Why I went to the UK’s first Wedding Filmmaker Retreat

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to RISE, the UK’s first wedding filmmaker retreat. Attended by 75 wedding filmmakers, RISE was a 3 day event down in Cornwall featuring two full days of talks and workshops on everything to do with wedding videography: from marketing, to shooting, to editing. As I’m sure you can imagine, the tickets for this didn’t come cheap, but it was an investment that I didn’t hesitate to make, and that’s for two reasons.

Wedding Filmmaker Retreat RISE

1) The Education Element

As someone who has only been a wedding filmmaker for a couple of years, I still feel I have a lot to learn. I’m really happy with how my videos have progressed and improved since I began filming weddings, but I don’t think it’s ever possible to know too much. Being able to see how other people shoot and edit weddings was an invaluable experience; not only did it affirm that some of my own methods are worthwhile, it also gave me some new ideas and tips on how to make my films better. Even seeing other people’s work that I didn’tlike, and hearing about others’ approaches that I don’t agree with, was useful, because it helps me to focus and consolidate my own approach to wedding filmmaking.

There was also definitely an element of inspiration to RISE. As you shoot more and more weddings, I think it’s easy to get into a bit of a routine and to lose a bit of that focus and passion you once had. But being stuck at a Cove for a few days with so many talented filmmakers was incredibly inspirational. Three full days hearing people talk about what they do, seeing others’ films, and discussing our different approaches left me feeling eager to dive into filming my next wedding.

Wedding Filmmaker Retreat RISEA talk from Pixel about moving away from established trends.
Wedding Filmmaker Retreat RISEPhoto courtesy of Jennie Breame from Unique Visuals – www.uniquevisuals.co.uk

2) The Social Element

Being stuck at that Cove had another, unexpected effect too. I thought I was going to RISE for the education element; I wanted to make my films better and learn from others. But the biggest benefit for me was in fact the relationships that were made there. 

Wedding Filmmaker Retreat RISEPhoto courtesy of Jennie Breame from Unique Visuals – www.uniquevisuals.co.uk

Being a wedding filmmaker can be a lonely job – I mostly shoot weddings alone, and the rest of my working life is spent editing them (again, alone). RISE provided an opportunity to socialise with a lot of talented filmmakers – some I knew already, and some I didn’t. It was a chance to talk to other like-minded individuals about an industry that I’m sure my friends and family are tired of hearing about. I can honestly say I’ve come back from RISE with a long list of people I can now call friends, and while that’s good for me from a social aspect, it’s also good business sense; forging these networks means that I’ve also come away with a list of people that I’d trust to work with me on a wedding day, and to turn to if – worst-case-scenario – something (illness or otherwise) prevented me from being able to shoot a wedding one day.

Wedding Filmmaker Retreat RISE

When I reflect back on RISE, I remember the workshops, the presentations, the 3am chats about the best way to record ceremonies… but mostly I just feel inspired. There are so many of us in this industry, and everybody has their different take on it. I feel like I have a clear sense of what my take looks like, and I’m excited to refine that over the coming season.

2019 wedding season, let’s go.

Wedding Filmmaker Retreat RISE

3 Steps to Preserve your Wedding Film Forever

Oh my god. It’s here. Your USB drive has arrived, and it’s like a tiny brick of GOLD. Moments that will never happen again, memories that are already starting to fade, faces you may never see again. They’re all on this stick, this feat of modern technology. Your entire wedding day, sitting in the palm of your hand. We must cherish it, forever!

wedding video USB

When it comes to looking after your Wedding Film, there are several things you can do to make sure you never lose it:

1. Back up

USB drives are pretty incredible. But they’re not indestructible. They can be broken, they can get lost, and they can also randomly decide to stop working. The only way to guard against this is to back up your files. This is the first thing you should be doing when you’ve received your USB (after watching your films, of course). Copy the files to your computer, copy them to another hard drive or USB drive, upload them online to Google Drive or Dropbox or something similar. Whatever you do, just make sure that USB is not the only copy you have.

2. Store it well

It probably goes without saying that you should keep your USB drive somewhere safe. But what does that mean?

First of all, it means somewhere you can remember. This tiny treasure can easily become lost, especially when you’re two children and a new house down the line, and you don’t even own the chest of drawers you used to keep it in.

wedding video USB

Secondly, this means storing it somewhere where it’s not going to be damaged by water or extreme temperatures (yes, that does mean that the fridge/oven/garden are not ideal places). Likewise, it doesn’t need to be stored in a safe guarded by alsatians – just keep it in a drawer or a cupboard somewhere.

Oh, and keep the lid on too – this protects the USB connector from getting damaged or from getting dust inside, which can stop your computer from being able to read it.

3. Use it properly!

I know you’re eager to watch. You’re just seconds away from being able to cringe at footage of your own two left feet. But slow down.

wedding video USB

Using a USB drive properly means making sure your computer is booted up and logged in before you plug in the USB. Apparently, plugging it in beforehand can risk an electric surge or shock to the USB drive, which wouldn’t be ideal. So wait before you plug it in, and then wait again before you unplug it! Don’t just yank it out to throw back in the fridge cupboard. You’re supposed to ‘Eject’ it first. This is done by right clicking and selecting ‘Eject’ or ‘Safely remove’. On Windows, you’ll then be told when it’s safe to remove, whilst on a Mac the drive will simply disappear from your Finder window and you can then unplug it.

So there you have it: three steps to preserve your wedding film. Of course, after the first point, not much else matters, because you’ll have it backed up (hopefully more than once). Nevertheless, if you do happen to forget to back up, and your safe-guarding alsatians have an off-day, bear in mind that I keep all files for one year after the date of your wedding. This means that at any point before your first wedding anniversary, I can always send you another USB drive at a small cost.

How do I keep your memories safe?

As Jack Nicholson once said, “We’re in the business of saving memories”. Okay, so that’s not exactly what he said, but let’s not get bogged down in details. The point is, as a wedding videographer, I deal in moments. My product is your memories. And “with great memories, come great responsibilities” (okay, I’ll stop butchering film quotes now).

You only get one shot at your wedding. There are no redos. It’s therefore important that a wedding videographer keeps your memories safe. In this article, I’m going to tell you about the steps and precautions I take to make sure I do exactly that.

On the day

I shoot most weddings alone, meaning it’s usually just me and one camera for most of the day. However, this is different for the super important bits: the ceremony, the speeches, and the first dance. For these bits, I’ll usually be using three cameras at the same time (two for the first dance). This has two benefits: not only does it give me different angles to cut to (providing different perspectives and capturing more of what’s going on), but it also gives me backups.

wedding videographerUnfortunately, things do go wrong; technology sometimes fails us. Whether that means a corrupt memory card or a camera freezing, I need to make sure that it doesn’t ruin the final product. Having multiple angles helps with this. Last summer, during a ceremony, a memory card in one of my cameras corrupted. Luckily, I was filming the ceremony from three angles, so the ceremony was still captured from two different angles. In the end, an expert was able to recover the files for a fee, so I could use the footage from that camera anyway! But even if they hadn’t been able to recover it, the precautions I’d taken meant that the ceremony was still captured in full.

The same is also true of my approach to capturing audio during a wedding. When thinking about a wedding film, a lot of people don’t consider the audio side of things; good, quality audioAs is one of the things that really separates a professional wedding film from Auntie Jone’s iPad recording. Audio is important, and needs to be treated as such.

wedding videographer

During an ordinary ceremony, I’ll place a microphone on the groom and the person giving the service (if they’ll allow it). Sticking a mic on a bride is sometimes difficult (wedding dresses aren’t really conducive to hiding mics), but the groom and celebrant’s mics are usually enough to also pick up the bride’s vows. I’ll also stick microphones on anybody that’s giving a reading during the service. Next, I’ll also place a backup recorder in the flowers or somewhere else nearby, just in case the other two mics fail. And on the off chance that all of those fail, my three cameras are also each recording audio. That means there are usually at least 5 back-up recordings of the vows, in case the groom’s mic fails for whatever reason.

The same applies to the speeches; I will ordinarily place a microphone on each person giving a speech. If the venue has a handheld microphone that is being used during the speeches, I’ll also attach a recorder to that to provide a backup. Finally, I’ll place more recorders underneath the people speaking, just in case. And again, if all else fails, there’s always the audio from my three cameras.

So I’ve spoken about the insurance provided by having three separate cameras for the important bits, but what about the rest of the day? What if something happens to that main camera I use? Well that main camera records onto two memory cards simultaneously. This means that, should a card become corrupt, there’s another one in there with everything on it too. In the extremely unlikely event that both cards fail, there’s also a good chance that an expert could recover the files as well!

After the wedding

Okay, we made it. We got through the day without any issues. We have footage from throughout. Twice. With three versions of the ceremony and speeches, and enough audio sources to shake a stick at. It’s been a long day, but it’s not over yet. There’s just one more job to do: back up.

business computer connection contemporary

I can’t sleep after a wedding unless I’ve backed it up. I tried it once, but a myriad of fears and worries plagued my all-too-awake mind. What if there’s a fire in the night and there’s no time to grab my camera bag? What if there’s a flood? What if somebody breaks in and steals my camera bag? What if the memory cards just spontaneously combust during the night? No, better just to back them up. So before I go to bed after a wedding, I make sure that all of your memories are stored in two places: on their original devices (cameras, recorders etc.), and on one hard drive. 

The next day, I’ll copy everything from that hard drive to a second hard drive. Your memories are now stored in two places.
However, these two copies are not enough. Again, my anxious brain worries me with thoughts of fires, floods, gas explosions, or any other number of disasters, both man-made and natural. And so, at the next opportunity, I’ll copy this to a third hard drive that I keep off-site. Only after this third copy is made will I delete footage and files from my cameras and recorders.

All of this ultimately means that, during the day, I take every precaution to ensure that, as far as possible, I won’t miss out on capturing your memories. Afterwards, there are ultimately three copies of your files: two hard drive copies in my office, and one kept off-site. Oh, and until I can access my off-site hard drive, I’ll make sure to keep a copy of your wedding on my person every time I leave the house. Yeah that’s right, I’m a paranoid wreck! Like I said earlier, as a wedding videographer, we’re in the business of saving memories, and I’ll be damned if I’m not saving them to the best of my abilities!

Why do we make short films?

Chances are, when you think of a wedding video, you think of your parents’ video that you watched when you were a child. It was probably a dusty old VHS featuring a marathon video that spanned multiple hours and required several tea breaks to get through. Well that’s not really how wedding films are done any more…

These days, shorter wedding films are much more popular. These can range in length (anywhere from 5-30 minutes) and are often called different things (a ‘highlight film’, a ‘feature film’, or something else entirely) depending on the videographer. There really are no rules, which makes matters a bit confusing.

This is something you should take into consideration when choosing a videographer: what kind of video do you want? Do you want a 30 minute video? Do you only want a 5 minute video? Or do you want a 2 hour video showing everything from the day?

I can’t help you make that decision, but I can tell you about my approach and why I’ve chosen to focus on making short films.


The AK Films approach

The starting point for all my weddings is a Wedding Highlight Film lasting anywhere from 5-7 minutes. This is a short, creative edit. It tells the story of your entire day, from getting ready until dancing, featuring footage from throughout. The shots may not be in chronological order, but that’s because they’re designed to evoke as much emotion as possible. In a nutshell, the Highlight Film is intended to make you feel as though you’re right back in that aisle all over again; like you can almost taste the champagne, almost feel the confetti falling on your skin. This isn’t just about shot order though; I also use a combination of instrumental music and vocal audio from your day (speeches, vows etc.) to really recreate those feels from your wedding day. 

In addition to the Wedding Highlight Film, I also offer the option of adding a video of your full ceremony, or a video of all of your speeches. If you want to see even more, then I do also offer a Long Film that’s reminiscent of that video your parents had. The Long Film I offer includes all the usable footage I capture on the day, from prep to dancing, condensed into a chronological film. This can be anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on your wedding.

5-7 minutes: The perfect length?

So why did I choose to make my Highlight Films 5-7 minutes long? Well, actually, I didn’t. It just sort of happened that way. I’m trying to tell the story of your day, and that’s what dictates the length. I would never want to cut a great story short due to time constraints, and, equally, I would never want to dilute a story just to reach a minimum length. In my experience, a film will usually need to be longer than 5 minutes, but rarely longer than 7 minutes, and somewhere between that is the sweet spot that will allow me to tell your story in the most beautiful way.

Less is more

You may still be thinking that 2 hours is better than 6 minutes. I would argue that this depends on your priorities and what you want from your wedding film. Do you just want everything captured, or do you want to relive the day? Do you want an account of your wedding, or do you want an experience?

wedding highlight film

Another downside to a long film is that it’s impossible to share online. It’s so long that the file size ends up being huge, making both uploading and streaming really difficult. Moreover, why would you want to share it? Nobody (with the exception of your gran, who most likely can’t figure out how to watch it online anyway) wants to sit down and watch a full rendition of your wedding day. And to be completely honest, you probably don’t either…
Let me ask you something: Do you remember the first time that your parents dusted off that video tape and made you sit and watch their wedding? I’m sure it was magical. Maybe the second time was pretty cool too. But the third? Chances are, you were bored out of your mind. And your parents may have been too! Whilst it’s nice to have all of that footage just in case you ever want to see it in its entirety, the reality is that it’s a bit of a pain to watch. Even though it’s your wedding day, I know couples whose weddings I filmed last year that have still not watched their Long Films.

On the other hand, you’ll likely watch your Wedding Highlight Film again and again; I’m often told by couples that they ‘can’t stop watching’ their Highlight Film. I think a component of that is just how easy it is to watch. You get to see, hear and feel the best parts of your day whenever you want.

All that being said, I fully appreciate that it can be nice to sit down and watch the whole day again, which is why I offer the option of adding the Long Film. One couple I filmed last year turned the viewing into a date night and watched their long film over a bottle of wine (there’s an idea for you).

wedding highlight film

You may be worried that the Wedding Highlight Film will miss things from your day, and this is true. But that’s okay! Before the wedding, I always ask you what and who is most important to you. That way, I can ensure you don’t miss anything or anyone that you wanted to see. Another bonus is that you don’t have to wade through 50 shots of people you felt obliged to invite but don’t actually like very much! And if you’re still worried about missing bits, you’ve also got the option of the Long Film…

Ultimately, shorter films are quickly becoming the norm because they simply deliver a better viewing experience. Watching your Highlight Film will make you feel the kind of feelings that simply can’t be stretched out over a two-hour video. That being said, it is undeniably nice to have that Long Film too. Maybe you won’t want to watch it for years to come, but one day you’ll get the urge. And what better way of torturing the grandkids than forcing them to watch a full account of your wedding day?

Why I became a Wedding Filmmaker

This time last year, I’d just graduated from university with a degree in Law with French. Everyone expected that I would move to London, apply to a big law firm and become a solicitor. Well, they were half right…
I did move to London, but I chose to disregard a legal career in favour of something I was more passionate about: I became a Wedding Filmmaker.

As part of my degree, I’d had to study abroad in France for a year, and I was unfortunate enough to end up in a small city in the North called Brest. If I had to sum Brest up in 3 words, it would be: boring, grey, and wet. But I was in France, after all, so it wasn’t all bad: I got to visit my favourite city (Paris), I got to drink lots of wine and eat lots of cheese, and I got to meet a lot of cool people. When I was growing up with my brother, my dad would constantly have a camera stuck in our faces – he was (and is) into photography, and he loved capturing memories. I think this definitely rubbed off on me, because I found myself, in France, wanting to capture everything. Unlike my dad, my chosen format was video.


And that’s how my journey to becoming a filmmaker started. I spent a week in Paris, pointing my camera (my iPhone) at everything, and then spent weeks editing the footage into a video. Then I went on a day trip somewhere, and the same thing happened again. It kept happening; I’d find myself sitting for 8 hours straight editing, without realising how much time had passed. Eating, sleeping and studying were all distractions. All I wanted to do was make videos.

When I returned to Nottingham for my final year of university, I kept this up, starting a YouTube channel and making cinematic vlogs inspired by The Michalaks, and I started to wonder if it would be possible to make money from this. At the same time, I did some legal work experience at a small solicitors’ firm and decided that this may not be the route I wanted to go down, after all. I found the work dry, soulless and boring, which was in stark contrast to how much I was enjoying making videos. Suddenly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Here I was in my fourth year of studying law for a career I’d been sure I wanted to do, with no ambitions to continue down that path past graduation. 

become a wedding videographer
Getting the shot in Florence, Italy.

One day, my girlfriend sent me a link to a wedding video on YouTube. She said it had made her cry, and I was intrigued. I think it was by The Film Poets, who are an American husband-wife-duo that make beautiful films. I remember it blowing my mind. Previously, I’d thought wedding videos were these long, boring, badly made things by a man with a camcorder on his shoulder. But not this one. It was definitely about a wedding, and it covered the whole day, but it was only six minutes long, it was all in the wrong order, there was slow-motion, and it looked like a movie! I watched another. Then another. An idea began to form, and my mind began to race. “Could I do this?”, thought a part of me. “Why not?”, thought another.

A couple of months later, I filmed a wedding ceremony for free. I was already invited as a guest, so I asked if I could try filming it to see what I could come up with. They agreed, and I filmed it on an old DSLR and a point-and-shoot (basically, not cameras you should be using for weddings). I spent weeks editing it, and I played it for the couple when I next saw them. It was nowhere near the calibre of The Film Poets’ films I’d watched, and yet it made them cry. They seemed genuinely thankful to have this memento from their day, and I felt all warm inside; in that moment I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life.

become a wedding videographer
A still from my first ever Wedding Film.

I emailed every wedding videographer nearby, and when they didn’t respond, I called them instead. Eventually, one of them agreed to hire me as an assistant, which I started doing alongside studying for my finals. After a busy summer working with him, I started getting my own bookings and filming my own weddings. I haven’t looked back since.

In the filmmaking industry, weddings are often looked down on. Filming weddings is often a stepping stone to ‘bigger and better’ things – a ‘necessary evil’ in order to gain experience behind a camera so that you can go on to make adverts and short films and things like that. Personally, I love weddings, and I have no desire to do anything else. I do a bit of commercial stuff on the side at the moment (just to try new things), but I’m quickly realising that weddings is all I want to do, because I feel it’s what I do best, and I haven’t really found anything else that I enjoy as much. On a wedding day, at no point does it feel like work. I’m filming people having a great time. They’re smiling, laughing, catching up, dancing, drinking, and for two people there it’s the happiest day of their life – how lucky am I that I get to be there capturing it?!

become a wedding videographer

In addition, I don’t need to worry about directing like you do with commercial work. Everything is already happening, with or without me, which means I can focus entirely on capturing things in the most beautiful way possible. Admittedly, it’s long hours (usually 12 hour days), and sometimes stressful. The editing can be boring (sorting through 6 hours of wedding footage to get rid of the unusable bits can take days, and that’s before the real editing and storytelling even begins), but every single day I wake up excited to make a meaningful film that will tell the story of the happiest day of someone’s life.

And when it does get tough? When I’m editing a 90 minute catholic ceremony from three different camera angles and it’s taking me a lifetime? I just remember that I could have been sat in an office drafting contracts, and I feel thankful all over again.