STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO BECOMING A FREELANCE VIDEOGRAPHER FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME
1. Buy a heavy camera. Do a thousand curls with it a day, every day, for about two months.
2. Throw out that camera and buy a bigger one. This will let you flex at all the girls.
3. Put up an ad on the local classifieds website of your choice, advertising for Wedding or Event Videography. Be sure to undercut all of your competition to the point where you are barely making minimum wage. Within a day or two you should have dozens of replies. Some of them might even be legible.
4. Frantically call up all your friends and see if any of them are willing to drive you to the events that you could potentially accept. Tell them that this is only temporary, as you are just trying to build up your experience base. Once you go full time, you'll be sure to get around to getting that license and car. Why, you'll even pay them for gas, this time around.
5. Now that you have alerted your friends to the possibility of maybe needing them to drive you somewhere, alert your clients to the possibility that maybe you will accept their gig. Of course, if the gig is too far away, you don't want to press the patience of your friends, so you might not take it. And if the people want to meet beforehand, you're pretty much boned, since this is now TWO times you need to infringe upon your friends, making them that much less likely to be infringe-upon-able later. Generally speaking, I take the bus to the first meeting, even if it's going to be a two-hour trip.
RULE NUMBER ONE ABOUT POINT NUMBER FIVE: DO NOT LET THEM KNOW YOU TOOK THE BUS. DO NOT LET THEM KNOW YOU DO NOT HAVE A CAR. HAVING A CAR MEANS YOU ARE GOOD AT FILMING WITH A CAMERA AT A WEDDING, OBVIOUSLY.
6. Now that you are potentially lined up for accepting a Wedding gig, and you VERY likely have a way to get to it, it is time to start FREAKING THE HELL OUT. This is the part where you start to weigh the amount you're charging vs. the time it will take to fully execute whatever you were foolish enough to agree to. This is the part where your friends will usually back out of being able to drive you to the gig, and where you will begin to consider ways that you can back out of your agreement. Generally speaking, this is the part where I stop responding to the client's emails.
SIDE-NOTE ONE ABOUT POINT NUMBER SIX: Limit the amount of contact with the client as much as possible. The more you talk to them, the more they will think you are friends, the more they will demand crap from you that you DON'T want to do. Hell no, I don't want to show up to the rehearsal. Hell no, I don't want to give you samples or references. I want you to believe that I'm good at filming BASED ON MY WORD. That's what America was built on. The word of a guy who does curls with his camera. Seriously, call the Sheriff, this guy's got GUNS.
7. So now, at this point, if you're still properly on the path to becoming a Freelance Videographer, you should have both FREAKED OUT and PROCRASTINATED well past the point where you can actually back out of the gig. Also, you will have accidentally agreed to film far longer than you want to, and you'll have agreed to pay your friend $100 dollars to wait around in the parking lot while you film, so he can drive you to the reception.
THAT'S RIGHT, MFER! IT'S TIME TO FILM THE DAMN THING!
8. So you arrive on the day. You've opted to wear jeans with your classy button-up shirt because your dress pants made you look like a 15 year old working at a mall kiosk. They told him he had to dress nicely. They forgot about how he would interpret that. So, you're walking up to the church/gazebo/hitchin' place. You notice a lot of White Anglo-Saxon Prostestants, all in varying shades of pastel and khaki. They all have ties. Their shirts are tucked in. NOBODY IS WEARING JEANS. You realize that even though your jeans fit better, and look good with your dress shoes and shirt, this isn't the club. This is a wedding. THIS IS SERIOUS DAMN BUSINESS AND YOU ARE CLASSING DOWN THE WHOLE EVENT. You start to sweat. People begin to wonder who you are. What is in that case? Photographers usually have big bags and bandoliers of supplies. But you're just some guy with a big metal case. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING THERE!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!
9. BUST OUT YOUR BIG FREAKING CAMERA AND POINT IT AT SOMEONE. Yeah, they see now. They can tell by your rippling biceps, you've curled the Hell out of that camera. It's like an extension of your arm. Better. Start filming. START FILMING AND DO NOT STOP.
Oh my gosh. Where?
10. At this point you will realize that you have no idea what happens in a wedding ceremony. You haven't coordinated with the photographers or wedding planner. You don't know where to stand and still pick up good sound. Everywhere you go, there is a photographer blocking your way. What is more important? The pictures or the video? You don't know. You stopped returning their calls!!!!!! WHERE DO YOU STAND!?!?!?!?!
RULE ABOUT WHERE TO STAND: Get the bride. Just follow her around. Don't worry about if you're on a tripod or handheld or whatever. Just get her. Get everything she does. The best place to film a wedding from is right at the base of the altar, where you can pick up the bride, the groom, and the minister/priest/judge/ship's captain. BUT YOU CANNOT STAND THERE. You will wind up at the back of the room, filming at the end of your lens, with the sound barely registering on the microphone.
SIDE-NOTE ABOUT FILMING A WEDDING (THIS ONE'S IMPORTANT, WRITE IT ON SOMETHING): Camera microphones can't hear crap. Not unless you put them right IN the crap. Get a wireless microphone and ask the ship's Captain/minister/drive-thru operator to wear it. You don't want to put it on the bride because it will show up, unless she's not wearing white, in which case, get out of that den of sin and debauchery, and get thee to a real wedding. Don't put it on the groom because he'll just be mumbling anyway. You want to hear the ministercaptain.
THIS IS STILL POINT 10.
10 (con't). Where to stand. Stand so you can see the Bride crying. Since your lack of preparation has left you with no clear line of communication to anyone else involved in the Wedding, make sure the Bride won't be pissed off at you. If you're not too timid, you can probably squeeze up the aisle, once everyone has entered. If you're a 'frady cat, I don't know, sort it out. Wimp.
11. Okay, everyone files off. You've filmed the ceremony poorly and know that there are only about 45 seconds worth of useable sound and not-shaky footage. That's okay, here's where you really get to let loose.
Film all the food. As they bring it out, film it. Film random people laughing. If there are kids, film those. Film the cake before they cut it. Film the stupid decorations. If you feel like you're filming things better suited to a still photograph, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU'RE A VIDEOGRAPHER!!
SIDE-NOTE ABOUT BEING A VIDEOGRAPHER: Most of the events you film will also have photographers. People will pose for a photographer, but no one knows what the Hell to do when a video camera is pointed at them. Usually they will smile for a half-second, then turn back to their friends and talk about how they are being filmed now, and how they better watch ALL THEIR SCANDALOUS TALK, by which I mean boring crap talk. WHAT THIS ALL MEANS IN PRACTICE is that you will end up filming people as they pose for photographs. A LOT. Don't shy away from it. Use it to pad the video. BUT DON'T FORGET ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING!
12. BATTERIES. If, like me, you have barely talked yourself into this, you don't have enough battery power to film non-stop. At this point in the day, you will be down to about halfway. However, with everyone just chatting around, you'll start to feel like you're not doing your job. RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO KEEP FILMING. You do not want to edit 6 hours of people eating, and you do not want to do what I did on my very first wedding.
THINGS I DID ON MY VERY FIRST WEDDING
- Ran out of batteries AS they were cutting the cake. I had to run across the room and find an outlet to plug into. I missed the cake cutting, but got them, VERY TELEPHOTO, just as they were smiling for the photographers. I slowed this down and made it like The King of Comedy. Everyone loved it.
- That's the only thing, but it was IMPORTANT.
GOLDEN RULE ABOUT FILMING FOR WEDDINGS: Later, nobody remembers what happened during the Wedding. What you show them is what their memory of it will be. That being said, only show the most polished stuff, or FIND a way to polish it. By which I mean use liberal amounts of slow-motion and sappy music. You can edit every wedding the same way. It's not as though somebody is going to hire you to film again. They're not going to say, "Hey! This is exactly how you edited my LAST wedding!" YOU CAN USE PACHELBEL'S CANON FOR EVERY VIDEO.
13. Finally, you get out of there. You have the money, because they were too flustered to realize that maybe they shouldn't pay you until you deliver the DVDs. Now, once again, it is time to FREAK THE HELL OUT! By which I mean procrastinate. You realize that you have no idea how they want the video edited. You realize that in order to actually capture the footage, you have to clear off 30 gigabytes of anime. You haven't watched it all, yet! WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO DO, JUST DELETE IT?!?!?!
At this point, you're on your own. Edit the video however you see fit. Deliver the DVDs. They will probably ask you to change it. JUST DON'T RETURN THEIR CALLS. When people ask you for samples, now you have one. Just show your next client the parts of the video with slow-motion.
YOU ARE NOW A WEDDING VIDEOGRAPHER. If you decide to use your now considerable power to film some other kind of event, like a quinceanera, DO NOT USE WIRELESS MICS. The fifteen year-old girls will accuse you of groping them. True story.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
COMING SOON: HOW TO MOVE OUT OF YOUR PARENT'S HOUSE BEFORE YOU ARE READY