What Would They Know? Michael Bird & Tye Dunn of Native Weddings

by | Cinematography Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom

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Take two down to earth guys who serendipitously meet when making a film. Move forward to today and you have Michael and Tye who together create the magic that is Native Weddings. Wanting to create a new style of wedding film, they delight in making films that are constantly evolving to keep their style fresh  – as unique as you and your day are. No longer the poor cousin of photography, their cinematography puts you at the centre of your own film where you are the star for a day. With all the excitement and emotions to relive when you watch your wedding film – what more can you ask!! Here we join Tye and Mike and find out why they love what they do.

What are your professional backgrounds?

Tye: My background is in Journalism with a love for documentary film which has taken me all around the world. I’ve have been making films for 15 years and got into weddings films almost by accident in 2012, and since then have shot around 200 weddings. Creating weddings films is an absolute blast, from the shooting to meeting amazing new people almost every weekend.

Mike: I began my career as a documentary photographer, I would make art prints of uniquely Melbourne historical structures and sold them in stores around the city. This led me to create a short film alongside Tye around four years ago, after that I was hooked and have been making films ever since!

How has this influenced the way you make films?

Tye: It’s super rewarding to take the techniques usually reserved for high end productions and use them to create films for our couples. I’m not one for gimmicks or over complicated equipment, keep it simple and keep it good!

Weddings allows us to be a lot closer to our subjects, we aren’t there to hit marking messages, but instead to capture the vibe and character of the couples.

Mike: One of the main reasons I decided to make the switch from photography to film was because I immediately realised the the advantages of being able to encapsulate active living moments – in that sense I see each frame of our wedding films as being it’s own moving photograph. Whether it’s the first time the bride is seen by the groom or the look between the couple as they walk down the aisle, I want them to experience each of those feelings as they re-watch their film.

Please describe your ‘new spin on the classic wedding film genre’?

Tye: Wedding videos have had such a bad rap. If you told me at film school that I’d be not only making wedding films but running a wedding film company, I would have wept. That’s because wedding films were always the worst, just a guy with a terrible camera on his shoulder filming with giant lights, then editing it with pink love hearts everywhere.

But now it’s the opposite – we can make people look like they are in a movie. They are also a lot of fun to shoot.

Mike: Filmmaking is continually evolving, not only in its tools but also in the demands of the audience. People no longer want the long, drawn-out videos of their parents’ era, so we provide them with films that suit the music video generation.

Do you both have a different film style from each other?

Tye: In small ways definitely. The Native filming style has developed from us bouncing off each other creatively and this pushes us to try new things, to always be reinventing our style. Every wedding is different, every couple is different, so we always want to reflect this and to do that you have to be rethinking how you film. Having creative people to work with really pushes you to do this.

The coolest thing about wedding films is that you are making something that people will watch for the rest of their lives. There are not many creative industries that can claim such longevity for their works.

Mike: Tye and I definitely began with very different styles for the films we had created but immediately realised each other’s merits and skills. There’s not a single film that leaves our studio that we haven’t both agreed it’s the perfect product for our couples, this works really well for us as we both look for very different things in the films.

What do you love about film as distinct from other mediums?

Tye: What a hard question! For me it’s the experience of conveying emotions through film. I really get caught up in my edits and start to feel the emotions of the people or subjects I’m editing. Hopefully because I’m feeling it, the viewer will too. It’s super challenging but ultimately amazing when it works out.

Mike: As I mentioned previously I began my career as a photographer which was great for the style of work I was doing at the time, my switch to film opened up a whole new world in which I could show human emotion in a way that people really feel it.

In what ways do you challenge yourself creatively with your film work?

Tye: Every film is different and every film HAS to be better than the last. We still film what we see, which is super stressful but also really fun. We are always creating new shots with every wedding. We don’t want to make the same film over and over again.

Mike: Our films are continuously evolving. We are always looking to give our brides something different, not only different to everybody else but also different from anything else we have produced before. No couple wants exactly what other people have had for their weddings so we are always pushing ourselves to come up with something completely unique to their wedding.

Why do we need to have a cinematographer as well as a photographer at our wedding? What perspective do you as a cinematographer, bring to the images of the day?

Tye: This might sound crazy but I am a terrible photographer. We might sometimes share the same equipment as a photographer but it’s a completely different ball game. In video each new shot is carefully thought out so that it relates to the next one. Each shot could be boring on it’s own, but when you put them all together it creates something.

Mike: If a picture says a thousand words, a film says a million more. There are just so many things that photos just can’t show, a personal song sang by friends or even just that little gulp that every bride takes as they are announced as man and wife, these are the things that can only be shown on film.

When booking Native Weddings do we liaise with the one person from the first meeting to the end?

Tye: Yes of course! Our motto at Native from the start is that we want to enjoy our job, and one way to do that is to make friends with every person we work with. You really need to get along with the couple, their friends and family, because you end up spending a lot of time with them on one of the most exciting days of their life.

Mike: This is really part of our ethos and how we manage to stand out from the rest of our industry. As I mentioned previously each of our films is deeply personal and the only way to achieve that is to have the person creating the video intimately involved in the couple’s wedding plans.

How much pre-preparation do you do before filming a wedding?

Tye: My ritual is to have a really nice breakfast with my girlfriend the morning of a wedding and try to relax. I still get very anxious before every shoot, but as soon as I take the first shot of the day everything starts falling into place.

Mike: There’s a lot of technical preparation that takes place before each of our weddings, we need to make sure that the audio and visual equipment we are going to be using is tested and working as expected. Aside from that wedding days can be long, we always need to be on the ball so a good night’s rest before a wedding is essential.

As this is often a day with raw emotions and intimate moments, how do you remain unobtrusive?

Tye: My filmmaking style has always revolved around having the best equipment in the simplest form. You don’t need cranes, dollies or drones buzzing the guests. You want to be as close to the image as possible, so if that remarkable shot appears you are able to lift your camera and grab it.

But we always strive to blend into the crowd and have fun with it. At the end of the day we never want to intrude on someone’s wedding day! It’s their day! We just want them to have the best time.

Mike: Small lightweight equipment is essential but the biggest talent is being aware of your surroundings while capturing the best shots possible. You have to remember that people are loving the moment and you never want to block their view or distract them

Have you had to do anything out of the ordinary to capture a special shot?

Mike: Standing on chairs or lying on the floor has become a normal activity for us to be able to capture that perfect shot. At our most recent wedding I found myself standing in the trailer of an all terrain vehicle just to be able to create that personal shot.

What is the most favourite part of the process for you – the actual filming or putting the film together for your couples?

Tye: It’s all about the video as a whole. We don’t separate our filming roles, we are there from start to finish. This means when we are shooting we are also thinking about how this is going to fit into the edit. Hopefully this means our films don’t feel disjointed and un-genuine.

Mike: As much as I love every step of the filmmaking process I have to be honest and say that my favorite part is the reveal, I check my email continuously after sending out a video to a couple as I can’t wait to hear what they think.

Do you offer packages to suit different budgets?

Mike: We certainly do! we offer a range of three different packages that vary in length from 6 – 10 hours, we are always happy to work with clients to make sure that they can get the most out of their available budget and we pour the same passion into each and every video e create.

Creatively, where, and doing what, makes you feel most inspired?

Mike: There’s nothing more inspiring than being on a shoot! We don’t scout venues in the same way a photographer would so from the first moment we arrive we are thinking about all the great shots we could create.

Tye: This is going to sound crazy but I binge watch movie trailers. Some of them are amazing, they convey so much emotion in such a small amount of time. It really inspires me when I feel and see a new emotion translated through film, which at the end of the day is what we are trying to do in wedding films. Each couple is completely unique. As corny as this might sound, love is different for every couple and the goal is to show this.

What are some favourite destinations you have visited in the course of your work?

Tye: I’ve been really lucky in my career to have travelled a lot. In 2016 alone I’ve been to 12 countries! It’s been a blast. From Monaco on a superyacht, Koh Samui, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Geneva, Las Vegas. But my most most memorable wedding film was shot in New York during winter. I also studied filmmaking in Mexico City.

Mike: I was actually born in London and only moved to Melbourne a little over 4 years ago, although our work takes us all across Australia I still find that the Victorian countryside is one of my favorite places to be. I really love the small country towns we go to like Dookie and Nagambi, they are just steeped in local history.

How do you celebrate the end of a wedding season?

Mike: Tye and I also run a commercial company creating videos for not for profit organisations, this means that our work never really stops. After the final wedding of the year Tye, his partner, my wife and me do like to have an elaborate dinner out to toast another successful season.

Tye: Beach and cocktails.

What do you like to do in your leisure time?

Mike: Aside from spending time with my beautiful wife I still love to take photographs. I have developed a small obsession with vintage cameras and have been teaching myself to use and develop film.

Tye: Beach and cocktails.

Thank you Mike and Tye for sharing your story. Make a date to re-watch your wedding film – your story told in film will never cease to amaze and delight! To find out more about Native Weddings visit the website.

Headshot by Anitra Wells  All films featured in this interview are by Native Weddings.

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