Love is in the air! À propos of Valentine’s Day approaching, I caught up with Hamilton-raised and internationally recognized wedding filmmaker and The Art Of Love blogger Aaron Daniel. Having worked throughout Ontario and internationally, Aaron has made an incredible career for himself in the wedding industry. He has now published his first book, Wedding Day Confidence: 150 Questions from a Wedding Videographer to Get You and Your Partner De-Stressed and Smiling on Camera.
In the book, Aaron reveals to all couples his 5-element technique to get you smiling for your wedding cameras and guests, as well as the many years of marriage to come. Whatever you feel about taking the next steps in your relationship, this book aims to help you and your partner work through any discouraging stress.
I spoke with Aaron to learn more about it!
I Heart Hamilton: When you first got started in videography, was there a point when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in the wedding industry, and what drew you to that?
Aaron: I think a lot of creatives, whether they’re photographers or videographers, tend to set goals outside of weddings. It just so happens that wedding work as a camera person is one of the most accessible jobs when someone picks up a camera. In all honesty, I had the same mindset and had my sights on travel and destination videography. There was a very short time in the beginning of my career where I thought destination camera work was my calling. Because who doesn’t like to get paid to travel? After my first few jobs travelling, though, my mindset immediately changed. From travel agencies sending me throughout Quebec and others bringing me to the tropics in Antigua (while also trying to edit during personal trips around Europe), I came to understand that that wasn’t for me. In a nutshell, it was way too exhausting haha.
Luckily, I was also booking weddings amidst the travel. While working in Antigua, I was booking weddings back home in Hamilton with the hopes of working destination weddings down the road. But after realizing travelling wasn’t for me, I started to really think about how I could make those same “cool travel videos” for my local video market.
In my eyes, since I first started freelancing in 2014, wedding videography was always there. It was never really the priority at the beginning, I just felt it my gateway into other and better video work. But after getting to know myself better, I realized that weddings were actually the “better video work” from the start. At least for me.
Making engaging art was always my goal, and it just so happens that weddings help me do that in the most accessible way for me and my personality. So my turning point was in 2016. By then I crossed off all the typical types of video work (e.g. – corporate, ads, travel), and decided to focus in on weddings– the one thing that gives me the opportunity to create in the most fulfilling way.
At what point did you start to consider looking further into the emotional life of your clients and really wanting to help them work through understanding their relationships better in preparation for the wedding and marriage?
This is a really good question, Kristin, because I think a lot of videographers get caught up in the technical side of videography. For example, getting caught up in the camera quality, or the newest piece of equipment, or even the newest trends in editing. Anyone who takes the time to study their own industry will begin to see the patterns in what’s of real value and what is empty in value. You begin to see what works and doesn’t work.
As I mentioned before, I shot my very first wedding in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2016 I decided to go full-force into wedding work alone. So in 2016, doing my industry research, I began to notice patterns in what I thought to be good visual storytelling. The good wedding filmmakers told stories through, yes, good visual camerawork, but also through good sound and the right curated moments of couples together. So, working backwards, I wanted to figure out how to get those good storytelling elements in my films.
It just so happened that I noticed it sporadically across the weddings I shot, too. Some of my own films really stood out to me and I began to question why. And with my self-questioning, I realized that my good footage was completely reliant on the couple’s interactions together. The good shots I had, I remember noticing the couple’s chemistry off camera as well.
And that’s when it dawned on me.
I needed my couples to have that energetic or emotional positivity both on and off camera.
I needed them to act naturally in love.
This, however, gets really hard to do within the jam-packed schedules of a busy wedding day. Stress levels can go through the roof while planning, but also while trying to live up to those plans. So at this point in my videography career, I started pivoting into a kind of therapist or director type of role. I started studying human interaction and honed in on getting the right behaviours out of the couples I work with for an authentically engaging wedding film.
Serendipitously, it also helps a relationship and marriage in the long term, too.
In your book Wedding Day Confidence, you ask interesting questions making reference to TV and film (ex. Does your partner think everything will go wrong, like in many romcoms?). Is this something you see come up often with couples – the media impacting couples’ expectations of weddings? Is it a challenge to help couples set realistic expectations? Can it also help to look to movies and TV as part of the fun of planning a wedding?
Oh I see the influence of media on couples all the time. The same goes for myself and my films, too. I don’t believe this to be a bad thing at all, as it does help provide inspiration for couples on the lookout for what they want without even knowing what to look for. Like for example, I wouldn’t have imagined such a grand floral ceremony being a real thing until I saw it in the movie Crazy Rich Asians. Coincidentally, I started seeing similar types of ceremony set ups on social media after that movie.
The influence of media in our daily decision-making doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. I completely understand how the media in general can muddy our understanding of what reality is actually like, but I also believe it gives us an idea and inspiration for what a better reality could be, as well.
For me, I like to aim for movie quality in my wedding films as much as I can. I know I don’t have the same budget or scale as big-budget documentaries, but top quality is something I believe all artists should strive to create with what they have– even if we know we can’t make it to that exact level. To bring up your point about setting realistic expectations, I think it becomes unhealthy when we actually do expect those big-budget Hollywood-esque movies as our own. It can get really unhealthy when we expect the camera to make everyone look like a whole production department put everyone and everything together. The everyday wedding just doesn’t have that ability at hand (as nice as that would be).
Setting realistic expectations is a must, but looking to the stars for inspiration can really bring a magic to reality.
I would imagine that social media plays a part in the pressure or stress that a couple feels when documenting their wedding. On the one hand, it’s amazing to have this stunning content to share, but social media may also make people feel pressure or like they need to compare themselves to other couples. How do you speak to couples about this and help them to keep a good perspective about their wedding day?
I think you’ve hit it right on the spot here, Kristin. Again, having a realistic perspective on what’s attainable should be the backbone of every wedding day. Especially so these days with restrictions being all over the place and changing almost every week. The biggest hurdle that couples are going through at this exact moment in time is trying to understand how many people will be able to attend– and from there, it leads into a situation of ‘who should we invite and who do we have to let go?’
So, it’s funny you bring this up now, because this is an issue that a lot of wedding vendors are feeling as well. Nobody knows if a wedding will even be able to happen on the planned date, and our careers are really at risk. I mean, things are definitely looking up with the progress we’ve made in terms of vaccinations, but you can never be certain with these things and their timing. So I urge every couple to really imagine what an intimate or more humble wedding could look like – forget the big party– and then realize how amazing it can still be.
The biggest thing I try to highlight is, if marriage is indeed the direction you want to take with your life, a wedding will happen no matter. It might not happen right away, but somewhere down the line your wedding vendors will be there to help put on the best wedding possible. There will always be limitations to our dream wedding day, even before COVID hitting us, but it’s the idea that marriage is the bigger reward that makes any limitations negligible.
You outline what you call The Five A’s in your book. Can you give us as a quick rundown on these elements, and how you came to these five main points for couples to consider? I think they are great for everyone to consider, in many different relationships we may have in life!
Absolutely! The Five A’s are my method of working with different couples, but they are also how couples can work better with each other in their daily lives.
The Five A’s are the five elements I’ve found within every single one of the couples I’ve worked with, and they help me gauge how to work with them behind the camera. The Five A’s are: Affection, Ambition, Artistry, Awareness, and Awakening.
Within my book, Wedding Day Confidence, each element gets a dedicated chapter to describing that respective element in your life, as well as your partner’s. Throughout all the chapters, there are 150 questions for you to ask your partner, along with an explanation about why you should ask that question, and the reason your partner should share it.
The first A: Affection. With Affection, I touch on questions about how your parents or caregivers raised you, who were the types of people you wanted close, and what scared you as a child. Your Affection is how you relate and attach to others today based on your early upbringing.
Next is Ambition. Ambition is your ability to self-improve and transgress boundaries for growth and development. So I ask questions about your role models, your productivity and problem-solving skills. Basically how you get your drive to succeed.
The third A is Artistry and is your ability to create and innovate. Expressing yourself through your professional work. Artistry is putting things together to make something new. So, within my book, I ask questions about your creative idols, your self-confidence in your work, and how you fit in your industry.
The fourth A is Awareness. Awareness is your ability to connect with society and culture. How knowledgeable you are with the politics and pulse of the world and the vast array of people in it. Questions in the chapter touch on the people who influence you, what motivates you to make certain decisions, and your understanding of history.
And the final A is Awakening, your ability to realize your place in the bigger world. This chapter touches on more of the spiritual or religious side of our personalities. Like how connected or disconnected you feel, your scale of acceptance, and your relationship with thankfulness and gratitude.
Each of The Five A’s have been my method of getting to know my clients over the years, and now I’ve packaged it up for couples to get to know each other too. Again, the questions throughout each chapter include explanations as to why you should ask your partner these questions and the benefits of knowing each other’s answers.
For example, the very first question is “Who made you feel the safest growing up?” The purpose of this question is to understand who and what types of people make you feel safe today. How you attach to others and what your current idea of security looks like. Like as a child, were you safe around a comforting mom, or were you used to a workaholic mom? These things can define what you look for as an adult. And for your partner, I explain how they can use your answer for your mutual benefit as you try to grow out of future conflicts together in life.
Now with the pandemic, couples have more challenges to navigate together. Exploring and being in tune with your emotions is more important than ever. Are couples seeking out these kinds of tools more frequently now and benefiting more from taking this time to connect in this way?
This is a tough question for me because I don’t really have enough data points about couples in that regard. The topic of conflict in our relationships is generally kept within the relationship, and so I don’t see it publicly… nor do I see it on social media or within my friends and family group. What I can tell you is that my website has grown in traffic since the beginning of the pandemic.
Over the years, I’ve written blog articles aimed to help people learn about themselves and their partners, and some general relationship tips. Since the beginning of April 2020, my organic Google click-through traffic has increased from 40 clicks a day to 263 clicks a day last week, and it’s still continuing to rise. Now, I’m unsure if all the traffic has to do with requiring relationship advice, but I can see in my analytics dashboard that the most searched topics around the five love languages, complementary relationships, and attraction has increased dramatically. A common search query that brings people onto my website actually revolves around feeling rejected, so from that I can only assume that couples have increased their need for help in terms of feeling love.
I do hope we’re all finding the guidance we need to connect with our loved ones right now.
Do you have any examples of how you have had to get creative with your work from having to adapt to the pandemic?
I think my biggest form of adaptive creativity to date has been my latest book release. 2020 saw my debut as a published author, and that has sincerely been one of the most fulfilling moments in my life.
Without many weddings last year, I had a lot of free time. I had always toiled with the idea of writing a book specific to my clients and my wedding work, but it wasn’t until everything shut down that I was able to actually get to writing.
Some people may say that writing a book is a completely different route from my wedding filmmaking work, but I argue that it was really something that helped me get more creative with my wedding filmmaking work too. Writing all my processes and philosophies not only helped me see the flaws in my initial thinking, but also showed me how I can improve on future wedding jobs. Not to mention, writing a book has vastly helped me get my message out there, and help couples prep better for their wedding cameras.
What’s next for you? Do you see yourself continuing down this path of educating as well as continuing with your wonderful photography and videography?
That is such a wonderful question. I’m unsure as to the degree of educating I will be doing, but I do know that being a wedding vendor is inherently a teaching position in itself. Wedding videographers and photographers almost always have to teach their clients how to prepare and look their best for the cameras.
Somewhere down the road, I’d love teach other wedding videographers how to best teach their couples as well.