For many EventDV readers, summer is wedding and WEVA Expo season, with all the excitement and frenzied activity that come with them; this fall brought POSH, the first all-women event filmmaking gathering; and this winter, all eyes will be on New Orleans, as Team IN[FOCUS] unveils their second annual educational event for event filmmakers, IN[FOCUS] 2011. While some details of IN[FOCUS] 2011 have yet to be revealed at this writing, the organizers have announced several key elements of their plans, including location, dates, and pricing—the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans' French Quarter, January 23-26, 2011—opened registration on their website ($525 until the early bird special ends November 25, and $595 thereafter), and posted the lion's share of their speaker roster. "Headliners" include concept-film phenom Kevin Shahinian of Pacific Pictures and NFL Films cinematographer of record Patrick Moreau of StillMotion, as well as a third keynoter who will be announced in the next 2 weeks. Rounding out the program are an array of acclaimed event filmmakers including Imagique's Daniel Boswell, Northernlight Filmworks' John Moon, Studio+Z's Steve Zugelter, Life Stage Films' Matt Davis, Pennylane Productions' Adam Forgione, Godfather Films' John Goolsby, and David Perry Films' David Perry.
Of course, you can learn all that from a quick visit to infocusvideoevent.com, where you can also find cryptic hints at presentation topics and how they relate to IN[FOCUS]' "Gateway" theme, and more detailed information on the educational mission of IN[FOCUS] as defined by co-founders Chris P. Jones, Don Pham, Terry and Joe Taravella, and late, lamented industry icon Julian St Pierre. But what exactly is "The Gateway" as defined by Team IN[FOCUS], and how does it relate, conceptually, to IN[FOCUS] 2011, and to the event organizers' "survive, thrive, and serve" educational mission?
The Gateway theme begins with the location, drawing on the history of New Orleans as a commercial and cultural gateway throughout its rich history. (More on that can be found on the IN[FOCUS] website.) But the essence of the Gateway theme, it seems, as it relates more specifically to IN[FOCUS] attendees, is to give event filmmakers a sense of themselves as crossover artists who can pass freely and profitably from one commercial filmmaking genre to another, without ever, necessarily, abandoning the event world in which they've cut their teeth. "One sign of the times in technology and in filmmaking is that the lines are blurring between different types of filmmakers, and someone can cross over from doing weddings into commercial work or broadcast work or feature film work, or vice versa," says Chris P. Jones. "If we're able to achieve a level of excellence in shooting weddings, and then parlay that into getting noticed, to doing even bigger and better weddings, or commercial work, or other type of event documentation, broadcast work, then it behooves us to analyze all the components of what makes our wedding business successful, and to see how, as we seek excellence in all these components of our business, that excellence can to benefit us even more, as other opportunities come our way," he explains.
One thing all of the presenters at IN[FOCUS] 2011 will have in common, Jones says, is a track record of success in wedding filmmaking as well as in other areas of production, such as commercial, promotional, or corporate work, and lessons to teach in business and in "the business of creativity." Drawing on their success in areas beyond weddings, the presenters are all equipped to communicate how their successes in branding, marketing, shooting and more as wedding filmmakers have "benefited them as they've gone to do different types of projects, and how achieving excellence on these levels has caused them to get noticed by people who are looking for people to do a certain type of project. And it just so happens that the person they run across who has the vision and the style and the business model [to match their project] happens to be a wedding filmmaker."
Jones hastens to note that the "gateway" is not a departure from weddings, just an open door to expand the repertoire of filmmakers who have had their first successes with weddings. The successful wedding filmmaking business itself, Jones says, can serve as "the gateway for these other opportunities."
The thread that runs through much of the program, Jones says, will be a progression in the presentations from a discussion of the elements of each presenter's wedding business that have made them successful, leading to an explanation of how those elements have benefited them in other areas. For example, Steve Zugelter, who will be speaking on branding, might say, "Branding myself as a sophisticated, high-end wedding filmmaker, when I go and shoot a wedding, I am also branding myself to everybody who comes in contact with me as a professional, no matter what I'm shooting. So I have received corporate jobs and other types of jobs because people saw me not just as a wedding filmmaker, but as a professional. It's in the way I present myself, it's in the way I dress, it's in the way I interact with people and the quality of the work that I produce and show them in a same-day edit."
These types of themes-how to succeed in weddings and then translate that success into areas of business beyond weddings-will populate the "narrative arc" that runs through the program. The three-day schedule will consist of a series of 90-120 minute sessions, followed by a keynote session running 2:30 to 3 hours.
The week will kick off unofficially with some optional a la carte Sunday seminars, including presentations by keynoter Patrick Moreau and by California-based photographer/cinematographers and DSLR experts the Bui Brothers.
And as with any filmmaking conference where the majority of presenters are working partly or exclusively with DSLRs, and some of the presenters would be classified as photographers first, the question of where photography fits in remains an ever-present one. "We are admitting the fact that photography exists and that video companies can benefit by learning it," Jones says, "so we're having a lighting workshop to learn photography on Sunday, and we will have some other speakers who will touch on how we can use DSLRs. We can learn photography and either use it to enhance our videos, or to sell small photography packages, too."
Jones notes that although there will be no photography-specific presentations during the wek, expanding one's horizons to sell photography packages will be a key component of Daniel Boswell's seminar. "Daniel has a unique position in that he has come from the video world into photography, so he knows the mistakes and the habits that a videographer is going to make when jumping into photography. He's got a real relatable approach, and I don't think there's anybody out there who couldn't benefit from learning how to take better photos, whether it's just for a little point-and-shoot, to make their DVD covers, or if they also want to start offering photographic packages to build up their business too. So running an excellent wedding video business, is also a Gateway to branching off into photography. Why should the photographers add video, and have that exclusively?"
While it's exciting to talk in lofty terms about expanding your artistic reach, extending your brand, diversifying your offerings, and so forth, many videographers are dealing with more basic questions now, such as how to get started and how to survive. And with IN[FOCUS]'s "survive, thrive, and serve" mission, Jones says there will be plenty in the IN[FOCUS] 2011 program to address the needs of the videographer in survival mode as well as those just breaking into the business. "Starting a business is like being a sea turtle," he says, "hatching, making it to the sea without getting eaten. We are looking to provide seminars that cover the business aspects, shooting aspects, and the technological aspects of this new world of marketing and business that we live in, so that somebody can come and get up to date on technology, on art, and on business, and be able to survive, whether their business is in its infancy, or whether it's recovering from bad economic circumstances, or survive because their business has not evolved over the last ten years," he says.
Jones says IN[FOCUS] is also designed for studios looking to build on existing successes-"people who want to become better shooters, better editors, and to develop a sustainable business, so that, in three to five years, they're not out of business, because of their backlog, or because of becoming burned out, because they do all the work."
That's where business-oriented seminars from Matt Davis, speaking on sales and staffing, and John Goolsby, speaking on branding and sustainability and moving beyond the one-man-band syndrome, come in. "We want to take people who are at this stage of development-they've developed a nice-looking product, but they really want to turn that product into a business that goes beyond just their ability to produce it. And then, of course, we're looking for people who are wanting to become leaders in the industry, and to take what they've learned and go back and serve their local videographers, whether it's through PVA or DSLR meetup. They realize that their success is built, not just on the efforts that they put in, but on the efforts of other people who have passed along knowledge, time, and mentoring, want to give back to the videographer community and the community at large like Matt Davis."
And what about the risks of casting so wide a net? "I don't think we're going to go over anybody's head with the technical side of the seminars, because most of our presentations will be primarily about business, and even the business of creativity. And these are topics and subjects that anybody can listen to and make judgments themselves: Is this useful information, is this information I can implement? They can synthesize the information and implement the information, but it's not going to be so specific that a person decides, ‘I'm never going to do this.' You're always going to have to think about your branding, you're always going to think about your marketing, you're always going to have to think about your budgets and your sales process and your web presence, and marketing to women and all these things. So nobody who comes," he concludes, "no matter where they are in their business, will be lost in the jargon of techspeak. But they will be challenged."
Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at infotoday.com) is editor-in-chief of EventDV.