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5 Films That Helped Shape My Wedding Videography Style!

Ever since studying films as an A-level student, and then at University, I have been an avid cinemagoer, and still try to see at least one film a week- some of them are good, some of them are downright terrible and a few end up having a long-lasting effect on me.  One way that this can manifest itself is in influencing and inspiring my own filmmaking.  Whether it is the way the story is constructed, the way a shot was angled or the way music was used, I am always looking to the great auteurs to help influence my work.  Below is a list of five films I have watched, or rewatched, in the last 12 months that helped shaped my filmmaking style.

For Composition: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Composition, for those not as geeky as me, is the way a scene in a film is framed or composed, to produce a certain effect.  Wes Anderson is a master of static composition- perfectly framed, symmetrical shots, often with little or no movement from the camera.  It is as if his films are more like a series of paintings or photos, with actors moving in and out of the frame.  I am highly influenced by this style of filmmaking, always looking for symmetry and the perfect angle to frame my wedding films.

One of the key differences between your friend filming your wedding on their phone, and having a professional videographer, is one is simply capturing what is happening in front of them and the other is framing that moment in the most visually appealing way possible.

One of my favourite Wes Anderson films, and possibly the best example of this filmmaking style, is The Grand Budapest Hotel…

For Music: Phantom Thread

My favourite film of 2018 so far, by possibly my favourite director of all time (Paul Thomas Anderson), is Phantom Thread.  The film explores the ideas of love and devotion in a beautiful way and I fell in love with the cinematography from the opening moments- it harks back to a bygone era of classic cinema, which I greatly admire.

But I am citing the film’s soundtrack as its main influence on me and my work: written by Jonny Greenwood, guitarist from my favourite band Radiohead, the music plays such an important part in setting the tone of the film, which is something I always strive for when choosing the correct soundtrack for my films.  The score is minimalist, mainly strings and piano, with a simple yet stirring quality, which is a style of music I always use in my films, as I believe it suits my minimalist style of filmmaking.  You can hear some of that soundtrack in the film’s trailer…

For the camera work: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

As well as being a beautiful story about love and relationships, I am a fan of the intimate and handheld camerawork in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- it makes you feel like you are entering the private world of the characters and allows its director, Michel Gondry, the freedom to shoot in an unrestricted manner, without lots of bulky equipment.  I love shooting parts of my wedding films handheld, and with minimal gear, for the very same reason.

For pure and simple emotion: A Ghost Story

This was possibly my favourite film of last year, partly as I had no idea what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised, but also because it manages to stir emotion in the viewer, on themes of love and loss, with such a stripped back style.  With the main character spending the majority of the film under a sheet, emotion and the passing of time in the film have to be portrayed through music and sound, and the way the film is pieced together during the editing process.  Editing is one of my favourite parts of the filmmaking process, as it is where I get to craft an emotional story from the footage I have captured on the wedding day, so this film resonated with me, as well as just being a real hidden gem of a film!

For making me want to be a filmmaker: Donnie Darko

I remember when I first saw this film, at a screening on my university campus.  I knew nothing about it and just bought a ticket (for £2!) on a whim, but was subsequently captivated by it from start to finish.  I always know when I’ve truly enjoyed a film, as it makes me want to go out and film something, anything, myself, and this was probably the first movie that made me realise filmmaking was to be my number one passion.  I caught an anniversary screening of the film at my local cinema last year, and felt those same emotions flooding back.

I made my first short film with a camera that took VHS tapes when I was about eleven, and the fact I now get to make a living playing with cameras, in a job that allows me the freedom to go to the movies whenever I like, is something I am very grateful for!

If you have any comments or suggestions of other films that you think I may like, feel free to share them below.

Toby Sleigh-Johnson is an award winning wedding videographer based in Greenwich, London and specialising in timeless, elegant and cinematic wedding videography. He has been filming weddings for over 10 years across the UK and overseas.

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  • A few people have asked me why, after many years in the wedding videography business, I felt the need to go on a two-day wedding filmmakers workshop in Rotterdam.  Head to my website to read my reasons for attending! 
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  • @for_loves_sake_event for the next two days, learning lots of new things about the world of wedding videography.
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