The article below was drafted in a time before the Corona virus devastated lives and livelihoods. At this point (early June 2020) as economies start to re-open, cautiously or plain recklessly, depending on the country in question and your viewpoint, the wedding and events industry in the UK (and probably everywhere) is in a critical state, from which not all businesses will emerge intact.According to the Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB) there are 139,000+ wedding businesses in the UK., and the sector is worth £10 billion. Many of our members in the IOV work predominantly in the weddings industry, and probably most derive some of their income from coverage of weddings and events. The “events” term can include a wide variety of gatherings from celebrations to business conferences to sports coverage.
While our members are doubtless affected we are probably not exposed to the extent of venues and some other wedding providers.
As society emerges into the light once again with a mixture of excitement and anxiety, things will certainly not revert to the old normal any time soon. Organisations as well as private customers will be wary about holding events at all and if they do proceed numbers may be restricted and some activities outlawed.
People will be watching their money, particularly those who have suffered financial loss during the lock down and are now less sure about the future. The wedding industry generally is sensitive to such widespread changes in sentiment and willingness to spend. Many weddings have been and will continue to be postponed, and when they happen may be on a much smaller scale. For our small sector of the market it is important to assess the likely impact on us.
While there have been many who have regretted after the event that they did not engage a professional video service for their wedding or event, prior to that event video was possibly far down the list of priorities, or one of the first items on the wish-list to be crossed of as budgets started to spiral.
As well as the temptation to dispense with video is the understandable temptation to get it done cheaply. Most members can remember previous times of recession when untrained and poorly equipped operatives were taking their work at an absurdly low price-level, even turning up at the church, camcorder in hand to tout for business then and there!
So what are proper weddings and events video producers to do? The immediate temptation might be to cut prices thereby fueling the inevitable “race to the bottom.” Others might decide to give up that sector entirely, or generate more income from an unrelated activity, while doing a few chosen events at a decent price (others, maybe, as a poorly paid hobby, but one they enjoy).
The rest of this article examines essentially what we think our skills are worth. I hope that many of the points made will apply more widely and be of relevance to those whose bread and butter comes from corporate or other types of production.
When Friends and Amateurs film your Wedding or Special Event
There are certain products and services that are worth paying for.
When people are surveyed about which goods are services are worth paying more for there are some typical answers.
- child’s car seat
- quality shoes
- insurance plans (cheap plans look like great value – until you have a claim!)
- a recommended builder, decorator, or other specialist tradesperson. Similarly any job that is beyond the average person’s scope or is dangerous (in terms of knowledge, experience, equipment, etc), e.g. a tree surgeon, a professional entertainer.
- dental care
- a private tutor
- a psychotherapist
- anything that is built to last, an investment
Hiring a professional to film your wedding or event surely ought to be on such a list but rarely is. After all the professional has:
- Training (in the case of IOV accredited members validated by passing a two- part exam). The training is more than technical (camera skills, titles and graphics and sound), and examines artistic elements and storytelling, both with the camera and in the subsequent edit and finishing.
- Experience – knowing what to expect in various kinds of shoot, and working well with people to put everyone at ease. Incidentally you’d better know what you’re doing because events tend to be live and unrepeatable!
- Facility in working in a team especially for larger productions.
- Pro-level filming equipment (and then some!) This will typically include expensive tripods,
back-up audio, and a second camera (sometimes many more).
- A pro-level editing suite capable of outputting a high quality piece of work in any format.
- Special licences, e.g. to dub copyright or royalty-free recorded tracks or live performance music.
- Public Liability Insurance.
- An Arbitration service to resolve any disputes that might arise. Our members’ commitment to professionalism in production and client relationships means that this happens rarely.
Nevertheless bookings do get cancelled because a friend or relative who has some kind of camera or smartphone offers to cover the event as a wedding present. Whether they remain friends in the aftermath is another question! Apart from anything else it is impossible to be a guest and cover a wedding over several hours at the same time (with editing and finishing to do afterwards).
When the economy takes a downturn customers are inclined to look for savings. Some of those savings are not necessarily wise, ditching the pro videographer while keeping the chocolate fountain!
We have to consider our response in such circumstances, and not become trapped in a race-to-the-bottom cycle. Reducing prices has a way of interfering with job satisfaction as we feel our knowledge and skills are undervalued. It is important to take a realistic look at net earnings in relation to the time spent on a typical job. We can kid ourselves of course and say that £1000 for four hours’ filming is pretty good However wind the tape back and ask, what did we have to put out to get the work in the first place (advertising, marketing, attendance at shows, website, etc); how much actual time did the total production take from inception to completion; what equipment did we use or have available, and how fast is that equipment depreciating? There’s more, but you get the picture. If the answer is not a satisfactory one then you may have to rethink things, ideally with some outside advice. Otherwise, in the immortal words of Dragon’s Den, “This isn’t a business. I’m out!”
When rethinking things, one approach might be to find access to a higher level of the market and put package prices up, to become, as Stella Artois used to say, “reassuringly expensive.” This entails research such as asking what are the trends in this area of production, what are the best/those commanding high prices doing that I could do at least as well? This might be more than production skills: they might be very good at selling themselves through their personal charisma and/or their marketing, notably a website with high quality samples and customer feedback all aimed at a particular profile of potential customers.
Competition is normal and indeed part of nature. Paradise can’t exist without predators. This principle affects the video producer too. Your training, experience, and equipment are your environmental advantage. Amateurs with iphones, relatives of the bride, and price undercutters (that resilient species from the slime) are your predators.
Once this situation is seen as a natural occurrence there is less need to fret about it. So the uncle is going to film the wedding. Well good luck to him. He will work for ten hours and sacrifice his experience of being a guest. After that he will do all the post – editing, titles, music, chapters etc. and then make copies, each with a printed DVD face and a lovely case with carefully selected images from the day, and distribute them to all concerned. Plus versions for the web. All for love.
Or perhaps he won’t. Perhaps there have been problems, the camera played up, maybe it wasn’t obvious which button was record and which was pause, he got chatting, so a few scenes were missed, the bride and her father walking down the aisle, the exchanging of rings, that sort of thing, but hey ho, these things happen. So maybe the uncle goes missing for a while. Quite a while. Off the radar so to speak.
“…before you decide to have a friend film your wedding, it’s important to consider all the outcomes. Because even though this video might not cost you any money, it might end up costing you your friendship. (Yikes.)
Never disappoint the Bride!
With a little guidance customers do appreciate that quality costs. They may also have heard the phrase, Buy cheap Buy twice. Our job is to persuade potential clients about lasting value over and above cost. As Benjamin Franklin wrote “The Bitterness of Poor Quality Remains Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten”
There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey. John Ruskin
At base what we do is a very personal service. It is about crafting memories that will be treasured for years or even generations. Our work helps businesses to project themselves and grow. The very act of thinking of making a video and fashioning a script helps the client think about what their business is about (and where it’s heading). Delivering to each client’s needs using our expertise can be immensely satisfying, the more so if the pay is commensurate to the efforts involved!
“My worst regret is that I did not have a video made. At the time, I thought, ‘who would I invite to watch this? People I didn’t invite to the wedding? That would be rude.’ So I didn’t have one made. But now I wish I had because I’d love to watch it, plus there is a lot that goes on at your wedding that you aren’t even aware of, and it would be a wonderful look at the whole day.” —Nanette
- Remember the aims and the values that tempted you into this business.
- Value your skills and keep learning.
- Set yourself high standards and aim to exceed them. The word will get around and your confidence will grow. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and exceptionally good value.
- Get good at business. Some people can crack the skills element and still suck at business! (Den Lennie article).
- Get yourself known. Your social media and website can reach out to the world, but don’t overlook your local community e.g. networking through your Chamber of Commerce.
- Don’t work cheap. It could become a habit.
- Do the kind of work that you want to do, i.e. consider a niche in which you have expertise and contacts rather trying to do everything.
- Be prepared to (politely) turn work away. Or to walk away once the client’s demands become unreasonable.
Comments and suitably anonymised anecdotes are invited!
Tony Manning M.M.Inst.V.