2018 In Review (Part 3: Reflection)

One of the nurses told me I was the youngest patient she’d ever had in the cardiology wing…..so comforting lol

One of the nurses told me I was the youngest patient she’d ever had in the cardiology wing…..so comforting lol

Wedding season wasn’t technically over for me, as I had 2 weddings left, one in September and one in October. But let me tell you, I was burnt out in ways I had never been before. I had moved out, taken a full load of summer courses, and completed a whole summer’s worth of weddings. And it was taking an unknown toll. I had already begun contacting couples saying I wasn’t going to be able to complete their wedding project with the time I had available through the remainder of the semester. I honestly was becoming disinterested in working on video related things for the time being (which is rare) and late in September, I found myself in the cardiology wing at Huntsville Hospital with irregular heart rhythms. That same weekend I was supposed to film a wedding for a really good friend.

Rest assured everything is 100% fine, but the inside joke in my family is that events in my life have to be over the top EXTRA before I will recognize, learn, and change. The doctors said they couldn’t trace the heart palpitations back to anything, but I know in my heart it was stress related, and it was God’s way of telling me, “Son, you need to slow down”. And so for the remainder of this year, I didn’t work on anything video related, save for a few school jobs here and there.

I was raised on the “When a task is just begun, never leave it until it’s done…” motto and so having to make the choice of letting couples know I wouldn’t be able to capture their wedding was not fun or easy for me. I don’t quit. I push through. I sojourn. And here I was, having to face the reality that I had signed up for too much. Luckily I had some friends, Nathan and Jonathan over at Cardinal Films (go check them out —> cardinalfilms.co ) who were able to take my place and I’m extremely grateful I had people I could call on to help me.

Sunsets like these make it easy to reflect

Sunsets like these make it easy to reflect

In the midst of having to let go of those weddings, it provided some much needed time of reflection and resetting. I soon realized that there were other projects I wanted to focus on instead of weddings. I mentioned in my previous post, that weddings will always mean something to me. It was the first phase of my filmmaking career where I learned that people loved my work, were willing to compensate me for it, and I learned that this passion of mine no longer had to just be a hobby. I could live off this. Overall I had enjoyed the stories I was able to tell, but I needed something else, and I didn’t want to get “typecast” as a wedding filmmaker. So I backed away from weddings and I rekindled my seemingly lost love for creating narrative films. Stories that I feel personally connected to. I realized I needed desperately to get back to that. And so I began writing. Writing everything I could. The notes app on my phone is literally 30 notes deep of legit film ideas I could do. Inspiration will come in random flashes and I immediately type it down. Don’t know how many I will flesh out into scripts, but case in point, being forced to slow down and think allowed me to refocus on the dreams and goals I’ve had since I was a kid: I want to make movies that people pay to go to the theater and see. Period. There is nothing I want to do more. What I’ve got to do now is concentrate those goals on stories that matter and stories that inspire. That’s easier said than done.

So 2018 is a mixed bag for me. I feel that over the past couple of years, I’ve really had to focus on myself in ways I wasn’t comfortable with. I’ve had to confront things that I don’t enjoy. There have been times where I’ve invested time and energy into people and things that have bitten me in the back. But film has always been there. It’s been the one constant in my life where I can see the immediate results of my pouring into this craft and investing in this craft. It’s been “loyal” to me. Sometimes I feel I obsess over it a little too much, but I truly believe that the time I’m investing in this, when I could be doing other “fun” things, will pay off in ways I can’t imagine. I accomplished a lot personally this year, but when looking at the numbers, I wish I had done more. And that’s ok. With weddings, the output was high and I had something new every two weeks it seemed. With my new focus, that won’t be the case and I am finding ways to be ok with that. It doesn’t mean my work matters any less, or I am failing as a filmmaker. It just means I’m being more purposeful. And that’s my goal for 2019. Be more purposeful in all aspects of my life. And it’s my hope that I start to build the foundations of a future I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid.

2018 In Review (Part 2: Wedding Season)

Weddings hold a special place in my heart.

And always will.

Lyndsey & Drew during sunset at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville

Lyndsey & Drew during sunset at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville

But I didn’t realize so quickly, that my time as a wedding filmmaker this year was coming to an end. Flipping back to December 2016, I had tagged along with my cousin Isaiah to Starkville, Mississippi, for a wedding he had booked that I was originally only going to help him take pictures of, as a 3rd backup. I had bought my first gimbal a couple weeks before, so I decided to take it with me and I told him the day of, that since he already had one of his buddies coming to help, I would capture footage instead with my new toys, and see what I could come up with.

I remember telling the couple that, “I know Isaiah said nothing about this, but I’m going to film your wedding and maybe make a video out of it. You won’t have to pay for it, but if you want it for keepsakes, it’ll be up on YouTube.”

I filmed so much footage that day and actually ended up creating a wedding film for them that I edited in one day. However the magic happened when I placed some footage from their wedding day in my reel for that year. It squeaked in honestly, with it being December, but it was putting that footage in my reel that would change a lot of my life for 2017.

One of my friends from church, Sarah (Hester, at the time), contacted me after she saw the reel, and asked me what I would charge to film her wedding. Her wedding was in January so it was coming up soon.

Me? You want me to do what? You’re gonna pay me?

I was floored and nervous and didn’t know what to do. It was weird that someone liked my work enough to pay for it. And this whole thought process that every creative says they go through for their first gig, I promise you, it’s true. Long story short, starting with Sarah and Nathan Diller’s wedding, every other wedding filmmaking gig has been a branch off of one I’ve done before. Either brides know each other, or they’ve seen a past wedding film I’ve done and want theirs done by me as well. So in 2017, I had a breakout year of weddings! I enjoyed every second of it, made a good chunk of dough which I reinvested into gear. I was able to grow as a person and as a storyteller, and in turn I booked a lot of weddings for 2018.

Delaney and Andrew, in a beautiful sunset shot, my goodness..

Delaney and Andrew, in a beautiful sunset shot, my goodness..

Here is where I inadvertently caused problems for myself. I booked those weddings, not even considering what my school and work schedule would be for 2018. And I’ll preface by saying this, video is a worlds difference away from photography. The workflow is different and the amount of time it takes to churn out content is much longer. In 2017, I had no idea I would take a co-op position at ADTRAN starting in January 2018, meaning I would take a full load of classes in the summer, and then take two of the hardest classes of my collegiate career that following fall. All this made for a very stressful time for me. And bailing on the couples who had trusted me with their memories, wasn’t an option.

Starting in May and ending in October, I filmed 5 weddings (2 I had to pass on; more on that in Part 3), edited them, worked through revisions and final delivery, all while taking classes and moving out during the summer, managing a part time co-op during the fall 2018 semester and working part time as a videographer on campus at UAH. And overall, it was FUN. I captured some of the most beautiful shots I have EVER seen, and I’m not even trying to brag. That’s how well these weddings were put together. They made my job easy for me. Many of the brides were people I knew, so it was just an amazing time to be doing what I was doing and capturing the memories I was blessed to film.

Maddie and Russell, and one of the classic “holding hands” shots I love to get

Maddie and Russell, and one of the classic “holding hands” shots I love to get

One of the highlights of my filmmaking career was filming the wedding of my friend Lyndsey. We’ve known each other since we were 2 years old. There’s not many people that I don’t remember not knowing, but she’s one of them. She and her fiancé, Drew, actually spoke to me for a bit at my first wedding, Sarah (now Diller’s), and asked me how I had gotten started in wedding filmmaking and how much I was charging. At one point both she and Drew said right then and there, “We want you to film our wedding”.

I was high off the fun of what I was doing, so I chalked it up to the hype and left it alone, but I never forgot what they told me. And as May 10th, 2018 (her wedding day) approached, she contacted me and asked to meet with me to go over details. It was so surreal at this point. To grow up with a friend since almost day one and to be able to capture their wedding day, a day they will cherish for the rest of their lives, my two worlds, personal, and professional, were colliding, and it’s a feeling I will never forget. It’s a feeling that I will continue chasing because it lets me know I’m doing what God has destined for me to do. I can say this here, in an opinion blog lol and not catch too much heat for it, but their wedding is my favorite wedding film that I’ve created. Do not get me wrong, every wedding that I have captured, deeply and truly means something to me, and the people I’ve grown to know through my wedding films are friends I will have forever, parents included. But Lyndsey and Drew’s holds a special value with me.

But it wasn’t all perfect. Stressed does not even begin to tell you the state of mind I was in as I was nearing the halfway point of the fall semester. Typing this now, it was insanity for me to even attempt all of these things, let alone survive through it. But I did.

But I gave myself one rule before I started wedding filmmaking and it was, that if at any point in this time of my life, I started approaching wedding films as something to get through and get it over with, as opposed to truly thinking and pondering over the best way to tell someone’s story, I would quit. I noticed elements of that thought process start to creep in and so I knew a decision had to be made at some point. Little did I know that it would be made for me.

2018 In Review (Part 1: Music Video)

How is it almost 2019.

Hope’s self-titled EP

Hope’s self-titled EP

I’m assuming if you’re reading this you already know who I am and if you don’t, hop over to the about section and read that brief paragraph. I’ve never considered myself a writer, but I do enjoy getting these thoughts out of my head in the hopes that it resonates with someone or it proves helpful to other creatives.

2018 for me was an interesting year. It started out great. I had just come off a really successful wedding season from 2017 where I admittedly, earned a lot of money, and bought a lot of gear. So I was eager to put it to good use towards a new project. Up until this point the only, truly creative piece I had worked on was a short film called Let’s Pretend II in high school. I was ready for something new, as I had learned so much throughout the past three years. One of the things I had been itching to do for a while was a music video. So far I hadn’t met an artist I was comfortable working with, or a story that I felt fit my style.

An artist named Hope Waidley first caught my attention back in high school after we ended up following each other on twitter from one of those #TrackNation follow trains. She would periodically release music, and every now and then there would be a song that I would listen to and be like, “Dang, ok. I could make a music video for this.” A few years later, around October of 2017, she had released an EP and the music was all over my timeline, and I was surprised with how good a coupe of the tracks were. The music was refreshing and sounded like work from a veteran singer.

 
Still frame from the film of Hannah, the main character, looking through old photos.

Still frame from the film of Hannah, the main character, looking through old photos.

One morning I remember before class, I decided to listen to one of the songs from the EP again, Temporary Lover, mostly because the beat had caught my attention. I remember listening to that song maybe 4 or 5 times that morning, and at some point the beat started to really fade away, and I was left with this really deep story, a story I resonated with. I kept thinking and thinking, and all of a sudden the visuals started to flow through my head and I imagined how this story would play out on screen.

I stopped myself, thought, there’s no way in the world this can happen. I don’t even know who this person is. I don’t know where they live. They’re gonna think I’m a creep lol. I don’t even think I’m that good enough to pull something like this off. So I let it rest, and moved on with the day. A couple days later I sent her a message asking to do a music video for the song and in April 2018, the project was finished. 

The “goodbye” shot, as Grayson, the love interest must move away because of school.

The “goodbye” shot, as Grayson, the love interest must move away because of school.

This project was monumental for me for a couple of reasons. One, it was the first project since senior year of high school where I had assembled a team of people to help me see a film through. And second, although I very much felt I wasn’t ready for something of this scale, I forced myself to do it anyway and got out of my comfort zone. I think that’s what I gained most out of this experience. If I wait for everything to fall into place before I embark on a project, I’ll never do it. It’s about adapting and using the resources you have. 

A brief moment of serenity between the two.

A brief moment of serenity between the two.

I really enjoyed collaborating with Hope on this. She lives in Michigan, so we obviously couldn’t get her down here to Alabama for a shoot. That made the project unique but also freeing in a way. My team and I had a few conversations with her about the origin of the song and the true story behind it, in an effort to make this an inspired creation.

She loved it. The people in her hometown loved it. My friends and family loved it. Random people neither of us knew loved it. I didn’t love it at first, but as of now, present day, December 2018 haha, I can finally look back on it and be 100% proud of what I did. I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt that way about anything I’ve made. Sure, there are some things I wish I would’ve done better, but overall, I’m happy with how well the team worked together to pull this off. And my entire goal for everything I do is to make sure my work resonates with just ONE person out there. Just one. As long as I do that, I’ve done my job. Everyone else is icing on the cake. 

This was taken during our first night of shooting. This was at an AirBnB location in Huntsville, and we were shooting the first scene between Hannah and Grayson.

This was taken during our first night of shooting. This was at an AirBnB location in Huntsville, and we were shooting the first scene between Hannah and Grayson.

Half of the extras had left by this point but I never get a group picture on the projects I work on so we had to rectify that.

Half of the extras had left by this point but I never get a group picture on the projects I work on so we had to rectify that.

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We shot a couple of scenes at Waffle House. And then we grubbed.

We shot a couple of scenes at Waffle House. And then we grubbed.

Then came wedding season…

More on that in Part 2.