I’ve been following all of

#182163
AvatarJackWolcott
Participant

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

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