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Reaching Brides who DON'T Want Video!

EarlC's picture
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Videomaker Forums readerEd Rogers recently sent me a message regarding my response on "First Wedding Demo Video" saying, "I think that anyone wishing to lure the untapped market needs tosomehow advertise in places that future brides visit. Attending bridalexpositions, leaving business cards at jewelery stores, flower shops andbridal shops would seem to be a great way to get your name out there."

I agree with Ed's basic statement/philosophy there, but experience has taught me that a few of his thoughts won't work. I'll get to WHY later.

Essentially, what I focused on in the previous post Ed mentions, is the FACT that, as (TALLWATER) stated in his response on "First Wedding Demo Video", talking about creating a wedding video demo "...making some sort of video that would promote wedding video in general." AND, as (Wayne Williams) said on the same post: "There is no shortage of wedding videographers, but you will generally find most of the business going to the top 5% and the rest picking up the scraps," independent professional wedding video services providers are all fighting over a very small percentage of the available bridal market the 20% give or take who DO WANT VIDEO!

This is what I call "lazy marketing" and provides a poor return on the time, money and effort spent pursuing there's simply too many guys with cameras (DSLR or VIDEO) out there, all trying to sell their services to the same small piece of the bridal video services pie. Fact of the matter is the bridal market they're all pursuing is comprised of the ones who KNOW they want video.

This creates a serious challenge among the huge community of full-time and part-tine professionals (self-professed or otherwise, experienced or otherwise); beginners, amateurs, weekenders, supplemental income generators, hobbyists, enthusiasts and a LOT of people who, believe it or not, do it for the "fun" of it, not for ANY kind of compensation. Yes, they do exist, those who do this for free, and the sad, SAD truth of it is many of them produce a far better quality video/production than many of those wanting to get paid.

Enough about that. What was wrong with Ed's thoughts about dropping off business cards at "jewelry stores, flower shops and bridal shops" NOTHING is the short answer, but ...

... just about as quickly as you leave a stack of those business cards on a counter, shelf or display, management at the establishment rakes 'em up and tosses them into the trash. WHY? The same reason brides are almost reluctant to even deal with videographers. MOST of us come across like ambulance chasers, or worse, vultures. We're all competing with such a heavy load of competition that many of us are DESPERATE! We'll do, try and attempt virtually anything, including, again sad to say, "claim jumping" in an effort to win over, sway or talk a potential bridal client into using us instead of "that other guy." And if you AREN'T scrapping with the competition, if you're trying to be an honest, professionally decent sort, you're not going to close as many sales.

Most of the businesses focused on the bridal community today jewelry stores, bridal shops, tux rental shops, bakeries and florists, etc. now charge fees for enterprising video producers who want exposure in their establishments. Many bridal shops will screen these videographers, ask for and contact references, and maintain a strict sense of professionalism when it comes to who they're willing to promote. In addition to fees, many of them also demand a percentage of the bookings resulting from their "paid cooperation" with you. The age of free promotion and referral is dead. Too many substandard folks have rocked the boat and now these shops take measures to protect themselves from the bad publicity that comes from being associated with the riffraff.

So, what's a poor boy (or girl) to do? Like Edalso said, honestly: "I haven't been aggressive. I try to keep my overheadas small as possible." And I cannot fault him there. The expense of promoting, marketing, advertising, and dealing with other industry services in order to "get the word out" is overwhelming. Sometimes a certain producer and other bridal industry owner CLICK and hit it off and a "marriage made in heaven" is born. Not often, my friends.

THE ANSWER? Aside from competing on price, quality, turnaround (a real winner once your FAST turnaround with GREAT quality is proven and the referrals start as a result), creativity, shear overwhelming production value, gimme's or more, videographers who are NOT in the top 5/10 percentile of professional "in demand" wedding video producers need to band together, form a group that shares resources to develop not only a GOTCHA promo video that makes brides who DO NOT WANT VIDEO reconsider their reasons why not, but engage, invest and persist in an ongoing program that makes more brides aware of the reality a video of their wedding event represents.

Something that focuses on the REALITY that once it's over, the ice sculptures melt, the flowers wilt, the cake disappears and the chair covers are folded and carted away by those people with the huge catering trucks. Once the babies start coming, the grandchildren are born, the aging process gains ground, and those old photos fade, or the digital ones get lost or damaged or the files become corrupted YOUR VIDEO REMAINS!

I've hammered, as I've said in many posts about this over the years, on a need for an ongoing AWARENESS program that promotes valid arguments to convince that 78% or higher group of brides who DO NOT WANT video, that they should, maybe, reconsider. I've hammered on this to wedding associations, on forums and at PVNs and PVAs until I've given up (or so I thought) then somebody like Ed sends me a message and gets me started all over again.

It is so frustrating that as HUGE as the group of wedding video producers on this planet is there's not enough of them that will band together and develop two things that will start swaying the "NO VIDEO" brides toward YES: An ongoing branding/awareness promotional program like "Got Milk" "Where's the Beef" or "Can You Hear Me Now?" and an eye-popping promo video that hammers home the difference between ONLY photos and having a living, breathing, professionally produced, video of the event.


Jack Wolcott's picture
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Interesting viewpoint, Earl. In the years before we stopped doing wedding videography one of the most common reasons given us by brides who said they didn't want their wedding videoed was cost. They just couldn't see the value, no matter how it was explained to them using the selling points you describe. Brides live in the hear and now, it seems, not thinking much about what the future will hold. Ten years later I still hear cost vs. value as the primary negative reason.

Over a pint or two one evening a fellow videographer jokingly proposed a model for wedding video that I've never seen anyone attempt but which, from a business point of view made perfect sense to me and still does. It taps directly into the "it costs too much" potential market.

Instead of charging $1500 to $3000 for a beautifully produced wedding video of the pre-ceremony, ceremony, reception and countless interviews, why not charge a couple of hundred dollars for a well shot but unedited DVD of just the ceremony? The way my friend imagined it, the company owner would pay a videographer a good wage -- say $35-40 per hour -- for four hours of setup, tear down and shooting. The videographer would shoot the ceremony, using wireless mics on the groom and officiant, and record the ceremony directly to DVD. At the end of the ceremony he'd hand the DVD to the bride and go home. (This, by the way, is exactly what we do with deposition videos, so there's excellent precedent; heck, if it's good enough for high-priced lawyers it must be good enough for mere brides and grooms!)

Total charge: $300. The net: $150-160 for the shooter, $140-150 for the company owner, whose only involvement in the proceedings would have been to book the wedding, schedule his shooters and pre-print a nice cover on the DVD disc.

My friend estimated that in our market area a business such as this could easily net the company owner $1500 per weekend and employ 10 videographers who otherwise would have been home watching NFL highlights. At the end of the 15 to 20 week wedding season this amounts to some serious money and leaves the business owner largely free of stress.

The immediate reaction to my friend's proposal was cries round the table of "Bottom feeder! You'll bring down the industry, etc." But if, as you point out, only a small percentage of brides are willing to pay top dollar, why not go after the others on their own terms? "Your perception is that video is of limited value? o.k., I'll provide it at a limited price: 1% of your $20,000 budget instead of 10%."

Both my friend and I left wedding videography behind us not long after that, turning to more lucrative and far less stressful video pursuits. But we both still believe it's a potentially lucrative wedding video model, one someone really should take a shot at.

Jack

http://www.videoccasions-nw.com


Ed Rogers's picture
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Earl,

Did you get ANY sleep last night ;)

Seriously, thanks for answering my request. You've addressed my main question and opened up free dialog for everyone.

It's inconceivable to me that the Wedding & Event Videographers Association (WEVA) hasn't put together anything for its members. I mean, I would think that the combination of dues and their talent pool would have resulted in the best ever, nationally televised, Wedding Video promotion. The answer is probably that we are a solitary bunch of artists (as the VM Profile feature states).

Jack's comment, regarding his conversation about value pricing is also very relevant...It's becoming reality! I perceive that people on Craigslist are trying (perhaps succeeding) to take advantage of the "starving artists". The result may very well drag the entire industry to a new paradigm. Is it "Bottom-feeding" to accept these contracts? No, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. In addition, technological advances have opened the floodgates of aspiring videographers. That said, it makes resources like these forums, Videomaker magazine, WEVA and others so much more important for people who are serious and dedicated.

As I mentioned in my PM to Earl, I'd love to create an advertisement that exemplifies the value of a professional wedding video. I was thinking of a montage of poorly shot videos (I don't know where I'd acquire them) interspersed with shots of well-done, not choreographed, wedding videos. Again, I don't know where I'd get these shots, other than my personal collection. I'm certain we, as a collective whole, could come up with these types of clips. They would have to be accompanied by release forms from the videographers and their subjects though. This is just one idea.

Earl's ideas of a promotional video and a formal group, devoted to the promotion of wedding videographers, are great ones. WEVA fills a particular niche but it doesn't do enough to change the perception of the 90% of brides to invest in documenting the most important day of their lives. Perhaps we also need to figure out a way to appeal to grooms as well...


EarlC's picture
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Just think about it: a group of 300 committed wedding video producers investing $15 a month x 12 months = $180 each x 300, would generate $54,000.

That would set up a central website linked to a branding awareness campaign that features development of a promotional DVD (yes, I have a concept that I believe would be awesome if brought to fruition); development of a postcard that could be used to send to not only organizers of bridal fairs and events nationwide, but to lists acquired from various bridal fairs attended by the membership; featured clips from each participating videographer in the coalition/organization/cooperative; and LINKS to/from each participant on the website, backlinking to their websites.

For starters, there should be enough left over to pick a national publication for running a monthly ad (small, granted, certainly not half- or full-page, and probably not in full color) but something that would advocate the group and wedding video production services as "all that and a bag of chips" other members of the wedding videographer community would benefit from it from the general branding & awareness, but the cooperative would benefit even more in that each member is listed, linked and connected via all marketing materials, promoting themselves individually AND the cooperative at bridal fairs and other events in which they participate, and be included in all marketing materials going out to those other wedding service providers, from bridal shops and tux rental shops, to jewelers, printers, florists, caterers, event planners, venues and more.

It is possible that such a cooperative could grow in membership with all dues going to maintenance of the promotional program, procurement of the necessary marketing materials and related costs, and a small stipend to whomever takes on the task of maintaining the books, the website, the links and development of promotional materials and content.


Ed Rogers's picture
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Earl,

Your idea has merit. WEVA doesn't seem to offer what you're proposing. Other types of wedding websites typically have videographers as an afterthought - and charge them exorbitant fees. I am particularly interested in the method of including the featured clips from each of the members.

What is your vision for the DVD?How would the group be organized (corporation, LLC)? Do you have a website style/layout in mind?


EarlC's picture
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TWO videos: one for the purpose of establishing wedding video as a DESIRED option for ALL brides (branding along the lines of Got Milk, Where's the Beef, etc.); the other for general demo purposes, as well as continuing the branding and awareness thrust, both to be featured on the cooperative's website landing page ... first thing inquiring brides would see, with minimal rhetoric and easy, simple navigation.

VIDEO ONE: It would be GREAT, but indescribably expensive, to have a REAL GENUINE actor (male/female) but there are probably numerous "look alike" personalities with whom a cooperative could bargain to get them as talent.

Camera opens on theater curtains, pulls back as curtains open and movie begins. Front row seat silhouettes with talent in center seat. Emotionally charged wedding video shot of groom breaking into tears as he sees bride coming down the aisle. He is overcome with emotion and it shows. Cut to face of talent in front row, center, reacting, a tear escapes. Back to screen where the emotion plays out, cut to bride, cut to talent with HUGE smile, BIG SCORE that has been playing comes up, then out.

Cut to talent, back to camera, closing stage curtains in background, turns, arm over back of seats, cocks a look at camera: "Now! Show me YOUR wedding video." Cut to black, message to visit the cooperative listings on this website or THE WEBSITE to locate a professional wedding video services provider near you, supported by voice over.

VIDEO TWO: Video opens immediately with a father, mic in hand, giving toast. Cuts from father, to bride, to guests, to couple, to father as father's VO toast gets to a particularly poignant revelation.

"My daughter is my life, my star, my miracle and I am ..." audio cuts to silence via camera shutter SFX going to framed photo still shot of image at that point.

This is repeated with two other moments of emotionally charged action/narrative with the moment cut off to silence via a camera shutter sound and framed photo-like still shot.

Over last one narrator VO says: "Don't miss the message because you didn't want a video."

Cut to black, message urges viewer to look up and contact members of the cooperative for affordable rates and professional wedding video production services.

THE WEBSITE: Simple, few pages, easy to navigate. Landing page featuring the promo videos. Screening page featuring clips from participating cooperative members. General pricing information, about us, etc. kept to a minimum. And a page(s) facilitating the web viewer's search for a cooperative member who can provide their wedding video production services.

NOTE: On the whole, websites tend toward overwhelming rhetoric, hard-to-find specifics (creds, service area, general price range ... "starting at") but dense with braggadocio and technical blather, bragging wall focused on awards, and no consistency of style or delivery of information or sample clips. Most also require a response form in order to get any useful info, when potential clients, on first visit, prefer to NOT speak with the service provider before having the basic information in hand. Finally, so many websites tend toward entertainment-style landing pages with animation, showy glitz and glitter, thinking this speaks of "sophistication" to the average wedding consumer. SURE if you're the established go to professional wedding cinematographer and branded to the point of being in that elusive top 5% and super expensive to boot, less is more with a super duper opening sequence to show off your elegance and professionalism. But for the rest of us there's simple, straightforward facts and information backed by quality sample clips and an opening page that not only features video with a message but easy navigation to the meat of the message ... HOW MUCH can I expect to pay, where are you located, when do I get my finished production?

A professional-looking, serviceable website can be provocative and engaging without the overkill that is so prevalent today. And so many websites spend too much site real estate trying to SELL the visitor. IMHO if a bride has made it to the website they're already sold, or half-sold, and simply want the information needed to make a decision. They don't want to have to wade through pages of dreamy, statistical, fairy tale, technological jargon and arguments why ME instead of the other guy.

Simplicity sells. Easy access information sells and impresses. Minimizing maximizes positive reactions and extends time on site.

Any questions?


Ed Rogers's picture
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earl, i'm having trouble with internet I'm in a part of california with spotty data Please expand on your idea for how this group should be organized I would think either an LLC or nonprofit Your thughts?


EarlC's picture
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Ed, my first impulse is to emphatically say "NONPROFIT" but as with anything there are issues and not always ANSWERS.

According to legalzoom dot com Nonprofit corporations enjoy the same liability protection as regular corporations and limited liability companies ... directors, trustees, members and employees are not generally responsible for corporate debts and liabilities. There are also significant federal and state tax benefits available for incorporating as a nonprofit. One of the most attractive benefits of forming a nonprofit is the opportunity to receive grants from the federal government and private foundations.

The website above also has some interesting information under a number of topics ranging from Definition, to Reasons, to Commercial Rights, Operation a Nonprofit Corporation and more. Worth reading and I will when time permits.

Small Business dot Chron dot com notes that "An LLC is formed under state statutes with little paperwork and few restrictions on ownership or purpose. A nonprofit can face a blizzard of paperwork to verify its charitable, artistic, public service, trade group or other eligible purpose as defined by the Internal Revenue Service."

The website notes that there's MORE paperwork to keep track of funds and donations to ensure that no earnings are distributed to any private shareholder or individual. Typically, a board of directors is required minutes of regular meetings must be maintained, just as they would with a "for-profit" corporation.

This website also provides a bounty of information related to the two, and anyone interested in doing something such as has been discussed in this thread would do well to take the time and read, as well as conducting even MORE research into what might be the best direction to go.

MORE regarding LLC vs. Nonprofit is at the popular ehow dot com website. Obviously, the answer/solution isn't going to be cut and dried. Each/all have issues to consider and problems to overcome, in addition to the normal day-to-day activities that will take up a HUGE portion of somebody's time to organize, maintain and sustain.

eHow says "by their very nature nonprofits aren't in business to make money, usually serving a social need, and any money that might be made is put back into the business. The article goes on to note that this doesn't mean nonprofit groups aren't allowed to make a "lot of money" but simply that the money made HAS to go back into the organization, allowing it to grow.

Which brings me back to my first impression ... based on the fact that revenues earned/received would continue to GROW such an organization. On the other hand, LLC groups also can grow AND make a profit which essentially could be applied to the same purpose, by using any profits to grow the company.

Let me know what you think, Ed. OTHERS please feel free to contribute to this thread as well. Could result in some interesting developments.


Ed Rogers's picture
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It seems that we're getting a chilly reception with this topic. Is it simplelack of interest?

My inclination would also be a nonprofit. WEVA, apparently is a for profit organization. I've never joined WEVA because I never felt comfortable -there's no one to really to get in touch with and the site is a little too ambiguous for me. I get the feeling it's just another cash cow for a privileged few. The site could probably use a little updating.

As you mentioned, it would take up a sizable amount of time to organize and maintain. Perhaps the duties could be assigned, once enough prospective members were on board; one person to maintain one of the websites pages, another to maintain any database(s), someone else to be the treasurer/accountant. Of course, these would also likely be the members of the board - Regardless of how we organized (Corp, LLC, nonprofit), we'll need a board of directors.

I too, like the ideo of a simple website that would not try to dazzle brides/groomswith flashy junk. I like the idea of a sitethat is a resource forboth consumers and our membership.There would have to be boundaries, however. We would have to have a clear charterfor what we'd offer couples interested in having their weddings documented and what we'd offer to prospective members. We should also have the names of the board members available for contact,email would suffice.

I hate to keep bringing up WEVA but it's a great example of what I would NOT like to do. I wouldn't want to create a bunch of awards. I wouldn't want to have a website that wasn't up to date.I don't want to charge people money for programs of dubious worth. I'm sorry if I offend any WEVA members but I just don't see the value of the membership. Well Earl, that may just get us some responses ;)


EarlC's picture
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Hello again, Ed. Funny thing, on the way to the forum ;-) ...

Anyway, a few points to ponder/discuss, if you want to keep this two-way thread going in hopes SOMEBODY who thinks "wedding video" will come onboard.

Back in the day, before a major division upturned the whole shebang, WEVA come off as a power in the WEDDING industry, OF A SORTS, but did little in the way of supporting the full scope of its WEVA branding, which stands for Wedding and Event Videographers Association. During the years of my initial membership, and attending a few events, including the former Las Vegas sessions which were great, if not in programs/presentations, at least in meeting and visiting with others in the industry. The two-day trade show also was worth attending, and the trip from Southern California to Vegas wasn't all THAT bad.

Anyway, back in the day, when a printed magazine was "irregularly" received, and redundancy hadn't overcome the seminar presentations, and inter-politics hadn't created situations that made some uncomfortable, I participated strongly in the WEVA forums, and actually picked up information that helped me to invest in and make money from various new concepts for wedding AND EVENT videographers.

Early on I also started pounding on the need for a branding and awareness program, even if it called for an increase in dues, but all that seemed to connect with the management and membership was MORE classes, a method for certification, MORE members, MORE, MORE, MORE and not much in the way of helping the membership actually acquire business. With the exception of a once healthy Brides Guide section, now anemic, and a bit of something in the way of a general demo video and some promotional materials that did MORE to GROW WEVA's influence than it did to help generate or create AWARENESS or business ...

... I was told, more than once, by certain members AND management that the organization was NOT to help its members increase or gain business, but to instruct, educate and influence. It was then, and remains that (not using any kind of scientific survey formula here) IMHO, seven out of 10 brides-to-be, and even fewer grooms, will have EVER heard of WEVA, recognize the logo or give credence to WEVA award winners and high prices any more than any other independent videographer. I could go on, but ...

... only to say that recently, due to a special price and drive offered by WEVA, I rejoined, primarily to SEE if anything was happening. The forums are a wasteland, a graveyard, with the possible exception of some of the technical sections. Replies are few and far between anymore, and a once lively, active and sometimes provocative private general section, marketing section and video sharing and critique section, is now measured in response per month, or months, rather than a back-and-forth, give-and-take multiple-times-daily, or EVEN DAILY occurrence full of FRESH and ACTIVE content/replies.

I've got MORE to say, Roger, but I decided to focus on MY personal experience as a WEVA member in this one; to note that true, WEVA does NOT actively engage in an ongoing branding/awareness strategy or program beyond WEVA focused ads in bridal publications and a presence here and there at events, and a significantly reduced presence of its own in Florida, mid-California OR Las Vegas.

Other points I want to address in upcoming responses here include:

WHY I THINK THE INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL VIDEO SERVICES PROVIDER ISN'T INTERESTED IN A COOP

WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO GET A BIG ENOUGH GROUP INVOLVED AND REMAINING ACTIVE

Do YOU have any other points, in addition to the two above and WEVA's organization, to ponder?

Earl


Ed Rogers's picture
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Earl, perhaps we're perceiving this opportunity incorrectly. Maybe we should be thinking about LIMITED partnership. Granted, this would increase the workload for all members exponentially but at least we'd have a committed group of people. As to who we'd invite, I'd have to consider this for a while. I'm sure you may have some suggestions, which I am open minded to. There are plenty of other things to develop in the meantime.

WEVA stands as a cautionary tale to us - what to avoid. I apologize again, if I offended you in any way...


EarlC's picture
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Not offended AT ALL! You are spot on with your assessment. I'm ONLY a member now due to the reduced rate and still find the return for my dollar severely lacking. However, I have a possibility of using a part of the program to try and generate income.

Your limited partnership thought may have merit. Gonna have to figure out HOW to get enough people involved. Still need to ponder the other two point of focus I brought up, and any YOU may have.

Again, NO OFFENSE taken. Period!


Ed Rogers's picture
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Earl, Thanks. For the time being, I'd like to hear why us independents aren't interested in a coop and What it will take to overcome that significant obstacle.

If we think we've got the problem solved, maybe we should consider drafting a charter...


EarlC's picture
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Hey Ed, I don't think THIS TOPIC has much appeal, or maybe my writing points are too long for the average person to take time to read, digest and respond. Actually, you want to know what I think, all along the problem with something like we propose and might would support is that your average wedding video producer is an independent sort. A person who doesn't WANT to CO-OP with others A person who would gladly and eagerly TAKE from any offered resource, even pay to "learn" maybe, about production or independent marketing, but NOT to the extent of paying dues, putting in time and effort, expending energy to GIVE BACK to an industry THESE PEOPLE are trying to milk for all its worth.

Over the years I've experienced, read and seen where people in the wedding video industry "give back" to their industry by teaching and sharing what they know, often in paid gigs, seminar sessions or (like me) the sales of published books and/or DVDs/online resources. That's well and good. These resources, also, are needed. So, MANY of us seek to make money either via the bride and groom, via marketing efforts or paid seminars, but DO NOT desire to do something that actually WOULD bring business to all levels of the trade.

While on the one hand we're a GIVING lot, we're a selfish bunch on the other.

But let's just call us an independent lot, artists who by nature go it alone, self-reliant and personally invested independent sorts who, like some timber giants ONLY want to clearcut and make a massive fortune on forests by stripping away EVERY single standing tree, raping the earth, but don't want to take time to plant more trees, preserve old stands or support the industry on the whole.

However the indictments hold, we have industry participants who DO NOT SEE the value in organizing a group that focuses on the good of the WHOLE. For goodness sakes, even the cattlemen and beef growers, dairy farmers and milk producers, and many, cotton and other produce COOPS, as well as community-owned rural electric and other utility COOPS see the benefits to working together to generate resources and income for all who participate. Why NOT the wedding video production industry?

It's probably a LOT like what I ran into back when I was trying to develop a commercial dinning business video promotional project: Those who can afford to pay into the program don't need to (they're getting plenty of business and exposure and don't see a need for investing profits); those who NEED exposure, promotion, advertising due to slow business and low clientele levels CANNOT AFFORD TO INVEST in the program.

The wedding videographers who NEED to be members of a cooperative that focuses on developing public awareness, encouraging the reticent brides to WANT video for whatever of a number of valid reasons, or even gain a broader range of BRAND RECOGNITION, cannot afford to participate. Heck, most of us are barely hanging on after over-investing in expensive equipment (needed or not) and up to our noses in debt that we cannot generate enough business to reduce. A LOT of us are thinking of exit strategies rather than ways to prop up our badly leaning independent businesses.

Those other guys, the top 10-percent (probably 5-percent) ALREADY have independent AND WELL-DESERVED brand recognition, already get all the business they want or can handle and have NO need or desire to invest in such a branding and service public awareness and centralized resource program.

And NEITHER SIDE really wants to do something that's going to HELP THE COMPETITION.

This, probably, is the general mindset we're talking about bringing to the COOP table, Ed. More later. Frankly, I'm once again tired of hammering on something that cannot even generate a healthy debate or discussion on THIS THREAD for goodness sake. But, because you originally asked and DO have an interest, and because I'd really, really like to see something of this nature come to fruition for the good of the WHOLE, I'll keep typing and expressing my thoughts. Well, for awhile anyway. ;-)



Jack Wolcott's picture
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I've been following all of this with interest. Our company hasn't done weddings in over ten years so I have no axe to grind here. However, as a professional historian (in another life) I do have a commentary to add to the discussion.

If you go back to the 1980s, analogue video for small producers was just getting off the ground. The Panasonic 450 and 455 came along about that time and desk top editing -- A/B roll -- was in its infancy. TV had been around for quite a while, but the little guys really hadn't been able to play. Wedding video was virtually unheard of except among a handful of film cinematographers.

With the advent of desk top editing and cameras that could be schlepped around on your shoulder, a few folks began taping weddings. Roy Chapman, who founded WEVA, saw in these fledgling attempts the potential for a money-making venture. WEVA was never a democratic co-op or even, in the usual sense of the word, an association: no elected board of directors, no meaningful input from the membership. You paid your dues and got to attend some really great conventions, where you could meets lots of fellow workers in the vineyards, learn a lot from seminars and see all the latest cool equipment. Vegas in the summer was sweltering but the casinos were air conditioned and it was a great place to party. Chapman's business certainly had a place in the early 1990s and was undoubtedly responsible for the legitimizing of wedding videography.

To personalize the narrative, in 1998, at a WEVA convention, a group of us from the Seattle area decided to organize a business association; this became PEVAN, the Professional Event Videographers
Association Northwest. At its peak in the first couple of years of the 21st century we had 18 member companies. Ten years after it was founded, down to 6 member companies, PEVAN folded. I was a three time president of the organization and tried hard to keep it alive, but to no avail. Interestingly it was preceded in death in Seattle by the ITVA, a huge international television and video organization whose Seattle chapter, with a huge and active membership, was one of the more robust business associations in the area.

Looking back on all of this, here's what I've learned and have come to understand. Organizations such as WEVA, PEVAN and countless other video associations across the country came into being because people who had a mutual need and goal, the goal of learning how to make a business of shooting wedding videos. They needed each other for support, needed to learn how to do it; what worked and what didn't; how to shoot, mic, light and edit in this new medium. How to purchase and use the new equipment that was coming along.

But by the late 1990s the need for this was rapidly decreasing. Analogue video, which required a considerable amount of skill to shoot and edit, was displaced by digital NLE programs, running on computers that we could only dream of in the early 1990s. Digital cameras became affordable for everyone and were easy to use by anyone. People discovered that they didn't need to know anything to become a wedding videographer. Building on the attitudes that emerged from the 1970s, and abetted by manufacturer's hype, the notion of a wedding videographer as a trained professional, on a par with photographers, as they had been seen before 1980 when weddings were shot on Super8 or 16mm film, gave way to the populist notion that anybody can be a videographer, that training, experience, an understanding of the art and of business wasn't essential.

Film -- cinematography, making movies -- had been around for over 100 years, yet most who called themselves "wedding videographers" have never really studied and analyzed film technique and many don't know the difference between an L and J cut, how to compose a two-shot or keep from crossing the line.

While I was president of our business association I began to track the number of new wedding video companies that appeared each year in the Seattle area. This would have been about 2005. One year there were 53 new companies with web sites. The following year 37 of these were no longer in business.
Interestingly, and to the point, although we contacted each of these 50 companies several times during the year, by phone and with two follow up post cards, not one ever attended one of our monthly meetings. Why associate when you can go it alone!

I don't see anything on the national scene today that would make me believe things are different now than they were when our association disbanded. True, there are some very active local associations nation wide but they are the exception rather than the rule. Your observation that WEVA seems moribund tallies with my observation as well.

I suspect that one reason for this is that sources such as Videomaker Magazine, DV, Videographer and a dozen similar magazines and trade journals have all but wiped out the viability of small local trade shows. Both in print and on-line, these journals provide the interested with up-to-the-minute reviews of new products and a wealth of excellent "how to" articles. YouTube abounds in excellent software and hardware tutorials and occasionally with short videos worth watching. I still seek our trade shows because I like the hands-on approach but I'm way outnumbered by people who ask about a piece of equipment on a forum or read about it, then buy it.

What hasn't changed, however, is the prevailing attitude that anyone can succeed as a professional videographer: buy a camera and tripod, a cheap NLE program and hang out a sign. Fortunately my knee surgeon doesn't feel the same way and neither do I. I've spent 60 years of my life studying the visual arts, working with every project to better myself as an artist, reaching out to help others along the way. I reject out of hand the notion that this kind of study, self criticism and determination to learn isn't necessary. But I'm in a small minority.

Sadly, I don't think you'll get very far with your idea for a co-op, or for a national trade association, however, because I don't see too many today who are humble enough to be willing to work together to improve themselves or, for that matter, who realize that they need the improvement. Associations form because of mutual need. If that need isn't felt: no association. It's instructive that only two members of this forum have responded to your posting.

Hang in there Earl, and keep the faith.

Jack


EarlC's picture
Last seen: 7 months 1 week ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am
Plus Member Moderator

Jack, I've always admired, appreciated and respected your input and insights. And equally so here. I absorbed, enjoyed and kept nodding my head so much while reading your reply that I had to prop my hand under my chin so I could continue reading, otherwise the words kept moving up and down making me seasick ;-)

I've shared my thoughts with Ed in this ongoing 2- or 3-way post mostly because, while I do agree with your final assessment regarding the formation of associations and their potential for success, I also feel Ed's pain AND it gave me someplace to open up with all my thoughts regarding this, the whys wherefores and so forth and so ons.

I also have all but abandoned active wedding marketing or production. I occasionally accept a wedding because it comes from the long-lived referral process as a result of the several satisfied brides we've produced for over the years, now with younger sisters and even daughters who are facing the altars, gazebos and beaches of matrimonial bliss.

I do think we are all in agreement that there's a "prevailing attitude" that anyone can succeed as a professional videographer ... especially a wedding videographer. And that such vehicles of learning like Videomaker magazine, DV, Videographer, et al, makes the learning experience much easier, along with the awesome and ever-improving technology.

"Why associate when you can go it alone!" pretty much sums it up, and folks, you heard it from Mr. Jack Wolcott! Always worth the read. ;-)


Ed Rogers's picture
Last seen: 1 day 6 hours ago
Joined: 02/02/2008 - 2:35am
Plus Member

Earl & Jack:

Thank you both for your valuable insights! I too am forced to conclude that a coop will not survive, at this time.

Earl, your assessment is spot on. I perceive that the prospective audience herehas grown exponentially over the past decade or so, with exactly the attitude you mentioned. Many budding videographers haven't yet discovered Videomaker - probably because we ARE an independent sort of creature. Yet, Videomaker magazine and Videomaker.com have created avirtual coop, of a sort. Earl, I am truly grateful that you answered my request.

Jack, thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with your former associations. I would have hated to reinvent the wheel and go down in flames! I disagree, somewhat, that there aren't enough humble or competent enough to realize they need help. These forums are proof. I sense reticence on this topic because the great unwashed are a little too timid to speak up and publicly proclaim their lack of experience, for fear of losing "Street Cred".

My business only exists because I have another source of income (USAF pension). I will always have something in the works, professionally or personally (stay tuned for my Solar Cook-Off shoot). I document anything, except pornography and illicit material. Weddings have been merely one aspect of my portfolio. I'm extremely fortunate to be able to pursue my passion. I will try to support our fellow videographers with whatever experience I have - or will have. I sense that there are MANY VM forum contributors who feel exactly the same way...


Jack Wolcott's picture
Last seen: 10 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 01/02/2008 - 11:51pm
Plus Member

Ed, your points are well taken. What I've always found interesting is this: many individuals seek training and work hard to better themselves. But, and it's a big BUT, when these individuals decide to go into business for themselves, for many this changes. Perhaps it's because of the competitive nature of the video business, especially among wedding videographers; perhaps its for other unknown reasons.

I've often seen people who, only a couple of months earlier as professed "newbies," picked my brain for everything in it that could help them, suddenly become closed off, unwilling to share anything for fear that their newly created business would suffer. It's a strange phenomena.

I share your optimism with regard to people wanting to learn. I've taught seminars for Videomaker Magazine here in Seattle and found newcomers to video to be a lively crowd, eager to learn all they can. They've got a new tool and they want to learn how to use it. But, and here's the big BUT again, I've also run into some of the same folks months later who guarded what they were now doing with video like they'd guard the crown jewels. Business does strange things to folks.

I think the problem is this, and it relates directly to why I doubt that the co-op idea will fly: take a limited market of folks willing to pay $1000 or more for a wedding video and surround them with videographers in business to get a piece of that market, and suddenly all the videographers clam up, unwilling to reveal their "secrets" for business success. The competition is fierce and, unfortunately, is not conducive to cooperation, sharing and, in some markets, even to friendly interaction.

Jack

http://www.videoccasions-nw.com


Ed Rogers's picture
Last seen: 1 day 6 hours ago
Joined: 02/02/2008 - 2:35am
Plus Member

Jack, you're probably right about the change in human behavior once it becomes business. My situation is such that I can have the best of both worlds. My pespective is that we're all individuals, different artistic points of view and values. I checked out your website andperceived that you have a similar take on things. Nice website, by the way.

I also noticed that you don't specialize in any one field - very wise. As videographers/editors, I think we need to be open to ANY opportunity(ies). Let's face it, our market has changed and we need to adapt.


Terry Wall's picture
Last seen: 2 months 2 days ago
Joined: 09/04/2010 - 10:11pm
Plus Member

Sorry, Ed, Jack & Earl, that I'm late to the party, since it looks like the last posts were from last July. I would be most interested in exploring this with you--if the lack of response (except the string the three of you have kept alive!) hasn't left you totally disillusioned. Like you all, WEVA does indeed to be a bit self-serving and as a 'for-profit' organization, I'm not sure there is much bang for the buck there. That said, if there's any desire to continue the dialogue, I'd be happy to participate. I started in still photography many moons ago and moved into video while serving a number of churches. For me, video was always a bit of a sideline because I usually had a 'real job' (online marketing & advertising), but after a layoff at the end of '12, decided to pursue the video business in earnest.

 

I have no problem going after that XX% that is probably not considering video and can reasonably tailor the deliverables to whatever budget may be in play. I really like Jack's business model, mentioned earlier in the string. And certainly when the bigger budget jobs present themselves, we'll take them!

 

I welcome further conversation!

 

Terry Wall

Costa Mesa, CA