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.
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.
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?!
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.