5 Things I’ve Learned About Shooting Weddings

As a married couple, it’s been so fun for me and Collin to shoot the three weddings we’ve been fortunate enough to work on! They’ve all been so unique from one another and so special in unexpected ways. While I’m no expert after only three weddings, I’ve certainly learned a lot in a short amount of time and usually on-the-job. Here are my top five lessons learned.

1. Brides are not monsters.

As a past bride, I was careful to avoid being a “bridezilla.” And even though three brides does not a large sample size make, I’ve found that brides are the least likely to cause a scene on their wedding day. In fact, they glow with a peaceful joy I strived for on my own wedding day. Seriously, how do they do that? I attribute their calm to their support system: from planners to parents to bridesmaids, everyone is there to pitch in and the bride knows that.

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There must be a serenity in knowing that the day is (mostly) out of the bride’s hands. Knowing that, Collin and I try to get as much information about the day ahead of time and any information on the day from someone other than the bride. Which brings me to my next point:

2. Communication is a necessity

Weddings have so many moving parts. It’s a production with a ton of collaborators all making it look the way it should. So as much information as we get ahead of time, nothing can truly prepare us for what the wedding day will bring. That’s why it’s crucial to ask questions. If we’re not sure, one of us asks someone (again, not the bride or groom if it can be helped). Who’s giving a toast and when? Ask a wedding party member. Is there a sound system we can plug into? Ask the band or DJ. Where can we set up our equipment? Ask the venue manager. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to introduce myself or interrupt someone who’s already doing something, but without communicating what we need, we wouldn’t be able to make the best wedding video for our clients.

 

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare

This may seem obvious, but it seems worth noting on this list since it’s of such importance. As I said before, there’s a lot going on during the course of a wedding day. Our wedding questionnaire sheet along with an initial meeting is crucial to our prep process. It lets us know what’s happening where and who’s who, but more importantly it allows us to get to know the bride and groom as a couple. I didn’t have this meeting before my first shoot and it made for an uncomfortable introduction to the bride, a very nice woman who wasn’t expecting my early arrival and didn’t recognize me. Not an ideal situation.

The other important prep is gear prep! Collin is our gear guru and without his meticulous lists and packing set-ups, we would arrive to gigs with who-knows-what! Everything is packed and accounted for the night before we leave for the wedding. Additionally, gear that’s left behind can’t always be recovered, so reviewing an inventory list is important before leaving a wedding shoot. If we’re over-prepared, we know we’ll be okay.

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4. Enthusiasm goes a long way

It’s a fun day! Treat it like a fun day! Be excited for the bride, groom, friends, and family. While it’s a job for us, it’s a really special day for the couple. Being too serious or intense may get the job done, but it may also bring the mood down. Plus, shots of fun, relaxed moments really stand out in a wedding video. We like to stay professional (you won’t see us toasting with champagne or breaking it down on the dance floor) while also keeping up a positive energy with everyone. Everyone is there to have a great time and I love being a part of that.

 

5. Food is IMPORTANT

At our last wedding, we forgot to bring food. Of course we were put in the catering numbers for dinner that evening, but that left us from breakfast until dinner on empty stomachs, all while running around a large venue area from wedding party suites to ceremony spot to reception area. It wasn’t even that I was necessarily hungry (I was too busy to be hungry!), but that I was getting low on fuel and starting to sputter like an old car. That evening, I wolfed down pizza with speed that would impress a competitive eater—and then had to film the dancing feeling overstuffed. We will definitely be adding protein bars to our list of gear for our next shoot.

I am SO excited to keep filming weddings. It really is an amazing opportunity to be a part of someone’s wedding. I love the fact that we provide such a beautiful heirloom to couples that will help them remember the details of their wedding for years to come.

Warming Up, Ready to Grow

Three weeks ago was the debut of Spring in Central New York and my fiancé Abigail and I decided to celebrate with a trip to Ithaca. We love going to Ithaca—not least because one of our best friends (and Trail Marker logo designer) Ellie lives there.

After meeting up with Ellie, our first venture was the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. A chilly wind, winter’s last gasps, blew through the streets with the sun shining across clear skies. We walked along Cascadilla Creek towards the market and passed through the Ithaca Permaculture Park. Excited to see a successful permaculture endeavor, I explained that my friend Pete Cramer had started a similar project and that I would be filming their event the following day.

We arrived at the market pavilion and experienced a rush of sensations. There were smells of the Thai, Vietnamese and other food vendors wafted through the open wooden architecture; mouth-watering mounds of fresh bread, vegetables, and meats; the echoing sounds of a guitar being played in the distance. I love the energy at a farmer’s market—there’s a real sense of pride in the hard working vendors. It’s satisfying to buy the product right from the person who labored to create it.

We stopped by a mushroom vendor to get oyster mushrooms, then a farmer’s vegetable stand to get rainbow Swiss chard, and finally we snagged a loaf of rosemary sourdough and made our way to the meats. Abigail and I surveyed the menu, thought of how to best craft our dinner that night with what we already bought, and decided on pork chops.

The meat vendor gave us his proud yet modest pitch and told us what set his pigs apart.  His pigs roam freely and forage in the woods around his property so that they are less stressed and in turn keep their bodies from being tense and too sinewy. The cinematic images of steadicam shots following the pigs through the forest played in my head and was brought back to the present when he asked where we were from. When I responded that we were from Auburn, he said he had a good friend there, Peter Cramer. I shared with him my plans to film Pete and the Auburn Permaculture Park and as he wrapped up the pork chops and we finished the transaction. I handed him my business card and told him I’d love to swing by to film his farm sometime if he was interested. A particularly strong, icy gust of wind blew through the pavilion and we said farewell to Michael and to the pavilion.

Later that day, we hiked Robert Treman State Park and it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my progress with the business, my relationships, and life in general. I told Abigail and Ellie about the Japanese idea of “Shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing” where you essentially recharge by being amongst the trees. The incredible energy at the market, where so many people had worked with their hands in the dirt, spoke volumes of the benefits of intimacy with nature.

The next day was warm and beautiful, with temperatures reaching up to 75 for the first time in a while. On my drive out to the Auburn Permaculture Park I saw families pushing strollers, men and women exercising, and even a man flying a drone in his front yard—the energy from the change in weather was palpable. When I arrived to the park I saw dozens of volunteers with rakes, hoes, pitchforks, and shovels. Everyone was working to make this park a reality.

I started to film and felt everyone’s positive energy. I could feel the sense of pride and hope for the park. As the day waned and the work was finished for the day I stayed behind to interview Pete and tell him about my adventures in Ithaca.

He was thrilled that I met Michael and he proceeded to share his own passion for permaculture as he diligently inspected the trees. He “oo’d” and “ahh’d” at many of the promising plants and was energized by the promise of the summer ahead.

I looked at many of the plants, carefully manicured and supported, ready for growth, and I thought of my new business. The success and passion I observed at the farmer’s market, in Michael’s description of his farm, in Pete surveying the park, was inspiring. Empowered by the optimism and wisdom of the weekend, I realized that my business can and will be successful—all I need is a diligent eye, the right structure, and the perseverance to make it grow.

-Collin

See our promotional video featuring the park and find out more!

Rising To My Own Standards

When Mesa Grande Taqueria opened in 2010 in Auburn, NY, I had just finished my sophomore year at St. Lawrence University and worked as an everyman for the new restaurant. My responsibilities ranged from mopping floors, cleaning dishes, to serving customers on the front line. Making burrito bowls, salads, and tacos were easy enough, but the real challenge was making a burrito, and more specifically, rolling it.

My friend Lucy was the burrito rolling queen.  If you’ve ever been to Mesa Grande Taqueria or a Chipotle, you know that the more ingredients you add, the more likely it is that your burrito will fall apart after the first few bites—if not sooner. Lucy could wrap any size burrito and she could do it fast; she had such precision and attention to detail. I, on the other hand, was too excited by the prospect of an enormous, legendary burrito, and upon rolling it, see the tortilla rip apart and its contents sadly spill out. It was a while before I even came close to matching Lucy’s burrito skills.

A few years later when I was fresh out of college, I discovered that Lucy started her own business, 3 Leaf Tea. Her venture started with an online store and after continued success she opened a brick and mortar location in downtown Auburn, NY, mere minutes away from Mesa Grande Taqueria. I was so excited when I heard about her journey, venturing off with a unique enterprise in a town that valued predictability—as evidenced by Auburn’s countless pizzerias.

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I moved back to Central New York in the fall of 2015 and I started to drink matcha during my commute from Skaneateles to Auburn; six years later and both so much and so little had changed in the small city, and there was Lucy’s tea shop right on the main road. I was impressed with how well organized, clean, and beautifully branded her storefront was—impressed, but not surprised.

When I approached her about making videos for 3 Leaf she was on board right away and I was thrilled to collaborate with her once again. The first productions were How-To videos, modeled after the popular Social Media food recipe videos all over Facebook. They were a great success and also prompted me to make more matcha lattes at home.

I still drank coffee—every morning, in fact—but there’s something so pleasant about matcha in the afternoon. For me, and many others, 3-5PM is the danger zone for coffee, drink it too late and I can’t get to sleep when I want to, drink it too early and I crash before I can socialize with friends later in the evening. Matcha gives me a manageable boost of energy.

The next video I produced with Lucy was something she pitched me: an explanation of the benefits of matcha. She wrote a script of talking points and we moved forward to adapt it in a way that would best convey her brand. I wrote an ambitious follow-up script that involved fun visuals, comedic moments, and lots of planning; it was my most extensive production yet. Long story short, the end product was good, but not great.

The production was not a total success and I knew what I needed to do next. Years ago, I would have hung my head in defeat, but this time I was driven by my promise to Lucy and my need to uphold the standards I had set for my new production company. Essentially, I went back to the drawing board.

I dumped the contents of what worked for us in the first script into a new one. When I showed Lucy the end product of the first shoot, I was really anxious. I don’t like to show anything less than my best work. But we got through it and I pitched her the new script. Being the friend that she is, Lucy agreed that we could do better and we moved forward with the new video. We shot the follow-up five days later at her tea shop. It was a pleasant afternoon, especially because of a complimentary blueberry matcha latte, and we finished the production in half the time of the first shoot.

I’m really proud of the end product.  It captures 3 Leaf Tea’s brand with unique visuals of the complexity of a stone ground green tea. It’s a gorgeous commercial and I’m so glad that I took the time to do it right.

I’m sure there will be more burritos that will rip along my journey of starting a business, but my experience with my latest production showed me how much I’ve grown and gave me the confidence to submit my LLC form of establishment to the New York State Department to officially make my own business a reality.

Why You Should Go To A Local Comic-Con

Comic-Cons, or Comic Conventions, have been an important part of my life. In high school, I was a co-host of a fan podcast for the Nickelodeon show, Avatar: The Last Airbender (not to be confused with James Cameron’s Avatar). I traveled to New York Comic Con in 2008 to do a news package for the podcast and immediately felt at home in a fantastic world of fans in costume, artists selling their work in a place that felt like a Bazaar, and panels where content creators and celebrities answered questions from fans and newcomers alike.  Blockbuster superhero films have ushered in an age of nerd culture where people who were once shunned by the mainstream are now the accepted consumers, no longer embarrassed by their interests.

This Sunday was the Syracuse, Salt City Collect-A-Con—a comic book, collectible and games convention that took place at the Regional Market. Comic Conventions like Collect-A-Con are a testament to the societal shift towards accepting nerd culture. There were, of course, comic conventions before the 21st Century, but they were never in the collective media conscience. The comic book world was alien to people who didn’t understand; it seemed to most that comic books were for children and not adults. But now, everyone knows Spider-Man, Iron Man, Batman, and Captain America. Even people who don’t like superheroes can’t avoid them—superheroes are everywhere in media today. Though there are differences between convention attendees of the past and those of the present, the true spirit of the comic convention is alive and well at smaller Cons.

While large conventions like San Diego Comic Con seem more accessible due to the amount of entertainment, video games and A-List celebrities they’ll feature, they can also be overwhelming with their sheer size. If you’re trying to figure out if you like conventions, start small. Smaller, more local, conventions like Collect-A-Con won’t have the big names or brand-name presenters, but they will have unique vendors, fairly priced merchandise, and a greater sense of community.

What’s different now from smaller conventions in the past is that there are more cosplayers—individuals who dress up as their favorite characters from different mediums of entertainment. Collect-A-Con featured fantastic cosplayers dressed as characters from Star Wars, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters and so many more. I even found a cosplayer from one of my favorite shows, The Legend of Korra. It takes a lot of courage to cosplay at a small con—there are fewer people to share the attention—which is a sure sign that the small cons have become a safe space to love what you love without judgment. 

Click to see more photos of awesome cosplayers!

The vendors and artists at Collect-A-Con had tables lined up in three main rows, showcasing collectibles, homemade jewelry, custom prints, and countless other collectable treasures. I have a great deal of respect for those who set up shop at conventions; it’s a tough gig. Hundreds of people will pass by their booths, glancing at their art or merchandise and sometimes only a few will stop, even fewer will actually buy. I spoke to one of the vendors who lamented that hardly anyone had stopped by her booth and I responded with some wisdom from other con vendors: “Even if someone hasn’t stopped, it doesn’t mean they won’t come back. You never know what kind of impression you made.” These vendors know the meaning of hustle. Small conventions tend to host artists and vendors who don’t have the funds to go to New York City or San Diego. They work day jobs or attend college, but it’s their passion and love for this culture that compels them to set up shop.

A comic convention is a cornucopia of sounds, sights, and smells (good and bad, I won’t sugarcoat it), with families, friends, and sole attendees who immerse themselves in the culture they love. It’s the best place to people-watch; the joy in everyone is palpable. The joy manifests itself every few moments, like when someone sees an amazing cosplay from their fandom or someone gets that special collectable they’ve been looking for. Even when people look sour or tired or frustrated, I figure it’s just a matter of time before they find their excitement in experiencing a world they love.