HOW TO BALANCE INSTINCT, PRACTICE +
COMMON SENSE WHEN EDITING
by alexander farah, filmmaker and editor for tomasz wagner photo & films
AS AN EDITOR WHO’S CUT MOTION PICTURES across several types of media,
I can definitely attest to the uniqueness of weddings. Not having a storyboard or
script notes to adhere to, of course, can be both liberating and frustrating. Since
the general structure to weddings is more or less rigid—getting ready, ceremony,
portraits, reception—it can be challenging to produce original work. Luckily,
having edited Tomasz’s films for almost three years, we’ve come to establish a
certain look and feel that finely balances modest charm with a cinematic quality,
and just the right kick of #trending.
1DISCOVERING THE COUPLE. I don’t meet with the clients face-to-face, so I tend to rely on a brief questionnaire they provide me that, in a nutshell, captures their personalities.
At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I would say instinct plays a significant part as well.
As I sift through the footage and categorize the usable from the unusable, I find myself
“discovering” the couple, in many ways; things as simple as wardrobe, house decor,
relationships with friends, family, etc. tend to dictate, to me, what sort of characters they are.
2 UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF A SONG. Once Tomasz and I have narrowed down and agreed on a song we both feel suits the clients, I listen to it at least half a dozen
times before starting to edit. I mark certain parts of the song and classify the crescendos
as different colors based on how dramatic (or subtle) they can be. These markers tend to
help me map out the first kiss, first dance, cake cutting, etc., depending on the wedding.
3 EDITING ROUND ONE: TRIMMING SEGMENTS. I tend to dive headfirst into the dit, regardless of what non-linear editing platform I’m using. I scrub through each of
the 300-something clips and set aside trimmed segments (usually about 2-5 seconds in
length) that highlight a certain emotion, explore an interesting visual perspective or bring
attention to certain details curated by the couple.
4 EDITING ROUND T WO: SEQUENCING FOOTAGE. Once I have all my pre-selected footage (usually about 15-20 minutes of usable clips), I begin a second round of selecting
and start grabbing the clips that I really like, to be put in the edit. Each wedding is different,
but this is generally the time to start assembling some sequences and further familiarizing
myself with all the pre-selected footage. Once this is done, it’s a matter of piecing together the
sequences and fine-tuning the timing, transitions, reframing, stabilizing, etc.
5 EDITING ROUND THREE: MIXING IN SOME FUN. I find that match cuts can be a fun way to visually piece together footage. I’m a sucker for swish pans, slow-motion dancing and mixing analogue and digital.
Putting yourself in the shoes of the couple is valuable; knowing what to show
(or more importantly, what not to show) is something that I feel comes with a fair
amount of instinct, practice and, well, common sense.
64 RANGEFINDER JUNE 2016
Once another person who has a part in
documenting a scene enters your frame—be it the
photographer, second cinematographer—more
than “ruining” the shot, you instantly communicate
to the viewer what a production this is, affecting
the mood you’re trying to create. They call this
breaking the fourth wall, and unless you’re being
intentional about it (having your clients look directly
at the camera for dramatic effect, for example), it
goes without saying you should avoid doing this as
much as possible; naturally, it helps when there are
fewer people milling about.
There’s no need to overcomplicate things during
post, either. As our editor, Alexander, can tell you,
footage shot by one cinematographer is far more
cohesive and less redundant by comparison,
even when created using three different types of
cameras. A multi-person team can try and follow
the same artistic vision, but simply shooting two
or three different angles of the same thing doesn’t
necessarily help that vision.
MAKE THE TIME TO CAPTURE B-ROLL
We use this kind of footage to establish space,
feeling and mood in contrast to the primary shots,
which are more dynamic.
We focus on B-roll during the quieter parts of the
wedding day and often schedule time outside of
it (before or after the wedding) during events that
lend themselves well to the film—the journey to the
location, for example, especially if it’s a destination
wedding, or the reunions and meals where people
are more relaxed. As an added benefit to spending
some extra time with your clients and their families,
everyone is more familiar with you and how you
work. This invites them to be vulnerable and open
in front of your camera, whether during a powerful
emotional moment at the ceremony or cutting
loose on the dance floor.
Don’t forget to include some “static” B-roll shots, like
time-lapses, with the help of a tripod. Whether directed
at people or landscapes, these shots are a great way to
create footage without having to monitor the camera
at all times (which is another important consideration
when you’re shooting solo). When most of your
footage is handheld and energetic in a film, a slower,
more static image during a music cue can be a relief;
the mind is allowed to play catch-up and take in what
it’s experiencing. The film is allowed to breathe with the
rhythm, and pacing B-roll helps establish that.
Tomasz Wagner is a Vancouver-based wedding
photographer and cinematographer who was
recognized as one of Rf’s 30 Rising Stars in 2015. He
runs Tomasz Wagner Photo & Films alongside his
partner and best friend, Amy Tran. Afghan-Canadian
filmmaker Alexander Farah has edited a number
of commercials, documentaries and short films,
in addition to Wagner’s videos. View their work at