Vendor Feature: Guj of RedSheep Photo Cinema

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Today's vendor feature is definitely one of the most passionate guy I've ever met...and inspiring to say the least. I'm always amazed to find people who came from a "right-brain-type-of-work" and then decides to go channel their "left-brain" and make the most out of it [maybe because I can relate]. I find people like Guj Tungpalan one of my inspirations to pursue infinity and beyond.

Hi Guj! Welcome to Ruffles & Bells! Can you tell us something about yourself?

[ Hi Eliska! ] Now let's see.. a short "About Me" blurb would go a little something like this: believer, husband, dad, and self-taught filmmaker. I'm also a musician, iPhoneographer and an aspiring film photographer. 

Before becoming a full-time wedding photographer four years ago (or a wedding filmmaker three years ago), I've been living a life of a "right-brained guy trapped in a left-brain world": I came from a science high school, took up Computer Engineering in college, and spent a good 5 and a half years in a multinational IT company (HP) analyzing data, crunching numbers, auditing processes and maintaining systems, barely being able to sneak in tasks related to the artistic. That was life before redsheep. 
I love your style in cinematography. Where would you say you draw your inspirations from? 

[ Oh, thank you! ] You are what you watch. You are what you listen to. Cinema is a multi-sensory thing and we derive our creative DNA from various sources, mostly from filmmakers and beautiful… errr… "stuff". We're suckers for everything that's good to look at and listen to: art films, '90's rock music videos (way back when MTV was still cool), well-kerned Helvetica, elegantly plated sushi, 25-minute long epic progressive rock songs that no radio station would even dare play, cool stuff at The Fancy, and the works of our photography heroes (Tim Walker, Jonas Peterson, MangoRed and Parker Fitzgerald). It's not just from one source, but from a multi-sensory mishmash of all things cool and beautiful.

Now going specific to cinematography, we're a little bit of this and that:
Wes Anderson for his centered composition, treatment of details and simplistic yet still drop dead gorgeous shots
Stanley Kubrick for the underrated one point perspective shot
Quentin Tarantino for the ballsy back of the head shot and for the flare in his storytelling
Pixar, particularly the good ones like Up, Wall-E and Toy Story 2 (not 3) for solid storytelling and sequencing. In Toy Story 2, almost every sequence is well transitioned, both visually and thematically.
Nooma (a Christian inspiration video series by for the indie feel
I also make it a point to have mostly non-wedding influences, to the extent that I don't watch the works of other wedding videographers for inspiration. It's not that I don't like their works, it's actually the other way around. You should see the works of the Philippine Wedding Industry's giants (Jason Magbanua, Bob Nicolas, Mayad) - they're REALLY good and it's very tempting to copy them, especially for relatively new players like us. It takes conscious effort not to watch, and the motivation behind that is more of business than creative. The reason is this: the most important thing that any artist - a filmmaker, musician, graphic designer, dance crew, writer, or chef - could have is IDENTITY - that "thing" that you can really call your own; that "thing" that sets you apart from everybody else. Being influenced by artists from the same industry *IMHO* makes you prone to an identity crisis.  The ideas that you'll get are diluted already; that's 3rd or 4th degree creativity, and in musical terms, you just end up being a "cover band" or "tribute band". I also don't want to compete with "the big boys" head on, so what we're doing is simply playing a different game.

So there. Tap directly from the source. Find out who your idol's idols are. Then, as Austin Kleon would put it, "Steal Like An Artist", but make sure you add that personal touch to make it your own.

One of my favourite words is the "n----" word: niche. (My other favourite word is the "f---" word: film.) I'd rather be in a very small niche that I can call my own than be hired by an overwhelming number of clients for my services just because my videos look like someone else's. Nothing beats the feeling of being hired simply because our clients love us for what we do.

Can you describe your style to us? 
redsheep is real and filmic, with eye candy images all tied up by meaningful storytelling. The couple's unique personalities, those little unscripted events, playful treatment of details, the unexpected reactions and genuinely candid moments occupy a significant amount of air time in our videos.   

Allow me to discuss one by one:
Over-all treatment: Keep it real. Authenticity is at the very core of our videos. We just don't like it when couples are made to act like they're someone else, or they are force-fitted into this mold of what a bride and groom "should be".

Treatment of wedding details (gown, shoes, etc): right where the action is (for lack of a better term). We rarely shoot details on their own in all their glory. As much as possible, we fill every second of video real estate with people and how they interact with the things around them. We usually want to see people actually using these items: a person fixing an invite, the bride actually fixing her gown, the florist arranging the bouquet. It just boils down to making a video that's real, authentic and heart-felt - anything that's not too staged. 

Storytelling: One thing that I've learned from watching Blu Ray special features and Director Commentaries is this: story is king. Now matter how beautiful or cinematic a shot is, if it doesn't propel the story forward, it gets stricken off from the final cut. It's story over eye candy; it's a compelling story that makes a video memorable. 

Composition: minimalist, clean and just the basics: that's centred composition or one point perspective ala Kubrick and Wes Anderson, when possible. The most beautiful things in this world walk the fine line between simplicity and profoundness: Helvetica, Wes Anderson films, Apple products, sushi, 3:40 to 4:51 of U2's With Or Without You and the Gospel.

Look and Feel: filmic. That means grit and grain, tastefully dirty (if there was such a term), shallow depth of field and "the works" to emulate the look of film. Also, more often than not, we use available light.

Music: Unlike in Hollywood movies wherein they do the musical score after, the music in same day edit videos is chosen prior to filming. Music is the medium on which you paint your images in; it's never just "background" music. The choice of music should fit the bride and groom's personalities. Doing this correctly also anticipates what could happen on the wedding day itself: expect plenty of happy events from that bubbly couple who selected that upbeat song, for example. This enables us to come up with a more accurate portrait of the couples. Aside from this, choosing a song that's timeless is of great importance. As a personal choice, I avoid mainstream pop and those that are too radio friendly. That means *no offence* no Bruno Mars, or Train whenever possible, unless it was explicitly requested by the client, or unless mainstream pop or R&B would give the most accurate depiction of their personalities. We implore our clients to avoid bandwagon songs. Some clients choose songs just because they're the "in" thing. It was a struggle when we were starting, but eventually, our clients understood where we were coming from. 
How would you define passion?

Passion is that emotional drive to do absolutely anything and everything for "that thing" that you do.  It means giving a big part of yourself, your time and money, buying the best lenses in the market, yearly upgrading your laptop, shooting under the rain without an umbrella, saying yes to an ubercreative project even if it's x-deal, taking a 100km taxi ride because that was the only means of getting to the shoot, waking up early to shoot a sunrise or shooting amidst the crashing waves of Kuta Beach - anything and everything just to get "the shot".

Passion goes hand in hand with dedication. Passion fuels talent. But passion, talent and dedication are meaningless without a purpose. Purpose makes everything meaningful. Artists are talented and passionate, that's already a given, but you have to dig a little bit deeper to know your purpose. Is it merely for self-actualization, financial provision, vanity, stewardship or to glorify God? You have to find something bigger than yourself, something that will transcend criticism, ever-changing trends, financial problems, people issues and dry and lean seasons. When the emails and inquiries stop coming, you might come to a halt when you're driven merely by passion, but being driven by a Purpose (with a capital P) - that will keep you going.

Lastly, what's your most memorable moment during filming?

Seattle, April 2010. Our first international shoot and third wedding same day edit project. I was able to pull-off a one-person / two-camera same day edit video* on top of shooting photos (Yes, I was running all over the place :-P). It wasn't our best video cinematically (give me a break, it was only our third video), but the applause after was so overwhelming. To this day, I still keep on wondering "paano ko nagawa yun?!?!" ("How was I able to do that on my own?") It was undeniably the Lord's hand.

I was so inspired with this interview! I hope you are too! It just proves how courage and passion and faith in Him can bring you to so many places even yourself cannot imagine.

Thanks so much Guj for sharing your inspiring stories with us [plus tips] too! Cheers to all our right-brain and left-brain!

Vimeo: vimeo/redsheepphotocinema

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