At 18 years of age Ben Walton left college with 22 weddings films booked
Wedding Filmmaking isn’t an easy job with all the hard work and hours that go into. Nowadays we’re seeing more cinematically styled wedding films and we’re curious to know how that is achieved. We caught up with Ben Walton to find out how he got into making beautiful and cinematic wedding films and what advice he had for us.
How do you go about finding new clients for wedding films?
I grew up in a pretty small county in west Wales, and in some respects the fact that everyone knew everyone was actually a blessing in disguise. It meant that as soon as I started looking to make some money from my hobby (aged 14) people quickly heard and told their friends, or aunties or cousins or whoever. Within those people were also photographers, who played a key part in my early years of shooting weddings. For some reason they saw something in me and my work they liked and from age 16 I was getting referrals from photographers and quickly getting booked up. This theme never really ceased, it just grew larger and out of the county I grew up in. Soon I was moving further and further East, across the Bridge, across England and before I knew it, abroad. I’d say 90% of the work I got in those early years was down to word of mouth. It’s unbelievably powerful and priceless. The other 10% at that time was through onlne blogs that had featured my work. Ie. When I was 17, Rock My wedding did a feature and added me to one of their lists, from which I had a crazy influx of bookings – to the point where I was leaving school at 18 with 22 weddings booked all over the UK. Still to this day, word of mouth is undoubtedly the biggest source of work.
Could you explain the pre-production process/journey?
In all honesty, my pre production is pretty minimal. I’ve never been a fan of planning things too much (wedding-wise). Obviously I always know the basics, and chat to them briefly beforehand to make sure we’re on the same page about everything and so I know where I need to be and when. But other than that I really don’t find out or ask much more. Maybe I should? But I really quite like to be surprised and make the film as I’m going, shooting for the edit while I’m there on the day with them, learning and thinking on my feet.
What are the 5 ‘must-have’ shots that you always try to get for your wedding films?
I’ve never really thought about this in detail before, I guess it’s kind of subconscious now; but I suppose the key shots in some of my films now, are:
Beauty establishers in the morning, of the venue/locations looking good in nice light ideally. Normally I’ll just wander around with an 85mm or a 50mm and gather some nice shallow shots of where we are, maybe a drone shot while I’ve got time, too – ideally a reveal from behind tress, flying through things, creating that movement feeling.
Bride prep in the morning I usually like to try and get some nice close ups of the dress details, hands etc. the more bokey the better, usually shooting on a 50mm so I can get that big closer with the focus being approx 30cm, which isn’t achievable with the 85mm.
Then the bride & father (or whoever is accompanying) walking toward the ceremony. I almost always use the glidecam for this with the 24-70mm (at 70mm normally) it’s such a dynamic tool for this situation, as you can move all the way with them, and get so many angles, light pops through trees, move from in front to behind etc. and with the nature of the glidecam, it does “glide” as it’s all moved my the user, not electronic motors like a ronin or move.
Reaction shots to the couple being officially married – this is only something I’ve realty started to appreciated in the last couple of years. More often than not, the front rows of the ceremony are actually a better shot then the couple themselves. Mothers crying, bridesmaids going wild and as long as you’ve got a 2nd camera on the couple, it’s always worth getting those shots, or at least trying.
Couple shots – I’m not usually one to direct couples too much, as my coverage is generally very relaxed and unobtrusive. BUT when I have couples who are more than keen to get involved and get some cool couple shots then I like to get them laughing, close together and (obviously) in the most beautiful light as possible. Ignoring me and ideally having a moment or two, whilst integrating some movement.
Now I’m going to skip right to the end of the day and the party (my favourite part) here my aim is to capture as much movement and people going wild, as possible. I almost always use a 50mm, handheld or with the glidecam, shot at 50P for more freedom in post. I also often use a prism to bounce and reflect the light and to spice up the visuals and make the party seem even more colourful than it might be.
What kit do you use to shoot wedding films?
-2x Sony A7Sii
–Canon lenses (17-35mm 2.8, 10mm macro L, 24-70mm 2.8)
–Samyang Lenses(50mm T1.5, 85mm T1,5)
-Olympus DM650 audio recorders with sennheiser ME2 mics (x5)
-Zoom H4n & XLR for audio feeds
–Manfrotto video monopods, carbon tripods
–DJI Phantom 4(CAA licensed and insured)
-Lowepro 450AW camera bag
I think that’s pretty much it.
How do you market yourself as a wedding filmmaker?
In short, I don’t market myself very much. My website is a bit ‘mix & max’ – purely because I shoot such a range of things. That is my only real marketing and some people may be put off by it, but if they are then maybe they’re not the clients I want. If people like the fact I have mountain bike films and travel films on my front page as well as wedding, then chances are we’re probably going to get on better and have more in common.
What would be your advice for young new wedding filmmakers regarding finding new clients and practising the art?
Obviously it’s all well and good talking about word of mouth, but unfortunately it’s not the easiest thing to just go out and make happen. I’d say get involved with wedding fayres, talk to photographers, make connections and build relationships. A huge amount of the industry I’ve found is based in being personal and good to work with. If I meet a photographer or anyone else in the industry and they’re a nightmare to work with but their work is great, I’m probably not going to recommend them. Whereas If I work with someone and they make a positive impact on me (even if their work isn’t amazing) I’m more likely to recommend the latter. Also, get involved with workshops, they’re great networking and learning opportunities and very social events.
What kit would you recommend a new filmmaker that has a budget of £2k to purchase to make beautiful videos? (of course it’s about technique and not just technology).
I’d probably look into either an original Sony A7S or A6500/A6300 – great powerful little cameras and fairly priced. Coupled with a canon/sony 85mm lens, and a wider prime or zoom, you could pretty much shoot on that all day. A lower end tripod and/or monopod and you could have a whole setup for under 2K. Though may be worth getting something like an Olympus DM650 recorder for off camera audio.
What’s the worst thing that has happened to you during a wedding shoot?
The worst thing that happened to me was not knowing there were 2 entrances to the church, and thinking the bride was super late – so had a bright idea and cracked open my flask of tea, sat in my car for 5 minutes, then realised the bells had stopped ringing, sprinted over and the bride and her bridesmaids were already half way up the aisle and had been dropped on the other side of the church. Luckily they never even seemed to notice the shot was missing. Never again…
You can check out more of Ben’s awesome work here and don’t forget to like his Facebook page … and If you or someone you know is thinking of getting married and would like an amazeballs wedding video, you’d better book Ben quickly!