As the master of all things love and heartbreak once accurately (and a little somberly) sang:
“No, it’s not like any other love. This one’s different because it’s us.”
Although Morrissey doesn’t necessarily deliver this line from “Hand in Glove” with a tone that will give you the warm and fuzzies, it does perfectly capture the essence of being in love: Every couple has their own love, each one feels that love is unique, and every story is different because it’s theirs.
So why shouldn’t each couple’s wedding film be different too?
Weddings themselves are a time-honored tradition that generally follow a similar structure, but wedding features really do not need to follow a set structure. In fact, we find they’re a lot better when they don’t follow anything but the couple’s individual story.
Winnie and Jerry’s wedding feature is a great example of how investing in the couple’s individual story (and not so much the wedding-ness of it all) will make all the difference in their film. After meeting with Winnie and Jerry, hearing their story, and asking them all the right questions, we had all the necessary information to start assembling their perfect wedding film.
Here’s what we came up with:
We’re really proud of this wedding feature, because it’s powerful and personal to Winnie and Jerry.
But we didn’t always make our wedding features this unique. It’s true that we’ve always been dedicated to telling each couple’s story, but over time we’ve evolved into a company that makes those stories the driving force of the wedding film.
So how and why has our style evolved into what it is today?
There’s no simple answer, but we’ll do our best to keep it from getting too complicated.
People More, Wedding Less.
For a while our wedding features were long, 40-minute pieces that were very much driven by soundtrack. Sometimes we would let a classic bridal hair and makeup montage go on for several minutes, or the duration of an entire song. They were great quality, but they used the same old wedding film paradigms and, for lack of a more pretentious term — they were boring.
So we decided to start breaking through some of those paradigms. We focused our attention on getting to know the couple and what makes them special, and we focused less on the wedding.
In order to get to know your couple on a deeper level in a small amount of time, you’re going to need to ask questions that give you an understanding of who they really are.
You know they’re getting married because they’re in love — but what’s special about that love? Maybe they’ve religiously watched every episode of Battlestar Gallactica together. Maybe they love to travel. Maybe they’re having their wedding on a golf course, and that golf course is really meaningful to them for some reason.
Whatever it is that makes them special, it’s your job to use it to make a well-documented reflection of what their relationship is at this point in time — on their wedding day.
What to ask?
The questions we ask our couples often vary depending on the things we already know about them and/or their wedding beforehand.
Say if the wedding is happening overseas or an in a particularly interesting location, we may simply ask:
Why are we here?
…and then we’ll go from there.
Another great question to ask might be:
What’s a typical Sunday like for you?
This question is great because it’s easier to answer than “what do you like to do in your spare time?,” and it demands details.
After we find out what makes the couple special, we let that personality drive the feature — and sometimes this means letting go of traditional wedding film scenes and montages. If the vows aren’t original or particularly interesting, we aren’t going to show the exchange of vows in the film. There are some weddings where we don’t even show the ceremony — if it doesn’t fit in with the best story we can tell, it doesn’t need to be in the film.
We’ve also stopped relying so much on soundtrack. Now we use more natural audio and dialogue. In the end it makes for a much deeper, richer story — you’ll notice a huge difference in the emotional impact of your wedding films if you put effort into catching any exchanges in dialogue that are especially funny, sentimental, or cute (and often this means going to extra mile to mic the couple as much as possible).
In the simplest terms: find what makes the couple different, and throw everything else out the window.
If the story is more powerful in 5 minutes than it is in 20, tell it in 5. If the ceremony doesn’t fit in with the story you’re trying to tell, don’t show it. If the bridal primping montage doesn’t fit, don’t include it just because you feel like you’re supposed to.
So what stood out about Winnie and Jerry?
These two really had a bit of a fairy-tale like romance. They were roommates in college, and Jerry had pursued Winnie for years, but she refused him. At one point she bought a house and was gearing up to move out, but Jerry continuously found things that were “wrong” with her new house in an effort to get her to stay longer.
Just before Winnie was about to move, Jerry took her out to dinner and asked her to be with him one last time. To sweeten the deal, he gave her an incredibly cute stuffed animal known only as Miffy.
Winnie never moved into that new house — and Miffy is still around today, with her own lifelong companion, Mr. Bee.
It was fairly obvious that Winnie and Jerry’s story would need to showcase the deep attachment they have to their stuffed animals.
Really, it feels disrespectful to call Miffy and Mr. Bee stuffed animals — they’re members of the family. They were honored guests at the wedding, with reserved seating in the front row, and their backstory is intrinsically linked to Winnie and Jerry’s.
This cuddly fascination is something that is both incredibly cute and incredibly unique to Winnie and Jerry as a couple, and making the most powerful, most relevant wedding film meant telling the story of Miffy and Mr. Bee as well.
By focusing on Miffy and Mr. Bee, we could tell the story of Winnie and Jerry while also capturing the presence that the stuffed pals have in their lives.
So we shot the film and put it together, but the bigger idea still wasn’t coming through the way we wanted it to. Something wasn’t right…
Think Outside The Genre.
Our more recent experience in commercial work and television taught us a few things, but mostly that there are a lot of different ways to tell a story.
Before we started doing work in television, we never would have thought to use a narration like the one in Winnie and Jerry’s in a wedding feature.
But if we were already aiming to break down paradigms and avoid cliches in our films, why not just get really crazy?
In television, narrations are used all of the time to tell stories. We chose to use one for Winnie and Jerry’s wedding because we thought it would be the best way to tell the stories of both the humans and the stuffed animals. Also, the narration adds a cute, fairy-tale like quality that captures the essence of Winnie and Jerry’s humble beginnings as a couple.
So we called up a screenwriter we knew named Ross Hockrow, and we told him our idea. We gave him an outline of the story, a rough cut, and told him the history of Winnie and Jerry.
After the script was developed, we contacted Steve King, a voice over artist who we had worked with before in the Kelly Moore adoption film. We knew he’d be perfect for the job, and he was.
But more importantly, the narration was perfect for Winnie and Jerry. We couldn’t have used this narration-style feature for any other couple — we knew it was right for them, and so we went for it.
Today we’re more dedicated than ever to designing our films around each couple, and it has done wonders for our company and reputation in the world of wedding production.
We do things differently not just because it’s the Stillmotion way, but because it really does tell the best story in the end.
A Few More Examples…
Just to give you a few more examples of stories we’ve told and how, below we have some brief overviews of features we did for Jim and Courtney’s wedding, as well as Sophie and Jason’s. It’s important to note that we are unable to post either film at this time, but the information is still just as valuable!
Jim and Courtney Nantz:
At one point during his broadcast at the AT&T Nation Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Jim Nantz said to himself:
“You know, this would be a great place for a wedding…”
Turns out it was the perfect place for his wedding. Jim has been broadcasting the Pro-Am at Pebble Beach for many years, and more importantly he’s felt a connection to the area since childhood and well into adulthood.
Jim would come to the same spot on Pebble Beach every year at sunrise to sit in quiet contemplation and reflect on his life — and exactly one year to the date after his father’s passing, he brought Courtney that spot. As the two sat there remembering his father, a rainbow appeared above them and Jim took it as a sign: this was the place they would get married, the place where they would build their home, and grow old together.
To be exact, Jim and Courtney were married on the 7th tee at Pebble Beach golf course — that’s the one and only tee that can be seen from Jim and Courtney’s bedroom. This incredibly romantic view was no coincidence, and it certainly wasn’t something we could leave out of the wedding film.
But how would could we make such a deep, meaningful history for such a famous guy come through in our feature?
By focusing on capturing the individual story, just like we did with Winnie and Jerry.
We interviewed Jim and Courtney separately, and sprinkled portions of their interviews in throughout the feature. The interviews took about 15 minutes each, and it made all the difference each of them on screen explaining the significance of their wedding’s location, their new house, the view from their bedroom window, and the magic of the 7th tee.
We went to the same great lengths to tell this story that we would with any other wedding. We literally had someone camp out in Jim and Courtney’s bedroom for the duration of the wedding ceremony, just to get that one shot of them getting married from inside the room. We even contacted EA Sports to try and get a specific game shot that we wanted to use — it was just one shot, but we wanted it to tell the best story, so we tried our hardest to get ahold of it.
Because every little detail matters, right down to the tee.
Sophie and Jason:
Sophie and Jason are a couple that really loves to travel together, with a particularly close connection to Pearl Jam. They’ve traveled the world following Pearl Jam, and they’ve made a lot of friends along the way.
They got married in a castle (what the hell, too awesome) and among their friends they had about 30 different countries and languages represented.
We wanted the film to encompass Sophie and Jason’s love for traveling the world, and we realized that we could totally do that by cashing in on the fact that we had representatives from all over the world in attendance at the wedding.
We wrote up a very simple script of their story, and we had each of the wedding guests say a line from the story in their native language. This way, we could open the film with lines being read about Sophie and Jason in 30 different languages — what better way to capture the essence of two people united by their love for traveling the world?
Prepare to make something new. Go into each wedding job knowing that you’ll be doing something different than ever before. It’s going to make all the difference in your film and you’re viewers’ reception of it if you focus your energy on telling the real story, rather than following the wedding feature paradigm.
Get the story by asking questions. Once you get even the slightest idea of what it is that makes a couple unique, try to expand upon that idea and ask them questions that will open windows into who they really are as individuals, and as a unit.
Don’t be afraid to explore genres. We did something with Winnie and Jerry’s film that we’d never done before — we used a fairy tale-style narration to tell their story. We did it because it was perfect for them, but we never would have even thought of it if we hadn’t taken a good hard look at our experiences as a film production company, and decided to put those experiences to use in a new way.
Always, always, always stay true to the couple. It took a really long time for us to get Winnie and Jerry’s film just right. We didn’t develop the narration — or even have the idea for it — until months and months after we had put together the initial cut of the film. We could have thrown something together and finished the feature, but it wouldn’t have been perfect.
What’d you think of our decision to use narration to tell Winnie and Jerry’s story? Share your thoughts!