Storytelling is at the heart of all good wedding cinematography, and that’s exactly the approach Sophie Townsend of Townsend Wedding Films takes for her clients. Coming from a filmmaking background, she knows how to create a film perfect for each couple that celebrates the setting and spirit of the day, and that is scored to meaningful or sentimental music. Today we chat to Sophie about how she captures candid and natural moments on the wedding day, what she loves about filmmaking and how she challenges herself creatively. She has also treated us to some incredible examples of her work. Take it away, Sophie…
Where are you based?
I live in Elwood, Melbourne.
How long have you been a videographer?
I studied film in school and have been working as a videographer for eight years.
Has your style and techniques changed over the years?
My style changes over the time as I become inspired by new things I see in films, art, photography and working with other cinematographers. There’s been so many technological advancements in video especially within camera movement that’s exciting. I try not to get caught up with trends although I never imagined I’d be flying a drone back in my film school days!
In a creative sense, what do you love about making films?
I view making films purely as a creative pursuit but I understand some people are attracted to the technical side of it. With the camera I am always hunting for unique, genuine moments between people – a knowing look, a gesture, a joke…I find these moments poetic. I love the challenge of capturing this within an intriguing composition or light. I equally enjoy shaping a story from those moments in the editing suite. I love it all.
Do you have a style of filmmaking that defines you?
I started out making independent drama film so I’m definitely from the ‘run and gun’ approach, making the most of out what you have, i.e. natural light. It compliments wedding videography well – you don’t have hours to set up a shot – you must move with the motion to find the magic.
How do you ‘know’ what makes a great film shot? Is it instinctual?
It is instinctual. Both photographers and cinematographers need to have an ‘eye’ for shot composition and lighting. You can learn to become technically skilled with camera gear but having an ‘eye’ for composition is a unique gift based on gut feeling.
How do you approach wedding cinematography?
I approach it almost like a documentary. It’s all about capturing the personality of the couple and framing it in a beautiful light. It’s most likely the only time in life when people will hire a personal filmmaker so when a couple chooses me to capture their day, I am honoured.
How do you get your couples to relax in front of the camera?
I am a pretty calm person by nature and so it tends to happen naturally. As I’m always working alongside a photographer, I allow them to lead as couples don’t need two directors. My style is observational and candid, so I like to think of myself as an encouraging fly on the wall!
How do you work around the photographer taking shots at the wedding? Is it a collaborative effort?
Absolutely. Most likely you have never met them before and now you are side by side for eight hours, vying for the same light and moment. I literally work around them – I want my film to be different from the photography so couples get two unique renditions of their wedding.
What do your wedding packages start at – and include?
My packages start at $2800 and include a highlight reel and a longer documentary film featuring the ceremony and speeches. I also drone footage.
In what ways do you regularly challenge yourself creatively with your film work?
I also work commercially as a video producer so that keeps me constantly creating outside the wedding world. Different subjects provide unique challenges and it keeps my creativity energised and fresh. However, there’s nothing as challenging as a wedding! You only get one chance for each shot!
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by stories of human connection, love and people who do things differently! I love personality and character. Visually, unique and captivating cinematography inspires me. Whether it’s from a music video, TV show or photograph – I always try to emulate styles and put my own spin on them.
Favourite wedding you’ve been a part of?
That’s a tough one. I filmed a ‘Wedstival’ wedding in the mountains which was a joy to attend and capture. My most recent wedding featured a competitive-dance entry from the bridal party which was so fantastic to witness as well as film. Sometimes the couple makes it- if they are having a great time, feeling the love and enjoying the day, half of my job is done!
Wedding trend you adore?
Colour! There’s nothing better than capturing a wedding style that you’ve never seen before. I love bold choices and themes. The vibrancy that comes from personal style can give a whole wedding it’s own vibe!
I also love native flowers and plants as the featured decor- it looks spectacular on film. Neon signs are trendy however they always look cool on camera.
What about a trend you think should never make a comeback?
I’m not so keen on wedding hashtags as it encourages phone usage during the wedding. I like unplugged weddings (or at least for the ceremony) because the amount of great shots I must cut from my videos because of iPhones getting in the way is frustrating.
Describe your job in three words…
Challenging. Focussed. Whirlwind.
When you’re not working, where would we find you?
Cooking or riding my motorbike in the mountains!
Thank you Sophie for sharing the Townsend Films story with us today, as well as these amazing examples of your wedding cinematography! To find out more about Townsend Films, head to their Vimeo page or check them out on the Polka Dot Directory in Victoria or Tasmania.
Headshot by Joaquim Bel