Most of us have told a story or two in our line of work (hello, #lifeofaweddingplanner). We are always pulling elements of our couples’ lives into different design elements and are used to styling and seeing those details in photographs. But capturing those same stories on film, requires a different eye.
I first came across Ale’s work when I was “stalking” our now Director of PR, Katherine, online. I was researching for her featured planner interview and found her wedding video – and promptly had to reach for the tissues! Ale did such an amazing job at capturing Katherine’s wedding on film that I knew I had to interview her about her art. So Katherine put us in touch and I sat down with Ale to talk about the art of film, how she approaches creative projects, and what fantasy project she just cannot wait to do!
When did you know that videography and visual storytelling was going to be your thing?
It’s funny, even though I majored in film, my path to video and visual storytelling started way before college. I went to a performing arts school for theater and was incredibly passionate about directing and playwriting – not so much the acting. However, I never connected to theater the way I connected to video so I pursued Film in college. I would watch Nike and Gatorade commercials or music videos and get goose bumps from the emotion that was created in their narratives. After college while working on a documentary, I dabbled with my first DSLR camera, which led me to pursue photography. It was through that path that I discovered visual storytelling and directing was in my blood. Photography gave me the accessibility to experiment with filming when the 5d mark ii came out – a camera that fit so lightly in my hands and captured video in ways I never could before on set (imagine: huge, bulky cameras that sat on your shoulder). After I started introducing video into my photography work, people’s reactions made me realize I was on to something different. My mentor said to me: Ale, I think you should release photography from your business and dive straight to just video. This is your calling and this is where you will stand out. – Her affirmation propelled me to specialize and focus my business on video storytelling.
What lights your creative fire?
Emotion, movement (dance), and stories. Sometimes all it takes is a song I hear or a dance choreography that I watch and the emotion behind it resonates so strongly with me that the that a story starts to play out in my head – my translation of it through art.
When you work with brands, what kinds of conversations do you have with them in the planning process?
So, the conversation that happens between me and a brand before any filming starts is absolutely essential. This is what I call the “storyboarding” process. I send them “Brand Homework” which essentially forces them to articulate how they want people to feel when they watch their film, what message they want to communicate about their brand, and who is going to be watching this. In turn, this allows me to – in this interesting way – develop a character for their storyline or a character that represents their brand. I want my clients to dream about where they want to be so that the story I create for them lives and moves forward with them.
How important is it that the brands you work with have a similar aesthetic as you? Or is it?
I think it’s really important that the brands I work with resonate with me and that they are excited by my aesthetic because my imagery is a reflection of the way I tell stories and how I direct. However, with that said, each brand has its own unique narrative (and ultimately) I make sure to reflect that in a way that is consistently aligned with their brand imagery. While many of the clients I attract resonate with my feminine and intimate style, the number one thing they seek me out for is the emotion I create and my desire to push boundaries and take risks. Ultimately, I care most about us sharing that philosophy more than style, but fortunately the artists who share that vision happen to have killer aesthetic!
What is the biggest creative and logistical difference when working with brands in a totally scripted environment versus working with couples and capturing real life/real time moments?
Wow! What a deep question. Here’s the truth for me personally on the creative aspect: my goal is to NOT have a difference between the two. Working with a brand in a scripted environment still requires me to have human interaction with the people in front of my lens. And while, yes, working with professional models and actors who are much more comfortable in front of the camera creates an “advantage,” those actors and models still need to be believable. A real life couple needs help with their comfort level in front of the lens, but their story is true. In other words, I create the same environment for both situations. First, I tell my actors or real life couple about the ultimate vision of the film and remind them of what type of emotions we want to stir up. Then it’s up to me to create that space during the day of filming by giving them “cues” ( like: close your eyes and mouth a secret to each other) that will create a reaction that is true about who they are as people. I can give this same cue to a couple or two pairs of actors and because they each have their own interpretation of this emotion, they will react to it differently. They draw from their own experiences and memories that unfolds something so raw and true. And THAT… that is where the story comes alive with emotion – something that I cannot fabricate, only create a space that will allow it to surface.
How much can the soundtrack change the over personality of a film?
Oh, a soundtrack can change SO much. Song choice is like cooking. You can still create an incredible dish without a particular ingredient, but that one ingredient or this “new” way you choose to use that ingredient can make this typical dish go from “pretty good” to “WHO brilliantly thought to pair this together?!” And that’s why music is so important to me. I want to take people somewhere new.
When you are directing, are you already thinking about the editing process? Is the final story already finalized in your mind?
So I always, always direct with a story in mind and I have to believe it before I stop recording. However, I know that the story I have in mind is going to be shaped and taken to a whole new direction by the people in front of my camera. I treat those in front of my camera as the artists who are revealing the story and I am simply guiding it. I can’t tell you how exciting and electrifying it is when I watch this dynamic unfold between the people in front of my camera and my heart is racing because I’m starting to see THEIR version of this story before my very own eyes. Those moments give me insight into what kind of film this can be, and I come home with the task of breathing the life into it that it deserves through the song I choose and the way I edit the story together. But the magic HAS to happen in front of the camera first.
What is your favorite part of film-making?
Pre-visualizing (the storyboarding and conceptualizing part) and directing.
You filmed our very own Katherine’s wedding last June in Italy. (Grab a tissue and check it out below!) Tell us about the experience of shooting your friends’ wedding!
I did!! Oh my gosh, where do I even start?! Katherine and Chris are a dream team because they highly value art and emotion. They put their complete trust in me, while also sharing their ideas with me so excitedly. They both put so much effort into the mood and ambience of their wedding, and told their vendors “we are literally up for anything” – that it allowed the photographer and I as content creators to explore our hearts out. When a client puts their complete trust in you, as a storyteller you’re free to trust your gut, which I believe, takes that story to another level in terms of directing and connecting with your subject. It felt like such a beautiful collaboration. I mean – it’s what dreams are made of.
With a baby on the way and a thriving business, 2016 has shaped up to be a very exciting year for you. If you could top it all off by working on your fantasy project too, what would that look like?
Thank you! I am still in complete awe of the life-changing role I am about to take on in just a few short weeks!! (Update: Ale had her baby on June 12th. CONGRATS!) Well, I have an obsession with dance and have always dreamed of filming some kind of campaign with a ballet dancer. I was lucky enough to work on a project like that this past weekend – with my 8-month belly in tow! However, if you know me – I am never out of ideas for fantasy projects. A huge, huge fantasy of mine has been to film in Cuba. I would love to do a project there, or something in the waters of South America – like, literally under water! I’d love to film a Latin inspired campaign with some kind of narrative. Latin America is a big part of who I am. So here you go world, I am putting it out there!
Want to see more of Ale’s work? Check out her website ale-vidal.com