It was during this time she recognized the need for a high-end studio capable of producing more than the average "cheesy wedding video" within this market. Recognizing that these largely part-time outfits left a lot to be desired-"the goal is to get the job done; there's no motivation to be creative"-she started out by offering couples free shoots beyond the day of their wedding to give them the opportunity to have a video that was unique and different. The first clients came through word-of-mouth from other vendors in the South Asian wedding industry. Soon, Memories in Motion (the name, true to Ghosh's inspirations, coming from an old Bollywood film) had been established as the premier studio in this niche market, winning an AEGIS Award in 2006.
Ghosh's vision and creative style is heavily influenced by various elements that create new blends of culture and media. "Two musicians have heavily inspired me-Niraj Chag and Karsh Kale. Their fusion style of music with ethnic blend has always fascinated me, and I try to incorporate their music into my wedding films. I have always been inspired and fascinated by Bollywood. I adopt a lot of my style from the elaborate Bollywood productions." Wanting to offer more than the bland wedding videos she'd seen, Ghosh strove to create movies and clips with a style as lush and detailed as her inspirations.
Weddings on a Bollywood Scale
By 2007, Ghosh made the decision to remain a low-volume vendor in order to allow her company to retain its intense focus on the couples and the art involved in the productions. Typically producing 10 films per year, with 3 or more days of shooting for each event, Memories in Motion devotes a startling amount of time to each couple to develop a connection unusual in the industry that in turn allows the movies to more deeply express the personality of the clients and Ghosh's vision.
To ensure her style of expression is clear and consistent, Ghosh herself edits every movie as well as films the detail shots. She works in conjunction with her husband, Sid, the Steadicam operator, who holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and has, as his day job, a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois. Truly a labor of love, Ghosh notes, "So this is his unpaid third job!"
Fully understanding the amount of talent required to produce true art, Ghosh does not cut corners in hiring additional cinematographers. "We also work with film union Jib operators, who have worked on blockbusters such as The Dark Knight and Public Enemies. Another wedding we filmed at Chicago's Navy Pier also involved over 700 guests and we had some amazing results mainly with our jib operator who was able to stretch out the 42-foot arm across the large dance space and over the stage."
Also recognizing that cinema-quality video requires cinema-quality sound, Memories in Motion has been continually enhancing its sound production capabilities. "Our fourth cinematographer is in charge of sound. I feel good sound can significantly enhance the quality of a wedding film. We film in HD, author in Blu-ray, and, since 2008, we have introduced 5.1 Dolby surround in our wedding movies. Sid edits the sound and does a 6-channel mixing to create true 5.1 surround sound."
Palace of Illusions
Expanding on her involvement with opulent South Asian weddings throughout the U.S., Ghosh recently completed work on a royal wedding held in Udaipur, India, at Jag Mandir Palace. Memories in Motion was contracted after the bride saw a sample of Ghosh's work and became deeply inspired by its inimitable style. An incredibly involved and lavish series of events, filming took place over 5 days and many locations, using Jimmy Jib and Kino Flo lights to create a striking cinematic feel. Ghosh, working with a production coordinator based in India, consulted on details from music to makeup and costuming, props, and even rehearsals.
The end product was a movie with a distinct style that offered a striking montage not only of the ceremonies and the bride and groom but also on the city of Udaipur, its beautiful architecture, and the feel and culture of both the city and the wedding. Ghosh remarks, "It was all quite Bollywood in a more royal way!" This amazing, elaborate wedding was featured in grace ormonde Wedding Style magazine, with Memories in Motion listed as a platinum vendor. Building on this success, Ghosh now finds herself working on even more royal weddings, always striving to combine her vision with the expression of each couple's own story.
Developing a concept that really expresses the soul of each couple is not an easy task, but Memories in Motion has developed strategies that address these challenges. "We conceptualize with music, we rehearse with our clients, direct and shoot at the same time with multiple camera supports-glidetracks, Steadicams-and then after the end of each shoot we look over the scenes with our clients. We try to change things around, adding details or working with expressions. At first, it all seems very challenging, but it's something I've seen my clients enjoy doing."
Ghosh also notes that it's challenging for many people to relax in front of a camera. But she knows how to get the best of out of her brides and grooms. "Naturally the key is to keep scenes simple and to keep it realistic. Acting is not easy and dialogues or lipsynching to music is not suited to everyone. You don't want to create a ‘staged' feeling." Ghosh firmly believes that growing her business does not mean getting bigger or taking on more clients but developing in her own artistry and style while expanding technical capabilities and learning more about the filming and editing process.
More Art Than Video
Her focus continues to be on offering the most intimate and comprehensive services to couples, expanding from the already exhaustive coverage of the 3-day ceremonies into video engagement mementos, save-the-dates and thank you DVDs, and the development of short concept videos with a couple and their family and friends to capture the couples' personality and story beyond the scope of their nuptials. "The concept or short music videos are quite a hit with the South Asian clients. We conceptualize with music, write screenplays or at times make a shot list that flows from one segment to another; we location scout; we even come up with wardrobe and makeup."
In the end, Ghosh knows it's all about focusing on creating a product that is more art than video. "Wedding cinematography is fairly new and the majority of people still have prejudices or preconceived notions about the ‘cheesy' wedding movies. I feel that there is very little understanding of how much manpower and effort it takes to produce a good wedding movie. Film has images, sound, and camera movement, and the seamless mix of these three elements is what creates a memorable movie for the bride and the groom. There has to be a lot of effort put in by us wedding cinematographers to educate brides and grooms about what it takes, both creatively and technically, to produce a high-end wedding movie."
Elizabeth Avery Merfeld (www.lizwelsh.com) is a freelance writer based in Madison, WI.