The Lens Crafters
Ready for your close-up? Tom and Melissa Dowler of Long Haul Films turn out Hollywood-worthy wedding videos.
Tom and Melissa Dowler didn’t set out to be videographers. The married couple—he has a master’s degree in film from London’s Goldsmiths College, she started in advertising and has a flair for production—were working on a documentary about weddings when a friend asked them to shoot her big day. “It was so creatively fulfilling, so rewarding,” Melissa says of their first assignment. “We didn’t look back after that.”
And it’s a good thing they didn’t: Since launching Long Haul Films, the pair has put together everything from a Bollywood-meets-Scorsese wedding trailer to an engagement video featuring a couple crossing the Boston Marathon finish line. No matter what they shoot and how they shoot it, though, each couple’s story ends up tugging at Melissa’s heartstrings. “We say the trailer isn’t ready until Melissa cries,” Tom says. “That’s the final test.”
What attracted you to wedding videography?
Melissa: I think we had a little bit of a stereotype in our minds about what wedding videography was. But then we realized that there was some incredible cinematic work going on. We love it. And I think that’s important: When you’re hiring a videographer—when you’re hiring any wedding vendor—hire someone who loves weddings. Hire someone who will cry at your wedding.
What’s your videography style?
Melissa: We find that clients are reacting well to a mixture of cinematic and documentary styles—something that has high-quality production value and really beautiful shots with a healthy dose of candid moments. We do sound capture of those candid exchanges, whether it’s your mom talking to you right after you get into the dress, or that little whisper the bride and groom exchange as they walk down the aisle after the ceremony.
How should a couple select a videographer?
Melissa: Many videographers post wedding trailers (three to five minutes) on their websites, but most offer longer cuts as part of the package. It’s good to see a longer version and ask yourself: Did they sustain the story and keep up the personal element beyond those three to five minutes?
How do you remain unobtrusive but still stay true to your aesthetic?
Tom: There are times during a wedding when we shoot with wide lenses, which means we get really close to the couple, and there are times when we step back and shoot with longer lenses. The best wedding videographers now use digital SLR cameras, which are small, agile, and awesome in low light. They make the venue feel less like a film set.
Why should couples hire a videographer in addition to a photographer?
Melissa: Photography is good for capturing moments in time, while videography is good for telling the story. It shows how the whole day flowed, from the time you got ready to when you said “I do” to when you hit the dance floor with your grandma. You can watch it on your anniversaries, show it to your family, and, if you have children, show it to them.
Is it ever a good idea to have a friend film your wedding?
Melissa: Think of what you might spend on your dress and the décor, and then think about how you’re only going to have those items for one day. Isn’t it worth it to have someone professionally capture everything so you can experience it again? That’s why we call videography an investment, taking time and care to capture all the other things that you’ve carefully chosen for your wedding day.
What advice would you give to a bride and groom who aren’t sure what they want from a video?
Tom: Would they describe themselves as fun and playful, or serious and romantic? We ask these questions to get to the heart of their relationship so we can better portray it.
Melissa: Sometimes they have a style without even realizing it. We’ll see their lists of favorite movies and think, Oh! They love bright, colorful comedies, or They love dramatic romances.
What’s new in wedding videography?
Tom: For a few years, there has been a big increase in engagement shoots for photographers. Now, we’re seeing more and more people who want an engagement film, as well.
Melissa: Couples are using these films at their reception—guests can experience parts of their story that maybe they didn’t even know.
What’s a recent funny moment you caught on film?
Tom: We had one wardrobe malfunction that was accidentally captured. A female guest threw her hands up enthusiastically and showed a little more than she intended. We were very discreet about that scene—it definitely hit the cutting-room floor.
How do you choose what to edit out?
Tom: We shoot 8 to 10 hours of footage at most weddings. There’s a temptation to capture everything for posterity, especially when we shoot throughout the day. It can be a real challenge sometimes to not only find the most beautiful shots, but also bring out the emotions of the day. Sometimes we have to leave beautiful shots out so that we can include the most important moments.
Long Haul Films, 107 South St., Boston, 617-259-8900, longhaulfilms.com.
Tom and Melissa Dowler share their secrets for a flawless wedding video.
Organize a Meet and Greet
Encourage your videographer to connect with your photographer before the big day to discuss how best to shoot the ceremony and the speeches.
Set the Stage
Set up a clutter-free zone where the bride can get into her dress and enjoy a quiet, calm moment with key members of the wedding party.
Allow time to do some formal videography between the ceremony and reception. That way, your videographer can spend the rest of the time on the peripheries capturing the candid moments.
Prep Your Party
People giving speeches are nervous, and often pace. Use a stand for the mike so that it stays fixed. The more stationary the best man is, the better he’s going to look on the wedding film.