THE SOCIETY OF MOVEMENT
Welcome all to one of our behind the scenes technical posts. These are aimed more at our fellow filmmakers rather than our couples. This series of educational posts forms part of our education arm which we call the Society of Movement. These take the form of online education blog posts as well as hands on workshops which we hold every now and then.
Why do we call it a Society? Well, we firmly believe that when it comes to education you can learn just as much from the other filmmakers that attend our events as you can from those who are speaking. We are also a movement to change how the world sees event filmmaking and aim to squash the idea that a film needs to be 2 hours long to be of true value.
In this Behind the Scenes post, we are going to show you one of our full wedding films. The reason for doing this is to address some of the questions out there in the industry about how short form is constructed, and how to make the transition from long form, to short form (if that’s what your keen on doing). In some ways, changing your editing method to short form is quite a change to your business model, so be prepared.
Here at Minty Slippers we only do short form (16-20 minutes long)
Here at Minty Slippers we only do short form (16-20 minutes long). We haven’t offered longer edits for well over 5 years now. Long form edits don’t feature in our business model and we have found that since introducing short form to our customers, everyone enjoys the shorter edits so much more.
The wedding we are going to share with you is the full film from the wedding of Andrew & Jessica shot on the Island of St Maarten in the Caribbean. The whole edit was filmed over the course of one week, and you will see that the film we’ve made tells the whole story of the lead up to the wedding as well as the main event.
This edit is conducive to our style at Minty Slippers although a little bit longer due to the additional days filming. Our UK weddings follow a similar layout and structure but each one is different depending on the content of each day. So, grab yourself a mug of tea and a biccy and have a watch for the next 19 minutes as we give you the story of Andrew & Jessica;
Welcome back. So what did you think?
Some things you may have noticed. We didn’t use any black and white shots, just a few seconds of slow-mo, no staged shots and no crazy colour grading. All typical in a Minty Slippers film.
WHY WE DO SHORT FORM
We’ve always wanted to make wedding videos enjoyable for a wider audience, not just the bride and groom. I remember when we were thinking about our future in this business and went to a wedding show at a well known theme park and approached the video guy there. We asked if we could see a demo disk and his sales pitch to us was “I could do, but its someone elses wedding so you will find it boring, but you will love your own wedding video”. That was it. I remember thinking “Why does it have to be boring? I watch movies about weddings and don’t find them boring”. So the quest was on to change how people thought of wedding videos.
In 2009 we saw the work of Chris P. Jones, the main man at InFocus. We watched one of his short forms and were totally blown away by the story telling. The way he told the story of an entire wedding day in such a short space of time made us both weep. What also caught our attention was how we didn’t feel like we wanted to skip past any part of it. Even after the 5th watch through. After this we knew this was what people would want, if only they knew about it.
Before we went short form, we were used to producing a long form edit with everything in full but edited all nice and neat. We’d take a church service for example, usually around 45 minutes, and show the hymns, service, everything from start to finish.
One of the main changes to our thought process when editing services was “How do they do it in Hollywood?”, how do they make it interesting and stimulating to watch. So, we watched a Hollywood movie containing a wedding element, and within two minutes, the wedding part was over. However, it didn’t feel “too” short and seemed perfect for getting the point across that a wedding had happened in the story. We realised like a lightbulb going off that they have just showed the entire event in a way which makes sense in under 2 minutes!!!
WHAT IS A SHORT FORM?
Lets start off with what it isn’t. Short form isn’t simply a longer edit with bits cut out. You can’t remove things without crafting a core narrative. To also create a really enjoyable short form you need to change how you film, how you think and how you sell the idea to your couples. Short form is also not quicker and easier. It’s a hell of a lot more work than long form hence why we charge more. We are not cutting anything out, we are just working smarter.
It’s about crafting a little story of the wedding day. Wedding days by their very nature can be quite disjointed. With 80+ people all doing their own thing there’s lots going on and to just show it as it happens can mean things jump around quite a lot. Your job is to identify story threads occurring during the day. Some of these are obvious like exchanging of the gifts, marriage vows and cutting the cake. Your job is to film them from multiple angles and offering the viewer intrigue. Don’t just go for the wide safety shot which shows everything happening and gives the game away. Use close-ups to make the viewer wonder what is going on, even if it’s for a split second.
Creating the story also means cutting out parts of the day which don’t adhere to the narrative you are trying to craft. The best man speech is famous for berating the groom and talking about the stag do but all too often the story has very little meaning to anyone but those who were there. What we often find though is at the end of the speech the best man has relaxed somewhat and is finally saying what he really wants to say. A special message the couple. That wasnt the case with Dave, the best man at Andrew & Jessica’s wedding. That guy is as cool as a cucumber.
You need to be bold enough to cut those bits out of the edit which don’t lend themselves to the story you see.
With long form your usually documenting the wedding day. Short form your telling the story of the day.
MOVING TO SHORT FORM
So how do you go from producing long edits to shorter, much more story driven edits? Chances are, you’ve only ever sold your couples the long form style and they wouldn’t have booked you if you’d offered something shorter. This is totally true. The fact is that these people wouldn’t have booked you, but if you had been offering short form, someone else would. Short form edits attract a totally different type of person.
“Show people what you want them to see”
There is no way you can sell a short form to someone by simply telling them about it. The idea of paying more for less footage is simply crazy for most. So you need to be able to show people a shorter edit so they can understand the value if offers. But what is the value of short form? We’ve all heard the story’s on forums or from a friend of a friend “Why have a video? You will watch it once and it will sit in the cupboard thereafter”. Quite possibly true. Longer edits can feel like a bit of a slog to sit through time after time. I myself enjoyed Lord of the Rings but boy is it a long one. Short form is something people can watch over and over and there are no boring bits to skip through. Why would you skip anything? You don’t skip through bits of your favourite movie so why your wedding film? Andrew & Jessica have just emailed us to say how they watch their film 3-4 times a week! Not a year, a week!
The secret to our success with the short form, is that alongside the short film, we also provide the couple with a copy of the ceremony and speeches in full, as they happened, roughly edited. This is literally the edit we create when multicamming our footage. This gives people the peace of mind they wont miss anything but also gives you the freedom to craft your narrative.
Lets take a step back for a moment. We’ve already mentioned you can’t just tell someone you want to make their edit shorter, you need to be able to show people what a short form looks like. One of your own, in your own style. So the first thing you need to do is to produce your own short form edit. The best way to do this is to take your favorite wedding of the year and re-edit it into something you want to show people and you want people to book. While this isn’t as ideal as shooting with short form in mind it’s a start and over time as people book your short form only package you will learn to shoot in ways which benefit your edits.
Once we started offering short form and had a demo to show people we also approached our existing client base who we had yet to film and had opted for our long form package. If you arrange to meet your customers before the wedding, most of them would be quite happy to watch some of your work as an example of your skills and story telling ability. We used this meeting to show our couples what we were producing in short form, and most of them were so impressed that they upgraded and paid the extra to have this type of film, instead of the long form option. So, if your going to tackle your customer base this way, make sure you’ve got your pricing structure in place for a short form upgrade.
The first thing we had to do was change the way we looked at our footage and our workflow. It was quite inefficient and was just a series of the best shots with no real purpose. In 2009 we discovered the Chris P. Jones workflow which literally changed our life. Rather than use the film school method of putting footage into bins that you have to fish though you simply place all of your footage onto a timeline and then catagorise each and every shot as either main action, people cutaways, object cutaways or location cutaways. The main action will form the core narrative and you then use your various cutaways to fill in gaps and facilitate the move through time. What you end up with is something like this;
What you have to do is tell each part of the day in a 4 or 5 shot sequence rather than a 5 minute montage.
When showing the bridal prep for example we spent about 3 or so short shots showing the hair and makeup. You don’t need to focus on every single person having their makeup applied. Those shots hold very little gravitas. What else is going on that could draw the viewer’s attention? Champagne being opened, poured, glasses toasted, consumed. There is a story thread to be told.
For Andrew and Jessica I noticed the best man updating his speech. I also knew Andy was updating his vows. Both on laptops! Perfect, here were 2 story threads which also had synergy so I filmed them from the same angles so we could switch between them in the edit. How often do you have the best man and groom writing their speech before the wedding? I didn’t need to show what he was writing, that was the intrigue, as the answer would come later.
Let’s talk about the photoshoot. It’s too easy to get caught up in showing a vast amount of photoshoot footage. We used to include 15 minutes of it. The thing to remember is…. the photographer has that bit covered, there will be a beautiful Queensbury album stuffed with pictures of the photoshoot. In the video above we have 26 seconds of the amazingly talented Bandele Zuberi doing his thing with the photos but only because the shots lended themselves to what was being talked about in the speech. This is how all our films handle the photos. There are guests enjoying the day in other places which warrant our focus.
Hopefully you’re getting the idea now;
- Shorten sequences down but make them story driven and with purpose.
- Use a mix of wide, medium and close up shots to get across what you want to say.
- Discard anything which doesn’t lend itself to your story.
- Sure it happened but is it really relevant?
We also had to change the way we film. Standing back and letting things happen and filming on wide or zoomed in didn’t work any more. We had to be bold and get in there with the action. This helps the viewer feel like they are part of whats going on and not just an observer. We also had to get a greater variety of shots. More angles at different focal distances. We still just let the day unfold and don’t stage anything (doesn’t mean to say we don’t influence things) as most are not actors so asking them to do to anything often leads to a wooden performance.
We also had to learn to shoot to edit. We get to know our couples quite well which takes time. This way we find out little things about them and their day so we know what could be coming. As we are going we can see the story sequence develop in our mind and we instantly start to think how this can be used in the edit and shoot accordingly. You are now entering a world which is very much quality over quantity.
Part of short form is to look at the pacing of your piece. How long does the average shot in your work last? More than 10 seconds? In ours most shots are short, under 4 seconds. The reason for this is the human attention span drops off dramatically after 4 seconds. Part of the reason why SMS and twitter are so popular these days and when you watch a movie or TV show you will notice that unless there is something with real gravitas happening most shots will be under 4 seconds long. I’m amazed your still reading this 🙂 The length of your shot is what’s known as lifespan.
Look at your shots and see how much is needed. Does the shot go straight to the reason it exists? Or do you sit there saying “Wait for it… wait for it… there you go!”?
This is important for short form as you have less time but you still need to get all areas of the day covered. Lifespan also lends itself to the music you choose so it may require you to change your typical music choice to something with a slightly different pace.
To start off we tend to have a short lifespan in the bridal prep. It’s a manic time, things are happening fast and no one knows what is happening next. Then as we enter the ceremony and things slow down we increase the lifespan to reflect the new pace. The ceremony ends and we once again switch to a short lifespan and so on. Use this tool in your storytelling playbook.
Lets talk about time shifting. There is a nasty rumor going around that to produce short form you need to time shift the living crap out of your footage. Not true, we tried it in the early days and it confused the hell out of us, so you can imagine how confused our couples must have been. Think about a Hollywood movie, do they jump around? Pulp Fiction did, and did it well, but for the most part the story followed a linear fashion. This was our inspiration. We time shift more in some films than others. Andrew and Jessica’s has a lot but only because those speeches served as a voiceover intro to the next section.
Don’t jump around just for the sake of it. Always have purpose.
The classic example of time shifting in our work is when it comes to the ceremony. The the full film you’ve just watched, you hear Jason saying “Friends, we have been invited here today to share with Andy and Jessica a very important moment in their lives”. This is similar to what happens at every wedding and is the perfect time for the celebrant to be heard but not seen. Have them speaking, welcoming everyone to the ceremony, but what you’re seeing is shots of people arriving. There is absolutely no way at all that you need to see them saying that. Visually that holds little gravitas (there’s that word again) but seeing happy guests arriving is more engaging to the viewer. Its time shifting just enough to make it interesting but not so much that you are left confused.
Other times when we have shifted we used similar shots to make the switch less jarring. For example. You see Dave jump into the pool and then Andy and Dave’s silhouette sharing a moment in the water, then the next shot cuts to Dave delivering his speech but all this time you are hearing the speech.
Audio is one of your biggest tools for moving from one point in time (or location) to another. You will often hear someone talking or hear a noise a split second before we show it. A great example of this is the Matrix (the first film) where Neo and Trinity are in the night club. At the end of their little chat you start to hear an alarm clock, for a moment you think its part of the night club background but then you realise it’s an alarm. Cut to the next shot of Neo waking up in bed with the alarm going off. The use of that effect has brought you into the next scene without you realising. Remove the alarm and it becomes a little jarring to watch.
These are called ‘L’ cuts and ‘J’ cuts because of the shape they make on the timeline. Before you move to another point in time look at a way to make the transition make more sense to the viewer. Bring in the audio a little before or cut to a similar shot. Never EVER just dump the viewer into a new point in time with no rhyme or reason.
SELLING THE DREAM
So, if you’re considering offering short form, you ideally want to examine your pricing structure to reflect the additional work required. I’d recommend you start to show your short form work to clients once you’ve got one in your portfolio. When they come in and see you don’t ask if they want to see a long edit or short one. Nearly everyone thinks the longer one will be better and what they want. Just show them the shorter one, if it’s not for them then pull out the longer edit. With short form, we have found that our couples feel more connected with what they are watching. It’s not their wedding, yet they enjoyed watching it.
I also want to once again remind you of the key fact. Your current clients may well not want a short form edit, but once you start showing an example of short form, it can attract a whole new audience or if it’s good enough convert your existing clients.
Have something to say or any questions? Then feel free to speak out below;