The way you remember your wedding day will be truly unique to you. You’ll remember how your husband-to-be looked at you when he saw you in your wedding dress the first time. You’ll remember how it felt to hold the hand of the person you’ll be spending the rest of your life with as you said your vows. They are memories that you’ll want to preserve to share with friends and family for years to come. Here today we have California wedding cinematographer Robert Schwieger from Robert Michael Films to share his perspective on wedding cinematography. He believes that the best way to film a couple’s big day is to preserve the true feeling of each moment in a cinematic point of view. Read on to get a glimpse into his creative mind and how he creates his masterful films.
Q1: Thank you Robert for taking the time to share a little about what you do. To begin, how did you get your start as a wedding videographer?
I was the kid in class who would always be drawing instead of taking notes. My teachers would get frustrated because I would listen and retain the lesson, pass all of my exams but they assumed I was not paying attention. I guess I’ve always been creative and able to multitask which is basically what you do all day as a wedding filmmaker.
I went to college earning a degree in Fine Arts and another in Digital Media. One of my professors really encouraged me to start filming my own projects during an editing class he was teaching. Rather than using the stock video material provided by the school he loaned me his Canon XL1 (a very nice camera at the time) to go out and film my own material. We shared common tastes in music such as the Police and filmmakers such as David Lynch. He basically gave me free rein to do what I wanted so I rounded up fellow classmates and ended up filming and editing experimental videos that had nothing to do with the class really but were very creative and a lot of fun.
That was the start of my film making journey. I was basically an artist and editor first and then had to figure out the cinematography aspect on my own with real world application. I got into filming weddings probably how a lot of us did when my roommate was getting married and asked if I would film it. I used that short sample to land a job filming with an established company in Los Angeles doing high end events and after a couple of gigs with them knew that I could do it better and with more creativity on my own. I haven’t looked back from there.
Q2: When should a couple contact you if they want you to film their wedding?
6 months to a year or a little over a year is a good time. Within 6 months I will most likely be booked already. I only take a maximum of 15 weddings each year. My focus is always on the highest quality and between family life and my commercial work I really only have time to edit 15 weddings max. I also get quite a lot of requests for international travel dates and making last minute arrangements usually doesn’t work.
Q3: Tell us about your creative process and where you get inspiration? How would you describe your filming style?
I would describe my approach to wedding films as a mix of Cinéma Vérité and fine art fashion cinematography. Karel Reisz’s description of Cinéma Vérité from his book The Technique of Film Editing describes a style of cinema as a “method of shooting and presenting material so as to preserve primarily the spontaneity and flavor of the real event”. It goes on to describe the Hollywood method of over production as intimidating and inhibiting, especially to non-professionals.
I completely relate to this when filming weddings where a discrete, documentary approach yields more natural results that create a higher level of emotion than could be achieved by staging or posing a bride and groom.
Of course I also have a fine art and commercial background so I know how to find pleasing light and make subjects look incredible and glamorous by guiding them in a way where they don’t even realize they are being directed.
I find very little inspiration from wedding videographers to be honest. Mostly what I see is people just copying each other and producing the same old crap. I do enjoy some wedding photography, especially some of the film photographers. Mostly though I draw inspiration from other sources. Film, music, fashion, photography and art. Often I will go for a hike, put on some music and visual camera movements or color palettes that correspond with what I’m hearing. I try to catalogue a lot of my thoughts for later inspiration that is applied to my projects weather they be a wedding or anything else really.
Q4: What is included in the services you provide?
Me! Honestly that is my biggest selling point. I am not a studio brand. When you hire me it is because you are attracted to my brand, my work and you see that I am offering something unique that can only be delivered by me. I shoot and edit all of my films personally. I have a few options that I offer but basically you are hiring me to create a short film of your wedding in which I also include a documentary cut of the entire ceremony and any speeches that take place.
Q5: What would you say makes you unique as a wedding videographer?
My approach to a filming a wedding is just completely different from what most people offer. Mostly what I’ve seen are either a “music video” of your wedding. Basically a song with some nice visuals on top of it. Or the over used description of “story” or “storyteller”. People claiming to be storytellers and “let us tell your story”, etc which they basically include some audio from the toasts or vows and mix that with some music and visuals but they really have no clue about even the most basic principles of cinema, how light works or editing.
There is no understanding of how a scene is constructed, what an image system is and how it affects the mood of a piece and about a hundred other devices that are commonly used in cinema for a specific effect. I could go on for hours on this topic but if you are interested in hearing more I would invite you to check out my blog where I touch on these subjects. Or if you are a couple looking for a unique approach to having your wedding captured please get in touch and we can chat further about some of these ideas.
– Getting to know Robert Schwieger –
If you could describe yourself in five words what would they be?
Passionate, Creative, Introvert and an Extrovert, Dynamic (always learning and changing)
Do you have any pets?
What’s your favorite hobby?
Where did you grow up?
What is your favorite place in the world?
What’s one place you’d like to travel?
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite movie?
The Godfather and North by Northwest
If you could give yourself a piece of advice when you were younger what would it be?
Never hold back.
Robert truly has a wonderful eye for capturing the beauty and raw emotion of the weddings he films. For more information on Robert Schwieger head over to http://robertmichaelfilms.com/.