Cine-Skool or Home-skool? Both!

At about this time last year, I was attending a photography workshop on mixing video with photography (it’s called fusion in the industry).  Fusion is very powerful because when photographers add just a 10 second clip of video to their photo slide shows, it creates a more emotionally invested client.  You can imagine watching a slideshow of your baby’s 18 month portraits when suddenly the baby starts running away in high-definition!  This image invokes a special memory of your child and the day.  The videographer, speaking as a guest of Sandy Puc`, went over how to adjust settings for shooting video with D-SLRs (cameras with detachable lenses) and gave some high-level tips.  After the workshop, I shot a few clips here and there for my slideshows, but I couldn’t really grasp video.  A couple of months went by and I tried using my “big” camera, rather than the video camera, to film family stuff.  I LOVED the look of it, but still, my shots were shaky, the sound was iffy, and it was frustrating trying to always use a shutter speed of 50, like the guy at the workshop had instructed. Then one day, I was browsing Sandy’s forum and watching random interviews she had done with industry professionals.  The last one I watched was an interview with Chad and Drew from Shade Tree Films.

When the interview started I immediately loved the pair.  They were funny, they knew what they were talking about, and they were truly humble.   As a clip from a wedding they had filmed played on the screen, I was hooked.  The clip opened on a bright sunny day.  The camera was “floating” (which, I now know is via “steadycam”)   through the air, following a sidewalk.  Suddenly, as the music reached a crescendo, the camera made a sweeping motion around a corner and the screen filled with the scene of an outdoor wedding.  At this time, I realized that I’d been listening to the voices of the guests, and the vows.  I’d seen the bride get ready.  The full emotion of the groom on this, the most important day of his life to that point, was palpable.  As the one minute clip faded, I released my breath.  I wanted more!  I immediately launched to their website.  I watched every film they had on their site, and I cried at them all.  It had never occurred to me what a wedding film could be! Oh, how I wish I had such a memory of my wedding day.  How I would love for my children to watch and listen as I promised my life to their father.  How they would laugh at the dancing, and the rain, and the blown over tents at the reception.  Alas, my wedding “film” was a camera on a tripod in the balcony of the church – I don’t even know where the footage is.  Watching the films on the Shade Tree blog opened my eyes to what film can do.  I was determined to learn how to capture a complete memory and I registered for Cine-skool.

When I attended Cine-skool in November, it literally changed my life.  It made me think about my life differently, it made me think about my business differently, and it made me think about the way I shoot differently.  There is no limit to the unique creativity at my disposal with film. Film allows me to set myself apart creatively from other photographers. If you give 20 filmmakers 2 hours of coverage from a birthday party, you will get 20 completely different films.  The level of individual creativity explodes.  That idea is so freeing!   What I wanted most, though, was to learn how to tell a story with my camera.

I love photographing details. Telling a story.  What an amazing experience!  I love writing stories.   I love reading classic novels and fairy tales to my kids.  I love a good story.  Can anyone honestly say that they do not love connecting with a great heroine and cheering her on as she slowly falls in love with the beast?  Or, consider the poor girl who was locked in a tower because her father stole some vegetables.  When we read these tales, we know how they end, but we don’t stop reading them.  We are entranced every time.  All people love stories.  Have you ever told your children the story of their birthday?  When I tell my kids their birth stories, they gather around me with eager eyes and they listen intently.  I tell them of the contractions, of the pain, of the traffic, about the doctors and nurses, I tell them what time it was, I tell them what it was like when I first heard their cries.  At other times, I will tell them fictional stories in which they are the main characters. Children love stories in which they are the star!  When I first saw the one minute wedding clip, it didn’t make me want to start filming weddings.  What I envisioned when I saw that 60 second segment was a story of a newborn, narrated by mom, with footage of the family welcoming the new baby home.  The baby being rocked, onesies being folded, the toddler walking up and kissing the new babe on the forehead (okay, poking her in the eye, but do you get the idea?)    Now, fast forward 25 years and envision the same film being played at that newborn’s wedding. This is so powerful!  I sat through the three days of Cine-skool absorbing all I could about how to turn my films into stories.  However, Cine-skool was so much information at one time – especially for a newbie like me.  Topics quickly moved along, with not much time to digest.  Cine-skool was concentrated film training.  At the end of the three days my head was spinning and I was wishing that I had taken better notes.  When I returned home, I started shooting film a little more purposefully. Everything I’d been taught in Cine-skool started to make sense, and I REALLY wished I could take a refresher.  While I loved Cine-skool, my life isn’t structured so that I can be away very often, so attending the spring class was out of the question. I needed a Cine-skool correspondence class.

Because Chad and Drew can read minds, Shade Tree started offering Home-Skool classes (how fitting!).  The first one, entitled “Be a Journey Guide” was last month.  A full three hours on story telling!  Admittedly, the process was a bit meandering-a journey, but it all made sense in the end: To tell a genuine story in your films, you need to genuinely know who you are and what your destination is.  The class built on what was taught in Cine-skool.  It was raw and it was real.  I am currently editing my first client film, and  I am at once nervous and excited!  But with the tips I learned from the class, I am reinvigorated and ready to tackle the giant task.  The second Home-Skool class “Branding Magic”, held this past week, was incredible -not for my filmmaking, but for my business.  Krysta and Gary from B!G Deal Branding were like a punch in the face – in a good way.  Sitting through that class gave me the tools to reevaluate my brand message (not just buy a new template set and add my logo).  It made me think about why I’m doing what I’m doing and who I’m doing it for.  I am so excited to take the next few months to build a consistent message for Rebecca Williams Photography.   The next Home-Skool class, “Step-by-Step” on June 20th, is about telling a story through sequences, something that I really had a difficult time wrapping my head around in Cine-skool, but am now so ready for!

In short, Cine-skool is concentrated, you are handed a gallon of delicious sweet tea and have to drink it down in one minute.  Unless you’re prepared, some of it’s going to run down your chin.  In Home-skool, you have time to enjoy each sip, and anticipate the next, daintily dabbing your lips with a napkin.  They are both fantastically refreshing, fun, and…rad.

Shade Tree Films Home-skool Journey Guide

"Be a Journey Guide" Home-Skool class #1

Home-skool class Branding Magic

Home-Skool class #2 "Branding Magic"