A still from a wedding video produced by Jawad Mir and Film-Style Weddings, “The Secret of Flamenco”
The stated goal of videographer Jawad Mir’s Toronto-based company, Film-Style Weddings, is to create not only a memorable film for the participants but to make a complete stranger feel that they were a part of the wedding. Mir often creates supplemental concept shorts for couples to show at the wedding itself, adding a multimedia component to the ceremonies. For example, his company produced a choreographed Bollywood-style music video of a couple entitled “The Secret of Eternity” that introduced them before they made their grand entrance at their reception.
HDVideoPro: You prefer the title storyteller to describe what you do. How so?
Jawad Mir: My inspiration has always been making films that tell a story. I’m initially self-taught. After seeing
Jurassic Park, I told my parents, “I want to be a filmmaker,” and they gave me a camcorder. I actually studied business administration information management at Ryerson in Toronto, but once I finished that degree and was working full time, I decided to go back there and enroll in a certificate program in film. Halfway through, I felt it was enough for me and started to apply what I had learned on my own. I started Sky Blue Productions in 2001, creating corporate and commercial films for various companies. I then, in addition, opened Film-Style Weddings in 2003. When I got married in 2006, my wife, Sumeyyah, became partner. For the past four years, I’ve been producing and directing a feature documentary called Only 78 in Nova Scotia. We wrapped it this year. It’s a powerful story about the 78 people of this small coastal community and their struggle with the government to get a seawall repaired before a hurricane destroys their village. Regardless of the subject matter, I’ve always preferred to tell stories with a camera.
HDVideoPro: How do you go about capturing the essence of a wedding?
Mir: We try and get to the core of who the couple is and what their interests are when they come in for their first consultation. For instance, one couple might be into dancing, another into outdoor activities or Spanish culture. That helps us figure out what kind of people they are and what kind of music they might like for their same-day edit or feature film. Also, we try and get to know something about their relatives and friends, which helps us to understand who’s important to them. Although those parts don’t necessarily come into the visual until the wedding festivities start, it gives us preliminary access to what that will be, so when we go out on the battlefield, as I like to call it, we can hit it off with friends and family fairly quickly.
Every wedding, regardless of the culture, has a unique element. It’s important to us as storytellers to find those elements. It could be a crazy wedding party or some dynamic performance, it could be the bride and groom’s vows. We keep an eye out for those, and when we find them, gold is struck. This is the story to take us in a direction; we want to keep this as a common denominator whether it’s for the same-day edit or the feature-length film, which lasts 50 to 60 minutes.
HDVideoPro: Why would a couple request a same-day edit in addition to the long-form production?
Mir: So highlights of the wedding and pre-ceremony can be shown at the reception. It’s especially valuable for any guests that missed the wedding festivities but also for the bride and groom because the wedding day itself is such a blur for them. For South Asian weddings, there’s often a next-day edit because the wedding is on a different day than the reception. The majority of the weddings we do are South Asian couples in North America, but we’ve done three in India as well as South Asian weddings in Norway, France, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and Nigeria.
For the feature-length wedding film, a lot of the speeches at the reception have sentimental core moments that we can utilize to tell a story. For example, a father of the groom was saying how much he appreciated learning from his son, including how to use the computer. The audio helps tell the story instead of just music. It’s always the little elements that can tell the grander story.
HDVideoPro: How long does it take to edit and deliver the long-form films to the client?
Mir: Four to five months. Because we’re more nonlinear and story-driven—whatever helps move the story forward—we spend a lot of time going through footage. We’re not a volume-based company; it’s more about quality for us, so we do a dozen weddings a year.
HDVideoPro: What’s your typical crew and equipment for shooting a wedding?
Mir: If we’re going to provide a same-day or next-day edit, then four, because we’ll have an on-site editor; otherwise, it’s normally three. We use Blackmagic Design cinema cameras, the 2.5K model, then the Pocket Cinema camera, which is great for shooting 120 fps; we recently got the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6K Digital Cinema camera. We shoot everything in Flat, then take that to DaVinci Resolve for color grading, then edit in Premiere. For sound, we use a shotgun on our cameras for run-and-go on location. We also plug a Tascam audio recorder into the DJ’s board for an independent audio track. For a Chinese couple’s wedding with 250 guests, they wanted three RED cameras with Steadicams. It was a gigantic production, and we were dumping footage onsite because we were shooting in 6K. We also use a DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ drone on occasion and will be getting the DJI Inspire 2.
HDVideoPro: What about your lighting package?
Mir: We never use our lighting at weddings. People don’t like on-camera lights glaring at them, and for us it looks flat. One of the things I love about Blackmagic cameras are their sensors’ capabilities in low light, then tying them in with the fast Canon cinema lenses. Our goal has always been to be discreet. The more we’re noticed, the less we can capture the emotions and the more intimate moments.
All our cameras can be shot in RAW, which is extremely useful in situations such as when I’m filming the bride getting ready. I can be in there with a 24mm lens shooting HD, then quickly switch to the RAW mode so I can get close-ups and wide and medium in post. Let’s say the bride is crying. If I moved in closer, she might feel intimidated. If I took the time to switch cameras or lenses—we only use primes—I might miss that special moment. Weddings aren’t scripted. That’s one of the things I love about them. Anything can happen at anytime. It keeps you on your toes.
Learn more about Jawad Mir and Film-Style Weddings at filmstyleweddings.com/blog/category/wedding/